Monday, April 7, 2014

Calling His Disciples (part 4)

Utilizing Mark’s narrative, one finds that subsequent to Matthew’s (or Levi’s) leaving of the tax booth and following Jesus, that “Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s home” where “many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him” (Mark 2:15).  The language suggests that Jesus either had many disciples following Him, or that Jesus was eating with many tax collectors and sinners because many tax collectors and sinners were following Him.  Combining the two, one could surmise that many tax collectors and sinners were disciples of Jesus (always keeping in mind that there were more than twelve disciples---twelve were chosen and named because of the symbolic re-constitution of the twelve tribes of Israel, with Jesus presented to Israel as the leader a new exodus movement as a new Moses). 

Mark continues: “When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  When Jesus heard this He said to them, ‘Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (2:16-17)  To this, Matthew adds a report of Jesus saying, “I want mercy and not sacrifice,” thus calling their attention to the entire story and back story of the prophetic work of Hosea, whereas Luke adds “to repentance” (5:32) to Jesus’ call to sinners.  Again, here one finds minor differences in detail, with these minor differences being commensurate with and playing to the overall movements of the Matthean and Lukan narratives. 

Sticking with Mark, and even though they are at a meal, the next thing that is heard is that “John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting.  So they came to Jesus and said, ‘Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t fast?’” (2:18)  Keeping in mind that the setting for this question is a meal being hosted by Matthew, “Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them they do not fast.  But the days are coming when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and at that time they will fast.  No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and the tear becomes worse.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins will be destroyed.  Instead  new wine is poured into new wineskins” (2:19-22). 

So here, with Mark’s record adequately standing in for the three synoptic witnesses, the story has moved from the final record of a specifically called disciple to a feast where Jesus mentions a wedding and wine.  Why mention this?  Well, fascinatingly, and even though there is significant divergence between the synoptics and John when it comes to Jesus’ calling of His disciples, as has been seen, this is a similarity in theme (though not in detail) that does not pass un-noticed. 

In the synoptics, Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew.  In John, Jesus “calls” (though there is not necessarily a call to follow) Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathanael.  In the synoptics, the final recorded call of a disciple is followed by a meal (or “great banquet” according to Luke), in which there is talk of wedding and wineskins.  In John, the final recorded call of a disciple is followed by Jesus and His disciples attending a wedding (which would have been accompanied by a meal or great banquet), at which Jesus will convert water into wine.   

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