Tag Archives: mark

Don’t Be A Sadducee–Don’t Test Jesus

Mark 12:19
19 “Teacher,” they* said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

*the Sadducees

The Sadducees were a small group of wealthy and influential people in Jesus’ day, who believed there was no resurrection and cleaved to Mosaic law (the first five books of the modern Bible). They come to Jesus in this passage, asking him a riddle-like question about the status of marriage after the resurrection…but their intent is not to learn. Instead, they want to trip Jesus up, because they don’t believe in the resurrection anyway and they want to confound this supposed “Son of God” with Scriptural law thrown back in His face.

But Jesus replies with a common-sense answer the Sadducees were definitely not expecting. He tells them that after the resurrection, life will be very, very different for all believers–they will be “like the angels,” having fellowship with God, and as such, marriage and other worldly issues will be of little concern. The Sadducees’ question is thus exposed for the shallow, misguided query that it is.

Many times throughout the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), various groups of people try to test Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture, to try to expose him as a fake and prove that He is not really the Son of God. In each circumstance, as in this one, Jesus proves He not only knows the written Scripture, but knows the heavenly truths which inspired it. He doesn’t just quote tiny bits of Scripture for wisdom or life guidance–He knows how all the Scriptures fit together to depict God and His plan for humanity.

Today, even established Christians can begin to question Jesus or test Him, trying to determine whether He is who He says He is. We can worry ourselves to distraction over small bits of Scripture taken way out of context. But as Jesus proves here, only knowing bits of the Scripture and using that to question God’s identity and nature won’t help you “prove” anything–it’s knowing the full gestalt of the Bible, how all the Scriptures fit together, plus your own faith, that gives you peace.

Jesus Has Made Us Clean

Leviticus 11:24-25
24 You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. 25 Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.

Mark 15:37-39
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Being “unclean” is a common state of being in the Old Testament, especially Leviticus. As a book of holiness and cleanliness laws for the Israelites, Leviticus is full of these rules, covering everything from appropriate dress for all of the different social groups to appropriate foods for them to consume, and everything in between. This particular set of verses ends off a section discussing which insects and birds are clean and unclean to eat.

As Christians, we do not necessarily follow all the traditions laid down in Leviticus anymore, mainly because we believe that Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice for our sins. We no longer have to follow these restrictive codes to be “pure” or “good” enough for God, because Jesus has made us good enough when we believe in Him. The symbolic tearing of the veil at Jesus’ death, described in Mark, shows us that no longer do we have to be separate from God because of our sin.

Believing in Jesus’ sacrifice does not exempt us from ever sinning again, of course, but it is the first and most important part of declaring our faith. Accepting Jesus’ sacrifice, the final and everlasting sin offering, as a gift meant for you means that you accept Him as Savior, as indeed He was and is. Leviticus served its purpose of maintaining holiness for those who lived before the Messiah came…and Jesus now serves the same purpose, as the way to Heaven.

God Knows that Sometimes We Just Got Stuff to Do

Mark 2:23-28
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The disciples in this passage were very hungry and passing through foreign lands, and so they were picking some leftover heads of grain to eat, not having anything else to eat. In Deuteronomy 23:25, God allows for this kind of manual harvest, and in other parts of the Old Testament, God allows for people to harvest from others’ fields as an emergency food supply. So the disciples weren’t doing anything wrong by God’s standards.

However, the observing Pharisees, who have spent their whole lives mired in the letters of each and every Law, are scandalized. Their complaint is that the disciples are reaping grain (i.e., doing work) on the Sabbath, which is strictly not allowed according to the Law. (I read their complaint in verse 24 in the same voice as “Oohhhh! I’m TELLING!” They sound like a bunch of kids whining!)

But Jesus is ready for this criticism with a calm response. He cites the example of David and his companions, who were hungry and in need of emergency supplies, so they ate the holy bread in the temple. This probably scandalizes the Pharisees even more, but Jesus is making an example: when desperate times come, drastic measures have to be taken, and God realizes that. Even if it is holy bread, even if it is the Sabbath, God understands that we gotta eat–He created us, after all. He does not see providing for yourself in the direst of circumstances as a sin, because He knows your individual situation. (He does, however, see senseless robbery and other forms of needless victimization as sins, because those who rob and kill without absolutely needing to are needlessly hurting others.)

Established Christians often worry about “holiness” and acting in “reverent ways,” often to a fault. We can sometimes get so hung up in TRYING to worship and TRYING to stay holy that we forget to worship, or we hold ourselves back from something we really need. God established the Sabbath as a day to recuperate and get back in touch with Him, knowing that we humans need at least some downtime–He didn’t mean for us to stop ourselves from doing things we absolutely have to do. Working on a Sunday morning, for instance, feels especially isolating for a practicing Christian; we feel we’re torn from our worship. But if we’re pulling in a paycheck that our family cannot live without, then God understands that, and we are no less Christian for doing what we have to do to save and preserve our lives and the lives of our family.

It’s not up to us to judge each other for what we choose to do on the Sabbath. God will ultimately deal with us for everything we have chosen to do in our lifetimes. What is important is using the Sabbath for what you need most: worship, rest, and whatever else your life demands of you. The rest of the week is enough of a pain without putting so many regulations on Sunday–which is what Jesus is saying in the last two verses of this passage.

What Exactly Jesus Did for Us

Mark 15:21-38
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. [no verse 28] 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

What The Crucifixion Meant for Us

Most people–even some Christians–do not often think about what exactly the Crucifixion and the death of Jesus did for us. While this passage is stark and disturbing, it was a necessary part of salvation.

Jesus as the Final, Everlasting Sin Offering

For centuries, the Hebrews had been following Mosaic Law, the Law taken down by Moses which was God’s will for his people, and that Law included almost daily offerings of animals and produce to be presented to God as thanks and as atonement for sin in their lives.

But when Jesus was crucified, He took on the sins of humanity, all the pain and rage and death and lost-ness, and offered His life as a final, everlasting sin offering to reconcile God and His people. Jesus’ sacrifice made sin offerings unnecessary for salvation–instead, belief in Jesus as Savior was now the path to salvation.

Jesus as Bridge Between God and Humanity

There had also been a distinct separation between God and His people before Jesus came–God could only be spoken to through the aid of priests (descending from Aaron, Moses’ brother), and He existed among His people in the Holy of Holies, a special place designated within the temple to hold the Ark of the Covenant. No human was supposed to intrude in this space, and it was usually sectioned off with curtains.

But when Jesus died on the cross, Mark notes that in the temple, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the space was torn asunder. This symbolized that God was now open and willing to hear from His people directly. No longer did they have to talk to someone else on earth to get a message to God–they could “instant-message” Him whenever and however they wanted to, just by praying.

Very Few People Understood This at the Time

The purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and later resurrection was misunderstood even at the moment it happened, however. The people who crucified Him did not believe His claims of being the Son of God, reasoning that if Jesus was indeed the Son of God, then He would not let Himself be crucified–He could just come on down whenever He wanted. They did not understand how lost they were, what Jesus’ death would mean for them, and what God’s plan for the whole world was. They were so confused that they even thought Jesus was crying out for Elijah at the end, and waited to see if Elijah would indeed come to take Jesus away. They did not understand that Jesus was crying out to God, feeling separated from God by the weight of all the sin He was taking on, and they certainly didn’t imagine that this was a temporary situation.

What This Means for Us

Jesus performed a massive act of forgiveness and selflessness, a gift meant for each of us, ready for us to accept. He took on all the sin that would have normally doomed us to never hear from God again, and took it to the grave with him, effectively deleting it from our lives. (He returned from the grave, however, unlike our sins.)

This is what makes Jesus such a powerful figure in the lives of all Christians–to think that a loving God would do something so drastic, just to have contact with us again, is awe-inspiring. Our sin was something God knew He couldn’t stand, but He didn’t need all the sacrifices and sin offerings anymore. He wanted an uncluttered relationship with each of us, and through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can each have that.