Today’s author is Naomi Sveholm. Naomi is a missionary with Central Europe Teachers ( teaching English at a bilingual Lutheran high school in Bratislava, Slovakia with her spouse and two children.

Mark 2:1-22

Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

This week’s text is broken down into 3 stories of argument and challenge to the status quo. First, the friends of a man who is paralyzed fight their way through a crowd to reach Jesus for healing. As Jesus is healing this man, he establishes his authority to reconcile sinners with God, which the scribes considered blasphemous. The second story shows Jesus eating with sinners. The third story is also tied to food, though it is a question of not being pious enough in the disciples’ acts of fasting. In both of the latter situations, he is again challenged by religious leaders, who are too caught up in following the letter of the law to recognize the spirit of compassionate and community-building actions.

Judaism, just like any functioning culture and society, was built on laws and rituals. They helped ensure the health and safety of the people. The Old Testament books of law do not contain only the Ten Commandments, but also procedures to follow when mold develops in a dwelling or when a potentially contagious illness breaks out. While hygiene awareness had advanced by the time Jesus walked the Earth, the religious leaders were still tied to the same practices that prevented them from handling bodily fluids at the risk of spreading illness, even at the cost of leaving a beaten man in the street to be saved by a Samaritan. The law keeps society functional, keeps individuals safe and healthy.

And yet…the law protects those with the ability and means to follow it, but leaves many vulnerable people behind. Rituals can create holy space, but when access to God is thought to be channeled only through a religious leader, that holy space isn’t shared with everyone. Something needs to change, and dramatically, to break down barriers and promote life-changing relationships with God and community. Jesus does not merely chip away at the established order, he openly challenges and threatens it. One step he takes is to reduce the Ten Commandments to their essentials with the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; love your neighbor as yourself.

Where are we bound to societal expectations that divide? When do we alienate and marginalize? How do our lives promote inequalities that prevent true relationships?

Dear God,

Help us see where society hinders the presence and development of your community. Embolden us to walk in the faith that reaches beyond tradition and defies injustice. Lead us to action and connection where they foster relationships.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen