Mark 10:3

“What direction did Moses give you?” replied Jesus.

there are many ways
to decide intractable questions
each and every one
having its limitation
particularly when more than one
consideration is in play

agreed upon authorities
can be prooftexted
one against another
divorcing varieties
of one integral from another
falsifying our hero

we can look back
to past resolutions
we can peer ahead
to a larger mercy
we can cast around
to poll and repoll

still there are many ways
to hold one another
at a distance or hugged close
that easy-eyed
I see your worth and admit
your best is my absence

Since the Pharisees raise a question of Law that typically revolves around Moses, Jesus has a couple of ways of responding. He can get into case law and be lost in the minutia there with exception upon exception countering every position taken. He can step outside the bounds of the question and find a different basis on which to respond. He can remain silent.

Whichever way he chooses to go there is no control over what will be done with his response, either in the moment with the Pharisees and their intended trap, with Herod in reopening an old wound, or with the crowds looking for a simple either-or answer that can be applied everywhere upon everyone.

Before picking a direction from which to respond to a significant challenge, the wise move is to have additional information up-front so it won’t be sprung later. Following this wisdom, Jesus responds, “Tell me more”, or “What is this Law you are asking about?”

There have been many of these Challenge-Riposte scenes already and several yet to come. Malina240 speaks about this formula in an honor/shame culture.

…every time Jesus’ opponents put a hostile question to him, he answers with a counterquestion, usually an insulting question….The honorable person, when challenged, pushes away the challenge and diffuses any advantage his opponents might believe they had. Here the insult in the counterquestion is underscored by the emphasis on the word “you.” Jesus distances himself from his interlocutors and their interpretation of Moses.

Mark 10:2

Presently some Pharisees came up and, to test him, asked, “Has a husband the right to divorce his wife?” 

mediators facing reality
come to learn
a new way
in such a common
of social relationship
gone awry

knowing the difficulties
of any endeavor
to bear fruit
even with pruning
when hopes and fantasies
lie ruined
what out can be offered

this is no test
beyond what one
brings to it
what healing touch
is available
when a slightest touch
traumatizes wider

Remembering Baptizer John lost his head over a question of divorce, this is no little pop quiz.

To allow divorce, and on what grounds, has been a live debate in both the scriptures Jesus would have been familiar with and the differing rabbinic schools. Ezra 10 required divorce from “foreign” women. Hosea deliberately marries a whore, a key reason for divorce. Hillel and Shammai represent the rabbinic divide on this subject.

We will hear in a bit about the focus of this chapter being thought experiments on “the beginning of creation” (10:6). It is also about how creation ends.

Just as scripture and rabbis debate internally about divorce, there are equal debates about whether G*D brings a judgment that destroys the wicked and redeems the good or acts as a healer leading the people back to their origins. Too broadly put, this is a debate between prophetic and wisdom literature.

Where the Pharisees show up in Mark there are not only questions of the prevailing law but of nationalism. In this regard there is not only an overriding concern with having been conquered by Rome and desiring independence from Rome, but inter-family debate about which of the various interest groups will prevail among the others. This is not unique to humans more than 2,000 years ago. Now, as then, there is a disjuncture between advocacy groups all moving in the same direction, but unable to sort out their competition on the way to a more effective cooperation. Healing of systems is as crucial a need as the healing of individuals.

The question of divorce is still a live one on every level.

Mark 10:1

On leaving that place, Jesus went into the district of Judea on the other side of the Jordan. Crowds gathered about him again; and again, as usual, he began teaching them.

a developed usual
speaks everywhere
in season and out

beyond bounds
crossing both ways
with open eyes

within bounds
as though without
remains unusual

weightless imponderables
these markers of ours
imposing what’s not here

Jesus’ leaving his time of teaching with the Twelve comes with an arising from the seated position of teachers in his day. Rising is the signal for yet another journey.

Mark has had previous difficulties with the lay of the land. That confusion continues. Did he or did he not cross the Jordan? Arguments continue.

The key thing here is the end of the verse where we hear about palin after palin, again and again, public teaching alternates with tutoring. Whether or not the Transjordan is involved, we can remember back to previous teachings and prepare ourselves for hearing more about this last round of teaching regarding a preference for “little ones” and the depth of simplicity.

Sabin-2157 speaks of Jewish Wisdom Traditions. In the first part of Mark, the rhythm of parables and teachings are key examples. In the second part Sabin sees Chapter 10 as a concentration of this tradition. Rather than stories we have encounters with a social justice bent.

The perspective of primal wholeness prevails in Chapter 10 when Jesus recalls the original unity of man and wife (10–12), holds up the child as the model member of God’s Kingdom (13–16), and counsels the rich young man to return to a state of primal simplicity (17–31).

Looking at the whole book through a Wisdom lens, Sabin notes that this return to a creation-oriented “primal simplicity” is reversed in the chronology of Jesus’ death in chapters 14–15. G*D’s creating acts in Genesis 1 is torn. In chapter 16 this reversal is again reversed with “images of transformation and a new beginning”.

In regard to reversal, we are in a “usual” setting—crowd(s) and teaching. Moving away from an overview, we are ready for Jesus’ standard of reversal to help us think afresh and create anew.