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Jesus: the abolition of religion

Adapted from a sermon on Mark 1:40-2:17


Jesus' teaching.  Jesus' followers.  Do you ever have trouble putting those two things together?

In a sense that's the problem the Christian faces as they seek to follow Him.  And it's the problem the non-Christian has as they look on.  How do Jesus' teaching and His followers go together??

Think about it.  With Jesus we hear righteous teaching like the world has never heard.  And yet, who flocks to Him?  The scum, the low-lives, the outsiders, the sinners.

Jesus teaches the hardest line on good living ever imagined.  He even says at one point "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:48).  Jesus raises the spiritual temperature to nuclear - and who flocks to Him?  Not the priests?  Not the religious types.  Not the goody goodies.  Those guys, in their long flowing robes are standing on the edges of the crowd, arms folded, plotting to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6). 

The LORD Almighty walks around 1st century Palestine.  The Son of the Living God is calling His people and who is His entourage?  Unrighteous, disreputable outcasts.  It's a tremendous shock but it's at the heart of what Jesus came to do. 

As He says in Mark 2:17 "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  Jesus is the abolition of religion.  All human religion says "God calls the goodies not the baddies."  Jesus says "I call the baddies not the goodies."  Jesus is the abolition of religion.

The religious types stand on the fringes plotting to do away with Jesus.  But Jesus is at the centre doing away with religion.  These verses (Mark 1:40 right up until 3:6) are a fight to the death between Jesus and religion.  Religion is working to kill Jesus but Jesus is working to kill religion.


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0 thoughts on “Jesus: the abolition of religion

  1. Si

    The leper isn't really opposed by the religious leaders (and does fit better with the rest of chapter 1, in my opinion) - from 2:1 to 3:6 are five things opposed by the religious leaders (Jesus saying "your sins are forgiven" to the paralysed man, Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus' disciples not fasting like John's and the Pharisees', Jesus' disciples 'harvesting' on the Sabbath and Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath). The response to the Pharisees when asked about fasting is the key (and it's the middle one - almost like Mark's saying that it's the focus of the theme of opposition that's in this bit of Mark) - the old wine skins will burst with the new wine, the new cloth will tear the old garment - old time religion isn't going to fit with the 'new' Jesus teachings.

    There's also a kind of see-saw - the opposition already mentioned is preceded with events in chapter 1 where Jesus' popularity grows to the extent that he can't go to towns; and is followed with talk of the popularity and the disciples being called (3:7-19), then that is followed by Jesus' family, the scribes and the people of Nazareth all opposing Jesus (the rest of chapter 3). Judas, in 3:19 is a bit of both, the turning point, the disciple who will betray.

    Popularity (ch1), Opposition (2:1-3:6), Popularity (3:7-19), Opposition (3:19-35), which leads straight into the parable of the sower (4:1-20). There's different reactions to the word that is sown. People need ears to hear (4:9) - some will hear but not understand (4:12) - the contrasting responses that provide a major structure in the first 3 chapters of Mark are explained right afterwards in 4:1-20.

  2. glenscriv

    Si knows his Mark! Love to hear more from you on this. I'm preaching through Mark in the next couple of months. What's been helpful to you in studying it?

  3. Si

    Thanks Glen for your comments.

    Something that has really helped me is Andrew Page's The Mark Experiment has enabled me to learn the order of events (in about an hour and a half, spread out over 6 weeks), spot lots of structure points and so on. There's a drama based on the Gospel that uses the Experiment as a base and I've performed in it three and a bit times (we did the first bit, up to 3:12 in the Sunday School I help lead) in the past two and a half years. I really know my Mark, because I really do know Mark - not word for word, but everything that happens. I do have a problem with knowing quite where the chapter and verses go, I know a few, but do have to look for references rather too often, as just giving incidents doesn't help people find it.

    The Mark Experiment uses a 6 section structure, each with an 8 event core (that form a chiasm) with two bookending bits of several events on either side, that have some sort of link. There's also an 8 verse intro (which is a cheeseburger of 5 events). Section 2 (3:13-6:6) for instance has the 8 event block of:
    -Parable: The sower
    -Parable: The lamp
    -Parable: The seed growing secretly
    -Parable: The mustard seed
    -Miracle: Jesus calms the storm
    -Miracle: Jesus drives out Legion
    -Miracle: Jesus heals the bleeding woman
    -Miracle: Jesus raises Jairus' daughter.
    There's 2 blocks of 4 there, and there's links between the blocks
    In the sower and Jairus' daughter there are different reactions to Jesus. In the lamp and the bleeding woman, things that are secret are revealed. In the seed growing secretly and Legion there are the only times "night and day" are mentioned in the gospel, and also that there's evil, but the kingdom of God is growing and is stronger. In the mustard seed and the storm, there is the theme of small beginnings growing up - Jesus is asleep, weak and just silences the storm and the disciples are scared and cowering away from Jesus, but the church grows from these weak beginnings. The parables show the power of the word, the miracles show us the power of the Word.

    Then again, most of that last post I worked on very late last night, looking at the first three chapters and spotting quite a lot of new things - like the 5 things with the answer in the centre (the Mark Experiment has it as 4+1, due to the nature of the structure). The idea of the see-saw was loosely there already, but got formulated then - I thought there was a Mark sandwich in chapters 2 and 3 of opposition (across a section boundary!) around a core of popularity, however it's preceded by the popularity in Mark 1.

    I must point out that I do actually disagree with the book slightly - I don't think it's perfect, even though it's from a minister of my church ;). I think the Appointing of the 12 disciples fits better in the first section, rather than at the start of the second. The second section is framed by opposition (3:20-35; 6:1-6) and it seems odd to have the Appointing of the 12 in there, when the Growing Popularity of 3:7-12 is in the first section. For preaching, I'd definitely do what you seem to be doing and have a split at 3:6, as then you can talk about different reactions to Jesus, linking into the sower, which you would look at again in the next bit (the four parables).

  4. Marc Lloyd

    Glen, this "religion" as a dirty word is tiresome and misleading, don't you think? Jesus came to abolish man-made religion and false religion, sure. He calls us to true religion of the James 1:27 sort, no?

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