Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mark 2:23-3:6

This passage occurs in the year B of the Revised Common Lectionary, most recently June 3, 2018.

Summary:  Mark paints a vivid scene here, one of intense conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, or more deeply, between God and the hardness of the human heart.  This is what is really at stake here -- not the value of the Sabbath for our society today (which we lost) -- but the hardness of the human heart.  I would make the argument that precisely as our society lost the Sabbath, we became harder in our hearts.

Key words about healing
1.  θεραπευσει  (literally "therapy" meaning "heal"; 3.2)  English speakers will recognize the word "therapy" and immediately move to healing.  However, the original meaning of this word was much more akin to serving the gods, like a priest.  In fact, in the Old Testament the word never means heals, as in God heals, but means the people serve the god or king.  It seems that over time so much temple worship was focused on sacrifices offered in hopes of healing that temple service and healing became associated.  Interestingly, BDAG alludes to this possible shift in the meaning of their word, but does not offer any citations.  See a website about ancient temple practices in Greece (that I worked on!)

Key point for us:  Jesus turns the Bible upside-down by actually doing the service toward people without sacrifice!!

2.  εγειρε εις το μεσον  (meaning "arise in the middle"; 3.3)  The English translators simply record "stand in front."  But Jesus literally says, "Arise in their midst." First off, it is really a bold command, one that not only takes courage of Jesus to give, but also of them man to obey.  Second, it plays on the word for resurrection.  I am going out on a limb here but first
- He will be healed, not only in body, but in spirit.  He becomes bold!
- His healing is linked to his final healing, namely, the resurrection of the body.

3.  σωσαι ψυχην (meaning "save a soul"; 3.4)  Anyone who takes a class in Greek quickly learns that the word σωζω (in this case, in the form σωσαι) means more than a ticket to heaven, but means the broad work of salvation that comes to us through God.  It is also interesting that what is at stake here is not simply his hand but his ψυχην (psyche).  When God heals, God heals the whole of a person.  This has implications for how we understand ministry here (the healing of the whole person) but also how we understand the resurrection (the salvation and resurrection of the whole person!)

Key words about intensity of emotions
Side note:  Mark's linguistic genius is often overlooked.  He writes very intense short stories, using verb tenses and key words to quickly paint a dramatic scene.
1.  οργης (meaning "wrath", 3.5)  This is the only time when Jesus exhibits wrath in the whole New Testament.

2.  πωρωσις  (porosis, 3.5)  Jesus anger is over, the hardness of their heart.  This then has an implication for what is of fundamental concern for God:  hardness of our hearts.  The Frieburg dictionary puts it:
" a medical technical term, of covering with a callous or a thick growth of skin hardening; of the eyes dulling, blindness; figuratively in the NT, of unwillingness to learn insensibility, obstinacy, stubbornness."

3συλλυπουμενος (meaning "sympathy" or "concern"; 3.5)  This verb is really interesting.  The συλ beginning hides the fact that it really belongs to the συν family of verbs.  συν means "with" and is added to the beginning of verbs to suggest a joining.  In Greek, as in Latin, as in English, as in Hebrew, "n" is a weak sound and often gets eaten up by other sounds, in this case the ν becomes and λ just like the n in con-lect become an "l" to form "collect."  Point being is that Jesus has an incredible mixture of emotions.  He is wrathfully angry but also deeply grieving with them.

4.  ελεγεν; εσιπτων ("speaking" and "keeping silent", 2.27 and 3.4)  What I want to highlight here is that these verses are in the imperfect tense.  This tense describes on-going or repeated action (it is imperfect -- it is not complete!)  So Jesus was telling them repeatedly "Humans are not made..." and they were continually silent in response to Jesus' rebuke.