Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tempting the Beloved Son

Continuing reading in Mark, I found that Stephen's comment to my previous post on Mark stuck more in my mind than I expected (thanks Stephen!). The one thing he said was that Mark had ordered his material carefully. Now, I have generally seen Mark as a 'bread and butter' gospel, with fewer frills than the others, but I found myself looking for interesting juxtapositions.

I read about Jesus' baptism. "You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well-pleased." What an awesome encouragement and acknowledgent. Jesus must have felt so good after that. I don't know whether he was prone to doubt or how close he was to the Father while on earth. But, whatever, just then he must have felt all warm and accepted and those good things we humans need.

And then next verse - what a contrast. Off to the desert to be tempted. Mark doesn't elaborate - we know the story. One minute Jesus could have been on such a high, and then the crunch of reality in the human world. Hunger, wild animals, loneliness and Satan.

The same thought I had before, on John the Baptist. We might think we're losing. Stuck in the desert. Wishing for the mountain top experience we had before. Jesus has been there. It happened to him. It's ok for it to happen to us. It's not sin. Or judgement. It's life. And if we're on the mountain top - absorb the love and the strength, because we may need it!


Stephen Murray said...

The Father's words to Jesus are fascinating because they seem to be made up of two seperate OT quotations. The first part 'this is my son' sounds very much like Psalm 2 - the Psalm of the victorious king who will subdue God's enemies. The second part 'with whom I am well pleased' sounds very much like one of the Servant songs in Isaiah. A number of commentators have picked up these OT echoes. Up until this point in redemptive history on could be forgiven for thinking that the Servant of Isaiah was a different individual from the Messiah king of Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7. Here' the Father brings these two concepts together as he anoints his king - his Son Jesus. Its amazing then that Mark seems to split on these two themes: chs.1-8 seem to focus more on Jesus as the Messiah king whilst the second half of 8 on to the end seems to focus on Jesus as Servant (there are far more Isaiah quotes and allusions in the second half of the book).

At the baptism then Jesus is anointed as both the triumphant king and as the weak and beggarly suffering servant who will be punished for the transgressions of many.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Stephen. You are giving me something to think about, describing Mark's careful crafting. Or is it God's and Mark picks it up unintentionally? A bit of both I suppose. It is hard to associate such 'academic' work with relatively primitive people. I know I'm laying myself open here. I'm trying to move my mind.
And now my laptop battery is going flat . . .

Stephen Murray said...

The Hellenistic world was anything but primitive. Whilst a lot of the early disciples were from the rural area around Galilee the Hellenistic world in which they moved after Jesus' ascension was a sophisticated and highly literate society. In some ways their literature surpassed our contemporary literature in terms of the literary devices the authors employed to give emphasis to certain parts of text. So for example Mark uses a 'sandwich' structure often where he begins a story (the outer layer or bread of the sandwich) then shifts focus and tells another shorter story in completion (the meat) and then he finishes the initial story (the other outer layer or bread). You'll see this in action with the story of Jairus and his daughter which is interweaved with the story of the women with bleeding (ch.4). Mark is beautiful in that it is both a 'bread and butter' gospel whilst at the same time being an intricate piece of literature. Enjoy studying it.