Day 293: Mark 10-13; Jesus' Ministry in Jerusalem

Unlike the Gospel of Matthew, there is a great deal of action that happens all at the same time as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  Much of this we have read in Matthew’s account, but Mark covers a whole lot in a very short amount of time, as is normal for his writing.  Quite often, when we talk about Jesus being in Jerusalem, we tend to mention the Triumphal entry, the cleansing of the Temple, and the Last Supper before Jesus’ death.  What we often tend to skip over is all of the interactions that Jesus has with people while He is in the city during this last week of His life.  Of particular notice, I think, is Jesus’ interactions with the religion leaders and how He continually subverts what they have set up as being their belief system.

The way the religious leaders approach Jesus often reminds me of the way that we as “church-goers” approach new people in our churches.  When the Pharisees or the Sadducees approached Jesus with a question about faith, theology, or doctrine, it wasn’t really because they had a question, it was because they wanted to test Jesus and find out whether He believed the same way that they believed.  They were also looking for a way to trap Jesus and get Him to say something wrong so that they could prove that He wasn’t a good teacher or someone that the people should listen to of follow.  This isn’t that much different from how we often treat new comers to our churches.  We do our best to make it seem as though we are a warm community that welcomes all into our fellowship.  We have people posted to greet everyone at the door, and time after the worship service in which we provide refreshments and enjoyable fellowship and conversations.  We even have people “sign in” so that we can send them a nice note thanking them for joining us for worship.  Yet, there are those that also take the role of the religious leaders of Jesus day too.

These are the people that go up to new families and guests that are visiting with a great and wonderful smile, asking them about their kids and about what they do, all the while analyzing every word that they are saying looking for something that might hint that their true “difference” from the community that they are trying to join.  If small talk doesn’t reveal anything, we might turn to politics or even religious matters, all in the name of “getting to know” our new “friend.”  What are we looking for?  Something that would make them different than us.  Maybe they have a differing political view.  Perhaps its a questionable job.  It might even be (and heaven forbid it if it is) that they don’t believe quite the same way that we do, or maybe they have questions about their faith.  Things like this send us into red-alert and we start talking to others about “the new family.”

There are many things that spur us to act like this.  Many if not all of them were probably similar reasons that the religious leaders questioned Jesus as well.  Fear is probably the greatest motivator here; fear of change or that the community will be disrupted because of new thoughts or questions.  We don’t want the boat to be rocked, we just want to be comfortable.  The Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t want change either.  They had things working pretty well in their favor and the pressure that Jesus was placing on them was palpable.  So they plotted and schemed in their dark corners.  I’m sure their conversations sounded similar to what ours do today; “did you hear about Carol-Anne?  We should pray for her and her family… I heard that she… [insert gossip].”  We try so hard to make ourselves look pious and upright, but in the end, we too are just trying to nail them up on a cross for sins that we made up for them… that they likely didn’t commit… that were none of our business… and that they have already been forgiven for.



Day 190: Proverbs 26-28; More Proverbs of Solomon

Reading through today’s Proverbs, a great deal of emphasis is placed on dealing with “foolish” people.  There are many analogies for what it is to talk to and deal with a foolish person, so many of which I feel like I encounter on a weekly basis.  I don’t know about you, but when I read these verses there are people in my life that come to mind right away.  As I read one proverbs after another talking about interacting with a foolish person I had to chuckle at the accuracy of the descriptions that were there.  So, here are some things that come to mind.  I’ll post the Scripture, and then some thoughts of something I encountered.

Proverbs 27:1-2
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.

Lebron James, Miami Heat are NBA Champs

Lebron James, Miami Heat are NBA Champs

A couple of weeks ago, the Miami Heat won the NBA national championship, something that was “guaranteed by Lebron James some time in the past couple years or something (admittedly, I don’t pay attention to it at all).  In post came interviews, Lebron compared his ‘moments of greatness’ with that of Michael Jordan a decade ago.  First of all, he looked like an idiot because practically no one agreed with him.  Second, he looks like a complete jerk because he feels the need to define his own moments and build himself up because no one really is.  Third, what about the rest of the team?  Lebron never mentioned a single one of his teammates in in speech.  While there isn’t a particular verse that mentions remembering one’s teammates, not thinking of oneself more highly than they ought is certainly a proverbial theme through all of this book.  Finally, and this I find most interesting, the new of the team’s win disappeared about as fast as the last game ended… which makes be think that there is something to Proverbs 26:1, “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.”  It is so unnatural for us to see and admire someone so self-absorbed… it just seems so out of place and unnatural.

Proverbs 26:11
Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.

Cycle of Addiction Diagram

Cycle of Addiction Diagram

Before going into seminary, I worked in the Emergency Department of a hospital.  It was a truly transforming experience for me as I was able to take care of people when they were at the lowest of the low points in their lives, some by accident and some by virtue of poor choices.  What was truly sad were those people that we saw time and again in the department because they continued to make the wrong choices day after day after day.  We tend to call this addiction, but truly addiction starts with a bad choice repeated many times in a cycle until it seems that the body cannot live without it.  Alcohol, Drugs, the wrong friends, and many more will bring a person down into the dust.  Solomon is point to this as well.  Sometimes it happens because a person doesn’t know better.  Sometimes it happens because a person feels they have nowhere else to turn.  Sometimes it happens because a profound sense of self-loathing or a need to escape.  In any case, we tend to turn a blind eye to the addicts and stuff because they “did it to themselves.”  While that may in some sense be true, never in the wise sayings of Scripture does it tell us not to love them as God loves them.

Proverbs 26:20-23
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
 are fervent lips with an evil heart.

I think this is one of the most self-explanatory, and also one of the hardest to go along with Proverbs in today’s reading.  My memories are drawn back to high school and middle school (though sadly adult life is not devoid of this either) and the abundant drama that exists within the lives of teenagers.  Someone said this about me, but I said that about her, and those people think that about him as well.  Everyone gets upset at someone because of something and at the end of the day, its just an overabundance of drama.  I tried to avoid this in high school as I do in adult life as well.  How?  By not being involved any more than need be, which usually means I am not involved at all.  Without wood a fire goes out and without people who are willing to talk, gossip evaporates into thin air.