Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 3:1-6 bible study (September 25, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
Blessings and Peace be with you every hour of your day today.
God's richest blessings often come to us in times of difficulty and trouble. This is the time for faith growth and the compassion of our sisters and brothers in the faith to step up to offer their prayers and, often, much more, undergirding our journey in Christ's love.
Please continue prayers for Linda on the death of her husband Keith, for Jim who has eye and kidney issues. For all who, in their journey of faith, come to doubt Christ's wisdom to Love your neighbor as yourself. For John as he works to regain normalcy in his life. The time for teaching each of us comes in our every day living. Prayer, Scripture reading, Bible Study, Sunday Sermons may all help, but, at times, we are unable to allow the Spirit to break through to change our hearts and minds. As we talked about this past Sunday, if we are offending God with our anger or our disbelief, Our God is The God of second chances, never ceasing to seek us out to work on us again and again. Pray for all, who after the pandemic have chosen to isolate themselves from their life in the Body of Christ, the Church. That temptation is probably there for most of us from time to time, however, many of us respond to the Spirit's movement in our lives to restore us to the Family of God. May all come to know the important place that the Church of Jesus Christ is for everyone's life. A quick reminder - there will be no Bible Studies the week of October 9-13. I will be away on vacation from October 6-13 except for Sunday Worship on the 8th.
Today we move on to chapter three of the Gospel of Mark bible study, verses 1-6. Now first things first. My apologies for forgetting to give you the Gospel Parallels to the Mark passages the past several times we have studied together. Today's Mark reading is Found in Matthew 12:9-14, and Luke 6:6-11.
As you might expect the Gospel of John does not present this passage in its writing. I hope that as I share these readings from the other Gospels that you at least begin to get an idea about the sourcing that must have occurred that writers of the Gospels used, perhaps borrowing from one of the Gospels as the primary source. John is really written much later, as late perhaps as the beginning of the next century, so the writing of Mark, Matthew, and Luke is already well known with no need to repeat much of what they wrote in John. With that in mind we find that John carefully chose from what was there already, but then wrote other unique acts of Jesus and words of Jesus that had remained in the heart of the author for many years.
Today, Mark tells us that Jesus once again returns to the local Synagogue, probably with the intent of worship and the opportunity to reveal God's Truth for His Children which has been buried for years by the legalistic bent of the religious leaders. Christ's Truth at this gathering is that every day is the day for doing what is right and good and just, and He returns to the synagogue to challenge those who would attempt to dismiss and move to harm Him. However, why were those other leaders at this synagogue? They were not there to worship, but instead to judge Jesus and begin to unravel His ministry through their accusations of His apostacy to the Law as created in their own image, and not God's Truth. Their law had little to do with Love and Compassion and Mercy. They knew God as an angry vengeful punishing God! In a gospel named the Hebrew gospel, which has only been found in fragments, and so is not canon along with any other of the Gospels we know so well, the man who Christ heals is known as a stone mason, now injured, whose pride had kept him from begging, who now comes to the only one who might be able to restore his hand. Obviously, this man already knew of the healings of which Jesus was capable. In Jewish law for what was considered work, illnesses and injuries could be treated so that they might not get worse, but even a healing ointment could not be put on a wound because that was considered work. This rigidity of belief meant that one could not even defend his or her own life on the Sabbath, or could not defend the nation on the Sabbath! We must remember that Jesus certainly knew all of this. This man would be no worse off if healing had to wait until the next day. But for Jesus, this was a test case. By His Words, Jesus truly tested the level of compassion and love for this man who had become such a wretch of a person, unable to work, or to provide for himself or his family. As Jesus called the man out, he was able to assess the crowd gathered for worship. They would all have to see him again rather than leaving him in the background to be forgotten and left to suffer. "Is it lawful to do good, or to do evil, on the Sabbath? Jesus had already caught them, placing them in a dilemma of faith and practice. They were bound to respond that evil was never alright on the Sabbath, leaving the alternative as being something that could be done on the Sabbath. Surely it was an evil thing to continue to ignore and allow this man to suffer. Then, "Is it lawful to save a life or to kill it? They remained silent. They were caught between their hearts and minds, and the written restrictive laws on what could be done on the Sabbath. The religious authorities then departed to hatch some plan to entrap Jesus. They were so determined to do so that even they interacted with the Romans who they considered unclean, breaking the law which they held up with such esteem. So here is what is fundamental about this passage.
1. To the Pharisees religion was ritual. It means obeying certain rules, laws, and regulations. They would be like the person who, at least on the surface, appears to be a really good church member, attending worship, giving money, doing Bible Study, etc. yet in life never does anything for anyone besides himself. That person has no sympathy, no desire to sacrifice for others, yet is serene in their fulfillment of the religious requirements for life.
2. Here is the great difference. For Jesus religion is service. Simply, love of God and love of people! The ritual of worship is intended to move us toward all that Jesus believed - move us to answer the cry of human need.
When we call for peanut butter to be given for the Episcopal food bank, or move bread from a local restaurant to that same food bank, or ask for offerings for CROP, or seek to purchase a herd of goats during Advent to be given to a family or community in need to move them forward economically and dietarily, or when we call for contributions for World Hunger, or ELCA Disaster Relief, or support immigration through Alice's family, or ask for blessing bag items or money to buy them, or we seek to invite others to come and know the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for their lives, we are fulfilling the Great Commandment. We Love God above all, and by His love are moved to sacrifice for others in our own lives, and similarly, we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then we are truly being the Kingdom Workers in the harvest of new believers who are moved by to faith because we moved their lives to come to Christ by our words and deeds of love for them.
Tomorrow we move on in chapter three of Mark. Next week on Thursday, October 5, we will have our first day of the study of the O.T. book of Ezra.
With Christ's love in my heart and mind, serving His Gospel,
The Rev. Kim R. Taylor
Master of Divinity