Gospel of Mark, Lent

“We call BS” (Mark 2:13-28)

Picture from CNN Español

You’ve probably seen her on TV, in a clip from a speech she gave. Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez showed remarkable rhetorical skills, both for her age, and given the shock and grief she must be suffering.

She called out the adults, the government, the authorities we wish our children could trust – and she said it sadly at first and then with increasing power, in what became a refrain that the crowd joined. “We call BS!” (Read the whole speech here.)

In the first part of Mark we saw Jesus as teacher and healer, and in a discussion of sin he turns theologian, but in the last paragraphs of the chapter, he becomes a preacher. He crafts an argument that could get an “Amen” by calling out the bullshit promoted by the religious leaders of his time.

Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. As the disciples made their way, they were picking the heads of wheat. The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! Why are they breaking the Sabbath law?”

He said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was in need, when he and those with him were hungry? During the time when Abiathar was high priest, David went into God’s house and ate the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. He also gave bread to those who were with him.” Then he said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath. This is why the Human One is Lord even over the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28, CEB)

Jesus put things in perspective. It sounds clever now. He reminded the religious leaders of a story they would have known well, making it clear the Sabbath is not a punishment or an enslavement for human beings, but a gift to them.

Of course, they didn’t want to hear him. Instead of considering a new way of seeing the Sabbath, a true way, they grumbled about him and plotted against him.

It seems to me that we live in a crucial time for being careful about who we let influence us. In the past week, as the young people from Parkland have been speaking out, people who oppose gun control have sought to discredit them, misidentified them, and spread lies about them. (There’s even a subset of right-wingers claiming the shooting never happened, as they have been doing for five years about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.)

Who will we listen to? The authorities of any time and every religion tend to use that authority to maintain the status quo and with it their power. It’s easy to go along with the biggest person or the loudest voice. It’s what people do when they benefit from the way things are, either directly or indirectly. These kids, though. They know how to use the communications structures that have been part of their whole lives to make a statement.

Do you suppose enough people will listen to them? Will we call BS?

Jesus, be a megaphone for these kids. Amen.

I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible. Tomorrow I’ll be reading Mark 3:1-12. You can find the full schedule here, including links to earlier posts.