Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Devotional: New Ways For a New Age, Mark 2.13-22

Mark Paragraph Outlines

Mark has spent the first chapter of his Gospel pointing to Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. Now he will show why this is so important as he begins a section on Jesus’ teaching. His big point will be that Jesus’ teaching, while being the fulfillment of the revelation of God in the Old Testament, is something new and not based on Jewish tradition. Mark’s big point is that God is now with them in the flesh and the great test of faithfulness is to be following Jesus. Older standards for measuring faithfulness are no longer valid. The issue is what will one do with this new ultimate revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

The calling of Matthew/Levi, the tax collector highlights this new standard. Traditionally, Matthew and those like him were disparaged as “tax collectors and sinners” and seen as outsiders with whom a faithful Jew could not even eat or drink. They were collaborators with the oppressing enemy and would be regarded as compromisers who must be avoided. But Jesus compares their sin with sickness and points to himself as the cure. The key word is “follow.” Instead of Jesus’ close contact with sinners causing its infection to spread to him, the contact with him heals and changes the sinner, making them qualified for close fellowship with God. With the Son of God physically present in their midst, the sinner did not need the elaborate old covenant rituals (Hebrews) or even to adopt Jewish identity (Paul)– he needed only to follow Jesus to enjoy intimate fellowship with God.

This is the point Jesus is making in the bridegroom and new wineskins parables in the next paragraph. The old covenant looked ahead and pointed to the coming of Jesus, but now that the Son of God was there a new means of approaching God was opened up. To try to put that into the old package of the previous age would lead to nothing but disaster. New times and new situations require putting the timeless truths of God’s revelation into new packages and re-applying them to new situations. This is what we see happening in the Biblical story as the truth progresses to its ultimate revelation in Jesus.

Thus, we need to be sensitive to the Spirit, immersed in the Word and, most important, devoted to Jesus to be discerning of how we will apply His authoritative word in new ways to the situations we face. We need to know our tradition (how the Holy Spirit has applied the Word over the last 2000 years, not just recently) and respect it, but not be enslaved to it. What is God calling you to do today, where you are now, as you follow Jesus?

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