Archive for March, 2016

Mark 14

March 24, 2016
  1. In the Gospels we find Jesus, through his association and actions, challenging the dominant system that subordinates human need and denies some their human dignity. Jesus ate with those who are considered “unclean”, such as sinners and tax-collectors (Mk. 2. 15-17). Jesus allowed his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath and satisfy their hunger (2.23-28) and restored health by healing the sick on the Sabbath (3.1-6).


In 14.3 Jesus enters and has table-fellowship in the house of a leper. It is not clear whether he is healed or still having disease. The lepers are considered unclean (decided by a priest Lev. 13.2-3) and are excluded from the worship assembly and from the community in general (Lev. 13.3, 45-46; Num. 12; Deut. 24.8). It is the purity code that protects the integrity and exclusive identity of the Jewish community. Lepers being unclean are a threat to the integrity and exclusive identity of the community and are excluded from any social interaction with the society. According to Josephus, lepers, poor, the blind and the childless are the equal of a dead person (Jewish Antiquities III, II.3). Lepers are socially dead. Jesus by entering the house of a leper and having table-fellowship is identifying and showing solidarity with him. Through this Jesus emphasizes the primacy of the human being over the system.


In the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand, Jesus is angered and saddened by the hardness of heart of the Jewish religious leaders (3.5). This hardness is an attitude that serves the system at all costs and sacrifices the human to the system. It is this dehumanizing system that is challenged by Jesus through his actions, because for him human being is more important than the system. That is why Jesus said man is not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath is made for man.


  1. When Jesus is having table-fellowship in the house of the leper, a woman enters the house and anoints Jesus’ head with an expensive ointment. Her name is not mentioned. An uninvited woman entering a place where men are having table-fellowship is unacceptable. In the OT prophets anointed the head of a king. It is a male domain. But this woman, by anointing Jesus’ head with ointment, is not only acknowledging Jesus as a king, but also entering into a male-domain, thus breaking away with the traditional system.


Some of those present scolded her for her act. They have brought an economic argument by saying that she could have used this money on poor, instead of wasting it this way. But Jesus, affirming that those who have raised the concern have an ongoing responsibility towards the poor, praised her act. This seems to be contradictory to his position taken in the story of Rich young ruler, where he asked the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor  (Mk. 10). When understood in the light of Jesus’ interpretation of her act as preparation of his body for burial, through her act, the woman, unlike the disciples, is not avoiding but anticipating Jesus’ preparation for death. In this she has done “all she could” and demonstrated her solidarity with the way of the cross. That is why she is praised by Jesus in 14.9, because she has understood the “gospel”.


  1. The story of the woman is sandwiched between the accounts of the attitude and actions of the religious leaders (14.1-2) and the action of Judas Iscariot. Judas goes to the chief priests, the guardians of the system, in order to inform them that he would betray Jesus. Mark, unlike Luke and John, does not invoke a theory of “satanic inspiration” to explain Judas’ actions. The transaction between Judas and the religious leaders is stated in monetary terms. Through this Judas is expressing that he considers Jesus as a victim to be sold. Money plays an important role in sacrificial system. By taking their money Judas indicates that he sees Jesus as another innocent victim of sacrificial system to be killed. The one (i.e. Jesus) who attacked this system (Mk. 11.15-19) is about to be bought as a victim. Judas is described as “one of the twelve” (14.10,20,43). It is an “insider” who becomes a collaborator to “sell” Jesus as a victim to be destroyed. The betrayal comes from within. It shows the duplicity of an insider. The follower of Jesus becomes a seller of Jesus for few pieces of silver.


The church is still perpetuating the sacrificial system, where money plays an important role. The church which is seen by the outside world as a community of Jesus has become a collaborator in “betraying” Jesus. It “sells” Jesus for monetary benefit. Jesus is a sacrificial victim. Mind you, it is the temple authorities that collaborated with the Roman imperial officials that “sacrificed” Jesus in order to maintain the status quo.


By interpreting cross of Jesus Christ as the atonement for the sins of the world, we have deliberately forgotten the other side of the meaning of the cross, i.e. violence of the religious and political system against an innocent victim (i.e. Jesus) in order to silence the “threat” to their power and authority or the status quo. This is the core of the sacrificial system, where an innocent victim is killed by the entire community for the community’s sins (Read Leviticus for the Day of Atonement). How true are the words of Caiaphas in John 18. 14: “It was better to have one person die for the people”.