In the course of his teaching, Jesus said, “See that you are on your guard against the teachers of the Law, who delight to walk about in long robes, and to be greeted in the streets with respect,
watch out danger
the desire of James and John
is alive and well and living
in every heart and hearth
there is no escape
from feather and bead
tailored suit and long tie
cat call and cat fight
wherever we walk
garbage collector or banker
prostitute or john
rank is always in play
among gods or angels
come the fiercest fights
[Note: the potential book version of this blog uses the Contemporary English Bible (CEB) as its standard translation of Mark. This blog uses the copyright free Open English Bible. This doesn’t usually affect too much, but it does in this verse as you will see in ¶¶1-2 below.]
It needs to be noted that the warning Jesus is giving is not a blanket statement applied to all those involved in working on boundary question regarding traditions and their limits. With the long history of anti-Semitism in Christianity there needs to be an alertness to how little it takes to return to that heresy.
There is not a good way to fix the CEB verse at the top of this page other than restructuring it by extending what is quoted. The NRSV is to be preferred here: “As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, …’”
Remember the scribe who came to Jesus asking about a ranking of commandments. They were a boundary setter for legal interpretations of the tradition. This scribe was able to hear both parts of the second commanded listed, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The legalists mentioned here, only take the last phrase to heart—“love yourself”.
Remember, also, James and John who came asking for places of honor. A presumption of privilege to self-aggrandize seems to continually raise its head. There are reports that in that day when two people met, the one with lesser status was to address the other first and perhaps bow. Today the particulars vary, but status remains of key importance for some. In my denomination the use of a title rather than a name marks the recognition of status—one is to say “Bishop” and refrain from using the person’s given name.
Privilege and the use of wealth have been important parts of the critique Baptizer John and Jesus have brought and continue to the end of this chapter (not that they end there as they continue in the world of every Reader and need to be identified anew in each generation).