Posts Tagged ‘Missional’

Mark 7:24-30


In  the Beginning….

God created a beautiful, wonderful universe, majestic in its galaxies, all of this out of nothing. He created a place called earth which teamed with life. God saw this world and said ‘Its good, very good’, he delighted in it. In this world he placed humanity, who although made from dust was also made with the breath of God. This ‘animal’ was also an image bearer.


However, humanity messed it up. The world in its beauty became marred. Evil, ugliness and pain replacing goodness, beauty and delight.


Rescue Plan


God doesn’t just destroy the world, but he embarks on a major rescue plan. A plan by which he would call a people to himself, who would be in his image bearers. A people who would build a community who would be a light to the nations, a people who would bring healing to this broken world. They were, to steal a Tom Wright phrase, called to be a doctor to the world. These people were the covenant family, Israel.


Rescue Plan Gone Wrong


God’s covenant people, who he showered with his grace, the people he called as his servant to be a blessing, abused their position of privilege. They forsook there allegiance to YHWH and their vocation to be a blessing. Instead of being a light to the nations, they put up the walls and pronolunced judgeemnt on the outsider. God punishes Israel and sends them into exile.


Rescue Plan Redeemed


God does not give up on his rescue plan for the world.  He calls Jesus, who was filled with the Spirit of God, to reconstitute Israel around himself. The exile is over, the covenant promises are being fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. Sin is being removed, the enemy being defeated, and the Spirit of YHWH is at work to build the kingdom, restore the covenanat. Jesus followers are called, in line with the ministry of Jesus, to be a blessign to the nations.


Mark 7:24-30 we see Jesus reaches out to the outsider, to those who are classed as irrelevant or enemies of the Kingdom of God.

1) She is a gentile (note the double emphasis on this in v26)

2) She is a woman (In the cultural context women were often despised)

3) Her daughter has a demon (She is unclean)


Gentiles were often seen as being ‘dogs’. v27

To refer to a human being as a ‘dog’ is deliberately offensive or dismissive (cf. 2 Sa. 16:9; Ps. 22:16; Phil. 3:2); Jews typically referred to Gentiles as dogs. The diminutive form (used in biblical literature only in this pericope), perhaps indicates the status of the dogs in Jesus’ image as dogs of the house rather than of the yard, but it does not remove the harshness of picturing Gentiles en masse as ‘dogs’ as opposed to ‘children’. It is the sort of language a Gentile might expect from a Jew, but to find it in a saying of Jesus is shocking.

 France, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 298

Although Jesus appears to buy into the ethnocentric racism of the day- he doesn’t. He gives priority to the mission for Israel (Is 49:6) but offers healing and restoration of this gentile outsider. In Mark Jesus’ parables are often misunderstood but she understands it, even responding in way which carries on  the parable.

This woman’s contending with Jesus is a fulfillment of Israel’s vocation; she, a Gentile, is a true Israelite. Martin Luther, who himself contended much with God, found in the story of the Syrophoenician woman a great wonder and comfort. She, said Luther, asked for no more than her due. “She took Christ at his own words. He then treated her not as a dog but as a child of Israel.”

Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 222

As a church we are united to Christ, and share with him the vocation to be a light to the nations. Like Jesus though, the story of the gospel, is tied in the the story of Israel. To lose the story of ‘Israel’ in our presentation of the gospel is to distort it.




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Mark 7:1-13 (ESV)
1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Christians are different to kangaroos. Kangaroos don’t seem to spend hours preparing a piece of music for other kangaroos to enjoy. Neither do kangaroos plant bombs on kangaroos who have different ideological commitments. Humans have potential to do beautiful creative acts and the ability to instil terror into others.
Human beings are able to ‘exclude’ others and ’embrace’ others. This is true in our religious practises, we can exclude people or we can embrace them.

Now as a Christian should we exclude or embrace?

We may straight away want to answer and say ’embrace’ but matters are more complicated for exclusion and embrace often go hand in hand. To embrace those of a different ethnic grouping may involve the exclusion of the racist. To embrace ‘environmental issues’ brings with it an exclusion of those who don’t agree. Exclusion is not merely to be understood as putting someone out of the community but a recognition that part of their behaviour, attitude or lifestyle is inappropriate.

God had called his people Israel to be blessing to the world, alight to the nations. The law was intended to aid in this task. Yet the Pharisees took the law of embrace and instead used it to correct a wall around themselves. Jesus (v13) says that although they keep traditions they violate the word of God. The Pharisees did not embrace the ‘honouring of their parents’ but embraced the traditions of man.

As a church in a post-Christian society we must hold lightly to all church traditions. Our allegiance is to the word of God, and this is intended to be a missional calling. If our traditions get in the way of our missional calling then we should reject them.

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Mark 6:7-13 (ESV)
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

Jesus disciples are sent out to continue and extend the ministry of Jesus. They are not simply proclaimers of the message of Jesus but bring in their life and ministry an extension of the kingdom.  They are to continue the lawbreaking reign of the kingdom of God. At least some 2nd temple Jews saw the defeat of spirits as being integral to the messianic reign.

The Testament of Levi: 18

And he shall open the gates of paradise,

And shall remove the threatening sword against Adam.

11 And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life,

And the spirit of holiness shall be on them.

12 And Beliar shall be bound by him,

And he shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits.

13 And the Lord shall rejoice in His children,

And be well pleased in His beloved ones for ever.

14 Then shall Abraham and Isaac and Jacob exult,

And I will be glad,

And all the saints shall clothe themselves with joy.

Charles, Robert Henry (Hrsg.): Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004, S. 2:315



Why are the disciples commanded to take with them a cloak, belt, sandals and a staff? Some scholars argue that they are wandering cynic philosophers. Evidence for this stems from the writings of the philosopher ascetic Musonius Rufus (Ad 30-100)  who said


Wearing one tunic is preferable to needing two, and wearing none but only a cloak is preferable to wearing one. Also going barefoot is better than wearing sandals, if one can do it, for wearing sandals is next to being bound, but going barefoot gives the feet great freedom and grace when they are used to it.”



      1) There is no evidence for the presence of cynics in Galilee

      2) Cynics philosophers had to carry a bag, staff but no shoes. Whereas the disciples are commanded to wear shoes but not to carry a bag.


So why were the disciples commanded to carry these things? It makes historical sense to see some connection between the ministry of Jesus and the flight from Egypt as portrayed in the book of Exodus.


Exodus 12:11 (ESV)
11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.


Jesus disciples then are seen to work in continuity with the mission of Jesus. The slavery from exile has begun, the kingdom has come, the wrath of God in the judgemnt of exile is being exhausted, the eshaton has arrived.

The parallel in dress, in other words, is identical with the Exodus apparel but only loosely similar to Cynic dress. These four items of clothing recall the haste and expectation of the Exodus. They suggest that the mission of the Twelve announces something as foundational and revelatory as the Exodus from Egypt, and that the disciples must be as free from encumbrances as were the Israelites, to serve their God in a new venture.

Edwards, James R.: The Gospel According to Mark. Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England : Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002 (The Pillar New Testament Commentary), S. 180

Guillich fails to mention the symbolism of the exodus in Word Biblical Commentary and actually draws a paralell between the cynic philosophers and the ministry of the early church. 

 Hengel (Leader, 28) sees here an intentional parody of the frugality demanded by the Cynic itinerant preachers (cf. 1 Thess 2:1–12). Such a reading may reflect conditions in the early Church mission that found itself “competing” with other movements.

Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 322

R.T France offers the following,

The travelling religious teacher with staff, sandals, and a single χιτών but with no travelling pack or provision for the journey fits into a recognisable strand which extends from Elijah and John the Baptist through to the mendicant friars of the Middle Ages and several religious orders today. Outside the Judaeo-Christian tradition the Cynic preacher filled a similar role (see note on the πήρα, v. 8). Jesus’ intention in sending them out in this way is not so much to encourage asceticism as such (they are after all to expect and accept hospitality), but to emphasise that loyalty to the kingdom of God leaves no room for a prior attachment to material security.

France, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 249

In defence of the the ‘exodus motif’ I would say that a reading of Marks gospel which brinsg tot he forefront themes of exodus and Deutero Isaiah is more authentic. If you look through previosu posts you will see that the theme of Isaiah/End of Exile returns again and again. The exodus motif is a hypothesis which finds verification from the text and it provides a coherent picture for the historical Jesus.  The disciples are to show their loyalty to the kingdom by carrying these simplistic possessions. (as with France)


Application:  The church should remember the now and not yet aspect of the kingdom We are are not simply to preach Jesus (although this is crucial and important) but we like the disciples of old are to bring God’s reign into the world. We are, in one sense, to be Jesus to the world. We are a community in the process of returning from exile, we have been released from bondage, but are waiting the arrival of the fullness of the kingdom.


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Mark 4:30-33 (ESV)

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Gospel of Thomas

20. The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us what Heaven’s kingdom is like.”

He said to them, “It’s like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.”

At a popular level within Judaism the mustard seed represented the smallest seed which according to the Mishnah was grown in a field rather than a garden. See Matt 13:31(field)  and Luke 13:19 (garden) and Mark/ used  the word soil/ground. In fact the mustard seed is neither the smallest of seeds, not does it grow to become the largest plant. But this does not make the story void, the story is not a hard science of botanical study but uses popular analogy to communicate a message,

The parable shows 2 sides to the kingdom. It starts off small but end up large. The kingdom which began in Jesus’ ministry would, according to Jesus’ parable and seen in history since, will spread and become large

he choice of the mustard seed appropriately described the almost infinitesimal presence of God’s rule relative to the popular expectation of the times. At the same time, this dimension did not represent the total picture. A second dimension included the coming of the Kingdom in its greatness. The contrast gives instruction about both dimensions but offers little about the interval in between or the growth process.

Guelich, Robert A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Mark 1-8:26. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 34A), S. 252

What about he birds who would come and next in in the tree? Their is probably a linguistic echoe of Exekial 17:22-23

Thus says the Lord God: kI myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. lI will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and mI myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 nOn the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. oAnd under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.


R.T France offers the following,


But again, as in the previous parable, the simile concludes with an OT echo. The birds nesting33 in the branches are not strictly necessary to the description of the mustard, but serve to recall the imagery of Ezekiel’s cedar-tree parables (Ezk. 17:23; 31:6) and of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Dn. 4:9, 18 (EVV 4:12, 21), and the words are close enough to those of the LXX/Thdt in these passages to make the echo unmistakable for those who are familiar with them. Mark’s rather inappropriate mention of the κλάδοι μεγάλοι of the mustard helps to strengthen the allusion, since the great branches are a part of the imagery in these OT figures. Ezekiel’s two cedars and Nebuchadnezzar’s tree represent the growth of impressive empires, and the birds which nest in them are explicitly interpreted in Ezk. 31:6 as ‘all great nations’ who enjoyed the benefits of the Egyptian empire. The allusion here may therefore be intended to indicate the future wide scope of the kingdom of God, within which many nations (not only Israel) will find their place. Even if the nesting birds are no more than part of the imagery of growth and so should not be specifically identified, their OT background reinforces the ‘imperial’ pretensions of the kingdom of God, which will take the place of the human empires of OT times (cf. the use of imagery elsewhere in the synoptic tradition from Dn. 2 and 7, two memorable visions of a new kingdom to replace the pagan empires).

France, R. T.: The Gospel of Mark : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002, S. 216


Israel were called to be a blessing to the nations. They in one sense had failed and at least some 1st century Jews were stringly influenced by a Zealot ideology and a posture of agression against the Romans.With the arrival of the kingdom of God, in the life and work of Jesus, this calling has again been put on the agenda. Instead of destruction coming to the pagan nation.s a offer off refuge, in the tree of the kingdom of God, is being offered.


Do we accept the missional call of the kingdom? Are our Christian communities lights to the nations, do the nations come to us for wisdom, guidance and refuge?



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