This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 25, 2015.
This is the final pericope of a section of Mark that began in chapter eight with the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26). In between these two stories of the blind seeing is instruction on discipleship and all three of Jesus’ passion predictions. Also between these two vision stories are the disciples who time and again cannot see who Jesus is and what way they are walking as they journey with him, especially as they turn toward Jerusalem. As evidenced in the previous pericope, even as they draw close to Jerusalem and Jesus talks bluntly about his coming death, the disciples are still fighting about who will have the places of honor next to him.
We learn that the disciples and Jesus came to Jericho. It is speculated that they arrived in Jericho on Friday and spent the Sabbath day in the town. Now, it is Sunday morning, they are leaving Jericho for the approximately thirteen mile journey to Jerusalem. The next chapter opens later that day with the Triumphal Entry. As they leave the town that their ancestors had once surrounded with trumpets and shouts of faith, another voice trumpets out over the many who are following Jesus. “Son of David,” cries out the voice, “have mercy on me!” The voice will not be silenced.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 18, 2015.
Before eavesdropping on the conversation between Jesus and his disciples, we need to place this text in its immediate context. The Revised Common Lectionary omits verses 32-34, the third and final passion prediction in Mark’s Gospel. While the preacher does not necessarily need to preach the omitted verses, it is important to take note of them. In them, Jesus clearly states that his journey to Jerusalem will end by both the government and religious authorities mocking, spitting upon, flogging, and killing him. The text also notes that Jesus is walking ahead of them, confidently leading the way as the disciples follow behind.
Jesus has just uttered these words when James and John rush forward and make their request. Their request is all the more shocking given that Jesus has just told them what awaits him in Jerusalem. One pictures a parishioner announcing she has cancer in prayer meeting and the pastor running up to her immediately afterward to ask if she might leave part of her estate to the church. Did the disciples not hear Jesus? Are they not concerned for him, even for themselves? Can they not offer any words of comfort?
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 11, 2015.
We have before us a familiar story from all three synoptic gospels. Indeed, it is so familiar we have harmonized the story and titled it the “Rich Young Ruler.” Beware, sometimes familiarity causes us to assume aspects of the story that are not present in the text before us. Only Matthew calls this man “young” and only Luke calls the man a “ruler.” All three Gospels reference the man’s wealth—although Mark does not reveal the man’s economic status until he walks away.
After Jesus proclaimed that we must receive the kingdom like children (Mark 10:15), his journey to Jerusalem continues. Along the way, a man runs to meet Jesus. This is an image worth bringing into the congregation’s visual imagination. One wonders if the man was in the market place when some mothers began chatting about how the famous teacher embraced their children. We do not know how the man learns that Jesus is in the area, but he must hear of Jesus’ proximity when it is almost too late. The man’s only chance to ask Jesus his burning question is to take off running—which means he hiked up his tunic, showed a little leg, maybe kicked off his sandals, and ran through his village. Running was an undignified act, even more shocking once we learn this man had wealth. Rich men did not go running through their towns. This man wanted to see Jesus and did not care what others thought of him in the process. I like this guy before he even gets to Jesus.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on October 4, 2015.
At first reading, we are presented with two very different texts. The first turns the preacher’s stomach in knots as she considers how to preach on divorce. This is not exactly the text that lands on the congregation’s top ten list of Gospel highlights. But then, who does not love Jesus embracing children? Now, what is the preacher to do? Should he pick one text over the other? Is there a way to faithfully preach these two texts in one sermon? Could it be that one text informs the interpretation of the other?
Mark 10:1 states that Jesus is moving southward. Just before, he was by the Sea of Galilee. Now, Jesus is making his journey to Jerusalem—as in “the” journey to Jerusalem. As crowds follow him, he is approached by a group of Pharisees who attempt to trick him with a question about divorce (preacher be warned, questions like this are still tricky). It could be they wanted to draw Jesus into ongoing debates among the Pharisees about what constitutes legitimate divorce (we know from first century documents this was a hot topic both socially and religiously). More likely, they remember well what Mark records in 6:18. John the Baptist informed Herod it was unlawful for him to divorce his wife. That warning cost John his head. Perhaps, the Pharisees are attempting to draw Jesus into a political argument with deadly consequence.