Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Timothy & Countering The Culture (part 2)

In the fifth chapter of Mark, Jesus heals a demoniac by casting a “Legion” of demons out of him and into a herd of pigs.  At the conclusion of this story, it is reported that “As He was getting into the boat the man who had been demon-possessed asked if he could go with Him.  But Jesus did not permit him to do so.  Instead, He said to him, ‘Go to your home and to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you, that He had mercy on you.’” (Mark 5:18-19) 

At first glance, it appears that Jesus is in fact telling this man to engage in activity that would be standard for a client, that of telling others about the benefaction of a patron.  However, on second glance, Jesus, as was customary, is pointing away from Himself and to the Creator God of Israel as the source of healing.  At the same time, the Gospel author wants the reader to see the way in which Jesus act of mercy is received against the known background of the patron-client dynamic, as he goes on to write “So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed” (5:20).  This would have been standard practice for a client.  Though it has not been requested nor demanded of him, he has made Jesus his patron.  Though the earthly Jesus clearly did not desire this, especially when considering His constant insistence on keeping His activities or identity secret, in a cosmic sense this is entirely appropriate.

The story of “Blind Bartimaeus,” as recorded in the tenth chapter of Mark, also fits well into the patron-client dynamic.  Commencing with verse forty-six: “They came to Jericho.  As Jesus and His disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (10:46-47)  By this, Bartimaeus is attempting to gain Jesus’ attention and ultimately His patronage, offering Jesus praise, requesting mercy, and so attempting to take the position of client. 

Reading further then, it is said that “Many scolded him to get him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’  So they called the blind man and said to him, ‘Have courage!  Get up!  He is calling you.’  He threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’  The blind man replied, “Rabbi, let me see again.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your faith has healed you.’  Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the road” (10:48-52). 

In this story, Bartimaeus is undeterred by the scolding.  He desires Jesus’ patronage.  He is willing to become Jesus’ client.  He throws off his cloak (likely his only cloak), thus signifying a complete reliance on this patron (further debasing himself as a nod to the honor of the potential patron).  He also uses the honorific title of “Rabbi.”  Jesus’ response is not what one would expect from a patron, in that He does not take credit for the healing, but rather, Jesus tells the man that he has been healed by his own faith (fides, pistis - loyalty).  The now healed man, desirous of showing forth his loyalty and of having a role in increasing Jesus’ public honor, takes up the position of a client, by following Jesus on the road. 

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