Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lent Day 33 - Mark 12:13-34

More testing questions for Jesus. The first test for Jesus comes from the Pharisees and Herodians. They test Jesus on the issue of paying tax to Caesar. Unfortunately, this passage is often used to justify the separation of church and state. I say unfortunately, because that's simply not what this passage is about. It couldn't be. Separation of church and state was unheard of for many centuries following the passage. Rather, in trying to trap Jesus into either being pro Rome (and losing all credibility as a Jewish Messiah) or totally a political zealot against Rome, Jesus traps them. Why is it they happen to have this coin on them? This reveals their allegiance as with Caesar and not with God. Thus Jesus quote about "rendering" is a condemnation against them.
Secondly, Sadducees come to test Jesus on the issue of resurrection. Which is ironic since the Sadducees didn't believe in resurrection as Mark tells us. (Thus the joke - the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection so they were sad-you-see?) This hypothetical test, Jesus turns around on them as a misunderstanding of the power of God (v. 24). Jesus' teaching is difficult to grasp outside of understanding a first century Jewish concept, but N.T. Wright puts in concisely, "[Resurrection] will be a recognizable and reembodied human existence; but a great change will have taken place as well, whose precise nature we can at present only guess at."
Third comes a scribe. His seems not so much a test as an honest inquiry. Jesus' answer on the one hand isn't so radical in quoting the Shema, but on the other hand it has dangerous implications. This is seen in the scribes reply that Jesus responds makes him very near the Kingdom of God. Loving God and neighbor can be done without the ritual of the Temple system! This was a very dangerous assertion for any Jewish leader, much less a Messiah figure. Perhaps that is why now, there was no longer any need for questioning Jesus.
If Jesus wasn't asserting Church-state separation, (for in fact God is sovereign over all not just "spiritual" stuff) what aspects of life are also included as part of our faith? What do you think the church's role should be in politics?
How are you challenged by the thought of resurrection? What does it matter that resurrection will be a "reembodied" existence and not a dis-embodied existence?
How might Jesus' answer to the scribe challenge our priorities and values? What would it actually look like to love our neighbors (don't limit it to geographical)? How is the Kingdom of God very near when that happens?

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