Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

ONCE RANK OUTSIDERS
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
The texts in the RCL for next Sunday (July 20, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost) are Jeremiah 23:1-6, Ephesians 2:11-22, and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. The link between Jeremiah and Mark for this Sunday signals Jesus as the promised shepherd with the honorific name: Lord our Righteousness. He is a clear opposite to past shepherds, who left the sheep “without a shepherd” at all, specifically God’s kind of shepherd. The standard Biblical test for good or bad shepherds is: when danger threatens, who gets sacrificed, who survives? The answers are obvious.
The Markan pericope for the day gives us the verses before and after Jesus feeding the 5000 and his walking on water. In bypassing these big events it focuses us elsewhere. What we have in these bracket verses is: The disciples tell Jesus of John’s death. Jesus responds by seeking some “time apart.” That plan is frustrated by the “many ochlos” (=the actual Greek in v. 34). Jesus scrubs his plans for rest and reflection (on John’s death and its meaning for him?) and has “compassion” for the intruders. John’s death does not lead him to abort his mission. Compassion is the clear mark of the Lord’s righteous shepherd, whom the “ochlos” haven’t (ever?) had. He “begins”(v.34) by teaching and then healing. Proximity to Jesus, even so scant as touching his cloak makes all the difference: they were healed. [Greek text can also be rendered: they were saved.]
The Ephesians text offers a theological exposition on what makes Jesus just such a “right” shepherd–not only for the “ochlos” within Israel, but also for the Gentiles who are “ochlos” (= outsiders) by definition. It offers a Crossings matrix like this:

Introduction:
Christians though you are,
remember your earlier DIAGNOSIS
(and don’t slip back into it), to wit:

ONCE RANK OUTSIDERS

STAGE 1: Gentiles. EXCLUDED from Israel. Foreigners to the covenants of promise. Separated from Christ. In a hostility relationship to the covenant people–hostility by both sides. (What’s so bad about all that? Read on.)

STAGE 2: With no covenantal promise, you had NO HOPE. (What’s so bad about that? Read on.)

STAGE 3: Without God (Greek word is “atheists”) you were UNRECONCILED TO GOD. Even worse, a dividing wall of HOSTILITY (bi-lateral!) acts as a barrier to any possible wholesome link to God.

NEW PROGNOSIS: NOW INSIDERS–AND HOW!

STAGE 4: ACCESS Christ “in his flesh…in his body…through the cross” creates access for outsiders, for those behind the barrier of God’s own “law and regulations.” Vv. 14-18 (with standard Ephesian hyperbole) pile up image after image for the Good News of Good Friday. Jesus the Christ made peace, unified the hostile opponents, destroyed the barrier of hostility (i.e., abolished the law), created a new human being, reconciled both Jews and Gentiles [to God! and not just to each other], put hostility itself to death, preached that peace to both “far away” Gentiles and “near” Jews. N. B., the Trinitarian summa: through him both insiders and outsiders have “access to God as Father (no longer hostile enemy) in/by one Spirit.”

STAGE 5. [Note the opening term in v. 19 signalling the consequences of Stage 4.] NEW CITIZENS in God’s own household “through faith” (v.8). See the specs for that household in the multi-faceted building imagery of vv. 21-23.

STAGE 6. NOW ENGAGED IN GOD’S OWN PROJECT Keeping the new building going and growing. Actually being the place where God lives. God as insider with us continuing God’s Promise-project in our lives and work. Involved in God’s will (= that promise) being done on earth as it is (already) in heaven.
Peace & Joy! Ed

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