Did I already talk about how the night before the crucifixion is Judas’ fifteen minutes of fame? I did? Great. I guess I’ll have to find something else to talk about. And that shouldn’t be too hard, because while there is a lot of Judas in Mark 14, there is also a lot of other things, because it’s a big chapter. At 72 verses, it’s cleanly the biggest chapter in Mark. Let’s see what else it contains.
Is Jesus Christ omnipotent? Today’s chapter might seem to suggest otherwise, because dang if the Son of Man can’t catch a break. Following a heated disagreement with the Pharisees over traditions and hand-washing, Jesus once again seeks out some alone time, but even in the remotest regions beyond the boundaries of Judea and Galilee, trouble still seems to find him, in the form of a Syrophoenician woman with a demon-possessed daughter.
In 2001, I took a year off to work between high school and college. During that time, my mom introduced me to Michael Card via his “best of” album Joy in the Journey. One track, “God’s Own Fool,” begins with Card singing in an impossibly high register about Jesus’ contemporary reputation as a wise teacher, despite the fact that many who actually witnessed his ministry firsthand regarded him as certified looney tunes:
For even his family said he was mad,
And the priests said a demon’s to blame,
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane.
And this is precisely what we see happen smack in the middle of today’s chapter of Mark.
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.
Having bested his opponents among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish religious leaders in a series of dialectical sparring matches, Jesus spends an entire chapter dunking on them. Matthew 23 is one big vitriolic criticism of the scribes and Pharisees, a warning from Jesus to his disciples and the multitudes not to fall into their traps.
We’ve seen the sorts of parables Jesus tells to the general populace and to his disciples. But what sorts of parables does he tell to the Pharisees? Apparently, he tells parables about people who disrespect the servants of those in power and who, as a result, face the master’s wrath when he learns of their misdeeds.
Just as I promised, the Pharisees kick off this chapter by putting Jesus to the test on the topic of divorce right after he’s healed a bunch of people. Some other stuff also happens in the chapter, namely Jesus embracing children as his disciples consider them a nuisance, and the rich young ruler. But we know Jesus is cool with the kids, and we already looked at the rich young ruler when he showed up in Luke 18, so today it’s Jesus on divorce.