Today’s reading: Mk 2:18 – 3:6
Two quick things today. First, we see Jesus commenting on why his disciples were not fasting.
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
First, this shows that periods of fasting is usually the norm. There was fasting before Jesus and there will be fasting after Jesus. It is only during the period while Jesus is with the Apostles that the need for fasting in reduced. Still, we can safely presume that there were periods of time that Jesus and the Apostles fasted. We know that Jesus fasted for forty days when he was tempted in the desert. And we know he told the Apostles that some demons could only be driven out with fasting as one of the components of the exorcism. Thus, this is really a commentary on how the law should be interpreted. It should be done so always with kindness and mercy. This is something the Pope Francis has emphasized.
Next, we see Jesus heal a man’s crippled hand in the temple on the Sabbath.
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
This is a similar scene to the verse we previously discussed on fasting. Jesus is again showing that the law, even the highest law of the Ten Commandments, should be interpreted here with an eye towards mercy. What is also interesting here is that up until now much of the action has taken place in the synagogues on the Sabbath. Although the Gospel of Mark was most likely written for a Gentile Roman audience they would have known that what set the Jews apart were their religious practices particularly their observance of the Sabbath. They would have likely understood that by repeatedly challenging the Sabbath proscriptions Jesus was challenging the very heart of Jewish authority. Indeed we see that in the last line of this verse that Jesus actions on the Sabbath are what cause the authorities to begin to plot his death. We will see this theme continued throughout the Gospel as Jesus will continue to challenge Jewish and Roman authority. In fact, this will become the hallmark of early Christianity as converts will challenge Roman paganism and immorality. It is something that we must continue even today when the secular world seeks to establish new moral norms and a new paganism.
Tomorrow: Mk 3:7-35