Bible blog 1112

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline form world news:

IRAN READY TO TALK WITH USA

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran

2 Samuel 9:1-13

New English Translation (NET)

David Finds Mephibosheth

9 Then David asked, “Is anyone still left from the family of Saul, so that I may extend kindness to him for the sake of Jonathan?”

Now there was a servant from Saul’s house named Ziba, so he was summoned to David. The king asked him, “Are you Ziba?” He replied, “At your service.” The king asked, “Is there not someone left from Saul’s family, that I may extend God’s kindness to him?” Ziba said to the king, “One of Jonathan’s sons is left; both of his feet are crippled.” The king asked him, “Where is he?” Ziba told the king, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.

So King David had him brought from the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed low with his face toward the ground. David said, “Mephibosheth?” He replied, “Yes, at your service.”

David said to him, “Don’t be afraid, because I will certainly extend kindness to you for the sake of Jonathan your father. I will give back to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will be a regular guest at my table.” Then Mephibosheth bowed and said, “Of what importance am I, your servant, that you show regard for a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s attendant, and said to him, “Everything that belonged to Saul and to his entire house I hereby give to your master’s grandson. 10 You will cultivate the land for him—you and your sons and your servants. You will bring its produce and it will be food for your master’s grandson to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, will be a regular guest at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do everything that my lord the king has instructed his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth was a regular guest at David’s table, just as though he were one of the king’s sons.

12 Now Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. All the members of Ziba’s household were Mephibosheth’s servants. 13 Mephibosheth was living in Jerusalem, for he was a regular guest at the king’s table. But both his feet were crippled.

The material in this and the following chapters of Samuel shows either a real or imaginative knowledge of the court of KIng David. This story is another perfect illustration of David’s ability to serve God, his neighbour and his own interests simultaneously. He treats Jonathan’s son with exemplary generosity and kindness which, we may think, will be publicly noted to his credit. At the same time he is able to keep an eye on the only surviving member of Saul’s family who might be a focus for rebellion. The narrator doesn’t spell this out because he wants the reader to enjoy the character of David without comment.  The narrower message of this passage is that the interests of power are better served by keeping the Lord’s law than by the kind of brutal violence that David could have employed towards Mephibosheth. I say, narrower, but it’s a message that people in power should hear. Much violence used to keep power is mindless and ultimately self-destructive; if morality does not check it, perhaps enlightened self-interest may do so.

The broader message of this and many more stories in Samuel is to invite the reader’s admiration for the rich humanity -rich in wickedness as well as goodness- amongst whom God is pleased to dwell.

Mark 8:34-9:1

New English Translation (NET)

Following Jesus

34 Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. 36 For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life? 37 What can a person give in exchange for his life? 38 For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” 9 And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

Roman crosses along the Via Appia after the slave revolt

Roman crosses along the Via Appia after the slave revolt

Scholars suggest that the christian community is the source of the words about the cross rather than Jesus, since it was only after Jesus’ crucifixion that the cross became a central image of faith in Jesus. I like to think it’s an example of the sober humour of Jesus. He was saying, “Following me’s just like an early booking for crucifixion. You can get your cross in advance!” Perhaps the authors of the “LIfe of Brian” were inspired by this idea. If Jesus did say it, there’s certainly humour but also realism: those who accept his rule will find themselves in trouble with those who rule the world by their violence. Certainly for Jesus, “cross” could not mean any old burden; it meant persecution by the Roman state.

“Losing life” should not be narrowly interpreted as martyrdom; it means rather a carelessness about’s one’s own position, wealth and safety for the sake of generosity to Jesus and the communities of his kingdom. Life lived merely to protect itself is ultimately bound for death like all that is merely biological; whereas life that is open to God and the neighbour is splendid now and will not be closed by death. 

Those who trust these words may live exuberantly in the world as it is, helping by their courage to undermine the powers that crucify. And yet even those who trust them may easily find themselves denying them when faced with mere unpopularity or trivial disadvantage. I have done so.  In those circumstances I’ve had to ask myself whether I’ve gained anything that can make up for the loss of my true self.

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