Monday, February 23, 2015

Crowds follow Jesus

2.23.2015 Monday of Lent 1                        Mark 3:1-19 Crowds follow Jesus
Note: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the traditional spring Ember Days. These days are set aside for fasting and prayer. The winter Ember Days fall between the third and fourth Sundays of Advent. The summer Ember Days fall between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. The fall Ember Days fall on the week beginning on the Sunday after Holy Cross Day. (September 14)

In pagan Rome, offerings were made to various gods and goddesses of agriculture in the hope that the deities would provide a bountiful harvest. In July, they prayed for a rich vintage. In September it was for a productive seeding in December. Christians used these practices to teach the faith and instruct old and young that we are to offer prayers only to our heavenly Father who encourages us to pray at all times.

Prior to the reforms instituted after the Second Vatican Council, (circa 1965) the Roman Catholic Church mandated fasting (only one full meal per day plus two partial, meatless means) on all Ember Days (which meant both fasting and abstinence from meat on Ember Fridays).

Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person who is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.” 

Concerning the discipline of fasting, remember these words of Jesus, “And when you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces and show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and sash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -  Matthew 6:16-18

Two groups are growing. In one camp are followers of Jesus as a great crowd begins the follow Him. He will call to Himself those whom He desires. He will appoint twelve disciples whom He will call His apostles. These twelve will be with Him throughout His earthly ministry. They will witness His words and actions.  They will be sent out under His authority to preach and cast out demons. As Jesus continues to teach and heal, the demons, whenever they saw Him, they fell down before Him and cried out “You are the Son of God.” Even the demons believe and shutter! (James 2:19)
Animosity and hatred toward Jesus by the Pharisees not only increases. It is brought to an ugly new level. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. On the Sabbath. They watch Jesus. To see whether He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. Immediately they take counsel with the Herodians to see how they might destroy Jesus. Most Pharisees believed Herod’s dynasty was illegitimate and corrupt. However in this case, they were willing to cast aside their contempt for Herod and his family. Their hatred for Jesus is worse.

Jesus looked at His detractors with anger. He grieved at their hardness of heart. Not all anger is sinful. There is a legitimate, righteous anger. Other instances when Jesus got angry in the New Testament- He “sternly charged” the leper whom he had healed not to tell anyone about it. (Mark 1:43) Jesus showed anger when the disciples tried to send away the mothers and their children. (Mark 10:13-16)  He was angry when the fig tree did not bear fruit out of season. (Mark chapter 11) He lashed out at the moneychangers in the Temple and overturned their tables. At Lazarus’ grave Jesus showed not just sympathy and deep distress for the mourners (John 11:33-35), but also a sense of angry outrage at the evil of death in God’s world.

Jesus asks, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” Jesus’ mission was to rid the world of sin, evil and darkness. When He confronted evil, it angered Him. Yet He never sinned. He came to do good and to save life not to kill or do harm. There are times to become angry. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26)    

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.[2]

[1] Image by Ed Rioja © Higher Things
[2] Collect for Monday of Lent 1,

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