This blog continues to follow the books of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The series which began on 01/0102015 can be accessed from my archives. The headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
GENESIS 32 from verse 2
as Yaakov went on his way
messnegers of God encountered him.
Yaakov said when he saw them:
this is a camp of God!
and he called the name of that place,Mahanayim / Double Camp.
Yaakov s sent messengers ahead of him to Esav his brother, in the land of Se’ir in the territory of Edom,
and commanded them, saying:
Thus say to my lord, to Esav:
thus says your servant Yaakov
I have sojourned with Lavan and have tarried until now.
Ox and donkey, sheep and servant and maid have become mine.
I have sent to tell my lord, to find favour in your eyes.
the messengers returned to Yaakov, saying:
We came to your brother, to Esav,
but he is already coming to meet you and four hundred men with him!
Yaakov became exceedingly afraid and was distressed.
He divided the people that were with him, and the sheep and the camels and the oxen into two camps
saying to himself:
Should Esav come up against one camp and strike it, the one that is left will escape.
Then Yaakov said:
God of my father Avraham,
God of my father Yitzhak
who said to me, Return to your land, to your kindred, and I will deal well with you! –
Too small am I for all the faithfulness and trust that you have shown your servant,
for only with my rod did I cross this Jordan
and now I have become two camps!
Pray save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav,
for I am in fear of him,
lest he come and strike me down, mothers and children alike!
but you, you have said:
I will deal well with you,
I will make your seed like the sand of the sea shore which is too much to count.
The audience knows that the climax of the story is approaching – Yaakov’s meeting with Esav his wronged brother. Perhaps Yaakov is beginning to see that YHWH has manoeuvred him into this dangerous encounter by hinting that his blessing is only to be enjoyed in the land of the promise. Yaakov knows that he has burned his boats: he can’t go back but he is afraid to go forwards. Esav puts the pressure on him by advancing with an entourage to meet him.
At this point the storyteller shows first of all that Yaakov turns to his ancestral God with an acute sense of his own isolation and weakness that is perhaps new to him. The invocation of God is threefold: God of Avraham, God of Yitzhak, YHWH, he is approached by the names of fathers and by his own name. T he audience would note the reference to Jordan which for a later generation of Israelites is the barrier to conquest.
As we will see in tomorrow’s passage, Yaakov, having first prayed to God, makes his own shrewd arrangements to soften Esav’s heart. Many commentators see this as an expression of doubt in the efficacy of God, but it is entirely in tune with the way YHWH has cooperated with Yaakov, expecting him to work out his own salvation. The same is true of the dynamic of God’s grace described by St. Paul in Philippians 2:12.
12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they slew the passover, his disciples say to him, Where do you want us to go and prepare, that you may eat the passover?
13 And he sends two of his disciples, and says to them, Go into the city, and a man shall meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him.
14 And wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is my guest-chamber where I may eat the passover with my disciples?
15 and he will shew you a large upper room furnished ready. There make ready for us.
16 And his disciples went away and came into the city, and found as he had said to them; and they made ready the passover.
17 And when evening was come, he comes with the twelve.
Darby’s translation shows us how often Mark moves into the present tense, as if inviting his readers to become witnesses of the events. Often, Jesus is the subject of these verbs.
In this paasage Mark is leading his readers towards the climax of the story when Jesus, the supremely active one, is made the object of the actions of others – Judas, the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, the soldiers. One of his last actions is to gather his followers for a Passover meal. It’s often said that Pesach is a family gathering, which is true, but certainly it might also be shared by friendship groups and by teachers with disciples. Mark wants his readers to see that Jesus has carefully prepared for this meal, knowing that its location had to be kept secret.
There are difficulties in Mark’s timetable, according to which this event takes place on a Thursday, whereas the Passover ought to be Friday and is so designated in the Gospel of John. Still Mark insists because he particularly wants to associate Jesus’ supper with Passover. To put it crudely he wants to present Jesus as the one whose blood is smeared on the lintel so that the people can be liberated. In fact he does this with great subtlety as we shall see. The careful preparation is also meant by Mark to show how much Jesus wanted the support of his followers, although he did not get it. Like Yaakov Jesus will have to meet his fate alone; like him too, he will have to wrestle with God.