Tag Archives: Mark 12

The Crowd

The Crowd (CaD Mk 12) Wayfarer

The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Mark12:37b (NIV)

I remember the first time I heard the delight of the crowd. I was twelve. It was what would be considered Middle School today, but then it was Junior High. I was running for the student government. I wrote a speech. I delivered it to the entire school assembled in the gymnasium. It delighted the crowd, and I confess: the crowd’s delight delighted me.

It was a really innocent moment as I look back on it and realize just how young I was. Who can look back on their coming-of-age years without both laughing and cringing? And of course, those same coming-of-age years is when I learned all the hard lessons of being “in” and/or “out” of different social groups. It did not take long for me to learn just how thin the line is between delighting the crowd and displeasing them.

The events of today’s chapter took place on Tuesday of the final week of Jesus’ earthly exile. It is the week of Passover, the biggest of the annual Jewish festivals and Jerusalem is swelling with crowds who have come to worship at the Temple. Mark established back in chapter three that the Chief Priests and religious power brokers began looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus. In chapter eight, Mark mentions it again.

As I read the chapter in the quiet, I found myself meditating on the role that “the crowd” plays in this escalating conflict between Jesus and the institutional religious leaders. Forty-eight hours before the events in today’s chapter, the crowd was cheering for Jesus as He entered the city on the back of a borrowed donkey. For two days, Jesus’ enemies have been publicly challenging Him with questions intended to trip Him. Instead, Jesus turns the tables on them time-and-time again.

The crowd is delighted.

Mark makes note that the institutional authorities are afraid of arresting Jesus because of the crowd.

The crowd is powerful on multiple levels. The crowd‘s delight is as potent and addictive as crack (“Look at all the “Likes”! Look at the page hits! OMG! I’m positively viral! I’m trending!”). The crowd can make you or break you.

The crowd is a fickle lover.

It’s easy for me to overlook it, but the crowd has been a constant player in Jesus’ story. Jesus has been with the crowd for three years. The crowd followed Him everywhere. The crowd pressed in on Him until He had to get into a boat and teach from out on the water. The crowd cheered when, multiple times, He sprung for an all-you-can-eat fish-sandwich buffet. The crowd quickly abandoned Him when He switched the menu and said that the real meal was His very own flesh-and-blood.

John noted…

many people noticed the signs [Jesus] was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them. John 2:24-25 (MSG)

The crowd can be manipulated.

The crowd can be bought.

In about 48 hours, Jesus’ enemies will arrest Him at night out of sight of the crowd. They will quickly try him at daybreak while the crowd is still sleeping. A few hours later, the crowd will be screaming at the Roman Governor to nail Jesus to a cross.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the crowd on this earthly journey. Along my life journey, I have regularly been in the various public spotlights even if it’s on a relatively small scale. I have had to navigate my own desires, emotions, reactions, responses, and experiences with the crowd. I’ve felt the crowd‘s delight, and I’ve know the crowd‘s displeasure.

As a follower of Jesus, I’ve learned that I can’t be a follower of the crowd. The paths are divergent. It’s too easy to showing up for the all-you-can-eat buffet of the nice sayings of Jesus that delight the crowd as they cut them out of context with a cultural exacto knife. Being a follower of Jesus means that while the crowds enjoy their fish sandwiches, Jesus beckons me to take up my cross and follow Him to an upper room where the menu is His flesh broken for me, His blood shed for me.

It is there that I see the crowd in Jesus’ context.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Escalation, Truth, and Discomfort

“[The teachers of the Law] devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
Mark 12:40 (NIV)

Over the years I have had the privilege of serving certain clients in the monitoring, coaching, and providing Quality Assessment (e.g. “Your call may be monitored for quality and training purposes.”) for their collections teams. The process of working with customers who owe you money can be a sticky wicket. We’re not talking about third-party collection agencies who just want to bully people into paying so they can quickly get their cut and make their margins. My clients are businesses who want to collect the debt, but also want to keep most of their customers knowing that the lifetime value of that customer’s business far exceeds the amount they are past due in the present moment.

As I always remind both my team members and my clients: “When you are dealing with people’s money, the conversation takes on additional layers of complexity and emotion.”

In today’s chapter, Mark continues to share episodes from Jesus’ final days. There had always been conflict brewing between Jesus and the religious power brokers and rule keepers in Jerusalem. Most of His ministry, however, had been in the region of Galilee far from Jerusalem. Now Jesus is in Jerusalem and is teaching in the temple during the most crowded week of the year. Three times in previous chapters Jesus has told #TheTwelve that He was going to Jerusalem to be arrested, beaten, and killed, and then He would rise from the dead. The episodes Mark relates in today’s chapter illustrate the escalation of conflict between Jesus and the institutional religious powers.

In the first episode, Jesus tells a parable that metaphorically states what He has said plainly before: The religious rule-keepers killed the prophets that God had sent in the past, and now they’re going to kill God’s own Son. The parable antagonized Jesus’ enemies who have already been looking for a way to make sure Jesus “sleeps with the fishes.” Ironically, Jesus said that, like Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days, He would spend three days in the grave. [FYI: That’s a reference from The Godfather for those of you who didn’t catch it.]

What follows is three different attempts to trip Jesus up with religious questions that were political hot potatoes. The intent in at least two of the three questions was to try and get Jesus to say something that His enemies could either spin to diminish His approval rating or condemn Him. Each time, Jesus deftly handles the question and leaves His enemies flummoxed.

On the heels of these trick questions and attempts to trip Him up, Jesus speaks critically of His enemies and warns His audience to “watch out” for the teachers of the law. He then offers a curious accusation that is lost on modern readers. Jesus says that the religious power brokers “devour widows houses.”

In most cases, women had very poor legal and social standing in Jesus’ day. This was especially true of older widows who might have been left with her husband’s debts. With limited means and a social system that made it virtually impossible for her to produce an income, the widow was incredibly vulnerable. Unless she had an influential and/or wealthy male advocate, the widow fell prey to wealthy and powerful men (remember, the religious power brokers were “Teachers of Law” (aka lawyers) within the Jewish religious, legal, and social system. These lawyers would use the law to seize a widow’s home and assets, leaving her destitute and living off the mercy of others. Even though the Law of Moses demanded special consideration for the defenseless (including widows), the “Teachers of the Law” found legal loopholes to justify their greedy victimization of these women.

What was most fascinating for me in today’s chapter is the very next episode. Right after criticizing the Teachers of the Law for their treatment of widows, Jesus leads His followers to the place where people came to give their “offerings” to the temple treasury. Wealthy Jews from around the known world were in town for Passover, so there were certainly many wealthy travelers using the annual pilgrimage to give generously (and publicly). Jesus sits and watches the riches being offered to the temple coffers. Then an old widow (I wonder which Teacher of the Law there at the temple now owned the home she once shared with her husband along with all of its possessions?) steps up and puts in two pennies.

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Two things stuck with me this morning. The power brokers in this world have their way through systemic advantage, intimidation, instilling fear, dishing out punishment, and eliminating the opposition. This is true of any number of systems including criminal, political, governmental, organizational, business, financial, social, educational, legal, military, familial, and even religious systems. It is obvious in the episodes Mark shares that there is rapid escalation between Jesus and His enemies, and His enemies have political, religious, social, legal, and financial systemic power. They want Jesus dead, and Jesus knows this. In fact, He knows that they will kill Him. Nevertheless, Jesus continues to fearlessly speak spiritual truth that both condemns His enemies and pushes the buttons that will ensure the signature on His death warrant.

The second thing that struck me is that I have infinitely more in common with Jesus’ enemies than with the widow whom Jesus praises.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded,” Jesus said, “and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

In other words, Jesus is in the Collections business.

Most days the chapter and my meditation leave me encouraged, challenged, inspired, contemplative, and even comforted.

Today, I leave my quiet time very uncomfortable.

Chapter-a-Day Mark 12

“And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Mark 12:33 (NLT)

Wendy has been doing a lot of baking lately. Cheesecakes and cupcakes have been the specialty as of late. She is amazing in the kitchen. One of her cheesecakes recently sold at a charity auction for over $1100. She’s learned in her baking that the quality and purity of the ingredients makes a difference in the outcome. The same is true with life.

For example, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is love.

Not good theology and love.
Not temperance and love.
Not obedience and love.
Not goodness and love.
Not sacrifice and love.
Not purity and love.
Not giving and love.
Not ___ and love.

The greatest commandment is just love. Love God with all you’ve got.
The second commandment is just love others as you love yourself.

The simplicity and purity of the ingredient is what makes the resulting life taste so good.

If you add anything to it, you ruin the recipe.