January 8, 2024
Monday Bible Study on the Gospel Mark 5:35-43
Good morning and may Christ's Blessings and Love fill your life in this new year.
A reminder that American Evangelical Lutheran Church will be 74 years old on January 26 of this year. We are small but faithful and mighty for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am asking you to continue your prayers for peace in the middle east and for the Ukraine in their war with Russia. So many are suffering as the innocents of these wars. I am praying for the safety of all who are without resources to change their places to live while the war rages around them, and for the strength of hope to grow in their lives while the world still hesitates on how all of the rest of us should be involved in petitioning and working for peace. Please continue to offer prayers of encouragement for Kandice Kartchner and her wife Lisa as Kandice continues to seek treatments that will be successful in reducing her cancer's advance in her body.
Today we are taking a look at the Jewish approach to grief as the ruler of the synagogue seeks Christ's assistance, which was intervened in Mark by other people seeking Christ's healing at the same time, but eventually Jesus is able to depart with this man and head off to his home to see the man’s daughter who is critically ill and near death. Christ and the man are followed by masses of people who continue to seek Christ's teaching, and His healing touch. When they arrive at the scene, the grieving has already started, because the daughter of this man has died. It is good for us to note that Jesus does not stop his journey to the man's house, instead he is persistent in heading to the man's home. One thing to note here is that this ruler of the synagogue has a quite different view of the value of this girl child than we might expect. He has been willing to humble himself and set aside what he might believe about this itinerant preacher and comes to beg for Jesus to come to help his daughter. In this culture, daughters were definitely less valued than sons. Considering how Jesus generally felt about children and their faith, we should not be surprised that his choice would be to help this man out.
Jesus and the ruler of the synagogue arrive at the leader's home to the typical grieving that surrounded the death of a family member. I am going to take some time to cover what that might mean in terms of practices and "requirements" of the faith community. Remember, this community sees death as an END. There was wailing. In fact, there were professional mourners who set up that wailing at the home so that everyone in the area would know that there was a death. In addition to the family's grieving, the mourners would tear their clothing, and pull out their hair. Family members were "required" to wear torn clothing for a month, but after a few weeks it could be loosely repaired, but the tears must remain obvious for the remainder of the month, when repairs to the clothing would then be serviceable for daily use. Family members were not to wear shoes or sandals of any kind for that following month. They were also to place ashes on their heads and on their exposed skin as a sign of how genuine their grief really was. If you were a family member, your torn clothes were to be torn on the left side, but if a general mourner, they were to be torn on the right side. Men would wear bare skin from their chest to their navel, while women were to reverse the clothing so that the tears were worn on the back, making certain that they were not exposed and naked. Food was a whole other issue. No meat and eating eggs that were salted and covered in ash. Family members could not work, nor their servants, and one must stay in the community, not traveling, or bearing any kind of commodities. Mourners were not allowed to read the Law or the Prophets, except for Job, Jeremiah, or Lamentations, which of course were the least hopeful of all the Jewish texts. And there is the crux of this, there is no reason for hope in any of the grieving that is done. There is a completely out of control sense about this grieving which, in and of itself, speaks to the sense of death as the ultimate end.
When Jesus arrives in the midst of this mayhem of grief, He is calm and determined to gain access to the body of the Ruler of the Synagogue's daughter. He takes certain ones of His Disciples, and the parents and leaves the others with their grieving behind. He simply says in Aramaic, “Talitha Cumi”. This simple phrase, which with Christ has the full power of God, says "Maid! Arise!" There is, of course, the excitement of the parents, but Jesus simply says with confidence that now would be a good time to offer the child food. Now we have to wonder… Jesus says, “Don't tell anyone what has happened.” The reason for this is that He really does not want to give the authorities any more reasons for bringing Him to trial. We can only imagine the offered explanation when the girl, along with her parents, comes out of the house. Jesus knows what will come. In our passages for Wednesday, we are told that Jesus leaves for His own home and community along Galilee.
The mourners were filled with despair. They believe that there is nothing that can be done to undo this horrible situation of the girl’s death. "Don't bother the Teacher.” Jesus says instead, "Don't be afraid. Only believe." Here is the reality of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ. The worst enemy that we all face has been defeated by Jesus. Death no longer holds us in any way. We are to receive the very same resurrection as the Lord. This is God's love for all of us. I may not be ready to be done, feeling like I have more to do in my faith journey, but when my end arrives, I know that I will be in the care of the LORD who loves me because I am His.
This Wednesday, we will continue with Mark 6. Grace and Peace be with you.
In Christ, Pastor Kim