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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jesus as the New Adam in the Gospel of Mark

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It is clear that 3 of the 4 Gospel writers link Jesus to Genesis. The most famous is John who begins his Gospel in the same words as Genesis “In the beginning” and continues on with a 7-day creation story. You have to hunt a little, but the creation week is there. Luke has the genealogy of Jesus and traces His line all the way back to Adam, who he calls “the son of God.” Matthew opens his Gospel with a genealogy that traces Jesus as far back as Abraham, who lives from Genesis 11- 25.

Mark surprised me though. It seemed clear to me that there is no direct reference between the Gospel of Mark and Genesis. I wasn’t looking for one. I had read Genesis and Mark several times especially the beginning chapters of each book and nothing jumped from the page as being obvious, until this past week.

Mark is portraying Jesus as a New Adam, come to conquer where Adam failed and restore this weary world so lost and damaged by sin.

Starting into verse one Mark says, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Two things here began raising my suspicions about a Genesis connection. First the opening words “The beginning”, Genesis opens, “In the beginning”. Is a guy allowed to say the words ‘the beginning’ and not refer to Genesis? Sure. Now the second thing is how Mark calls Jesus the “Son of God.” While on the surface, we might all be thinking, yes, what’s the big connection to Genesis? Genesis and St. Luke tell us that Adam was a son of God. Not in the same way of course.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” We see this same phrase again in Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

So reading Genesis 5 can help us interpret Genesis 1, when it says that Adam and Eve were made in God’s image and likeness. It means that God is fathering children, and that Adam is God’s son. Besides that, St. Luke tells us in his Genealogy of Jesus that Jesus came from Luke 3:38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Mark continues this Genesis theme at Jesus’ baptism. In Mark 1:10-11 And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."

Again Jesus’ Sonship is being proclaimed and a vision of the Holy Spirit like a dove descends upon Him. Adam receives God’s Spirit as well.

Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Jesus already had the Holy Spirit, yet this was done to show us what would happen at our own baptism. Also at our baptism, like with Jesus, the heavens were opened. So at our own baptism the heavens are opened to us, which were at one time closed beginning with Adam.

Look what happens next to Jesus in Mark. Just like after Adam’s creation with the wild animals, He was then tempted by the devil, and then God drove him out of the garden. So now Jesus. Mark 1:12, 13 And immediately the Spirit drove him out into the desert. And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan; and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After Jesus successfully defeats the devil’s temptations, Jesus begins proclaiming the Good News that finally the Kingdom of God is once again at hand.

Jesus then goes into a synagogue on the Sabbath, that 7th day of the week, when our first parents fell to the temptation of the devil. Jesus casts out a demon out of a man, and then continues on that same day to Simon Peters’ house where his mother-in-law is in bed sick. He then heals this woman on the Sabbath. I think that the man with the demon and the sick woman represent a kind of healing for the old Adam and Eve.

Mark continues to tell us strange but important details. He says Mark 1:32 And when it was evening, after sunset,

Why even mention when this is taking place? What is significant about sunset? To the Jews, it means the beginnings of a new day. This day is Sunday, the first day of the week. The day Jesus would rise from the dead and begin a new creation beginning with Himself and then extending to the rest of humanity.

Mark says this Mark 1:32 And when it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all that were ill and that were possessed with devils.

This is the story of the whole world, ill and possessed with devils. Jesus comes as a new beginning, one filled with hope.

Mark concludes chapter 1 of his Gospel with the story of a leper. Now a leper was not allowed to enter into the towns and had to cry out to near-by people that he had leprosy. The leper had to stay out of the towns. Jesus, on the other hand, had been going from town to town to proclaim the Gospel.

They meet, the leper asks to be healed, and Jesus heals him on the spot.

The leper in his joy proclaims Jesus in all of the towns. Jesus is then too popular to openly enter a town least He be crushed. He must stay in the country.

Jesus and the leper switch roles. The leper had to stay away from the towns, but now healed, goes from town to town to proclaim Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, was going town to town to proclaim the Gospel, had to now stay in the country. When Jesus healed the leper, Jesus did not get leprosy, but He got the effects of it in that He had to stay out of the towns.

This is what happens to Jesus on the Cross, that new tree of life, where the New Adam lays down His life for His Bride, the Church. He does not sin, but receives the effects of sin, namely suffering and death.

Mark proclaims a New Adam and a new creation in the beginning of his Gospel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Luke 15:1-10 - The 'Lost' Chapter of the Bible

Today we are going to examine the popular parables given in Luke chapter 15.

Luke 15:1-10 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.  And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."  And He told them this parable, saying,
      "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'  "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
        "Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 "And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

The Situation
     Now the scribes and Pharisees don’t have it completely wrong. We really shouldn’t be hanging out with some sinners because they can tempt us to sin as well. If you are married and there is a co-worker flirting with you, you probably shouldn’t be hanging out with that person because they might tempt you to sin. Yet these tax-collectors and sinners are gathered to hear what Jesus has to say about the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling because they were looking down at those sinners from pride. They were looking down upon those sinners as if they themselves had conquered sin. In general though it is good to kind of hang out with sinners so we can attract them to the truth of Jesus. IN doing this we will be imitating Jesus which is what we want to do in all things.
The Parables in General
     Jesus, to instruct both groups – the tax-collectors and sinners, as well as the scribes and Pharisees – tells the following parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In both stories there are two parties; the thing lost and the one searching for them.

     The things that are lost represent the sinners and tax-collectors, and Jesus is trying to tell this group. “Hey, God will go through great lengths to find you and bring you home and there is going to be so much rejoicing you won’t believe it. Angels and the whole of heaven is going to rejoice, just respond to the grace God is giving you, turn around and get on the path to God.”

     The one searching for them is of course God, but God’s usual method for searching for sinners isn’t be knocking people down and blinding them like he did with St. Paul, but by working through other people like scribes and Pharisees. These are the one who are suppose to be searching for those who are lost and bring them back. And when they bring them back it is to be with a spirit of rejoicing. Jesus is trying to tell this group “Hey, You have been blessed with brains and high social status, you should be seeking out people like these sinners to bring them back to God.”

     The problem is that they aren’t rejoicing with Jesus when he is bring back sinners to God. Yet in the parable Jesus says that the shepherd and woman called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with them. If they refuse to rejoice with them, then it is implied that they aren’t friends and neighbors of the shepherd or the woman. Meaning they aren’t friends of God.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
     I found some beautiful interpretations of these parables.

     Cornelius Lapide points out this: in Verse 5 when it says - "And when the shepherd has found the sheep, he lays it on his shoulders”

     Isaiah the prophet says this: Isaiah 53:4 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried”

     So Lapide links the shepherd bearing the sheep with Christ bearing our sins. The shepherd bearing the sheep to bring it back to the fold, and Christ bearing our sins to bring us back to heaven.

     Lapide continues: Hence Gregory of Nyssa, writes …"When the shepherd had found the sheep, he did not punish it, he did not drive it to the fold, but placing it on his shoulder, and carrying it gently, he reunited it with the flock." Oh how wondrous is the meekness, clemency, and love of Christ our Lord!

     The beauty of this is so true – think of the simplicity of both baptism and confession to restore our relationship with God. There is no gauntlet that we must run through or some herculean task that must be accomplished on our part. Jesus does all the real work on the cross and then gently call us back to him.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
     A possible insight into this parable could be that the coin which has on it a royal image of not only an earthly king, but also the image of God. This image has been lost under the dirt of sin and the darkness of this world. The woman brings a light into the house that is – God becomes incarnate in the world to illumine it and sweep it clean of sin until the image is recovered. Once the image is found rejoicing commences with the friends and neighbors – the saints and angels in heavenly places.