Mark hits the ground running. Unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t concern himself at all with Jesus’ birth or childhood. He jumps right into John the Baptist’s ministry as Jesus’ forerunner, and before the reader has a chance to draw a breath, Jesus has gotten baptized, been tempted in the desert, called his first four disciples, and cast out a demon.
As I read today’s chapter, I couldn’t help thinking: my, how far we’ve come.
In today’s chapter, Peter lands himself in jail again. And while the first two times he was simply imprisoned, this time around it looks likelier than ever that he’ll end up executed, because this time he’s been imprisoned by a Herod.
In today’s chapter, Peter deals with the fallout from his acceptance of Cornelius as a fellow follower of Christ, and the obvious place to go with it is that racism and religious bigotry have no place in the church. But as true as that is, I don’t want to co-opt the passage or use it as a soapbox to make my own points. Furthermore, there are some peculiarities in Peter’s interactions with the other Jewish Christians here, so let’s trade our broad brush for the detail one as we dig in.
The end of the last chapter and the beginning of this one form a sort of interlude. The new Christian movement is sharing goods and property among its members. Some landowners are even selling their land to support their brethren, but a couple named Ananias and Sapphira, hoping to capitalize on the good favor that such deeds bring, keep back a portion of their profits and lie about how much they sold their land for. And then they die. I’m sure we could get plenty of mileage out of untangling that thorn bush, but frankly, I’d rather take a look at Peter’s second visit to Jewish Prison and the wisdom of Gamaliel the Pharisee. If you really want me to revisit Ananias and Sapphira, perhaps I will, if you ask nicely.
In today’s chapter, a good deed goes unpunished, but only barely.
If there’s one thing reading the Bible has taught me, it’s the limits of the human mind. I often read a passage and ask myself, “Now where have I heard that before?” Sometimes I’m able to come up with an answer. Sometimes I’m not. And sometimes my mind makes up a wrong answer out of whole cloth. But today we’ve got just such a rabbit hole of recollection, all incited by Jesus’ mention of the sign of Jonah.