Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The turning point

Today in the gospel of Mark we reach the turning point, when the Pharisees decide that Jesus must die. At the time of Jesus there were many itinerant preachers, and even many claiming to be the messiah. We rarely stop to ask ourselves, what it was about Jesus that made them want him dead. Mark paints a picture of the worst sort of political intrigue.

Already in chapter three of Mark's gospel, the pharisees, Jesus's own religious party, witness him curing a man with a withered hand. While others see a miracle, all they can see is a threat, a threat to their power. They see Jesus as someone who has the potential to be popular, to be a truly charismatic leader. Mark tells us that this is the trigger event.

The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Did the Herodians share some deep religious affinity with the Pharisees? No. But now they share a common cause, there desire to maintain their position. Will there be a direct and immediate link to the crucifixion? No. Mark positions this story at the beginning of the gospel, there are many chapters, stories and characters in between.

These day we tend to want simple answers. We romanticize history and tell ourselves that life used to be simpler. The truth is that evil in the form of greed, envy, and a lust for power is as old as original sin. Modem technology has simply made it more visible to a larger segment of the population.

The good news is that it is possible for good to triumph. The story of Jesus did not end with the crucifixion. The names of those Pharisees have been lost to history, but Jesus and his church live on.

While there are those who love to say, "The world is going to hell in a handcart", I see signs ever day that the gospel is right, "The kingdom of God is at hand."