Transplanting, photo by Emily Walls Ray

Scripture Week 3

March 20 Psalm 19

March 21 Mark 7.1-13

March 22 Mark 7.14-23

March 23 Mark 7.24-37 focus 7.24-30

March 24 Mark 8.1-30 focus 8.22-30

March 25 Mark 9.2-29 focus 9.2-13

March 26  John 3.14-22

If I were asked what gift I would wish for my younger self, now that I am older (and presumably, at least a bit wiser, I would wish for discernment.  There would have been lots of money saved on certain used car purchases—I would have passed up that expensive-to-maintain Volvo that was on its last legs; the Jeep that I put new tires on before being forced to unload it, the cute but gas-guzzling little station wagon.  All had some good qualities; safety, cargo-hold, low mileage; but each had clues about their impracticality for me that I did not see.  These were significant snafus on my part—and that was just in the used car department!  Discernment would be a gift in every area of my life.

The art of spiritual discernment is a part of being a Christian, according to New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.  He cautions us that “part of that art is learning to understand scripture, and to test human traditions against it” (89). For example, the parables Jesus used to talk about purity of heart, while the Jewish traditions were focused on cleanliness and outward purity.  “Jesus is offering a cure for the problems of the heart.  The scriptures of old were fulfilled and completed in Jesus, so signposts were no longer needed.  The Jewish scriptures were part of a story that led to Jesus.  Wright says “Everything the scriptures were getting at reached a peak in Jesus Christ; from now on everything is different.  Figuring out the difference, and still remaining loyal to scripture, is one of the key arts of being a Christian, then and now” (92-94).

The passages about the Syrophoenician woman show us that Jesus had a mission that he could not be distracted from; telling the Jewish people that their deliverance was at hand.  This was a dangerous and risky vocation, which ultimately led him to the cross.  His job was to inaugurate God’s Kingdom.  He did not want distracting publicity about the healings and spreading of the gospel as much as he wanted to be affirmed as the Son of God.  In Mark 15.39, when the Roman centurion proclaims this, according to Wright, “From that moment on, what was anticipated in the Syrophoenician woman became universally true.  The King of the Jews had become the savior of the world” (96).

As we read Mark 8.22-30, it is noteworthy that Wright calls this passage “the center-point, the turning-point, of Mark’s gospel.  It seems at the point of the resurrection, the repent-while-you-can message for Israel was superseded by Jesus becoming the savior of all people everywhere.  The Roman centurion’s proclamation that Jesus was indeed the Son of God marks this development (96).

The passages about the deaf and mute man raise questions about “leaks” about what Jesus was doing as he healed and taught.  It was dangerous for Jesus when people talked about these miraculous things he was doing, but he couldn’t stop them from talking.  The strange things that Jesus was doing fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, a renewal of Israel.  Wright says, in bringing the passages home to us, “If we’re still too deaf to hear what he’s [Jesus’s] saying, the problem is perhaps with us rather than with the message” (99).

The passages in Mark 9.2-39 continue to address who Jesus truly was: the Messiah.  Wright asks to consider this question:  Who is Jesus?  Wright implores us to listen to Jesus.  He says that if we do so, that in spite of ourselves glory will “creep up on us,” and prepare us for what lies ahead (117).

Prayer:

Our Heavenly Father,

We confess that we fail to be still and listen to you and your Word.  We plunge ahead without turning to you when we need you most.  Help us to stop, take stock, and approach you with reverence and with a desire to do your will.  Help us to use spiritual discernment as we go our way this week.  We pray for the lonely, sick, the poor, and those who have hardened their hearts to you.  Have mercy on us, Lord, your children.

Amen