The Last Week: Chapter 4, Wednesday

Mark 14:1-11

Another Markian frame, this time in opposite and contrast.

  • The need for a traitor: Mark 14:1-2
  • The unnamed woman: Mark 14:3-9
  • The advent of traitor: Mark 14:10-11
  • “The literary contrast between the framed unit and the framing ones is between believer and traitor, but the depth of the Markian juxtaposition requires an understanding of what each person achieved within the sequence of Mark’s story about Jesus.” (page 71)
    • It is easy to see why betraying Jesus represents the worst action possible, but why does anointing Jesus imply the best?

The Need For A Traitor

  • “Why, if the Jewish crowd was so against Jesus, was it necessary to arrest him in the darkness of night with the help of a traitor from among Jesus’s followers?” (page 72)
  • “The only reason given by Josephus for Antipas’ execution of John the Baptizer in his Jewish Antiquities is not the content of John’s message, but the size of John’s crowd.” (page 73)
  • Borg & Crossan point out that Mark emphasized that the “ordinary” Jewish citizens, or the crowds, were not against Jesus, in fact they believed it to be the opposite, but that the Jewish leaders feared their support of Jesus. In Mark 14:1-2 it appears that the authorities have given up, there is no way to arrest Jesus unless they use stealth.
  • “Do the other evangelists follow Mark’s emphasis? Less and less.” (page 74)
  • “as we move sequentially from Mark through Matthew and Luke to John, that is, from the early 70s to the mid 90s CE, that original emphasis on Jewish supporting crowd versus Jewish high-priestly authority diminishes significantly.” (page 75)

The Twelve As Failed Disciples

  • “as we shall see, Peter, James, and John, then the Twelve as a group, and finally Judas all fail tragically but not irrevocably (except for Judas) to accept their destiny alongside Jesus.” (page 75)
  • “to be the Twelve (apostles or disciples) in Mark’s story is to fail Jesus badly.” (page 76)
  • Mark makes this clear with his framing of the journey to Jerusalem with healings of blindness at the beginning and end of the journey.
  • “Between those frames of blindness, Mark focuses the failed discipleship of the Twelve around three prophetic warnings of his death and resurrection given to them by Jesus.” (page 77)

First Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • “Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, but far from applauding him Jesus ‘sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him’ (8:29-30). Such injunctions to silence in Mark usually do not mean, “You have it right, but keep it secret,” but rather, “You have it wrong, so keep it quiet.” In other words, “Please, shut up!” (page 77)
  • “Right after that wrong and silenced misunderstanding about Jesus as Messiah comes that correct and open announcement of Jesus as Son of Man.” The title of Son of Man will be discussed in more detail in chapter 5.
  • “All three connected prophecies of death and resurrection beget at least incomprehension if not downright opposition from the Twelve.”
  • “It is extremely important to underline Mark’s theology at this point. For him, Jesus knows in precise detail what is going to happen, but he does not speak of suffering vicariously to atone for the sins of the world.” (page 78)
  • “To follow Jesus means to accept the cross, to walk with him against imperial violence and religious collaboration, and to pass through death to resurrection.”

Second Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • “Even as Jesus is announcing his death buy execution, they are debating precedence among themselves. Here Mark is not only criticizing the disciples; he is almost lampooning them.” (page 79)

Third Prophecy, Reaction, And Response

  • “Continues what we have called the Lenten journey theme as Jesus tries in vain not just to foretell but to explain his destiny to the disciples, so that they will be enabled to follow him on the way through death to resurrected life.” (Page 79)
  • The third prophecy is the most detailed of the three. (page 80)
  • the “three prophecies emphasize also that Jesus is calling all his followers — and not just the twelve disciples — to accept that communal destiny of death and resurrection.” (page 81)
  • “that confrontation is with oppressive foreign empire (against violence) and its collaborative local religion (against injustice), that is to say, with any religio-political combination that establishes injustice on earth that belongs to a God of justice.” (page 81)
  • “notice that in the first prophecy’s reaction and response Jesus was challenging them to die or at least be ready to die with him in Jerusalem. In the second and third ones, however, the emphasis is on how to behave — and behave as leaders — both now and hereafter.” (page 82)
  • “The function of the three responses is to spell out in some detail what Jesus’s destiny of execution and resurrection means for himself, for the Twelve, and for all his followers.” (page 82)

Atonement: Substitution Or Participation?

  • “It is probably fair to say that substitutionary atonement is the only way that many or even most contemporary Christians understand faith in the sacrificial and salvific death of Jesus.” (page 83)
  • “The basic and controlling metaphor for that understanding of God’s design is our own experience of a responsible human judge who, no matter how loving, cannot legitimately or validly walk into her courtroom and clear the docket of all offenders by anticipatory forgiveness.” (page 83)
  • “Notice, above all, how repeatedly Mark has Jesus insist that Peter, James, and John, the Twelve, and all his followers on the way from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem must pass with him through death to a resurrected life.” (page 83)
  • “For Mark, it is about participation with Jesus and not substitution by Jesus.”
  • “And every year, our Lent asks us to repent, change, and participate in that transition with Jesus.” (page 84)
  • “What about that climactic conclusion in Mark 10:45, which states that “the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”?
  • “The Greek word translated ‘ransom’ is lutron, which means the payment to an owner for a slave’s freedom or a captive’s ransom. It is not used in the Greek of the Hebrew Bible for anything like vicarious satisfaction or vicarious atonement to God for sin.”
  • “How does Mark think Jesus’s death is a ‘ransom’ (lutron) for many? The Markan Jesus has been insisting on the ‘how’ ever since Caesarea Phillippi — to the Twelve in particular but also to all others as well. It is not by Jesus substituting for them, but by their participating in Jesus.” (page 84)

In Remembrance Of Her

  • “Why does she deserve or her action receive this absolutely unique and stunningly extraordinary accolade from Jesus: ‘Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her'” (14:9) (page 85)
  • “She alone, of all those who heard Jesus’s three prophecies of his death and resurrection, believe him and drew the obvious conclusion. Since (not if) you are going to die and rise, I must anoint you now beforehand, because I will never have a chance to do it afterward. She is, for Mark, the first believer. And she believed from the word of Jesus before any discovery of an empty tomb.” (page 85)
  • “The unnamed woman is not only the first believer; she is also the model leader. Jesus has been telling the Twelve what leadership entails from Caesarea Phillippi to Jerusalem and has gotten nowhere with them.” (page 85)
  • “The unnamed woman represents the perfect disciple-leader and is contrasted with Judas, who represents the worst one possible.” (page 86)

The Motive Of Judas

  • Mark gives absolutely no hint of Judas’s motive in betraying Jesus. Mark, by the way, does not say that Judas did it for money, simply that they promised him some.
  • “Mark’s emphasis is not on Judas’s motive, whatever it was, but on Judas’s membership in the Twelve.” (page 87)

“The traitor has entered into an agreement with those who collaborate with imperial rule. And so Wednesday ends and the plot has been set in motion.” (page 87)

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