“Too many of you are competing to sit at a table that Jesus would have flipped over.” Some random meme Recently, that meme popped up on my Facebook feed, and I hadRead More…
It’s Paul’s approach that I find interesting here as well. He basically tells his listeners that he didn’t come with big, fancy words, but with the basic concept of a crucified Lord. It was the story of a God who humbled himself, and was humiliated by the powers of this world. It was the story of a God who died for those he loved. It was the story of a Christ who presented his weaknesses to the world to show them the strength of his desire to redeem them. And Paul did all of this while he, himself, was afraid, trembling in the fear of his own weaknesses. But that’s what Paul wanted. His approach was to let others see the power of God in his actions, and not in his fancy and persuasive words.
When we make the armor of God about protecting ourselves, and our own minds, we begin to see the world in black and white, we begin to see the world in right and wrong, and we look for justifications to make sure that we are always “in the right.” And when we do that, we surround ourselves with people and with information that feeds upon those self-justifications. This then turns into an Us vs. Them mentality, and when we claim Christ as our mascot, our whole worldview turns into the idea of the Christ who agrees with us as Christ against Culture instead of Christ with Us, or Christ among us.
And they took offence at him. His very presence in the synagogue, “pretending” to be a spiritual leader, incited their wrath, and they were scandalized by his presence there as one who would presume to teach them.
They knew him from when he was but a boy, and here he was taking on more authority than he ought to, more than he was allowed to, given his history, given what they knew about him.
And the result, Mark says, is that he did not do many works of power there. Instead, Jesus marveled at their disbelief.
The paralyzed man stood up, picked up his bed, and walked away. And all those present were filled with awe and amazement, and they said, “We have seen strange things today.” After having been told that the people were filled with amazement and awe, and were glorifying God, these people then said what amounts to, “Yup. That was weird.”
The stark contrast between my beautiful weekend and the reality of Monday morning made me aware of how easy it is to lose the peaceful nature of those moments away from routine, and I wondered how beautiful it would be to experience those moments I experienced on the retreat in the normal routine of my life. I wondered if it would be possible to live in the mindset of the retreat in every moment.
I think most of us, when first reading this passage, can be excused for cocking our heads to the side and wondering out loud, “Could you be any more esoteric, Paul?” What exactly is he driving at with this comment about someone’s last will and testament? People change their wills all the time, don’t they? At least before they die, so why bring this up here? It seems, that Paul wants to again make the point that God had made a promise to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. And so, this discussion about a will is really about the ultimate provider of salvation – the law, or faith.
What’s interesting here, is the word that Paul uses here to describe the Gentiles is ethnos (pl. ethne), meaning “a race, a nation” and implying any nation other than Israel. It is also the word from which we get the English word Ethnic. Generally, this word, in current usage, tends not to refer to other nations. Instead, it takes on the meaning more closely related to it’s original implied meaning of “anything other than Israel,” with the new implication being that anyone who is ethnic is not like us. It is usually uttered by those who are trying to make the distinction between themselves and others, often with the intention of separating themselves from those others; in short, it often has racist overtones, even among those who would call themselves believers. It would be more akin to Peter’s attempt to remove himself from the gentiles in Galatians 2:11-24, and less like Paul’s reminder that all are welcome in the family of God, if only they believe.
We cannot overlook that Peter, and even Barnabas joined into this division within a church of fellow believers. They heard what the people from James had said, and then turned around and refused to eat with the gentiles. Peter had understood God’s decision to include gentiles in the story of salvation. And Peter had already had a meeting with Paul, James, and John about not needing to make gentiles follow the rules and regulations of their Jewish heritage. So this decision by Peter and Barnabas to fall into a pattern of excluding people is, as Paul says, based entirely in fear. Fear that he might be ridiculed, have his authority challenged, or have his leadership threatened.
As more proof, Paul lets us know that these people “added nothing to me.” Or, stated differently, they found no fault with his Gospel, and therefore did not need to correct him. Moreover, they saw, they recognized, that Paul had “been entrusted with the Gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised.” And so they all agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the Gentiles, and Peter and the others would work on sharing the Gospel with the Jews.