Mark 2

Readings for this week July 15 – 19
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – Unexpected Follower of an Unexpected King

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:13-17

Levi, son of Alphaeus, was not a popular person. In fact, he was an outcast, a pariah, scorned by his fellow Jews because of his line of work, and because his work was in service to the authorities, in this case directly to the Herodian family, and behind them the Romans. People passing from the land overseen by Herod Antipas into the land ruled by Phillip were required to pay a toll in order to be allowed through. Levi was one such toll collector, and hence was not beloved of his fellow citizens. We know nothing about how he got the job, whether he supported the Herodians or not, whether he had chosen the job or been forced to take it.

But Jesus doesn’t ignore him, scorn him or berate him for his job choice. He comes to his toll booth and invites Levi to “Come follow me.” Shocking for Levi; shocking for anyone else watching too. Levi worked for the enemy, for the forces of oppression – for a family that claimed to be the true royal family of Israel. But now he was following another who claimed to be king, and as Mark’s gospel continues, more and more signs of Jesus’ true kingship will slowly be revealed to Levi and the other disciples. Time after time Mark shows us how the words and especially actions of Jesus strike at the very heart of the political, cultural, social and religious expectations and practices of the time, and how he aroused opposition from almost every segment of society.

Questions to Consider
In what ways are you an unexpected follower of Jesus? How do you prepare space to welcome other unexpected followers to God’s family?

Prayer
Father God, thank you for loving us all, no matter where we have come from and what we have done. Your love knows no boundaries and leaves no one out. Help me love the same way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – New Wine, Which Wineskins?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:18-22

We bottle our wine these days; the ancient world stored their wine in wineskins. Putting new wine in old skins would eventually burst the skins, wasting the wine. This image of the new wine needing new wineskins tells us that what Jesus was doing could not be fitted into the old ways of thinking and living. God was doing something new, and to take on board this new thing of God’s would require a change in thinking, an expanding of horizons, a willingness to think and act in ways that might not fit in with previous ways of thinking and acting. To try and keep God’s new ways within the boundaries of the old ways of living – to try and store the new wine in old skins – would only lead to disaster: the destruction of the old skins and the loss of the new wine. Jesus was challenging the Galileans to think differently, more expansively. The call to accept the new is always a difficult one that challenges the very core of our being, especially when the new challenge is to our way of life.

When God is doing new things we need to join the feast, not moan about the fact that the new wine God has lavishly poured out for us might burst our old wineskins. The challenge for the church has always been distinguishing between the new wine and the old wineskins. What worked before won’t necessarily always hold for the future. When we spend all our time arguing over the wineskins rather than celebrating the wonderful gift of the new wine, that is a sign that the transforming ‘new thing’ Jesus did, the new in-breaking of God’s kingdom, has not yet taken full hold of us.

Questions to Consider
How have you experienced God’s newness? What changed for you?

Prayer
Lord God, may we celebrate your newness and seek to always be faithful to you, the way you have been faithful to us, in the old and in the new. May we focus on the wine, not the container. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Looking for a Scandal

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:23-24

“Contemporary analogies are fraught with danger. But there exist certain persons in modern western society who are elected to no office, hold no government position, carry no authority from the police or the judiciary, and yet who appoint themselves to be the guardians of public morality. From this unofficial position they assume the right to scrutinise and criticise every movement of the royal, the religious, and the politically active – all of whom gnash their teeth but remain powerless. I refer, of course, to journalists. Far be it from me to attack all members of such a noble profession with criticisms appropriate only to some; and yet it cannot go unremarked that some journalists not infrequently bind heavy moral burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the backs of those whose activities they report, while they themselves do not attempt to lift such burdens with their little finger. This is not a mere digression. It reminds us of two important points. (a) One does not have to be a member of an official thought police in order to have considerable influence within a culture. (b) The self-appointed guardians of public behaviour might not cross the street to inspect the private behaviour of an unknown individual. But they will happily go to the other side of the world, and hide in places far less congenial than Galilean cornfields, in order to take one surreptitious photograph of a princess wearing somewhat less than she would normally put on for the cameras.

To bring this back to the first century. Even if … we were to grant that the average Pharisee would not inspect the hands, or worry about the corn-plucking habits, of an ordinary Jew, we must insist that, in anyone’s terms, Jesus was not an ordinary Jew. He was a prophet, announcing that Israel’s god was becoming king. If a humble monk suddenly becomes Archbishop, or a country boy decides to run for President, all eyes are upon him. If he has already given broad hints of adopting unfashionable or unpopular policies, some of the eyes will be eager for scandal.”

N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, p.392.

Question to Consider
How does the scrutiny applied to Jesus also apply to and affect us?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me live a life beyond reproach in service of you. No hint of scandal, just love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Another Controversy, Another Messianic Claim

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:25-26

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say here. He doesn’t disagree with the Pharisees and dispute their claim about the disciples. He doesn’t deny that the disciples are outside the bounds of traditional Sabbath observance. The Pharisees actually have a point. Instead, Jesus claims special circumstances as a reason for the disciples’ behaviour and even gives a scriptural example to back up his claim for the disciples’ exemption from Sabbath observance on this occasion. And, as we would expect by now, he does so in a way that makes some very strong, controversial claims for himself, who he is and what he is doing.

This episode in the life of King David came at a time when he had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel, but had not yet actually been enthroned as king. He was hiding from Saul, trying to gather support, and waiting for when his time would come. The Pharisees (and any others listening) would have been shocked by the parallels between David and Jesus that Jesus was claiming here: the true king, ordained by God but not yet recognised and vindicated as king. And like David, Jesus, as king, was claiming the right to be able to bypass the usual rules and regulations in order to feed his people. His claim was a messianic one. He was not casually trying to cover for his wayward disciples. The kingdom was coming; God was doing a new thing and new life was bursting out all over the place, in new and unexpected ways.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of what David did and Jesus’ claim to be doing the same? What do you think the disciples thought of this?

Prayer
Loving Father, others need to see the new life you have given me, need to see the new way to be that you want for us – and I need to see the new ways to live out this new life. Show me and teach me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Not Just Another Day

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:27-28

I am old enough to remember when there was a difference between the week and the weekend, Saturday as well, not just Sunday. The biggest difference: apart from New Brighton Mall on Saturday mornings, shops were closed. These days, leaving aside online shopping, everything is open almost all the time. So many jobs (especially in the retail sector) require workers to work weekends or at least be available to do so. Sunday is now just another day of the week; for many it would be merely coincidental that church services are held on that day. Only those young enough to be at school would notice any particular difference. It can be hard to observe a Sabbath when we are pressured to view all days as essentially the same.

Such a view isn’t helped when Jesus’ statement that “the son of man is master even of the Sabbath” is interpreted to mean that we need not observe the Sabbath because Jesus has abolished it. Not at all. The point is not our freedom from the Sabbath but the good news that we have been set free for the Sabbath. God cared enough for his creation to give us a day of rest. We know life is busy. We know that there is even an entire profession devoted to helping people relieve the pressures of modern life, and entire sections of the pharmaceutical industry geared towards alleviating the stress caused by the pace of life today. Perhaps if more of us observed the Sabbath and kept it as a time of holy rest and renewal, these pressures would not be so great, for us and for those who see our example.

Questions to Consider
How is your Sunday different from other days of the week? Why?

Prayer
Creator God, thank you for knowing us and what we need, and for giving us a day to rest, to refresh ourselves in you and with others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)