Unit 2 – Conflict and Argument

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The purpose of his unit is to help you investigate how Jesus ran into conflict with the religious authorities as a result of his teaching and his actions. You will explore the causes for argument and the conflict and problems that arose. The disciples misunderstood Jesus from time to time and also led to conflict. Your investigation is divided in three areas:

1.Jesus in conflict with Jewish law

2. Jesus in conflict with authority

3. Jesus in conflict with his followers

 

You will be required to study the following passages for conflict and argument.

Jesus in conflict with the JEWISH LAW and TRADITION
Mark 2:1-12 2.1 Jesus heals a paralysed man
Mark 2:23-3:6 2.2 Disagreements about the Sabbath (Picking grain on the Sabbath)(The man with the shriveled hand)
Mark 7:1-23 2.3 Trouble with the Law(Ritual Cleanliness)

(Corban)

Jesus in conflict with AUTHORITY
Mark 11:1-11, 15-18 2.5 Jesus enters Jerusalem2.6 Jesus clears out the Temple
Mark 11:27-33 2.7 Who’s in authority here?
Mark 12:13-17 2.8 A Taxing question
Mark 12:18-27 2.9 Jesus’ argument with the Sadducees
Jesus in conflict with HIS FOLLOWERS
Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32, 10:32-34 2.4 Jesus predict his passion
Mark 14:3-9 2.10 Expensive perfume at Bethany
Mark 14:1-2, 10-11, 17-21 2.11 The plot to kill Jesus

 


Jesus in conflict with the Jewish Law & traditions

Important General Notes

The Pharisees were a Jewish sect who studied the Law of Moses, and were dedicated to keeping the Jewish faith alive. This included the Jewish tradition which were different rules and regulations they added to the Law of Moses to help them maintain God’s standards. They believed that obedience to the Law was of extreme importance.

The scribes were religious lawyers. They made copies of the Torah (the Law of Moses) and so they knew the Law very well.

There were certain things that were vital for a Jew. Those were the circumcision, food laws, keeping the Sabbath, and cleansing regulations. A Jew would be considered as devoted to God if he kept the regulations on those four areas that governed his life.  Of course God gave specific guidance in his Law concerning those four areas but the Pharisees overdid it by taking what God said and building their own law around it making life for a devote Jew even more strict and difficult. In their mind they were showing devotion to God in more tangible ways.

For example in the Law of Moses there was a specific law about ritual cleanliness referring to the priests on duty in the temple. However the Pharisees took that law and stretched it to their everyday life, beyond the temple and in their homes and for every Jew saying that before one eats he has to wash himself in case he came in contact with something defiled/unclean and he eats with defiled hands and he becomes defiled/unclean. They stretched it even further specifying how much water should be used, in which positions their hands should be and what utensil to use for washing. They missed the heart of the Law and concentrated on the letter of the Law making it such a difficult letter to follow.

Jesus was often in conflict with the Pharisees and Scribes for breaking laws or traditions. For example Jesus dined with sinners something that a Jew would not even think of doing because he himself would be defiled (unclean). Jesus’ followers did not fast as a sign of their devotion to God and so on.


2.1 – Mark 2:1-12 – Jesus heals a paralysed man

Key words

The Law the collection of laws handed down by God and collected in the Torah
Sinners those who did not follow all the Jewish laws

The events + conflict

Jesus is teaching in a house in Capernaum. A paralytic man is brought to him, lowered down from the roof, since there was no other way to approach Jesus. Upon seeing the man Jesus tells him ‘your sins are forgiven’. The teachers of the law come in conflict with Jesus because they considered what he said a blasphemy. Jesus responds to their thoughts by telling them that the ‘Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.. ‘ and then Jesus goes on and heals the paralytic man.

From the times of the Old Testament people saw a connection between sickness and sin. Blindness, paralysis etc was considered a consequence of sin or to put it differently a punishment from God because of specific sin in a person’s life. So the paralytic man before Jesus is firstly a sinful man, and because of that a sick man. If at any point that man would be healed, it would consequently mean that his sins were also forgiven.

So basically what Jesus does, first forgiving his sins and then healing him is not illogical. It is however blasphemous in their eyes because no one had the authority to forgive sins but God.

Why this passage lead to conflict

Legally, based on the Law, only a priest could pronounce the forgiveness of sins on the basis of repentance, restitution and sacrifice. The priest himself could not forgive sins but only tell the person that God forgave him. Jesus is no priest and he is not referring to God. He himself says – your sins are forgiven – indirectly implying he himself is God. That is the problem the Teachers of the Law had with him, because he assumed the authority and attributes of God and because he was bypassing the Law and doing his own thing.

What is the significance of this healing for believers today?

(a)   In the story of Jesus sending out the Twelve Disciples, Jesus gave authority to forgive sins. Many believers believe that that authority and power remains with the Church. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox priests have authority to hear people’s confessions. Having heard the confession the priest can forgive the person.

(b)  Believers also believe that Jesus still has the power to heal people and they pray for this to happen.  

(c)  Also many believers believe that the Church has the same authority to heal people. And there are many examples of people being healed.   

Be ready to answer

  1. Why the healing of the paralysed man led to conflict? List the things that led to conflict.
  2. Why do you think this passage is significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.
  3. Do you think that priests have the right to forgive a person’s sins? Write 2 arguments to support your opinion and 2 arguments against it.

2.2 – Disagreements about the Sabbath

Key words

Pharisees a religious group whose aim was to keep the traditional Jewish faith alive 
Sabbath the Jewish day of rest on the seventh day of the week 

 

Mark 2:23-28 – The events + conflict

Jesus is with his disciples going through a field on a Sabbath. Sabbath is the day of rest for the Jewish nation which God appointed in order for them to rest and focus on God through prayer and study. The disciples of Jesus are picking grain and eating it, something that was considered a work and which they were not supposed to do during the Sabbath based on the Law. One of the ten commandments read:

“Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9 You have six days in which to do your work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work – neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. 11 In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 

The Sabbath is very fundamental to Jews because it distinguished them from the other nations. Those who broke the Sabbath were considered as breaking God’s covenant (agreement) with his people and such a thing was worthy of death. The religious Jews (such as the Pharisees) multiplied the rules connected to the Sabbath. They built their own law around it, placing such prohibitions as what to carry or not, how far one was aloud to walk within certain boundaries, what kind of ‘work’ they were aloud to do etc.

The Pharisees come in conflict with Jesus and accuse Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath, based on their own explanation and interpretation of that Law. Jesus refers them to King David and what he did on a Sabbath, long ago (I Sam 21:1-6). David after a battle went into the temple and ate the bread dedicated to God which only the priests could eat and also gave some to his men. Jesus is basically telling them, if King David did such an unlawful thing before God and God accepted it, could you be missing the point of the Sabbath? Also by referring to King David allowing his men to break the Temple Laws, Jesus was bound to create conflict because he was claiming to be on a par with David.  This was then increased when he claimed that the Sabbath was ‘made for man, not man for the Sabbath’.

Jesus does not want to add more rules to the Sabbath about what they could actually do or not do but he wants to point them to the heart of the matter, God’s will for the Sabbath. God created the Sabbath not for humans to legalistically obey it but for their well being. God’s intention was for that to function as a gift for them to enjoy.

And he ends up by telling them that the Son of Man is above the Sabbath. In this

way again he is assuming the authority of God.

 

Mark 3:1-6 – Healing the man with the shriveled hand

The events + conflict

Jesus is in a synagogue on a Sabbath again and he heals a man with a shriveled hand. Again the Pharisees come in conflict with him for the same reason, violation the Sabbath rule.

Jesus asks them ‘which is lawful to do good or bad during the Sabbath’. By his question Jesus claims that Sabbath law is secondary to the command to do good and to save life. Their silence proves that their heart was set on keeping a rule without allowing the purpose of the rule, the heart of the law to influence their thinking and life. It is noticeable here how the Pharisees came together with the Herodians[1] to plot to kill Jesus. Two groups who did not like each other join forces to plot Jesus’ death.

What is the significance of these passages for believers today?

There is still disagreement among Christians about what they are allowed to do on the Sabbath. To some people today Christians seems to be like the Pharisees saying ‘you can’t do this or that on a Sunday.’ Other Christians such as those working for the keep Sunday special campaign, believe that they do not have to keep this law strictly but that Sunday should be different from other days, not just for religious reasons.

Jesus message in these passages is that human need is more important than keeping religious laws. This is an important message for social and community cohesion.

Be ready to answer

  1. Explain what Jesus and his disciples had done wrong according to the Pharisees in both stories here?
  2. Do you think Christians today should keep the Sabbath rules? Support your answer with 3 arguments. List 3 reasons why somebody would disagree with you
  3. Sunday should be treated differently from other days of the week. Do you agree?

(a)Give two reasons for your answer.

(b)Give two reasons why some people may disagree with you?

4. Do you think Jesus was right in allowing his disciples to pick grain from the fields on a Sabbath? Give 2 reasons for your point of view?

5. Explain why each of the above passages is important for believers today?

2.3 – Trouble with the Law

Key words

Pharisees a religious group whose aim was to keep the traditional Jewish faith alive 
Sabbath the Jewish day of rest on the seventh day of the week 

Mark 7:1-23 – Ritual Cleanliness and the Corban

The events + conflict

Jesus challenges the Jewish traditions because they chose to disregard what God said in order to follow their man made traditions. We must not forget that Jesus was a Jew who kept the majority of the laws (he went to synagogue every Sabbath), it is their false understanding and application of those laws he goes against which cause the conflict.

The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law come in conflict with Jesus because his followers are eating without washing their hands in the manner of the Jewish law. The Pharisees had elaborate laws about washing before eating in order to stay ritually clean. Jesus challenged the traditions on ritual cleanliness by quoting prophet Isaiah saying they were only paying lip service to following God. This statement would sound in their ears that all the Jewish food laws (referred to as Kosher or Kashrut) were unnecessary. So Jesus goes on to explain his words to his disciples so as not to be misunderstood. Jesus argues that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out of him, his evil thoughts, greed, deceit, envy etc.  Jesus also argued with them that they were more concerned about their own traditions than about God’s word. The example he gives them is that of corban. Corban was a gift specially dedicated to God that no one could touch. The priests allowed people to leave their parents needy and poor, which goes against God’s Law, if they were giving everything to the Temple as gift to God (corban).

What is the significance of this passage for believers today

The list of thoughts Jesus mentions as coming from inside a person to make them unclean are still thought to be wrong today, as they were in Jesus’ time. There are things that involve abusing others and as such degrade those people.

Christians believe that every human being, whether Christian or not, should be treated with respect, as the faith is concerned with human dignity and the worth of every human relationship. The Christian faith should have nothing to do with anything that abuses or misuses another person for profit or greed, because these things separate people from God and from each other.

 

Devotion to God is about relationship and not sticking to the rules of the game. The laws of God are there and we are to follow them however not because we have to but because in our love relationship with God we have reached the point of wanting to do everything that pleases him and because we understand our benefit from obeying those laws.

The laws of God are there and our obedience or disobedience to them cannot define how good or how sinful we are in God’s eyes. We are under God’s grace and not under observance of the Law.

God gave certain laws to humans for our well being and not to make us slaves of those laws. There is a reason and a purpose behind them. We need to get to the heart of the Law and not simply go through the motions of keeping it. 

Be ready to answer

  1. Why disagreement about the meaning of the law led to conflict?
  2. Should the lives of Christians today be governed by the Old Testament laws and tradition? Support your answer with 3 arguments. If somebody disagrees with you what are 2 reasons to do so.
  3. Explain why Jesus’ disagreements with the Pharisees about the Law are significant for current arguments about social cohesion.
  4. What does Jesus mean by ‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men’? How do you think believers would interpret this?
  5. Do you think Jesus was right in sitting down to eat without first performing the ritual washing? Explain.


Jesus in conflict with AUTHORITIES

 

2.5 – Mark 11:1-11 – Jesus enters Jerusalem

Key words

Palm Sunday The Sunday before Good Friday when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey 

 

The events + conflict

When Jesus enters Jerusalem he does so as a King fulfilling Old Testament prophecy concerning the expected Messiah of the Jews. Such a public display of course was bound to upset both the Roman and the Jewish authorities.

Jesus asked his disciples to go before him and bring a colt (a young horse) to him to ride it and enter Jerusalem on that. The horse had to be such that no one has ridden on it before, something that reminds us of kings and the fact that no one is aloud to ride the king’s horses. Also as he is entering Jerusalem people are shouting ‘Hosanna[2], Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David’ quoted from Psalm 118:25-26Cloaks and palm branches[3] were spread along the road for his horse to walk on. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had written about the coming of the Messiah in this way, ‘humble and mounted on an ass’ (Zechariah 9:9). Mark quotes the above scripture to show that Jesus was entering Jerusalem just as the prophets had foretold.

The welcome they offered Him was the welcome appropriate for a king. Although He did not ask for that welcome, He did not stop it when they offered it to him so the Jewish authorities assumed that He was implying with his actions that he was King. Also the welcome offered to Him was a welcome never offered to their High Priests and teachers of the Law neither to the Roman governors so by that Jesus is implying his authority is higher than their religious and political leaders. All of these create a conflict between Jesus, the religious Jewish leaders and the Romans who were supposed to defend their own king.

The Jewish leaders would have seen the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem in this way as a threat to their authority. He was welcomed by the crowds, and the leaders may well have expected him to lead a rebellion after this show of his popularity. No doubt they would have been familiar with the words of the Psalm and would have made the connection between Jesus and prophecies about the Messiah.

Why is this passage significant for believers today?

  • Prophecies written hundreds of years before the actual event happened were being fulfilled to their very detail by Jesus. Those prophecies were referring to the coming Messiah, the king the Jews were long waiting. Jesus fulfilled them. If He is not from God then how can we explain that?
  • Everything Jesus does imply He is God. If He was not God the only other explanation we give to why He did what He did is that He was a lunatic. The question arising from that though is if that if He was a lunatic why did the religious leaders and teachers of the law not just bypass him and leave him to His craziness? Why did they get so upset by his miracles and teachings and ideas to the point of going after Him trying to trap Him with something so as to legally accuse him and execute him? The only explanation left is that he was truly God and not a lunatic. He proved it with the authority He had, one only attributed to God.
  • Jesus was greeted as a King while He was riding the animal of a poor person, and some Christians may see this as making Jesus approachable and humble and a role model for both rich and poor. Christians now look forward to Jesus’ Second Coming as a time that He will come in power and glory.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem might have led to conflict? List 3 reasons.
  2. Why do you think this passage is significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.

 

 

2.6 Mark 11:15-18 – Jesus clears out the Temple

Key words

The Temple The building in Jerusalem where sacrifices were made 

 The events + conflict

Entering the Temple in Jerusalem Jesus is faced with ‘money changers’, ‘those selling doves’ and traders as if in a market, and people carrying things in the temple. He overturned their tables and drove them out of the temple by quoting Scripture from the book of Jeremiah and Isaiah in the Old Testament, reminding them of the purpose of the temple which was a house of prayer for all nations and the fact that they had turned it into a ‘den of robbers’.

  • ‘..for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ Isaiah (56:7b)
  • ‘has this house which bears my Name, become a den or robbers to you?’ (Jeremiah 7:11a)

The Jews were using the Court of the Gentiles as the area for buying sacrifices and changing Roman money into Temple money. The money changers charged people who were going to the Temple to change their money for the special Temple money required to buy the sacrifices they would need in order to worship. Roman coins would show the heads of the emperors, who were regarded by the Romans as gods, so those coins could not be used in the Temple. The dove sellers had a scheme where they sold worshippers the birds they could need to sacrifice, but these birds might not always be in the best condition, as the Law required. Jesus was angry about these ways in which people were misusing God’s house.

By using the Court of the Gentiles, the Gentiles were prevented from worshipping God because that was the only area in the temple they were aloud to be in.  The Jewish leaders had come to think that the kingdom of God should be restricted to the Jewish believers, but here God intended it to be for all people. What was intended to be a place of prayer for all nations, a place where you would go and focus on God, became a place of trade, where people would focus on how to make more money.

Again the conflict here basically has to do with authority. By whose authority does Jesus go into the temple and does what He does. By whose authority does He quote scripture and is so fervent about their application. Who is He after all? This is what was going on in the mind of the religious leaders and that is why they wanted to cease Him and kill Him but the Bible says they were afraid of Him and the crowd was amazed at His teaching. What Jesus did is seen as fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Malachi 3:1, Zechariah 14:21 and Hosea 9:15) which referred to God’s final intervention in history and Jesus’ action was seen as that of the Messiah on His final visit to His Father’s house and people.

Why is this passage significant for believers today

  • This is important for believers today as it reminds them of the purpose of temples, churches and pointing out from Jesus himself that these places are dedicated to God and should not be used to make money but simply for prayer and worship of God.
  • Also it is important as it supports that God’s love has no boundaries and he is for all people. Jesus drove out the money changers and traders because they had turn God’s house into a market and excluded the Gentiles from being able to worship God in that part of the temple which was assigned to them. Jesus is saying that everyone whatever their nationality, culture, religion, race, should be treated the same. He welcomes everyone.
  • Jesus is not only the calm, easy going person we often think of him. He, as God and man, had every right to be upset with what he saw happening around him. And this passage shows us his just anger.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why Jesus’ cleansing of the temple might have caused conflict? Give 3 reasons for that.
  2. Why do you think this passage is significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.
  3. Do you agree with what Jesus did? List 2 reasons to support your answer. What are 2 reasons that someone would disagree with you?

2.7 – Mark 11:27-33 – Who is in authority here

Key words

Scribes (Teachers of the Law) Religious lawyers originally men who made copies of the Torah 

 

The events + conflict

The chief priests and elders asked Jesus on whose authority He was acting. He replied with a question about John the Baptist. “Answer me and I will tell you by what authority I do what I do. John’s baptism was it from heave or from men?” Saying from heaven meant admitting they were wrong about not accepting John. Saying from men would anger the people (who believed John was a prophet). So they couldn’t answer. They tried to trap Jesus by asking him about His authority but he turned the ball around and trapped them instead.

Why doesn’t Jesus just answer them directly? If Jesus had answered – I do this by God’s authority – then they would cease him on the spot and execute Him with the charges of blasphemy. If He had said by my own authority then they would silence Him because He was just a man who thought He was somebody special and He did things He did not have the right to do.

Why is this passage significant for believers today

For Christians today, this incident can raise many questions about their relationship with government and its laws. Should Christians always obey the law or are they obliged to disobey it if they feel that the law goes against Christian teachings and principles? In the same way, what happens if a government makes a decision such as going to war and Christian members of the armed forces believe that this particular war is unchristian? Should they risk punishment or losing their jobs rather than ignoring their beliefs? The question is: who has the true authority – the secular world or God?

Be ready to answer

  1. What problems would have been caused if Jesus said that He got His authority from God? List 3 problems
  2. What 2 problems were caused by not giving them an answer?
  3. List 2 reasons why Jesus did not use the term “God” referring to Himself and wanted them to work it out themselves.
  4. What is the significance of this passage for believers today
  5. Do you think Christians should challenge the government if a decision they make goes against biblical teaching? Give two reasons for your point of view.

2.8 – Mark 12:13-17 – Paying Taxes

The events + conflict

Jerusalem is under the Romans who require of all Jewish people to pay taxes to the Romans. The Jewish people are in conflict with the Romans because of this. Many want to establish Theocracy[4] as the ideal Jewish state. They do not want the Romans to be in authority over them because for a devote Jew a Gentile ruler over Israel was an abomination to God. So in the mind of the normal Jew, paying taxes to such a Gentile ruler was not something they would think God wanted.

On the other hand the Romans were very ‘touchy’ if anyone messed up with their established authority in the land. Especially if that someone spoke against paying the taxes. They could consider such a thing as encouraging rebellion.

Jesus knows what is going on in the mind of his questioners and the Romans. He is not going to go for the trap. If he says pay taxes to the Romans, he will be accused of encouraging rebellion and face execution by the Romans. If he says go ahead and pay taxes to the Romans then he would be accused on being on their side and against the Jews. So he turns things around by asking for a coin and asking them whose image was that on the coin. When the crowd replied that it was Caesar’s he simply told them to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to God. With this reply he was neither encouraging them to stop paying taxes, nor discouraging them from doing that. What he does indirectly however is concerning the things belonging to God. Is there anything which does not belong to Him, whether money or possessions or people or ideas or anything else? Everything belongs to God.

Why is this passage significant for believers today

This passage has often being used to support the idea that Christians are obliged to obey the rules of the State no matter what, submit to the governing authorities no matter what, and even to support or reject the position that the Church and State should be together or separate. It has also been used to justify the position that money is an earthly thing that distracts you from God.

Some people argue that when Jesus said – give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17) he was saying that believers  should not mix religion with politics while others suggest that his words meant the opposite.

On the other hand believers were told to obey the government and not get involved with politics as we read above from many references from Apostle Paul.

On the other hand some people believe that Jesus was saying that God’s laws are more important than a government’s laws so that believers should be involved in politics to try to ensure the government makes laws that are in line with God’s will. God would not have approved of the Nazi government in Germany during the Second World War. These Christians believe they should obey God first if there is a clash between government and God.  One famous example of a Christian who did this was Deitrich Bonhoffer. He was a Christian pastor who spoke out against Nazism and was involved in many resistance activities including plotting to kill Hitler. He was executed on April 9, 1945.

There are many passages in the New Testament encouraging Christians to submit to the governing authorities. Some are quoted below.

  • Rom. 13:1,5, 6-7 “…authorities are God’s servants ..if you owe taxes then pay taxes…”
  • Titus 3:1 “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities”
  • I Peter :13-14 “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men, whether to the kings as the Supreme authority or to governors…”

However we need to consider the time in which these verses were written and to whom they were addressed as well as the reason why they were so direct about submitting to the state. It was never God’s intention to establish a new political system and stand against the governing authorities of that time, overthrow the rulers and take control. He did not want his followers to rise up and resist the authorities giving the impression that they wanted to establish a new government. He wanted his people to change the current system from within, by living a completely different lifestyle by being the carriers of new hope, by being the ones who would govern their lives by justice and peace and love. So the writers of the New Testament are very careful as to their messages to the new Christians. They did not want to be misunderstood and turn the whole Empire against them. God gradually wanted to penetrate into people’s hearts and minds and change the way they live from within which would eventually affect the world around them.

Today when we look at our societies and consider the different rules that govern our lives we have a responsibility and a duty as Christians to stand and make a difference. Affect the way people think, be there when new laws are being established, and if the need arises even come against the state. We are nowhere asked to bow our heads like sheep and follow the crowd. We must let our voice rise and we have a duty to affect the way our societies are being formed and ruled.  Eg. Abortion, legalizing drugs. As Martin Luther King put it “I became convinced that non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.”

 

Be ready to answer

  1. Why Jesus’ answer about taxes might have led to conflict?
  2. Why is this passage important for Christians today?
  3. Are Christians obliged to obey the government authorities always? List 3 arguments to support your answer. List 2 reasons why some would disagree with you.
  4. ‘Christians should avoid conflict with the authorities.’ Do you agree? Give two reasons for your opinion and two reasons why someone may disagree with you. In your answer you should refer to Mark’s Gospel and Christianity.

 

 

2.9 – Mark 12:18-27 – Sadducees and the Resurrection

Key words

Sadducees Group of priests who controlled the Temple and collaborated with the Romans

 

 

The events + conflict

The Sadducees were a group of priests who ran the Temple in Jerusalem (the building were the burnt sacrifices were made to God). They believed in sticking very rigidly to the books of the Torah- the written Law (the first five books of the Old Testament referred to as the law of Moses) and took all their religious and moral teachings from the Law of Moses but not from the oral law that explained the Torah. They had little faith in the teaching of the prophets. This meant that unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead as this was no where mentioned in the Torah. They also rejected the belief in the coming of the Messiah, particularly of it was one who would liberate the people from the Romans. They collaborated with the Romans and did not want to be involved in anything that would bring them in conflict with Rome.

So every time they heard Jesus talking about the resurrection(life after death)  they would try to catch him out with an awkward question. The Jews had a custom called levirate marriage where if a man died childless, his brother had to marry his widow. The Sadducees imagined a woman who married seven brothers in turn in this way. They asked Jesus: “at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” Jesus replied that after the resurrection people would be “like the angels in heaven”[5], and so would not be married at all.

Jesus points the Saduccess to a passage in the Torah where God speaks to Moses from the burning bush saying ‘ I am the God of  Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’ (Exodus 3:6). These three were the patriarchs of the Jewish faith and were dead by the time of Moses and yet God says ‘ I am’ not ‘I was’ their God. Jews was saying the Patriarchs are alive when, in favor of the resurrection he said – “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

The Sadducees seem to be missing the forest for the trees. They concentrate on whose wife that woman would be and missing out the fact that resurrection is a fact they could believe in. Jesus’ answer was siding with the Pharisees’ viewpoint (as they believed in the resurrection) so angering the Sadducees who were part of the Sanhedrin.

Apostle Paul tells us in the first letter to the Corinthians that without the resurrection there is no point to believe in God. Christianity with no resurrection is an empty idea going on in our heads. It is meaningless. The fact of the resurrection is not simply very significant but one of the key and the most significant aspect of Christianity today.

Why is this passage significant for believers today?

  • Jesus made it very clear that there was a life after death and also that it would be a different life from that which people live on Earth.
  • Jesus’ answer shows that resurrection is taught in the Old Testament as well as supported by Jesus’ teaching and resurrection in the New.
  • It implies that resurrection happens immediately after death, not on the Last day as God is the God of the Living
  • This gives hope to all Christians that when they die they will go to be with God in heaven. It also reassures them that any suffering they experience on Earth will end when they die.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why Jesus’ argument with the Saducees about resurrection might have led to conflict?
  2. Explain why Jesus’ argument with the Sadducees about resurrection is important for believers today. Give reasons why someone may disagree with you.

Jesus in conflict with His followers

2.4 – Mark 8:31-33, Mark 9:30-32, Mark 10:32-34 – Jesus’ predictions of His passion 

Key words

Passion The sufferings of Jesus, especially in the time leading up to his crucifixion

The events + conflict

The main idea of three readings is the same. Jesus clearly tells His disciples that soon He, the Son of Man, will be arrested and killed. The conflict here is between the truth foretold and the disciples’ expectations. The disciples don’t want to accept that their Master, their teacher, the man that has given them authority over the spiritual world and were expecting to free Israel from Romans was going to be led to death. For once more the disciples couldn’t understand that Jesus’ kingdom was spiritual and His battle was with sin rather than against the Romans.

In Mark 8:33 we have a unique statement. It is not that Jesus sees ap. Peter as Satan but He tells Peter that he recalls the wishes of satan since Peter doesn’t see things the way God does. Jesus wanted to get the message across both to Peter and the other disciples that this is God’s plan – that the Son of Man must suffer and rise again on the third day. The teaching about the resurrection was probably something very difficult for the Jews to comprehend as it was a new idea, nothing they were used to.

Why are the above passages significant for believers today

Jesus rose from the dead three days after he died. According to Mark, Jesus predicted what was going to happen and everything took place as he said. Believers believe that God knows everything that has happened and will happen. Therefore, believers see Jesus’ predictions of what was going to happen as further evidence that Jesus is the Son of God.

Note: The passage Mark 8:31-33 is used for more than just the topic of Jesus predicting his death. Make sure you know it well as you be able to use it in your answers to several different exam questions.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why do you think these passages are significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.
  2. Why do you think the predictions of Jesus led to conflict? Give 2 reasons.

 

2.10 – Mark 14:3-9 – Expensive perfume at Bethany 

The events + conflict

Why not help the poor with that amount of money and have it wasted on Jesus’ head? With that question some of the people came in conflict with Jesus. And if we see the events with our human eyes they are totally right. Why such a big waste? Why doesn’t Jesus stop her? Many questions could arise from this event if we see the facts with our human eyes. If we remind ourselves though that Jesus feed thousands of people with few fish and a barley of bread in His hands we then understand how void our words are.  This woman realized the magnitude of Jesus and having been freed from a life of misery she expresses her self offering Him the best she has. And that is exactly what God wants. To offer Him our best. He didn’t need that amount of money to help anyone. He could have helped all the poor people with just one word. That’s why He doesn’t stop her. He allows the woman to offer Him everything she has even though that everything is very little compared with what He has offered her.

Other points worth noticing in the above passage are:

-          Simon the Leper – because of his condition he would have been separated from the Jewish society and people avoiding to speak, touch or even come across him. However Jesus again hangs out with the outcasts.

-          The woman was anointing Jesus’ head with expensive perfume. Polite hosts would pour a little perfume on guests as they arrived at the house of as a sign of welcome. It would show they valued their guests’ visit. This woman used the whole jar, showing how much she valued Jesus.

-          Jesus gave the anointing further meaning. Families and friends would anoint a body with perfume when someone died, breaking the jar so that it would not be used again and placing the pieces in the tomb with the corpse. The woman’s action was a prophetic sign of what would happen to Jesus.

-          Thirdly the title Messiah means the ‘anointed one’ and here Jesus is anointed for his death. Mark reminds his readers that Jesus’ sacrifice was his greatest act as the Messiah.

-          This woman appears to be over familiar with the rabbi. What rabbi would allow a woman to do this to him? In any case her actions would cause conflict, firstly because she is a woman and secondly because of her over familiarity with Jesus and thirdly for her actual act.

Why are Jesus’ comments significant for believers today?

Here Jesus speaks again about his death. Believers consider that the greatest act of the Messiah. Jesus had to suffer and die for people’s sins. This gives believers hope and also it strengthens their beliefs.

Again predictions of the Passion give extra evidence of Jesus being the Son of God.

And thirdly, Jesus association with the outcasts of society and women is an example for believers today. Believers are called to go beyond the restrictions of society to valuing people as equal and not discriminating on the grounds of sex or any other condition.

Be ready to answer

  1. Why the anointing at Bethany led to conflict?
  2. Give 2 reasons why you think Jesus was right in allowing the anointing to happen. List 2 reasons why someone might believe He was wrong.
  3. Why do you think this passage is significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.
  4. ‘That woman had no right to anoint Jesus’ What do you think? Give 3 reasons to support your answer and 3 reasons why someone may disagree with you.
  5. Do you think Jesus was right to mix with the lepers and outcasts? Give 2 reasons for your answer and 2 reasons why people may disagree with you.
  6. Explain how this incident is used by Jesus to predict his death.

2.11 – Mark 14:1-2, 10-11, 17-21 – The plot to kill Jesus

 The events + conflict

            Going all the time against their expectations we now come at the point where the religious leaders want to kill Jesus. Could we have avoided this? Could Jesus explain to them who He truly was in such a way that they could have understand it? Could one last miracle save the day? These are people who knew the Old Testament by heart. They knew all the prophecies about His coming, saw the miracles, testified that He was an excellent teacher. Their devotion to the religious system they had created was such that totally blinded them. So in the battle between truth and knowledge, between events and expectations unfortunately the later always wins.

In the specific passage the religious leaders do not want to arrest Jesus in public  or during the Passover feast when the crowds would be watching as they did not want to cause a riot and turn the crowds against them. So when Judas offers to help them out they are excited. Judas may have several reasons for wanting to do such a thing. Maybe he was disappointed that his Master, the Messiah was not meeting his expectations as the leader that Judas expected. He expected a leader to destroy the Romans and now Jesus is talking about dieing. Maybe he felt tricked into believing Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, by the signs and miracles he saw and now with a death on the program he cannot put the two together – how can Jesus be God’s Son and allow others to arrest him and kill him. Another idea is that he was very greedy and he wanted the money. In any case Judas’ decision came right on time to support the plans of the religious leaders to kill Jesus.

Why is this passage significant for believers today?

Jesus knows what is going to happen and who is going to be involved in it. He knows that one of his closest friends will betray him and yet he does not stop him. This is further evidence that Jesus is God’s Son and that his Passion was all part of God’s plan.

Mark shows that even Jesus’ closest followers were not totally sure that they would not betray Him. Peter came close when He denied Him, and most Christians might have something in their lives that makes them uneasy in Jesus’ presence. It is not something to despair about, for those same disciples went on to become the first leaders of the Church. So if they could be uncertain, so can Christians today

 

Be ready to answer

1.Why do you think this passage is significant for believers today? Give 2 reasons.

Give definitions for these words in the above passages as we forgot to do it.

Corban, Ritual Cleansing, Fasting

For each of the stories in UNIT 2 you will need to:

•    Know the story – you will not be asked to retell the story in the examination, but will need to be able to use parts of it as reasons and evidence.

•    Know what this story tells us about the conflicts and arguments at the time.

•    Understand what this story means to Christians today, particularly in regard to community cohesion.

•    Know your thoughts and opinions on the issues/important points raised in each case.

Important note
Section 2: Conflict and argument

Self-assessment

Look at the following table. How would you rate your understanding of this topic? Use the following code to judge your status:

Green Orange Red
Knowledge and understanding checklist I understand this fully I am confident I can answer most questions on this I need to do a lot more work on this topic

Can you:

•   give your opinion on the topic with reasons?

•   give the opinion of someone who would disagree with you and give the reasons they would have for their opinion?

My understanding is
Content covered RED  ORANGE  GREEN  Can I give my opinion? Can I give an alternative opinion?
Why the healing of the paralysed man led to conflict
Its significance for Christians today
Why disagreements about the Sabbath led to conflict
Their significance for Christians today, particularly in relation to current issues of social and community cohesion
Why disagreements about the meaning of the Law led to conflict
Their significance for Christians today, particularly in relation to current issues of social and community cohesion
Why Jesus’ predictions of his Passion might have led to conflict
Their significance for Christians today
Why Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem might have caused conflict
Its significance for Christians today
Why Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple might have caused conflict
The significance of this for Christians today, particularly in relation to current issues of social and community cohesion
Why the argument about authority might have led to conflict
Its significance for Christians today
Why Jesus’ answer to the question about Caesar and taxes might have led to conflict
The significance of this for Christians today, particularly in relation to current issues of social and community cohesion
Why Jesus’ argument with the Sadducees about resurrection might have led to conflict
Its significance for Christians today
Why the anointing at Bethany might have led to conflict
Its significance for Christians today
The meaning and significance of the plot to kill Jesus

[1] Herodians were loyal to the Roman Empire.  They were led by King Herod, who got his authority from Rome. For that they were enemies with the Pharisees

[2] “Hossana” means “save us”

[3] Palm branch was the nationalistic symbol of the Jews, who at that time were seeking liberation from the Romans.

[4] A state that is ruled not by civil laws but by religious laws

[5] The meaning here is not that humans after death become angels but it is a reference to the abolition of human sexuality.