This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
SECTARIAN VIOLENCE IN BELFAST
2 Samuel 12:15-31
New King James Version (NKJV)
15 Then Nathan departed to his house.
The Death of David’s Son
And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”
19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”
And they said, “He is dead.”
20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord[a] will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
24 Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he[b] called his name Solomon. Now the Lord loved him, 25 and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he[c] called his name Jedidiah,[d] because of the Lord.
Anyone who has watched over a sick child will identify with David in this passage. His own admitted guilt at the killing of Uriah makes him believe that he is responsible for the child’s death but the storyteller allocates some responsibility to God, who abandons this child to its mortal illness. The death that David brought on Uriah has come back to claim his own child. David prays for the child against his own fear that it is doomed. Perhaps God will be gracious! David is never scared to live his own emotions to the full. His love for the baby is strong and focused. Perhaps this endears him to God who is also depicted as a having tumultuous emotions. His realistic acceptance of the child’s death is memorably worded. “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Every day, every year, however filled with good things, is another step towards his dead child.
But David moves also towards new life, comforting Bathsheba and having with her a new baby, who, incomprehensibly, enjoys God’s favour, which is communicated by Nathan the prophet who gives him the name Jedidiah, beloved of the Lord. The reader who knows something of the story feels a stab of foreboding at the birth of Solomon, who will be the next king of Israel. But how will David’s children by other wives deal with the competition for power which David has created by his relationships?
Again and again this incomparable storyteller reminds us that God is known, if he is known at all, in the terrible beauty and pain of human living. Nothing could be further from cloistered piety than the faith of David.
New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus Again Predicts His Death and Resurrection
30 Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. 31 For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” 32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.
Who Is the Greatest?
33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
Jesus Forbids Sectarianism
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our[a] side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Mark is unsparing in his exposure of the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ divine kingship. They persistently think it is the power to succeed, to be great, and therefore imagine that they will share, perhaps to different degrees, in the success of their master. Their view is logical. God is power; Jesus is God’s Son; he and those who serve him, will be powerful. Jesus’ acted parable is shocking. God comes as a little child, looking for protection. God is vulnerable and those who trust in him will be vulnerable too.
The disciples also have to learn that Jesus has not brought a new religion, with its proper procedures and boundaries between the faithful and others. Jesus is not wanting to create a new religion but a new humanity. For him as for David, faith is for the world not the confines of a sect; all can share it; “he who is not against us, is on our side.” Jesus knows what the real opposition will be able to do.
With this astonishing teaching in mind we can return to the David story and see that God, the great and mighty One, comes to David in the powerless foreigner Uriah and in his own sick child asking for the gift of life, which David, who has arrogated to himself the power of life and death, cannot give.