Tag Archives: Herodians

The Cross of Confusion

Mark’s Gospel describes growing numbers following Jesus in Galilee as he begins his ministry, but growing numbers also find him hard to understand, the gospel says.

VATICANCRUC

Scribes come from Jerusalem and say he has a demon, the Pharisees begin to plot with the Herodians, the followers of Herod Antipas about putting him to death. When they hear about him in Nazareth, his relatives say, “No, he doesn’t have a demon. He may be out of his mind,” and they come to bring him home.

Besides the leading elite and people from his hometown, ordinary people begin to distance themselves too. They may be the people in Mark’s Gospel today who question him “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2, 18-22) Not only Jewish leaders and scholars, not only his own family and his hometown, but ordinary people of Galilee find him too much for them.

Jesus brought change, radical change, and change can be hard to accept. Many who heard him weren’t ready for new wine, they preferred the old.

Commentators describe Mark’s gospel as a Passion Narrative with a prelude. In other words, Mark’s early stories announce the story of his Passion and Death and Resurrection. Jesus dies alone, forsaken by many ordinary people who flocked to him at first.

Commentators also see Mark’s gospel written to help the Christians of Rome facing a surprising brutal persecution by Nero in the mid 60s. Rome usually singled out Christian leaders in times of persecution, but this persecution seemed to strike at ordinary Christians as well. The senseless, arbitrary persecution left Rome’s Christians confused and wondering what this all meant. Mark’s account reminds his followers they must follow him without always understanding.

Confusion and lack of understanding are part of our world today, aren’t they? We are living in a time of rapid changes. For many, the old wine, the “old days” are better.

The Cross of Jesus may not come as hard wood and nails. As in Mark’s Gospel, it can come in confusion and lack of understanding. A Cross hard to bear.

The Royal Image

9th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

Mark 12:13-17

“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”

The Pharisees and the Herodians thought they had Jesus cornered. Popular political figures at the time like Judas the Gaulonite had rallied many devout Jews to view Caesar as an enemy of religion; God alone was their ruler. If Jesus answered “yes,” he would lose his followers. If he answered “no,” they could report him to the Roman authorities as a rebel and be rid of him.

Jesus was completely unfazed. He answered their question with another question. Looking at a Roman coin in their possession he asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” Out of their own mouth came the reply, “Caesar’s.” Then came Jesus’ unforgettable response: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

It’s not that God is not sovereign over the whole world, but earthly governance also has its proper sphere. Render to earthly authorities what is theirs, Jesus says, but what is everlasting and permanent—your very persons—give to God. Earthly coins corrode and decay, but the image of God stamped upon you lasts forever. We are the coin of God (St. Augustine). God’s image and inscription are imprinted upon our humanity. 

The hypocrisy displayed in this episode came to its climax before Pontius Pilate when Jesus was handed over to be crucified. The chief priests themselves said, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)

-GMC