Sunday, May 06, 2012

Conflict over Values 1

I've been dripping through a chapter on the conflict Jesus got into with various leaders around him.  My last post on the subject finished a section I'm calling "Conflict over Authority."  Now I want to start a second section called "Conflict over Values."
Jesus' first conflict in Mark is about whether he has the authority to forgive sins. His second conflict follows almost immediately. Some scribes and Pharisees have problems with the fact that Jesus accepts an invitation to eat with many tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:14-17).

I've already explored Jesus' interest in the lost sheep of Israel in chapter 3. In this one, I'm interested in the fact that Jesus' values got him into conflict.  One of Jesus' values was that people trump rules for their own sake. So it was more important to Jesus to reclaim the tax collectors and others of Israel who had gone astray than to worry about Levitical purity rules. The Parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates these priorities as well--saving a life trumps purity rules.

Another story in Mark 2 takes it even further. If redeeming the lost trumped the rules and saving a life trumped the rules, Jesus interaction over plucking grain showed that even basic hunger could trump the rules for him. In Mark 2:23-28, he and his disciples are passing through some grain fields on the Sabbath, on Saturday. Some Pharisees criticize this followers for violating the fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping in holy" (Exod. 20:8).

What is truly interesting about Jesus' response is that he does not say what we might expect.  He does not say, "You Pharisees don't understand what this commandment is really about." What he does is tell about an incident where a high priest gave holy food to David and his men to eat, something that was only lawful for priests to eat (Mark 2:26). His point is that it was appropriate on that occasion to make an exception to the rule.

We should probably keep in mind that there is an implicit comparison here between David the king and Jesus the messiah. Jesus may not be saying that just anyone is allowed to pluck grain on the Sabbath. He may be saying that he is about to be king just as David was about to be king, and therefore it is appropriate to make an exception. Jesus is "Lord even of the Sabbath" (2:27). His authority trumps even that of  Scripture and the Ten Commandments.

But before we go any further, we should probably be a little more precise about exactly what "rules" we are talking about...

1 comment:

John Mark said...

I am always intrigued and helped when you point out that passages we have a tendency to make universal applications from may not be suited for that. Would you say as well that just because Jesus went to "parties" hosted by "sinners" doesn't necessarily mean we should be allowed to? :)