This blog follows the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The whole series which began on 1st January can be accessed from my archives.The headline is a reminder of the world we live in.
IRAN’S PRESIDENT BELIEVES IN DIALOGUE
So Yaakov arose, he lifted his children and his wives on to he camels
and led away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the acquired-livestock f hos own acquiring which he had gained in the country of Aram,
to come home to Yitzhak his father in the land of Canaan.
Now Lavan had gone to shear his flock;
Rahel, meantime, stole the terafim Gods that belonged to her father.
And Yaakov stole the wits of Lavan the Aramean
by not telling him that he was about to flee.
And flee he did, and al that was his.
He arose and crossed the River, setting his face toward the hill country of Gil’ad.
Lavan was told on the therird day that Yaakov had fled;
he took his tribal brothers with him and pursued him, a seven days’ journey,
and caught up with him in the hill country of Gil’ad.
But God came to Lavan the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him:
Be on your watch
lest you speak to Yaakov, be it good or ill!
When Lavan caught up with Yaakov
– Yaakov had pegged his tent in the mountains, and Lavan along with his brothers had pegged his tent in the hill country of Gil’ad –
Lavan said to Yaakov:
What did you mean to do
by stealing my wits and my daughters like captives of the sword?
Why did you secretly flee and steal away from me without telling me
– for I would have sent you off with joy and with song, with drum and wit lyre –
and you did not even alow me to kiss my grandchildren and my daughters?
You have done foolishly now!
It lies in my hand’s power to do al of you ill.
But yesterday the God of your faher said t me:
Be on your watch
from speaking to Yaakov, be it good or ill!
Yaakov answered and said to Lavan:
Indeed I was afraid, for I said to myself, perhaps you will rob me even of your daughters!
With whomever you find your gods- he shall not live;
here in front of our brothers, see if you recognise anything of yours with me and take it!
Yaakov did not know that Rahel had stolen them.
I think the storyteller’s audience would recognise this as comedy. Yaakov’s decision to move out secretly is both bold and fearful. He is willing to risk the prospect of Esav’s revenge while scared to confront his cheating uncle. Rahel’s theft of household idols is a sign that they have failed to protect Lavan but just might be useful to Yaakov’s household. The audience would be amused by her cunning and her confusion of mind.
Lavan’s chase after Yaakov is interrupted by a dream in which YHWH, Yaakov’s God, warns him to watch his step. The dream is explicable in psychological terms but the storyteller means it also as an intervention of YHWH. The scene that follows is the typical bluster of enemies who are both scared of battle. There are threats and recriminations, but no action. Lavan’s complaint that his wits have been stolen is particularly comic: in effect he says,”You’ve turned me into an idiot,” which is not the most rational complaint. His real anger of course is that Yaakov has stolen his cunning and used it against him. He realises his error of judgement: a man whom he thought defenceless has turned out to be a) just a cunning as himself and b) defended by his God. Doubtless the audience relished their ancestor’s cunning and the God who who approved it.
31 Jesus said, The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.
32 But of that day or of that hour no one knows, neither the angels who are in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father.
33 Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is:
34 it is as a man gone out of the country, having left his house and given to his bondmen the authority, and to each one his work, and commanded the doorkeeper that he should watch.
35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house comes: evening, or midnight, or cock-crow, or morning;
36 lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
When the “last things” come and human beings are judged, no worldly words will have power any more. The decrees of religious and imperial rulers are set aside. Jesus says that his own words (and actions) will however still have authority. That’s because, although they have been uttered in the “present evil age”, they belong to God’s future. Ahead of time, according to Mark, Jesus’ life and teaching are apocalypse now. They come from the reality that is aslant historical reality and are not determined by it. At any time this reality may impinge upon historical reality but this will only be evident to those who stay alert, while those who are content with a one-dimensional life will be as if asleep. People who trust in Jesus will be like watchers at the threshold of God’s rule waiting to welcome him, any day and every day that he chooses to arrive. This is not the idiocy of “rapture believers” but rather the sober expectation of those who know the two dimensions of worldly life and are ready to welcome the beyond into their midst.
The fevered calculations of those who claim to have worked the date and time of God’s final intervention ought to be utterly scuppered by Jesus’ teaching that only the father has knowledge of such matters. Clearly they think they are superior to Jesus and therefore entitled to unload their gobbledygook on unsuspecting souls. I usually tell such evangelists that I’m a Moslem and that Allah will certainly fry them when he pushes the bell for the Big Breakfast.