Wilderness Urgency According to Mark http://wildernessurgency.org Gospel of Mark: Verse for Verse Sat, 24 Mar 2018 10:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://i0.wp.com/wildernessurgency.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/cropped-wildernessicon.png?fit=32%2C32 Wilderness Urgency According to Mark http://wildernessurgency.org 32 32 119963512 Mark 11:2 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-2/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-2/#respond Sat, 24 Mar 2018 10:00:21 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1235 Continue reading "Mark 11:2"]]> “Go to the village facing you,” he said; “and, as soon as you get there, you will find a foal tethered, which no one has ever ridden; untie it, and bring it.

tasks come in many sizes
in some we can please
our selves and others
in some we can please
others but not our self
in others’ the only pleasure
is in the doing of the doing

what is yet unknown
of pleasure’s direction
is a task on the edge
of propriety
confiscating property
is problematic
in its indeterminacy

information is being gathered
who knows the area
has contacts in place
plans are being laid
regarding surveillance
timing approach
and get away

Matthew’s account of Jesus says he came on a donkey. This has colored other recountings as Mark and Luke can be read as either donkey or horse. There is still the Humane Society question of whether riding a young animal is doing harm or not, though the metaphoric weight of Jesus doing a symbolic ride may well be acceptable.

Mark’s emphasis is not upon the species of the animal but past allusions from scripture and Malina248 saying Mark’s

emphasis is on the fact that no human being has as yet sat upon and ridden the animal. Jesus, then, is seated on and rides a “sacred animal”, untamed and alien to the world of human use, consecrated to the special, extraordinary task of bearing “he who comes in the name of the Lord” to the very central place consecrated to that Lord.

Duling312 traces another meaning for this colt:

The Babylonian Talmud preserves a traditional exegesis that claims that if Israel is worthy the Messiah will come in might “upon the clouds of heaven” (that is, in fulfillment of the coming of the Son of Man in Dan 7:13; if it is not worthy he will come “lowly, and riding on a donkey” (that is, in fulfillment of Zech 9:9). Mark implies that Israel was unworthy, and so the Messiah entered Jerusalem in this way.

Whichever imagery is helpful to you, there is still the question of appropriating the animal, untying it. This sounds very much like the requisitioning a Roman soldier would do—a demand not a request.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-2/feed/ 0 1235
Mark 11:1 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-1/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-1/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 10:00:17 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1233 Continue reading "Mark 11:1"]]> When they had almost reached Jerusalem, as far as Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent on two of his disciples.

out of many
two are chosen
for a task

for now rejoice
we’ve been noticed
we’re ready
let’s give it our all

should one of the twelve
falter along the way
we’ll be on the short list
for associate partner

no matter how large
a task it is
we’ll see it through
and get our names in the book

This relatively small band of people (a crowd?) have just come from Jericho, just this side of the Jordan River where Baptizer John called and “all the people” of Jerusalem came to remember a past transition from slavery to release and prepare for a next transition. The people of Israel were no longer enslaved in a foreign land, Egypt, but in their promised land, Israel.

It has been a long journey but the work of John is about to be tested regarding its efficacy. Are the bands of resistance, trained in the wilderness and marked by baptism, going to be efficient and effective when called to act by one particularly affected by their experience at the evocative location of the Jordan?

Arriving in the environs of Jerusalem, close enough to be suburbs but not so close they lose their identity, a specific task is given to two disciples. Wouldn’t it be fitting if these two were James and John who had asked for special positions, were the butt of a teaching, and now have to live out what being a servant or slave means? Of course they could be a random choice of any two of the crowd of disciples, leaving the Twelve to maintain their privileged position. Whichever way it was, fishing for people and relying on the welcome of others are still bound to every specific task.

Remembering that Mark is writing after the destruction of Jerusalem, there is all the regret and expectation of Jerusalem to have been more than a historic marker of desired internal authority, the center of holiness and purity descended from Abraham and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, and resistant to the external power of the latest invader signifying how far their lived partnership with G*D and Neighb*r had been compromised.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-11-1/feed/ 0 1233
Mark 10:52 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-52/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-52/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 10:00:11 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1229 Continue reading "Mark 10:52"]]> “You may go,” Jesus said; “your faith has delivered you.” Immediately he recovered his sight, and began to follow Jesus along the road.

what you see you see
what you see will lead
to even more seeing
and seeing to hearing
and hearing to touching

seeing a first time
yet needs seeing a second
third fourth forty-second
lest we stop seeing
and fall back to blindness

for the moment rejoice
you see at all
follow this path awhile
’til you see another path
calling out as you have

There is no recorded waving of the hand or spitting recorded before Jesus announces that the request for sight was completed before the request even left his lips.

As was said to the woman who interrupted another part of Jesus’ journey, “Your faith/trust has healed you.”

In both cases, the one healed of their particular form of brokenness is told to “Go”, to “Go in peace”.

We don’t know if the bleeding woman is now among the women following Jesus to Jerusalem where more blood will flow. There would be no reason to be surprised at this. What we now hear is that this insightful (“Son of G*D” caller) unsighted beggar has joined the journey up from Jericho to Jerusalem. Did he leave his cloak behind with his begging bowl when someone gave him the equivalent of Joseph’s amazing coat to celebrate the arrival of mercy in his life?

Even without the background of daily experience with Jesus, as did the disciples, this one has heard a call. Not to come and learn to fish for people, but to be a present witness of mercy’s effect—“I once was blind, but now I see!”

This is a baptismal scene, as much as that with Baptizer John at the Jordan that began this tale of good news by Mark. It brings us full-circle. The “Spirit” is driving this man to his own wilderness where, with beasts and angels, he will encounter everyday violence and surprising sustenance as he feasts on tomorrow while yet in today, tasting a rising with all those who have lain in the land of the dead.

From Jericho as entry-point to a “Promised Land” to Jericho as a curtain to Act 2, we have crossed wrinkled time in a tesseract moment. When the curtain opens next we will see where a journey of good news travels on its way to a next day. There will be the wonderful irony of fisherfolk themselves being caught … and then released.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-52/feed/ 0 1229
Mark 10:51 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-51/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-51/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 10:00:00 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1227 Continue reading "Mark 10:51"]]> “What do you want me to do for you?” said Jesus, addressing him. “Rabboni,” the blind man answered, “I want to recover my sight.”

I want to see
my life ’till now
as blessing plenty
my life in this moment
as blessing overflowing
my life from here forward
as blessing continuous

I want to see
your life ’til now
as worthy of acceptance
your life in this moment
as worthy of love
your life from here forward
as worthy of following

I want to see
my life and
your life and
our life and
more life and
playing together and
growing into and

As with James and John, when there is a face-to-face meeting, Jesus asks what is really being requested.

This is important when the generic ask at first was simply for “mercy”. Mercy comes in a great variety of ways, large and small. When asking for mercy, for our own life or the life of someone else, the range of what that means is unpredictable in the same way that our bargaining in grief can be for something small or large.

The response to the question of meaning begins with a title, “Teacher”. This is a place to reflect on the way this blind beggar was first presented with another title on his tongue, “Son of G*D”. Dispensing with the male content, we hear about one who cohabits with G*D. To be in the presence of one is to be in the presence of the other.

If these are parallel titles, might we not all begin to see ourselves and others as teachers. We support and correct one another along our respective paths that we better partner with G*D and Neighb*r.

Seemingly without hesitation, the beggar makes known his understanding of what “mercy” means in his life. To receive sight, to see. No, no interpreter can go any further into what this means. Rather readers are encouraged to ask of themselves what it would be for them to “see”.

Experience and language will play a big part of what that might mean for an individual. If you spoke “Zoque, the equivalent expression is ‘permit my eyes to shine’.” [Bratcher340] What would bring such a sparkle to your eyes and life that you would hie your beloved self into a wilderness to find your own next becoming?

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-51/feed/ 0 1227
Mark 10:50 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-50/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-50/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 10:00:59 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1225 Continue reading "Mark 10:50"]]> The man threw off his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

let every hindrance be gone
our emblem of identity left behind
the weight of nothingness lifted

we jump and dance everything loose
no matter how many prior dry chances
we won’t deny this opportunity

a decision to give
mercy space to grow
activates our own mercy

With encouragement the one who appeared blind jumped from his begging position, threw off his outer garment, and walked/ran to Jesus.

We were caught by surprise when we heard that one looking for eternal life was rich to the point of being unable to give their riches away and thereby barred from his desire. Here, being a blind beggar leads us into expectations that are disconcerting when we hear about his coming to Jesus, seemingly on his own, after being whipsawed with communal rebuke and community encouragement.

Presumably, his cloak is his primary possession. This he tosses to the side.

Presumably, the blind beggar needs to come from the edge of the crowd to its center. Along the way there may have been many little nudges by people as he moved inward. His sight, perhaps not good enough for work but good enough to make his way through what seemed to be trees or being a proficient echo-locator, may have brought him near. At any rate, he moves with unexpected alacrity.

Remembering this is a summary action, the last before arriving in Jerusalem, we are able to use this as a green screen against which we can catch glimpses of all the previous healings that happened along the way. Each word in the story can connect us to a previous healing. For instance, “Get up” is the same as “rise up” said to a daughter.

We can see and hear that someone has a problem that has reduced them in their own eyes or in the eyes of the community. There is suffering of some sort that has been going on.

There is an urgency about bringing someone to Jesus or Jesus to someone. Along with this is a heightened expectation of potential awe that will take breath away.

There is purposeful action. No detail or self-contradiction will get in the way of the story, the life at stake, the partnering with.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-50/feed/ 0 1225
Mark 10:49 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-49/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-49/#respond Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:00:45 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1223 Continue reading "Mark 10:49"]]> Then Jesus stopped. “Call him,” he said. So they called the blind man. “Have courage!” they exclaimed. “Get up; he is calling you.”

how quickly we change our tune
when suddenly herr leader says jump

war becomes peace enemy turns friend
our hearts jerked our brain scrambled

the hand we have held out against
crooks a finger to beckon a hug

all the calf-building we’ve been doing
turns to mass production of bronze snakes

who will be our benefactor
in this strange new economy

without any certainty
we just follow a next rule

Literally, “Stopped” is, “Standing”. Have you ever stopped mid-stride because you heard or saw something that stopped you in-your-tracks or played Statues. This is a moment of heightened attention. What is going to happen next?

We have the movement of a movement moving toward its conclusion. A not-still voice cries out and shouts again and again. Amid all the excitement of the beginning of the last leg of their journey, that voice was heard and the crowd stopped. Instead of Jesus going forward to Jerusalem there is time for Bartimaeus to be called forward.

While there may have been a hope of being heard, beggars are accustomed to being ignored and hope against hope may have been more the case than any expectation of being heard. Bartimaeus may well have faltered when his moment came. “Me? Really, me?” and led to those around him saying, “Courage. Steady on, old man.” And the community, acquainted with a recent scene where the disciples were rebuked for keeping children away, anticipated yet another reversal of the disciples tendency to rebuke by turning it to mercy.

As you read the verse, did you also feel Bartimaeus freeze when called upon? Did you hold your breath, and then breathe courage into him? Perhaps there was a more recent time you did that in an otherwise ordinary day? Even as a paralyzed person was carried by their friends who also broke through a ceiling for him, a miracle was already beginning with the simple act of encouragement. It is time to practice encouragement: “Courage! Get up! Move forward!”

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-49/feed/ 0 1223
Mark 10:48 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-48/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-48/#respond Sun, 18 Mar 2018 10:00:34 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1221 Continue reading "Mark 10:48"]]> Many of the people kept telling him to be quiet; but the man continued to call out all the louder, “Son of David, take pity on me.”

leaders should never
have to put up with
a discouraging word

their divine right
puts thumbs where they want
of their own accord

petitions from the gallery
need one hundred fifty seven
signatures to be heard

with every one a chief-of-staff
privilege is well protected
from practicing mercy

such rabble
can shout
until hoarse

while institutional white noise
claims its supremacy
and walks blissfully away

Scolding can work for awhile but eventually loses potency. Often this leads to harsher measures to control another.

Sometimes, when a need is great enough, neither scolding nor harsher methods will keep the groaning of the universe quiet.

John Dominic Crossan and Sarah Sexton Crossan have a new book out, Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision in which they note a difference between the Western Church emphasizing individual resurrection and justice and an Eastern emphasis upon universal resurrection and mercy.

To this point I’ve used the word “mercy” almost five times more than “justice” (78 to 17). This might be a place for readers here to check their own language pattern. Do you use justice or mercy more? If you find you are more on the justice end of things, you might try a 40–day experiment (a Lenten timeframe leading to Easter) of intentionally using “mercy” to see what it does to your interactions.

We can also remember back to 5:19 when the Geresene is sent back to his hometown to tell about the “mercy” that he experienced. Other healings brought an involuntary telling (even when instructed, as here, to stop talking). Justice may be silenced with a non-disclosure agreement, but mercy can’t and won’t shut-up.

Mann’s saying verse 45 is a crucial interpretive point in the gospels is joined by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon in Anderson41, who says, “The goal of [Jesus’] journey is for all—disciples and implied readers— to ‘see’ as Bartimaeus does and to follow ‘on the way.’”

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-48/feed/ 0 1221
Mark 10:47 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-47/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-47/#respond Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:00:28 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1219 Continue reading "Mark 10:47"]]> Hearing that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, take pity on me.”

good old Eliza Doolittle
comes to recognize little doing
does not does not love make

her complaint about words
substituting for love
rivets our attention

similar accusations rise up
to confront such virtues as
forgiveness mercy joy justice

we stamp our foot aggrieved
at each hypocritical
form over function

words ungrounded
float away
these stick


Here the story changes from destruction to renewal, from separation to renewal. If service is the key to unlock external or internal oppression, not ransom, we see behind this beggar one of the meanings of service, that of being merciful. Mercy stops harm and starts healing. Mercy turns violence to compassion, wilderness to retreat.

Bartimaeus means, “son of the unclean”. It is time to engage our memory of frequent encounters Jesus has had with the “unclean”—from the propertied man, competitive disciples, seizing boy, another blind person, another who is deaf, a Syrophoenician’s sick daughter, Jairus’ daughter, a hemorrhaging woman, Gerasene demoniac, sea storm, withered hand, paralytic, leper, feverish mother-in-law, and all the way back to a man with an unclean spirit in a synagogue. There seems to always be one more uncleanliness that needs a healing mercy.

Swanson95 notices that “Jesus of Nazareth” does not flow easily in the Greek and uses “Jesus Netzer” that carries with it a picture of a shoot of a plant that brings to mind Jesse and David. Isaiah uses the imagery of a shoot from the stump of Jesse to look for someone to replace David’s failed descendants. The search of prophets is to find a new beginning, a new David.

Here Swanson comments, “If the unclean spirit can see deep enough into Jesus and into Scripture to see Jesus as this new David, he has good eyes indeed. This is a revelation.”

And our question echoes still, “Who do you say that I am?”

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-47/feed/ 0 1219
Mark 10:46 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-46/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-46/#respond Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:00:47 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1217 Continue reading "Mark 10:46"]]> They came to Jericho. When Jesus was going out of the town with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

we arrive footloose and fancy free
free to not claim a right of place
to claim a partner’s place
alongside additional liberators

having arrived ragtag and unnoticed
is not the same as inconsequential
is open to receiving new parts of life
decorating seeming nothingness

we leave slowed by new partners
each looking for a long-goodbye
before settling back to work
with renewed focus and energy

each long-goodbye opening new avenues
to saunter down in exploratory mode
finding here an unnoticed connection
a thanksgiving for ordinary moments

each goodbye opens eyes
we never knew we had it so good
and even better we hear new calls
in unexpected quarters

Jericho is a marker between wilderness wandering and claiming a new space. Here along the Jordan of baptismal fame we can remember back to 12 memorial stones set in the Jordan. Here is the ending parenthesis to the crossing of the Sea of Reeds that began an Exodus journey. Here was Rahab, a prostitute, and a crimson cord as a sign of protection—not unlike crimson blood upon the Hebrew doors in Egypt.

Long ago Jericho was conquered via a 7–day siege. On the seventh day there was no rest, but shouting and destruction, putting men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys to death by swords.

Here is a blind beggar. Where Mark usually leaves off names, he now names this one person twice—Bar-Timaeus (Son of Timaeus). This double name may be behind Matthew’s telling of this tale about 2 beggars.

Prostitute and beggar are more than their surface disjuncture from society. Jericho as an ending of an Exodus or the entrance into a final rising to Jerusalem shifts the story as much as a reversal of Babel can be seen in a Pentacostal moment. Jericho is a geographic hinge between then and now, a fearful wilderness and hopeful retreat.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-46/feed/ 0 1217
Mark 10:45 http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-45/ http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-45/#respond Thu, 15 Mar 2018 10:00:54 +0000 http://wildernessurgency.org/?p=1215 Continue reading "Mark 10:45"]]> for even the Son of Man came, not be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

looking for a great release
from testing’s pressure
finds us jumping
from flotsam to jetsam
in a slow wide whirlpool
patterning and limiting
stepping off the wheel
even as it increases speed
narrowing life to only death

our dusty place
of ashes to ashes
has yet to fall down
naively suggesting
all is well
while broken is all about
yearning for liberation
stuck in grand illusions
avoiding thanks serving

Placing this in our own life, there comes an affirmation: I am not present to be served but, partnered with others, through suffering and death, to release one another from our particular addiction to a privileged jump to exceptionalism.

To serve as a model of having been released through belovedness and wilderness retreat by revisioning the past and changing behavior is a sure-fire recipe for the suffering and death that comes from meaningful engagement with the principalities and powers of a privileged resurrection.

Tat-Siong Benny Liew, in his chapter on “Postcolonial Criticism” in Anderson230, connects personal and social release through the word “many”, meaning “all”.

The missing ingredient that will help turn or transform his life into a ransom or a form of currency turns out to be, of course, his blood. As part of the menu of his Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus will take the cup and say to them [Mark14:24]—“This is my blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many.” To oppose this imperial phenomenon of “globalatinization”—a form of Trinitarian transmutation involving religious, economic, and colonial violence, if you will—it will take not only more than the postcolonial “Holy Trinity” of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak [post-colonial scholars], but also many more postcolonial readings of the Bible, Mark and otherwise.

Mann414 identifies this verse as “a crux interpretum in the gospels”. This leads to adding an extra page of comment for this verse.

A significant part of the historic importance of this verse relates to a variety of theories of atonement, particularly those that have a substitutionary component. Those interested in escaping the restrictive and violent nature of substitutionary atonement might start with The Nonviolent God by J. Denny Weaver.

The key word for substitutionists is not “many”, but “ransom”. How does redemption or deliverance-by-purchase work?

This takes us back to the person who turned out to be rich and was not willing to share his resources by giving them away. That might be thought of as a ransom for his entrance to “eternal life”. References to a down-payment are also in order. In both cases this is quid pro quo, a bartering not unlike Abraham bargaining for the lives of the residents of Sodom, and Gomorrah, too.

Whether it is a monetary indulgence or 10 “righteous” people in Sodom, this parallel image of “ransom” will ascend over its important primary meaning of “service” and end up in substituting Jesus’ life for needed actions of discipleship. This will turn G*D into a cruel judge violently demanding many pounds of flesh and separation of our life from that of the community. Atonement will come to mean never having to say I’m sorry. Jesus will say it for us. It also means we don’t have to give our accumulated resources away.

Key here is not the word λύτρον (lutron, ransom or release, from bondage—ref. Exodus) but the next word, ἀντί (anti, instead of or on behalf of). It may be a subtle distinction to make but it does make a difference whether this is an action that comes out of what one can do because it reflects a generous nature or whether there is an expectation of pay back through obligation to at least feel guilty that you weren’t able to hike yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Two points remain. First, Luke 22:27 is a parallel with this verse: “Among you I function as one who serves” [5G95]. Luke removes the whole second half of this verse, which has caused so much trouble over the generations. The Five Gospels puts it this way: “Luke…makes it clear that Mark has turned an aphorism about serving into a theological statement about redemption.” This is warrant to elide the ransom parallel when reading this in public.

Second, Paul. Mann417f. reflects on “many” to find it translatable as “community” as in the Covenant People/Israel or those who follow Jesus. He goes on to note:

…the word ransom in the Pauline corpus is never used in the restrictive sense of “the community” but “for all” (1 Tim 2:6) and “for us” (Titus 2:14). If Paul is responsible—as he is—for the theological shift from a “ministry within Judaism” to a “ministry of universal significance,” he must have had a starting point within the tradition of Jesus’ work and words: we suggest that 10:45 was one such starting point in the tradition.

http://wildernessurgency.org/mark-10-45/feed/ 0 1215