Is God’s Word Frozen? Studies in Mark, Pt. 63

In the Gospel of Mark, there is just something about Jesus’ words. Some people attribute power and authority to His words while others consider them blasphemous and troubling. It is this tension that keeps Mark’s drama interesting. The reader/listener is drawn into the story because they want to see what else Jesus has to say and how certain persons will react to His words.

So, while Jesus Himself is the centerpiece of Mark’s account, Jesus’ words, in all reality, probably assume the same, if not, in some ways, a greater role. If Jesus had never spoken, Mark would hardly have a story. Therefore, everything hinges on what Jesus says—His words. This got me thinking about Jesus’ statement in 13.30 that “Heaven and earth will pass by but my words will not pass by”. (If you are interested in why I translate “pareleusontai” as “pass by” instead of “pass away”, see study #62 in this series.) What does Jesus mean when He says this? Are His words frozen in time? Are His words static? How are we to make sense of this phrase?

Well, to get a better understanding of this, we should consider Mark’s story thus far. For example, we need to take into consideration the tension, as I mentioned above, that from the beginning of the story, has some people liking Jesus and some disliking Him. After His first exorcism and teaching session in chapter 1, the people marvel at Jesus and attribute authority to His words. In chapter 2 however, after Jesus heals an ill man and basically refers to Himself as God, some people subscribe and some get ticked. It is not long after this that the Pharisees and Herodians plot to kill Jesus (3. 6). So, with this group, Jesus’ words have gotten Him in trouble. At various junctures throughout the rest of the story, the religio-political leaders will try to “trap” or “catch” Jesus in His words so that they can arrest, try and kill Him.

Thus, there is that aspect of Jesus’ words and then there is another aspect. I’m speaking now of Jesus’ claims about His identity as the Messiah (e.g. Son of David, Messiah/Christ, Lord, etc.). In chapter 12, Jesus refers to David’s “speaking in the Spirit” when he wrote Psalm 110. I have argued elsewhere that this “speaking in the Spirit” means, not tongue-speaking, but rather speaking truth about the Messiah. Of course, David didn’t know that Jesus would be the Messiah. However, what David said, did reveal truth about the Messiah’s identity. Similarly, in chapter 12, Jesus says that when His disciples are arrested and taken to court, they will be given words to speak. These are not just any words and the Spirit is not giving them wisdom to get out of the situation. Instead, what Jesus means is that the Spirit will enable the disciples to speak truth about the Messiah’s identity before the religious and political leaders. This leads me to another point.

All throughout Mark’s Gospel, the disciples have had trouble understanding Jesus’ claims about Himself. They’ve also had questions about His teachings and some of His wonders. In many ways, Jesus’ words seem to have just passed the disciples by; in one ear and out the other, so to speak. But Jesus will say in 13.31 that before too long, His words will no longer “pass by” the disciples as they have been; sometime soon, it will all make sense to them.

So, there are those out to get Jesus because of His words, there are those who attribute authority to Jesus’ words and there are those that will be given words by the Holy Spirit that will align with Jesus’ own words about His identity as the Messiah. Now, when we get to Mk. 13.31, when Jesus says that His words will not “pass by”, He’s referring to two things: 1) His words about His Messianic identity, at some point, will finally make sense to the disciples, and 2) The words He has spoken concerning the Temple will also make sense (the disciples, like others, had a hard time understanding Jesus’ comments about the Temple being destroyed).

Really, in the end, Jesus’ words are what get Him killed; Jesus’ words are a central piece of Mark’s story. However, Jesus’ words are neither frozen nor static. As I have shown above, His statement is not that His words will “never pass away” but rather that His words will “not pass by” (the word “never” isn’t in the text!) without being acknowledged. In this way, then, Jesus could very well be drawing on Isaianic tradition, for, in Isaiah 55.11 (see also: Isa. 40.8), the text says: “…the word that goes from my mouth will not return void”. As we know, what Jesus spoke of certainly came to pass. I would hope that when we read verses such as Mk. 13.31 (and those in Isaiah), we would not attempt to formulate doctrines of Scripture on them (e.g. Inerrancy, Infallibility, etc.) because that’s not at all what is being spoken of. What can be adapted and adopted from such passages, however, is that our confession of Jesus as Messiah is just as truthful today as it was then and as such, Jesus Himself yields authority over our lives. In realizing this, we actually move from being part of Mark's audience to being part of Mark's, and thus Jesus', story.

No comments:

Post a Comment