Psalm 45:10-17; Leviticus 4; Mark 1:21-34

 Psalm 45:10-17  The king, who is the object of this encomium, is apparently marrying a foreign princess.  The poet advises her to forget the past and face her new reality: “…look, incline your ear, and forget your people, and your father’s house.  And let the king yearn for your beauty, for he is your master, and bow down to him.” (10,11)  Thus it ever was in a patriarchal society: the princess has the asset of beauty, but the male (here the king) has the asset of power.

The princess is brought before the king in “filigree of gold her raiment”(13), together with her own court, “maidens in train, her companions.”(14).  But neither the king nor the princess are considering the issue of patriarchy.  This is a joyous occasion, even though the princess will never see her family again, “They are led in rejoicing and gladness, they enter the palace,” (15).

The princess and king together will produce progeny, and this will help the princess forget that she has been taken from her home: “In your fathers’ stead your sons will be. You will set them as princes in all the land.” (16)

This psalm is about a king and a royal marriage.  I suppose we could extend it to Christ and the Church as his bride, but I really think that’s stretching it too far.  So, I will enjoy this psalm’s royal imagery as the gorgeous poetry it is.

Leviticus 4  God is now giving Moses detailed instructions of sacrifices required for different categories of people who “offend arrantly in regard to any of the LORD’s commands that should not be done.” (2)

There are specific sacrificial instructions for different categories of people, “if the anointed priest should offend” (3); for “When a chieftain offends and does one of all the commands of the LORD his God that should not be done” (22) and for “a single person from the common people should offend errantly in doing one of the LORD’s commands that should not be done, and bear guilt,” (27) These categories provide isight into how the Israelites were organized: priesthood, tribal chieftains and the hoi polloi. 

And the sinner was guilty even f he committed an offense unknowingly, but “the offense that he committed is made known to him.” (27b).  Which suggests that everyone was looking out for the other’s sins. Here, we can see the judgmental roots of the Pharisees, where were inly to happy to publicly announce another’s sins.

And at the center of all this, when the sacrifice is made, “the priest shall atone for him, for his offense that he committed, and it shall be forgiven him.”  For it is the priest making sacrifices to God that lies at the center of the Old Covenant.  A never-ending process of sin and sacrifice, followed by more sin and more sacrifice.  How grateful we should be for Jesus’ once and for all Atonement.

Mark 1:21-34  If “immediately” and “follow” are the themes of Jesus establishing his ministry, then here in the synagogue where Jesus commences his public ministry is the theme of how Jesus conducts his ministry: Authority.  “…he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (22) and “What is this? A new teaching—with authority!” (27).

The astonishment of the people about Jesus’ authority with the Scriptures and over the demons of the underworld tells us a lot about the spiritual state of the people and their religious leaders before Jesus arrived on the scene.  It would seem that the scribes read the Scriptures aloud but had little to say, or what they did say was anodyne and, frankly, wimpy.  Like many sermons I’ve heard through the years.  But it’s clear that Jesus is more than just knowledgable about the Scriptures.  The people at the synagogue sense Jesus’ deep, intimate connection with the Scriptures. Almost as if they had come alive in the person of Jesus, and had begun walking and talking among them.  This was an unprecedented experience for them–and for us.

Mark offers ample evidence of Jesus’ authority in action beyond explicating the Scriptures as he writes about healing.  Starting with the specific, Peter’s mother-in-law, and then the general, “he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” (34)

Capernaum is about as far as you can get from Jerusalem and still be in Israel.  Yet, this is where Jesus began his ministry: in the Israeli outback.  Retrospectively, his strategy is clear: Begin in an obscure place and let the word filter out on its own.  No need to start giving speeches in Jerusalem.  And, unlike the many other prophets and Zealots wandering the countryside at the time, use actions, along with Scripture to establish his authority.  This is far far more than simply the provocative speeches of other would be revolutionaries and rabble rousers.  Jerusalem is still asleep and they do not know what is coming.

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