This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Joseph Forgives His Brothers
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’16So they approached* Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died,17“Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him.18Then his brothers also wept,* fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’19But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
This postscript to the Joseph story reminds us masterfully of its main themes: the brothers have done wrong by “standing in the place of God” and executing judgement on the arrogant Joseph, who has himself misinterpreted God’s purpose for him by seeing only prestige and power over his brothers. Now the brothers ask for pardon and Joseph gives it. All repent their error in “standing in the place of God.” Only God is God and his dream for the family has shown his foresight and wisdom as well as the tangled web of human evil and goodness. In the end there is kindness.
The Demand for a Sign
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him.12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’13And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod
14 Now the disciples* had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.15And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’*16They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’17And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?18Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’20‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’21Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’
They came to Bethsaida. Some people* brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him.23He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’24And the man* looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’25Then Jesus* laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’*
First of all we have two stories of misunderstanding. The Pharisees demand a miraculous sign of power from Jesus, who is grieved that they should misunderstand his divine mission as conferring supernatural powers which can be used like magic. Their concept of God is all wrong. The disciples on the other hand cannot understand Jesus’ use of “bread language” to describe the politics of his opponents. He feeds people, both Jews and Gentiles (as in the two “feedings”). The food he gives is the truth of God’s goodness. Pharisees and Herodians do not feed people, but rather feed upon them, and this greed for power is like yeast which may affect the whole people of Israel. The disciples also may have misinterpreted the “feedings” as acts of magic power. The degradation of God’s holy love into manipulable magic is one of the most persistent and dangerous heresies.
Then comes a healing story which is surely meant by Mark as a parable. A blind man is healed, but only gradually is he able to see clearly. Isn’t he a bit like the disciples, whose blindness is being healed by Jesus, but not all at once. Jesus’ disciples in every generation should take to heart Mark’s sober picture of their situation. Yes, they are being saved, but only gradually.