Bible Study for the week October 22

The end, the beginning Part 5

Week 2. READ: Mark 12:38-44

As we enter into the story for today, Jesus continued his teaching in the temple.  In the opening story Jesus rips the experts in Jewish law for their desire for honor and privilege.  He paints the scribes as show offs with no heart or spirit.  Not only do they sit in the prime seats, dress to parade their wealth and seek to impress the listeners with their lengthy prayers.  The real blow is highlighting the action of gouging widows by taking their homes and perhaps their household goods.

Jesus contrasts the actions of the scribes with the widow who is honored by him for her complete trust and generosity.  He noted that this widow was extremely poor yet Jesus regarded her gift as the most generous compared to the offerings of the rich. Let’s review who Jesus calls and invites to follow him and who he gives special attention to in Mark:

  • He calls and selects twelve including four fisherman, a tax collector and no religious leaders like Pharisees, Sadducees, or experts in the law (scribes).
  • He heals the sick, feeds the hungry; casts out demons even among gentile youth, casts demons out of a non-Jewish man living in the tombs and sends this man home to tell his own people how much the Lord has done for him (5:19-20).
  • Jesus welcomes children, blesses and uses them to illustrate the pure trust needed to enter the kingdom of God.
  • While Jesus healed and taught many, only a select few men and women followed him throughout his ministry.  Shortly before entering Jerusalem for the final week of his life, Jesus healed Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, and invited him to join the journey 10:52. Grace Church is a member of an ecumenical community development organization called CCDA (Christian Community Development Association).  The CEO of CCDA, Noel Castellanos writes about Jesus the Galilean:

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied, (John 1:35-46).

Shockingly, Jesus entered the world in a social reality more closely resembling the barrio (Latino neighborhood), with all of its issues, than it did the pristine and secure suburbs we value so much in our North American culture. Nazareth, which was located in Galilee, is where Jesus spent the majority of his time preaching, healing and ministering. It was becoming clear to me that Jesus not only came into the world to preach good news to the poor (Luke 4:18), but that he actually became poor himself to identify with those on the margins of society. Sean Freyne observes,

Given the importance of Jerusalem to Jewish thinking at that time, I wondered why Galilee had become such an important point of reference in the Gospels. Galilee seemed of little or no importance in the Hebrew Bible, and apparently had negative connotations for some of the people (Matthew 21:10-11; John 1:46, 49; 7:52). It seems to me that Galilee must have been of special salvific significance to the first Christians, since it plays an important role in the post-Easter memory of the followers of Jesus and became part of the earliest kerygma [the message of the early church in its preaching and teaching about Jesus] (Acts 10:37-41). The question pressed itself: Why is Jesus’ ethnic identity as a Jewish Galilean from Nazareth an important dimension of the incarnation [when Jesus became a human], and what does it disclose about the beauty and originality of Jesus’ liberating life message?

The fact that our God-turned-Galilean entered a social and political reality rooted among the poor and culturally marginalized of his day caused me to reexamine the theological significance of this aspect of the incarnation. It was shocking that Jesus entered the world in a marginalized community in Galilee, which was seen as a region full of sinners because of its mix of Gentile cultures, diverse languages and religious beliefs that constantly called into question their authenticity and purity as Jews [the author is contrasting the Northern region of Galilee with its unique history resulting in a mixed culture following the Assyrian captivity with the history of the Southern region of Judah which fell later to the Babylonians].

Commenting on the disciples’ denial of Jesus to the Roman officers, Orlando Costas used to say, “Peter could deny Jesus three times, but the moment he opened his mouth to talk, he could not deny that he was a Galilean, because of his distinctive accent.” Jesus spoke with that same distinct Galilean accent! (Noel Castellanos, Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood when God is at the Center, Downers Grove: IVP, pp. 78-80, 2015).

It becomes clear in the contrast between the scribes and the generous widow that it is not status but the attitude of the heart that matters when it comes to following Jesus.  He came to call people to follow him not to be “religious.”  Following implies living and doing what Jesus did and taught.  The kingdom call is open to anyone who is willing to follow.

Discussion Questions

  1. What grabs your attention as you reflect back on today’s reading from Mark 12:38-44?
  2. What is it about being a follower of Jesus do you find the most challenging?
  3. What is it about being a follower of Jesus that you could not live without?
  4. Who is on your mind to encourage their faith or with whom to share your faith?  Pray for them and wait for the door God will open.