This blog has been following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem since 01/01/2015. The whole series can be accessed from my archive. The headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
PUTIN MAINTAINS PARTNERSHIP WITH THE CHURCH
GENESIS 35: 23
Now the sons of Yaakov were twelve:
The sons of Lea: Yaakov’s firstborn, Re’uven; Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda, Yissakhar and Zevulun.
The sons of Rahel: Yosef and Benyamin.
The sons of Bilha, Rahel’s maid: Dan and Naftali.
The sons of Zilpa, Lea’s maid: Gad and Asher.
There were Yaakov’s sons, born to him in the country of Aram.
Yaakov came home to Yitzhak his father at Mamre in the city of Arba that is now Hebron,
where Avraham and Yitzhak had sojourned.
And the days of Yitzhak were a hundred years and eighty years;
then Yitzhak expired.
He died and was gathered to his people, old and satisfied in days.
Esav and Yaakov his sons buried him.
As most historical scholars think that Israel was formed, not by the children of Yaakov, but by desert tribes that came together in the occupation of Canaan, we may see the whole saga of Yaakov as a way of unifying the story of the people and giving it a clear purpose in the world: to carry God’s blessing to humanity. The prophets of Israel had the same agenda. We might say that what the prophets did by preaching, the Genesis author did by storytelling.
This passage is a turning point in the story. The storyteller reminds us that Mamre / Hevron is “home” for Yaakov because it is the place where Avraham and Yitzhak “sojourned”, that is, dwelt as travellers. The mark of the forefathers is journeying and sojourning rather than settling in the land of promise. This gives them a distinctive spirit. They do not need to conquer or defend territory but to are ready to move as circumstances suggest. It is clear nevertheless that Canaan has become home. The Christian author of the New Testament book of Hebrews beautifully understands and re-interprets this spirit for his own time:
“By faith, Abraham when he was called, obeyed, to go out into a place which he should afterwards receive for inheritance, and he went out not knowing whither he should go.
By faith he removed into the land that was promised to him, as into a strange country and dwelt in tents; and so did Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for the city having a foundation, whose builder and maker is God.”
At this point too, it’s worth noting the biblical expression for death “gathered to his people” that is to all the people of his family who lived and died after their own journeying. The book of Genesis has no concept of life after death, so it is a great blessing to die “old and satisfied in days” and to become part of the innumerable generations whose lives have prepared for yours, just as your life will be remembered by the generations to come. The Christian hope transcends this fellowship of mortality but it does not destroy it.
15 And immediately in the morning the chief priests, having taken counsel with the elders and scribes and the whole Sanhedrin, bound Jesus and carried him away, and delivered him up to Pilate.
2 And Pilate asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? And he answered and said to him, You say so.
3 And the chief priests accused him urgently.
4 And Pilate asked him again, saying, Will you answer nothing? See of how many things they accuse you.
5 But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marvelled.
Of course Pilate is only interested in the political question. But he has had to deal already with Messiahs and is aware that the religious and the political are closely entwined in Judaea, so he asks Jesus if he is the Messiah. Jesus’ answer is hardly that of a completely innocent man. Pilate must wonder what sort of troublemaker he’s dealing with and may already have decided that his prisoner is dangerous.When Jesus refuses to answer the allegations of the chief priests, Mark’s readers would remember the biblical template for Jesus’ ministry, Isaiah 53, especially “like a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”
Jesus’ refusal to answer patently false charges shows a dignity which impresses the Governor.
It is clear from the superscription on the cross “This is the king of the Jews” that Pilate condemned Jesus as a Jihadist, as someone trying to establish a godly caliphate in place of Roman rule. This aspect of Jesus’ witness was played down by the early church, but it is present in Mark’s gospel as the message and practice of God’s rule in Jesus’ ministry. Mark, like St Paul, probably saw the peaceful announcement of Jesus’ story and the establishment of communities of faith through the Roman world, as the fulfilment of the Messianic promises.