Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mission Grounded in Rejection


Mark 6:1-13

This reading is comprised of two stories – the rejection of Jesus in his home town (vv.1-6 and the sending of the twelve (vv. 7-13). Mark connects them in vv.6-7, by having Jesus leave his home town and go around teaching to the surrounding villages, then sending the twelve to go out as well. I find it best to consider each story in its own right, then to consider them as a couplet. Interestingly, the second story – of the twelve’s mission – actually concludes in 6:30-31: The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.Like Jesus, the disciple were doing and teaching. Like Jesus, they needed a deserted place to get away from the crowds and for restoration. And, in my mind, that is the point of this whole pericope – those who follow Jesus are invited to be like Jesus, by participating in the Reign of God at hand.

1Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν, καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. 
And he left there, and is entering into his home town, and his disciples are following him.
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, , ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἀκολουθοῦσιν: PAI 3p, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him  2) to join one as a disciple, become or be his disciple
“And he left there” is a reference to Jairus’ house, where Jesus has just raised a 12 year old girl to life. Within that story, he had healed a woman who had been suffering for 12 years. In the next story, he will send out the 12.

2καὶ γενομένου σαββάτου ἤρξατο διδάσκειν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ: καὶ πολλοὶ 
ἀκούοντες ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες, Πόθεν τούτῳ ταῦτα, καὶ τίς  σοφία  
δοθεῖσα τούτῳ καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τοι αῦται διὰ τῶν χειρῶν αὐτοῦ γινόμεναι; 
And when the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue; and hearing many were infuriated saying, “Where these things? And this wisdom which has been given to him and the powerful deeds which are happening through his hands? 
γενομένου: AMPart gsn, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
ἤρξατο : AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
διδάσκειν : PAInf, διδάσκω, 1) to teach 
ἀκούοντες : PAPart npm, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear 
ἐξεπλήσσοντο: IPI 3p, amazed, to be exceedingly struck in mind (from ἐκ intensive, and πλήσσω to strike).
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
δοθεῖσα: APPart nfs, APPart nsf, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone  2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage 
γινόμεναι:  PAPart afp, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being  2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
There is something about the crowd’s actions in vv.2-3 that evoke a reaction from Jesus in v.4. Most translations say that the crowd was “amazed” (NIV) or “astonished” (KJV, ESV), or “astounded (NRSV) at what they were hearing. Mark uses ἐξεπλήσσοντο five times: Mk.1:22; here; Mk. 7:37; Mk. 10:26; and Mk.11:18. Is ‘astonishment’ a good thing? Does it have negative connotations? Or, is it a neutral term in itself, taking its shade of meaning from its context? I lean toward the latter and am translating it negatively here because Mark immediately says that the people were ‘scandalized’ by what Jesus said. If they are infuriated, the questions that follow are challenging, not identifying questions. Perhaps, “What the hell is he saying? How does he come to be able to do these things? Isn’t just that carpenter kid of Mary’s?” etc.
Michael Turton points out that the reference to the powerful deeds done ‘through his hands’ sounds complimentary until one sees that Jesus is called a ‘craftsman’ (or ‘carpenter’) in the next sentence, a reference to one who works with one’s hands. http://users2.ev1.net/~turton/GMark/GMark06.html#6.p.1.6

3οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν  τέκτων,  υἱὸς τῆς Μαρίας καὶ ἀδελφὸς Ἰακώβου καὶ 
Ἰωσῆτος καὶ Ἰούδα καὶ Σίμωνος; καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ ὧδε πρὸς 
ἡμᾶς; καὶ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο ἐν αὐτῷ. 
Is this not the craftsman, the son of Mary and brother of James and Justus and Judah and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?  And they were scandalized in him.
ἐστιν (2x): PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
εἰσὶν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ἐσκανδαλίζοντο: IPI 3p, σκανδαλίζω, 1) to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which  another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend
There is quite a bit of family information here that shows above all else that these really are Jesus’ own people who know him and his family well. I don’t know how people who ascribe to the perpetual virginity of Mary read this text, but I suspect they broaden the meaning of ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ to mean relatives in general. I offer no opinion on the matter.
The ‘son of Mary’ phrase, however, could be loaded. Perhaps Joseph is dead and one does not speak of the dead. Perhaps ‘son of Mary’ instead of ‘son of Joseph and Mary’ is a jab at Jesus’ dubious origin (which Mark never mentions, however). Again, this is an interpretive question, trying to capture the meaning and tone of the crowd’s reaction, and largely speculative on my part as well as anyone else’s.
We have met Jesus’ family already in Mark’s story. Mark 3:21 says, “When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.” Then, in 3:31, “Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.

4καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς  Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Οὐκ ἔστιν προφήτης ἄτιμος εἰ μὴ ἐν τῇ 
πατρίδι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τοῖς συγγενεῦσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 
And Jesus was saying to them, “No prophet is without honor except among his home town and among his relatives and among his house.” 
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἔστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
While I typically translate ἐν as ‘in,’ it seems that ‘among’ fits better here.
The idea that a prophet has no honor in the home town or among one’s own people is not a quote from the OT. Most commentators say it seems to be a proverbial expression that has its origins elsewhere. What does Jesus mean by saying it? (Or, if you will, what does Mark mean by having Jesus say it?) It is a backhanded way of identifying Jesus as a prophet? Is it a forehanded way of aligning these folks with the long history of those who rejected the prophets?
Mark does not mention the name of the town in this story. Mark identifies Jesus as being from Nazareth in 1:9. Then, he says in 2:1 that when Jesus returned to Capernaum it was reported that he was at home. [Incidentally, Matthew 4:12-13 says, “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,” followed by Matthew’s characteristic display that this move fulfilled what was written in the OT.]  

5καὶ οὐκ ἐδύνατο ἐκεῖ ποιῆσαι οὐδεμίαν δύναμιν, εἰ μὴ ὀλίγοις ἀρρώστοις 
ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐθεράπευσεν: 
And he was not able to do any powerful deeds there, except laying on hands he healed a few sick folk.  
ἐδύνατο: IMI 3s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and  resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable  circumstances, or by permission of law or custom 
ποιῆσαι: AAInf, ποιέω, 1) to make  1a) with the names of things made, to produce, construct,  form, fashion, etc.
ἐπιθεὶς: AAPart nsm, ἐπιτίθημι, 1) in the active voice  1a) to put or lay upon
ἐθεράπευσεν: AAI 3s, θεραπεύω, 1) to serve, do service  2) to heal, cure, restore to health 
This sentence literally reads ‘not able to do no powerful deeds,’ but the double negative does not equal a positive in Greek.
I’ve always thought this was an interesting observation – he couldn’t do anything, you know, except heal a few sick folk. But, other than that, he couldn’t do anything!

6καὶ ἐθαύμαζεν διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν. Καὶ περιῆγεν τὰς κώμας κύκλῳ 
διδάσκων. 
And he was amazed at their unbelief.  And he was going around the surrounding villages teaching.
ἐθαύμαζεν: IAI 3s, θαυμάζω, 1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel  2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration
περιῆγεν: IAI 3s, περιάγω, 1) to lead around, to lead about with one's self  2) to go about, walk about 
διδάσκων: PAPart nsm, διδάσκω, 1) to teach  1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them,  deliver didactic discourses 
Now, it’s Jesus’ turn to be amazed at them. θαυμάζω is the typical term that Mark uses for being amazed.
I use the word “surrounding” because the adjective κύκλῳ carries the meaning of going in circles. Added to that is the prefix περι from “going around” (περιῆγεν), which also means ‘around.’ I think having ‘around’ then ‘surrounding’ picks up on this redundancy of ‘round’ words. The point of the redundancy seems to be that Jesus is not teaching or sending the twelve in villages around his own town, but not in his own town.

7καὶ προσκαλεῖται τοὺς δώδεκα, καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοὺς ἀποστέλλειν δύο δύο, 
καὶ ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τῶν πνευμάτων τῶν ἀκαθάρτων: 
And he calls to the twelve, and began to send them two by two, and gave to them authority of the unclean spirits;
προσκαλεῖται: PMI 3s, προσκαλέομαι, 1) to call to  2) to call to one's self  3) to bid to come to one's self 
ἤρξατο: AMI 3s, ἄρχω, 1) to be chief, to lead, to rule
ἀποστέλλειν: PAInf, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed  2) to send away, dismiss
ἐδίδου: IAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone  2a) of one's own accord to give one something, to his advantage
In my own reading of Mark (for which I am still awaiting someone knowledgeable to offer support), I think this is an incredibly important moment. Here’s my not-quite-developed opinion of the so-called ‘messianic secret’ in Mark. The “messianic secret” attempts to name a motif that certainly is central to Mark’s gospel – the repetitive ‘don’t say anything’ moments right where we don’t expect them.  For me, however, it is not so much a secret as a re-direction. By attempting over and over to make him ‘the Messiah,’ people were missing the point of his message, which was that the Reign of God was present and that they all were invited to participate in it. As long as they had the Messiah to embody the reign, they were missing the participation part. To ‘follow’ is less to point, observe, marvel, or coronate and more about joining along, taking up the message, and doing the deeds. My point is, I don’t think the “messianic secret” is a literary device by Mark, but a theological point, that Mark saw Jesus trying to re-direct his message away from himself and toward the participating followers. The message in Mark’s original ending, “Go to Galilee and there he will meet you” is a way of sending the followers back to this village-based activity-message.

8καὶ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδὲν αἴρωσιν εἰς ὁδὸν εἰ μὴῥάβδον μόνον, μὴ 
ἄρτον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ εἰς τὴν ζώνην χαλκόν, 
And charged them, that they would take up nothing onto the way except a staff only, not bread, not a bag not money in the belt,
παρήγγειλεν: AAI 3s, παραγγέλλω, 1) to transmit a message along from one to another, to declare, announce  2) to command, order, charge 
αἴρωσιν: PASubj 3p, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up  1a) to raise from the ground, take up: stones  1b) to raise upwards, elevate, lift up: the hand  

9 ἀλλὰ ὑποδεδεμένους σανδάλια καὶ μὴ ἐνδύσησθε δύο χιτῶνας. 
but binding sandals and not wearing two tunics.
ὑποδεδεμένους: PerfMPart apm, to bind or tie under with ὑπό (a) in middle to bind under one's feet, put on shoes (this specific meaning occurs only in Mar 6:9. Eph 6:15)
ἐνδύσησθε: AMSubj 2p, ἐνδύω, 1) to sink into (clothing), put on, clothe one's self
So far, we do not know what, exactly, Jesus is calling the twelve to do. We know how they were organized, empowered, simplified, and dressed.

10καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Οπου ἐὰν εἰσέλθητε εἰς οἰκίαν, ἐκεῖ μένετε ἕως ἂν 
ἐξέλθητε ἐκεῖθεν.
And he was saying to them, “Wherever you would enter into a house, there remain until you would leave there.
ἔλεγεν: IAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εἰσέλθητε: AASubj 2p, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter  1a) of men or animals, as into a house or a city
μένετε: PAImpv 2p, μένω, 1) to remain, abide  1a) in reference to place  1a1) to sojourn, tarry  1a2) not to depart  
ἐξέλθητε: AASubj 2p, εξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs

11 καὶ ὃς ἂν τόπος μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς μηδὲ ἀκούσωσιν ὑμῶν, ἐκπορευόμενοι ἐκεῖθεν ἐκτινάξατε τὸν χοῦν τὸν ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.
And whatever place might not receive you or might not listen to you, leaving there shake the bottom dust of your feet into a witness to them.
δέξηται: AMSubj 3s, δέχομαι, 1) to take with the hand  1a) to take hold of, take up, 2b) to receive or grant access to 
ἀκούσωσιν: AASubj 3p, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf 
ἐκπορευόμενοι: PMPart npm, ἐκπορεύομαι, 1) to go forth, go out, depart
ἐκτινάξατε: AAImpv 2p, ἐκτινάσσω, 1) to shake off so that something adhering shall fall
The pronoun, “them” (αὐτοῖς) in the last phrase is in the dative case, which is usually translated ‘to’ or ‘with’ something. Almost every translation goes with ‘against,’ which is possible, but which is usually set off with a separate preposition.
I think this is an interpretive issue, and not strictly a translation issue, which goes to the heart of what Jesus is telling the twelve to do. Imagine the testimonial possibilities if this were a way of providing a testimony ‘to’ them as opposed to ‘against’ them. Perhaps it would even be a way of honoring their choice by going the extra mile, not even taking their ‘dust’ along. That would certainly fit the spirit of what we hear in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Whereas, but doing some kind of demonstrative ‘You reject me, I’ll reject you” act seems contrary to how Jesus typically operates.

 12Καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἐκήρυξαν ἵνα μετανοῶσιν, 
And going out they preached in order that they might repent,  
ἐξελθόντες: AAPart npm, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of  1a) with mention of the place out of which one goes, or the  point from which he departs
ἐκήρυξαν: AAI 3p, κηρύσσω, 1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald  1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald
μετανοῶσιν: PASubj 3p, μετανοέω, 1) to change one's mind, i.e. to repent  2) to change one's mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence  of one's past sins
Given Mark’s penchant for using pronouns without clear antecedents, some translations make this “that all might repent.” The actual noun is implied in the 3rd person voicing of the verb “repent.” That verb, μετανοέω, literally means “change of mind.”

13καὶ δαιμόνια πολλὰ ἐξέβαλλον, καὶ ἤλειφον ἐλαίῳ πολλοὺς ἀρρώστους 
καὶ ἐθεράπευον.
and were casting out many demons, and were anointing with oil many sick folk and were curing them.
ἐξέβαλλον: IAI 3p, ἐκβάλλω, 1) to cast out, drive out, to send out  1a) with notion of violence  1a1) to drive out
ἤλειφον: IAI 3p, ἀλείφω, 1) to anoint
ἐθεράπευον: IAI 3p, θεραπεύω, 1) to serve, do service  2) to heal, cure, restore to health
Only now, we see what the twelve were sent to do, and it comes in the description of their journey, not in the instructions that Jesus gives.

For the interpreter, each of these stories has meaning in its own right. Then, as a couplet, they show that when Jesus is rejected among his own folk, the twelve are empowered to go and bear the message, as well as to cast out demons and to heal. This rejection-leading-to-new-ministry is the same patter of 1:14-15 when  Jesus began his ministry: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’” 

6 comments:

  1. Than you for your insights. I will continue to follow you blog.

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  2. Thanks, Susan. I welcome your responses and dialogue whenever you feel it's appropriate.

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  3. I have never heard the Messianic Secret explained in these terms. It's genius!! It fits very well with Jesus' rejection of the disciples kneeling before him. It's all about keeping your focus in the right place which is horizontal in nature - not vertical. Thanks for the insight.

    Bill

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  4. Thanks, Bill! At least now I can say that there is one bona fide scholar who doesn't think I'm crazy on this one.

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  5. I'm no scholar, but I also found your thoughts on the Messianic Secret provocative - in a good way, shedding fresh light on each instance it arises in the story. Also wanted to comment on your remarks under v. 3, why Mark makes no mention of Joseph. I don't think Joseph is referred to in Mark at all, at any point - not even generically as an unnamed "father" of Jesus, nor even included in a plural use of "parents". The Pauline epistles (those generally thought to be authencically Pauline) do not mention Joseph, either; I have read that Joseph might be a later tradition than Paul's or Mark's time. Although the words "son of Mary" seem neutral, given the context of an irritated crowd speaking derisively, there could well be a hint of dubious parentage here.

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  6. You sound pretty scholarly to me, Barry. Thanks for the insights. As Dave Clark, a friend of mine put it, regarding this text, "And there arose a gospel writer who knew not Joseph."

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