Mark 16 – the Easter Event


The resurrection in Mark is an open-ended question — “will you participate in the re-ordering of power through compassion, peace, and justice?
[Image: by geralt under  CC0 Public Domain]

The Time:
  The Easter event begins “when the sabbath passed.” On the one hand, this locates that which is to come in the Yeshua saga beyond the provenance of the temple system. That which has been persecuting the people (economically and religiously) is destroyed as part of the reordering of power. On the other hand, Mark is setting the event in kairos (theological time – God’s opportune time) rather than in chronos (clock time).

The Women:  The women who come to the tomb move from chronos to kairos when they “look up.” That same term is used when the author speaks of blind Bartimaeus’s regaining sight. “Looking up” means “gaining the perception necessary for insight and understanding” (Waetjen, page 242)— that is, intuitive comprehension. The women’s intuitive perception allows them to perceive that the rolling away of the stone of great size is indicative of a reordering of power. That insight is confirmed by what happens next.

The Youth:  Inside the tomb they encounter a youth (same term as used for the youth clothed in a shroud who appeared at the time of Yeshua’s arrest) who is “seated at the right hand and wearing a white robe.” In verse 14:62, Mark had previously put these words (“seated at the right hand”) into the discourse of Yeshua. The youth is a literary device, added to the narrative, as a mirror of “the realities of Jesus’ death and resurrection” Waetjen (page 243). As a literary device, the youth represents (a) the ‘ideal reader’ who has intuitive comprehension and (b) the narrator / author of Mark’s gospel. It is the aim of the author / narrator that the (ideal) reader share the intentions of the text — that is, be seated at the right hand of God in glory. The intention of the text is to actualize in the readers “the flesh and blood reality of the new humanity” (page 243) so that they will continue Yeshua’s work of constructing the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice. Hence, the ideal readers “are undergoing the same metamorphosis that was disclosed in [Yeshua’s] transfiguration.” (page 244)

The Location:  We expect the women to be told to go and tell the good news of the resurrection. Instead, they are told to go and tell the disciples to return to the Galilee where they will meet Yeshua. In the narrative world of Mark’s Gospel, Jerusalem is a necropolis (a dead city) — the old institutions and systems of power are dead. Where the disciples (and the ideal reader) will encounter the New Human Being (as they become the New Humanity) is back home — that is, in the ordinariness of their lives. The disciples must go back to the Galilee; the original addressees of Mark’s gospel must be open to encounter the new reality in southern Syria; the ideal reader, at the intersection of Old Main Street and the Casino, in the schools and the supermarkets, at home and at work, even at St. Charles Presbyterian Church. The resurrection occurs whenever we “look up” with new, intuitive comprehension and see the way ahead —  that is, engage in the construction of the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice.

The Conclusion:  Mark’s account opens (1:1) with the words “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” It “ends in failure” (Waetjen, page 248) — that is, the women leave the tomb, “for they continued to be afraid” and fail to deliver the message to the disciples. If “the good news of Jesus Christ” is to continue, will the addressees (the 1st century Syrian peasant Christians) and/or the ideal reader (the members of the Inquiry Class of SCPC) “look up,” move from chronos to kairos, and take up the task that Yeshua began? The Gospel of Mark is an open-ended question that each follower of Yeshua must answer for herself, for himself.

Abandoned by God

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 9.55.57 AM Jewish millennialism (and the strong Christology which arises from it) cannot account for the picture painted by Mark’s account of the good news.

Mark 15:34  At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “EloiEloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (GNT)

[‘Scriptures and additional materials quoted are from the Good News Bible © 1994 published by the Bible Societies/HarperCollins Publishers Ltd UK, Good News Bible© American Bible Society 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992. Used with permission.’] [Image: Kierkegaard’s Journal 1835Creative Commons CC0)

  Yeshua is asked by Pilate, “Are you a Jewish revolutionary, claiming to be their king?” Yeshua responds, “If that is what you say, it must be so.” He then refuses to defend himself against the case presented by the temple officials. “King of the Jews” is a title that is meant as a parody, mocking Yeshua’s mission. Ironically, it is an intuitively insightful parody of the parody. Yeshua is accorded the titles on which Jewish and Christian millennialism depend — namely “king” (15:2ff) and “Messiah/Christ” (14:60f) — but not in the sense that Jewish and Christian millennialism expect. Suspecting the Jewish crowd to be pro-Yeshua, Pilate offered to release their “king” to them. In the narrative world of Mark’s gospel, the crowd is given a choice, but not the choice between a good man and a bad man or between a godly man and an evil man. Instead the crowd is offered “two distinct ways of establishing the eschatological reality of God’s rule” (Wetjen, p. 228) — Barabbas (the way of political violence) or Yeshua (the Way of compassion, peace, and justice). The crowd defers to the insistence of their religious leaders and shouts for the release of Barabbas, asking that Yeshua be crucified. Mark has deftly placed his hearers (including each of us) in the position of being a member of the crowd. Will we defer to religion’s ‘long robes’ or choose the New Human Being whose mission is the construction of the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice? (Throughout history Barabbas seems to have been the popular choice, expedience wining out over justice.) Barabbas is released, while Yeshua is beaten and delivered to the execution cohort. Even as “king of the Jews” (more accurately, “the New Human Being seated at the right hand of power”), Yeshua retains his connection of horizontal relationships with other human beings. He is enthroned in nakedness, along side two who are being crucified for their opposition to Roman power. Yeshua refuses the anesthetic mixture of wine and myrrh. He seems determined to experience fully his own death, even as it means great physical suffering. The suffering was not only physical — “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”). Having been abandoned by God and deserted by his disciples, Yeshua is left to die alone on the cross. As the New Human Being, he maintains his dignity throughout the ordeal until he emits a loud cry and dies. The New Human Being must die in solidarity with the dregs of human society without being rescued by God. Jewish and Christian millennial theology (see Isaiah 53) require some sort of vicarious atonement or retributive justice to satisfy their ‘strong’ God. Yeshua, however, “is conscious of divine withdrawal.” Whether God’s wrath is understood as a forensic reality or a projection of human fear, the New Human Being experiences the absence of a strong God. He does, however, remain true to the insistent calling which he experienced in his baptism and shaped in the wilderness. A weak God who does not rescue and does not exist, but calls insistently and affirms those who respond to the call, is all that Yeshua has as he dies… except for those who, hearing the call, will respond by incarnating the New Israel / New Humanity and continue to construct the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice. Yeshua is not a strong Messiah who will rescue those who “believe in him.” Instead, he has become the genuine New Human Being, the first fruit of the New Israel / New Humanity. His mission has invalidated any human institution or system that dehumanizes, oppresses, and/or marginalizes — political systems, religious institutions, social stratifications, economic privileges. Instead, the New Humanity is formed as a horizontal community characterized by compassion, peace, and justice. Yeshua’s weak messianism is a process shared by the New Human Being with those who become the New Humanity. The nature of the anticipated horizontal community is such that this messianic process, lived into by Yeshua, is accessible to all. God’s presence, received as an inner insistent call, “will be experienced everywhere and anywhere without the necessity of [atonement theologies] or a mediating [Messiah]. God’s presence [as insistent call] will be experienced wherever the eschatological reality of the New Humanity that Jesus incarnated throughout his ministry is encountered.” (Waetjen, p. 238) It is not only Yeshua who was abandoned. The disciples experienced abandonment — Yeshua abandons them by willingly going toward his death. The early church, caught up in a strong Christology which had its origins in Jewish millennialism, apparently felt abandoned and therefore subsequently abandoned the weak messianism of the New Human Being for a strong Messiah (Christ), who saved sinners. I choose the abandonment of the weak messianism of the New Human Being. It gives life, rather than requiring me to forsake who I am in order to become what a strong Messiah demands. I choose to listen to the quiet inner calling of God who insists, rather than exist. I reject any understanding of God that dehumanizes and oppresses through violence and divine wrath — a God who, like a cosmic accountant, balances an unaudited binary ledger of good and evil. I am drawn to Yeshua who was the Way he was constructing toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice, the Truth he lived as a weak messianic process open to all of us, and the Life he incarnated in the New Human Being as the first fruit of the New Humanity into which I am called. If Yeshua, the New Human Being (son of man) was the way, the truth, and the life then I, as a part of the New Humanity, am also called to be the way, the truth, and the life — an access point to the calling of God.

Psalm – “You are gods”

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The Psalm says, You are gods.” What could that mean?

Psalm 82       1 God takes his stand in the divine council; he gives judgment among the gods: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly by granting favor to the wicked? Seals 3 Give justice to the lowly and the orphan; maintain the right of the poor and the destitute! 4 Rescue the lowly and the needy. Deliver them from the power of the wicked! 5 They don’t know; they don’t understand; they wander around in the dark. All the earth’s foundations shake. 6 I hereby declare, “You are gods, children of the Most High—all of you! 7 But you will die like mortals; you will fall down like any prince.” 8 Rise up, God! Judge the earth because you hold all nations in your possession! (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons ‘Hand of God Sculpture’ @ ‘London’s Royal Exchange’” by Loco Steve is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Psalm 82 (in other words)

God’s standing provides divine counsel through an insistent unheard inner voice that is received as a calling. That insistent calling comes as judgment upon anyone who favors using power and prestige to disenfranchise and oppress. Instead, divine counsel encourages justice for the oppressed and suffering. Such justice focuses on the rights of the poor and destitute, giving them a new start, delivering them from people and institutions that marginalize and maltreat them. Those abusive individuals and institutions don’t have a clue; they wander around aimlessly, as if trudging through a pool of putrid sludge.This divine counsel shakes the foundations of the earth, hailing all toward the New Israel (the New Humanity) — that is, the ones in whom true divinity is present as the embodiment of compassion, peace, and justice. Of course, lest you forget, being mortal you will die. That sober reality is not to distress us, but to heightens our awareness, lest we be judged with those who rely on power and prestige.

“God, Rid Me of God!”

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[Image: “Creation of Adamr” by Michelangelo. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.]

There is a hollowness within me —
a yearning
a nostalgia
for times when things were simpler…
when the church was a buffer against the raging of the world,
a community of gentle people hungering for connectedness,
a movement toward doing justice,
loving compassion,
and walking humbly in faith.

At times I want to cry out
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

But my real question is not about being forsaken by God, but by the church. My theological education was based on the reflective traditions locked in with Augustine in the 4th century, Anselm in the 11th, Aquinas in the 13th, and Luther and Calvin in the 16th. In retrospect, I can say I was trained well to oversee the decline of the church that has moved from being a social justice movement without a very deep spiritual base to a piety club without much compassion.

God is perceived as the chief retired senior citizen
of the heavenly realms
who continues to design specific plans for each person’s life
but who no longer has the energy or the desire to be involved
in the day-by-day dilemmas of modern life.

God (or perhaps it is the Church) has become so impotent
that his [sic] followers have needed
to hedge their bets
inventing a non-scientific science
to protect God’s otherness.

Others have responded to the unfruitfulness
of God and the Church
by walking away in droves
abandoning that which abandoned them.

So, I am filled with
frustration and disappointment,
tinged with anger…

Why was I (why were we)
not better prepared for faith in a world conditioned by
the Big Bang,
the splitting of the atom,
space exploration,
quantum mechanics,
organ transplants,
stem cell therapy,
and the continuing onslaught
of “man’s inhumanity to man” [sic]?

Learning new ways to think theologically —
finding new patterns for expressing meaning
in a non-God centered universe —
takes its toll…

Musing about the possibilities of
religionless Christianity
puts one at jeopardy with the religious powers-that-be…

Being clear about walking the Way of faith —
without a Messiah
without a powerful God
without a heavenly after-life —
scares too many sitting in the pew…

And that is precisely where I am —
sitting in the pew with a messianic process
but without a Messiah…
sitting in the pew with an insistent calling in the name of God
but without an existing God…
sitting in the pew with Eternal Mystery
but without a heavenly realm to inhabit
and without an adequate language to express it…

It is lonely here in the pew
no longer able to hold on to the “eternal verities”
no longer “believing” what most others seem to cling to
no longer willing to sit silently while the church implodes.

With Meister Eckhart I pray “God, rid me of God!”
that I may follow Yeshua* into
wholesome humanity
and compassion.

Let me move along the Way —
away from my own anxieties and insecurities —
in the direction of peace and justice.

Let me go forth
without baggage packed full
of pre-conceived notions and stale ideas
walking with friends (and enemies)
with a light step
a steady pace
and a gait filled with grace.

It is not about finding answers,
but about the search for wholeness…
not about arriving at a destination,
but about the quest for justice…
not having the right beliefs…
but about living abundantly, in the meantime.

I pray “God, rid me of God!”
that I may join Yeshua*
in the messianic journey toward
full humanity, full divinity…
that I may truly become
a person with integrity and wholeness
Wisdom’s Child
God’s Human One.

Build a Shrine or Fall Asleep?

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How does one properly process deep spiritual experiences? Those experiences are often exciting; but they are also scary!

Matthew 26:40-41a          40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41  Stay alert and pray (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons 2014 – Vancouver – Sidewalk Siesta” by Ted McGrath is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Matthew 26:40-41a

Yeshua found the disciples asleep. “Can’t you tarry with me for a brief time? Rest with anticipation and be in tune with God.”


Yeshua’s* disciples (then and now) have had two different reactions to Yeshua’s* life experiences — build a shrine (Mount of Transfiguration) or fall asleep at the switch (Garden of Gethsemane). Numinous events (which we call “mountain-top” experiences) are scary, they take us to deep places within ourselves, bringing us to the threshold of transformation. Rather than be re-constructed, we tend either to construct external artifacts (churches, theologies, dogmas, boundaries) or to anesthetize ourselves (drugs, alcohol, consumerism, religion).

These two reactions prefigure a couple of metaphors for the process of faith formation — namely, journey and home. Journey spirituality recognizes that faith must constantly be on the move, engaging new experiences, reflecting in new ways, opening the imagination to new creation. Home-based spirituality is really about “coming home,” much as the prodigal son returns to his waiting father (Luke 15:11-31). Home is about resting, abiding, living in familiar territory.

A friend and I just finished reading Walter Wink’s The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man (Fortress Press, 2002). Our dialogue with the Human Being (the book, the author, and the One behind the book) had been deeply rooted, touching our faithing, our thoughts, and our lives. Our question at the end of such reading is usually, “What’s next, Papa?” (Romans 8:15-16, the Message). This time, however, we decided it is time to tarry — to rest longingly with anticipation, “adventurously expectant.” A “tarrying” spirituality is prefigured in the Emmaus experience — journey with Yeshua* for a while; come to a resting spot; see deeply Yeshua’s* pilgrimage with us; Yeshua* disappears from our eyes; we are now left to debrief the experience and discern “What’s next?” Tarrying is mid-way between the journey and the return home. To tarry is to find a thin place and inhabit it for a brief moment before it fades away. Tarrying is the recognition that we do not own and therefore cannot possess the experience.

Wink suggests that tarrying with Yeshua* is not a uniquely Christian phenomenon.

“That means that the transformation Jesus triggered is not exclusively Christian. Anyone can be drawn by the attractive power of Jesus. … If we claim that Jesus lived authentically, that he is exemplary, that he is the human face of God; if we see in him the son of the man, and that he is the firstborn of many sisters and brothers; if we assert that he was like us in every way, being an imperfect, wounded, sining human being… [then t]he Human being has the capacity to make humans humane, whatever their religion or lack thereof.” (p. 250ff)

And, in the twinkling of an eye, Yeshua escapes from the grasping of the church and makes Wisdom’s Child (the son of man) available to the whole world — without dogma, without ritual. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this religionless Christianity.