Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hated (part 2)

Not only had Jesus been conducted into Jerusalem as its King, and then said and done some interesting things in connection with the Temple, but He had also said and done a great number of things prior to that which had enabled Him to gain a following and a reputation that resulted in what would come to be referred to as His “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, and His being able to act with seeming impunity in the Temple. 

The record of Mark’s Gospel prior to Jesus’ words that spoke of the destruction of the Temple (on the heels of the widow’s unfortunate offering) have Him enduring Satan’s testing in the wilderness following His baptism, casting out demons, healing Peter’s mother-in-law, cleansing a leper, healing a paralyzed man, restoring a withered hand, offering mysteriously authoritative teaching, calming a storm, restoring a well-known demoniac to sanity, reversing a woman’s twelve year long ailment, raising a twelve year old girl from the dead, feeding multitudes, walking on water, providing hearing to a deaf man, giving sight to a blind man, experiencing a transfiguration accompanied by Moses and Elijah, and cursing a fig tree so that it withers and dies. 

This is the man---that has done these amazing works---that now speaks such things about the Temple.  He goes on to speak of the possibility of being mislead, with many coming in His name, of wars and rumors of wars, of nations and kingdoms rising up in arms against one another, of earthquakes, of famines, and of pain (13:5-8).  It is then that Jesus speaks of His own disciples experiencing persecution, of standing before governors and kings on His behalf, of preaching the Gospel to all nations, of arrest, of the Holy Spirit, of brother rising against brother, and of children rising against parents.  It is to this that Jesus adds those poignant words, saying “You will be hated by everyone because of My name.” 

Hated?  Hate was not an uncommon disposition in those days.  Hate was part of the social fabric and the contest for honor.  Israel was hated by a variety of people.  In turn, Israel offered hate in return---one can think of the attitude and disgust engendered against the Samaritans in this regard.  In many respects, the hate for and from Israel would center on Israel’s claims to be the special and chosen people of the covenant God, and thus stem from the exclusivist positions derived from their understanding of that claim.  Perhaps Jesus’ mention of this hatred because of Him was a way of communicating to His disciples that they must continue on with some of the exclusive practices being carried on by the wider citizenry of Israel? 

Of course, in consideration of Jesus’ wide-open practices in the area of table-fellowship, in which He welcomed all and sundry to break bread with Him in defiance of custom and societal norms, such thinking can be dismissed almost immediately.  Thus the high-mindedness with which Israel looked upon themselves, which was a large part of the reason for which they disassociated from the rest of the world and therefore became the grounds for mutual hatred, was demonstrably precluded by Jesus’ active and oft-repeated example. 

Yet at the same time Jesus spoke of His disciples being hated.  So how would these disciples have responded to this?  How would they have heard this?  To uncover the answer it is necessary to look into Israel’s history, and especially the history by which Israel saw itself supremely defined.  It must always, always, always be remembered that even though Jesus was certainly unique in a number of ways, His teaching and His mission were firmly grounded within Judaism and the history of Israel.  

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