Gospel of Mark Current Hot-Button Issues And Cultural Debates In Practice
Getting Biblical in Daily Life
Sex and Masturbation
Mark's Jesus would make it big as a pundit on news-television. Just think of the headlines he would grab with his strong statement against the sexual abuse of children in 9:42, especially in light of scandals in churches and at colleges. And he wouldn't stop there. He would tell sex-crazed politicians to keep their junk in their pants or, hey, cut it off completely.
Yep, that's right. In the Bible, the hand and the foot are commonly used as metaphors for the penis, and the eye is known for its lustful gaze. When Jesus states in 9:42-48 that it's best to lop 'em off when they lead you astray, we're pretty sure Jesus is talking about cutting off penises. Hopefully, we'll also remember what we learned from our English teachers about hyperbole.
Of course, many listeners will wonder whether our pundit is talking about masturbation when he speaks of the "hand that causes you to sin" (9:43). The rub (yeah, we went there) is that this is an open question.
Family and Divorce
Jesus's teachings on family are surprisingly relevant in our world. Today, people are chatty about gay marriage, interracial marriage, and international adoptions, which are changing and challenging old ideas about what family really means.
Because Jesus's own family thought he was nuts, Jesus argued that the whole idea of family needed to be extended and redrawn anyway. He considered all of his followers to be his new family—he even calls them husbands, brothers, sisters, and mothers to one another (3:21, 31-35; 10:29-30). Who knew? Jesus is turning traditional ideas on their heads, defining family on the basis of shared values rather than blood-ties. Sounds like Modern Family.
Jesus's teachings on divorce, on the other hand, are way more conservative than the Pharisees. Those guys argue on the basis of Deuteronomy 24:1-4 that it's okay for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus isn't down with that—at all. He thinks that these laws exist as concessions to human weakness. Mark's Jesus insists that the man and the woman, once married, share an inseparable bond, according to Genesis 2:24 (10:2-9).
Jesus does make one exception. He says that husbands and wives can at least be physically separated (that's good news for battered wives), and, unlike the Pharisees, says that women as well as men can initiate the separation. But even in those cases, the marriage-bond still exists, meaning it's adultery if either the man or woman remarries (10:10-12).
Clearly, these laws aren't in play anymore today, but we're definitely still having similar conversations. Can you think of the modern debates about the same issues?
Jesus, Occupy, and Income Distribution
That's right. Jesus might have been sympathetic with the Occupy movement's complaint about the growing inequality and distance between the rich 1% and the rest of the 99%. Just think of the guy who asked Jesus what he should do "to inherit eternal life" (10:17). Turns out he's supposed to keep the Ten Commandments and (this is the hard part) sell all of his possessions and give the money to the poor (10:21).
Hmmm. Does Jesus recommend that he re-distribute his wealth? Just imagine Jesus using the human microphone.