I’ve been fortunate to be reading through the story of Jesus, as written by Mark, for the past few months. A real advantage to following along through the course of a story – as opposed to breaking up Jesus’ life into helpful bits and pieces – is that we see more of the context. We realize that Jesus heals someone in nearly every section we discuss. We see how he gets a bit huffier with the disciples as his time of death and departure grow near. We miss nuances when you only read small passages here and there rather than the whole story. Like watching bits and pieces of a show but never sitting through it start to finish.
Recently I read the warnings Jesus gave his disciples. He was good at pointing out danger. It struck me that the basic 1st century understanding of Messiah included the hope that they would be freed from political oppression. The Jewish people were waiting on David’s son to come and defeat Goliath once again and prove them to be the mighty nation of God that they were, in this case, getting rid of Rome.
Yet in all his small and large acknowledgements of his Messiah-ship, Jesus rarely speaks a word about Rome. He doesn’t point out their weak spots, doesn’t explain how the freedom will arise. What he does get loud and rowdy about: Jewish religious leaders. Pharisees, Saducees and Teachers of the Law. The people who seem to know the ways of God best, yet, Jesus’ ascertains, do the most harm. “Beware of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” he declares more than once. He airs their shortcomings and puts on display the way they miss the mark.
I can’t help but wonder and believe that Jesus’ preoccupation for the leadership of his own people over the concerns of what other groups do “to” them might be a model of thinking for us yet today. Perhaps our biggest problems aren’t others and the way they treat us or how we fit into their world. Perhaps the problems starts with ourselves. There seems to be more danger in our own hearts and the ways in which we treat one another.
Regularly today I hear Christians shouting for the culture wars (ahem, Chik-fil-a….). Even outside the religious bubble, people decry “them” the evil media, “them” the crooked politicians, “them” the opposing hockey team that doesn’t play by the rules. Our general sense is to live as if someone, anyone, is simply out to get us.
But our biggest enemy sits with us at meal times. In the words of Derek Webb, He’s probably sleeping next to your wife. We need to be worried less about “them” and more about the ways in which we live. Less plank, more speck. Less “them”, more “us.”