This probably won’t happen every morning, but something I am trying as a Lenten discipline is to take a little time each morning and write a brief reflection on the gospel text from the daily lectionary cycle. Today’s reflection is based on the reading from Mark 2:13-22.
The indignence of Jesus! How dare he hang out with those people!
That is how we normally interpret the words of the Scribes and the Pharisees. Insulted that a rabbi would eat with tax-collectors and sinners, they distance themselves from this new kid on the block.
And then we usually understand Jesus’ response as having a kind of sarcastic bite: “the sick need the doctor, not the well.” But read between the lines, O’ arrogant ones, because you don’t realize how sick you actually are…
When I read these familiar words this morning, I wasn’t so sure.
Jesus gives clever answers to the questions he’s asked, but then he describes in more detail his rationale with two mini-parables:
First, you don’t put an un-shrunk patch on an old cloak, or you will make the tear worse.
Second, you don’t put new wine in old wineskins, or you’ll burst the skins and loose the wine.
Now those two parables, to me, communicate that Jesus is very conscious of the fact that his movement is something new, that it isn’t at all like the movements that have existed before or even the movements of his contemporaries, the Scribes and the Pharisees.
Jesus is doing something new, something different, something they haven’t seen before.
And whenever you do something new, you always get opposition. There is always grumbling and complaining around the edges. There are always those who say “we’ve never done this before, why on earth would we do it now?”
And reading back from there, this makes me reinterpret what Jesus is saying. What if Jesus isn’t trying to be snarky but is actually trying to keep the waters calm: “Why do you eat with these people, we’ve never done that before?” “Well, we have different goals here. So you eat with your people and I’ll eat with mine, no need to fight over this, we are trying to accomplish different things.” “Why aren’t you fasting, Jesus, we are?” “Well, we aren’t quite ready for fasting yet in this group, we’ll get there later. Good luck, though!”
“What is it exactly that you are doing over there, Jesus?”
“Well, we are trying something a little bit new.”