Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blasphemy, Treason, and the Son of God | The Book of Mark

I must confess that Mark has taken on new and exciting meaning in my mind. Seeing it as the telling of Peter through Mark is a fascinating contemplation. This is made even more so with the understanding of the period of the Jewish Revolt against Rome and the coming destruction of the Temple. I am reminded of Dicken's writing in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." 

Certainly the message of Mark resonates with me strongly today, like it has resonated with readers of all times, since we can identify these characteristics of things to come, and things that are ending... a departure of the past, and a fear of the future... of a need for a messiah.

Surely however, I digress from the assignment at hand. The multiple understandings of the phrase, "Son of God" add great depth to this discussion.  As I come to understand the phrase was used commonly with the proper names of Gods, such as Alexander's title of "Son of Ammon" or "Son of Zeus", I begin to see the significance of this title being used of and by Jesus. Certainly it provided a context of thought that could be grasped by the citizenry, but it also was alarming and threatening to a government whose highest official already bore that title. This lead to the charge of his crucifixion, treason.

Likewise, the blasphemy charge of the Sanhedrin, that Jesus would have the audacity to refer to himself as God. How interesting it was to learn that the religious leaders didn't have trouble with the reference to Son of God since it could refer to those who had intercessory roles to God such as prophets, prayers, circle makers, deliverers, messiah, and the Caesar. The line of blasphemy was crossed when Jesus said he was the great I AM, and that he would judge them all.

And so, the context here is the problem of the claims of Jesus. He was seen by the Jews as a blasphemer and so they handed him to Pilate who saw him as one who committed treason. The way of Jesus could be nothing then but the cross. The followers of Jesus then are simply those who take on his perceived roles of blasphemer and traitor. Of course then, our destiny should not be expected to be any different than his own. 

We are called to suffer and to be persecuted. And yet, the Gospel of Jesus as spoken by Peter and recorded by Mark doesn't leave us there. The first will be last and the last will be first. The persecuted will rise again. Our suffering, while sure, will not last forever. 

This was a response to a question: "What do you now know about the Gospel of Mark in its context? How does 'Son of God' resound in a 1st century Roman context?"

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