The front page of the Rome tabloids contains the following action scenes from the life of Jesus:
Scene 1: They gathered to hear Jesus teach in Peter’s home in Capernaum and the place was very crowded. Four guys carried their paralysed friend onto the top floor and dug through the mud roof in order to hoist him down to a surprised Jesus. You don’t go to all that trouble unless you believe that Jesus is willing and able to heal your friend! But equally surprisingly, Jesus kept that miracle in reserve and first declared the man’s sins forgiven. Think about it – if I steal your wallet and someone else says that they forgive me, it would be ridiculous and meaningless. It only makes sense if the person who is wronged does the forgiving; and yet, here is Jesus acting as though the sins of this man offended him and that He had the right to forgive that offence. The Jewish teachers were correct when they said: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” – and of course God was standing there in front of them!
Scene 2: If you wanted to rise up the social ladder and gain influence, you didn’t consort with tax collectors, who were literally in the pay of the Romans. Yet this Jesus seemed to want them as his friends and disciples. He genuinely liked their company and broke all the social rules by eating with them and with other outcasts. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, he said. Of course, in reality, there are no righteous, and we are all sinners, but those who think they are good enough on their own will stay on their own. Sinners get rid of their pretence and get a Saviour.
Scene 3: Why were Jesus’s mates so happy that they had in order to eat to celebrate? Answer: Because they are with him. Fasting? Plenty of time for that later on! (Which was not the right answer for the Pharisees, though.) The teaching about the wineskins is simple: ‘What the Holy Spirit is doing now, never fits with what he did then! Do we understand? Are our churches and our personal lives flexible enough to hold the vibrant wine of the Holy Spirit within us – or will we crack and burst under the pressure?
Scene 4: Jesus and his followers were walking through a grain field and eating the home-grown cereal bars. Pharisees accused them of ‘harvesting’ – which of course is ‘work’! Jesus is relaxed about this and quotes something that King David (one of the Jews’ heroes) did in exactly the same way. The Pharisees were not impressed!
A bit of a whirlwind today – just like the whole of Mark’s gospel.
EXODUS 21 and 22
The treatment of thieves is taken very seriously in the next couple of chapters of Exodus. If the stolen goods are found safely in their possession, then they must pay back double; if already sold, then the penalty is four or five times. This is called ‘full restitution’. A homeowner who kills a thief at night has a legitimate defence against a charge of manslaughter, but not one who kills that same thief in daylight. Possession of stolen goods is deemed to be as heinous as actual theft.
Accidental property damage only requires like for like replacement, however, with no additional penalty. Contentious claims can be settled by local judges and sometimes by taking an oath before the Lord – where there are no witnesses to the crime itself.
In 22:16, if a man seduces are virgin and sleeps with her, he must pay the full bride-price to her father and must marry her. If the father forbids the marriage, the bride-price must still be paid (since the virgin was regarded as defiled and unmarriageable). This verse also proves that simply having sex with someone does not mean that you are ‘married in the eyes of God’, therefore!