19 October 2021Mark 2:18-22
'The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them.' (v. 20)
If ever you have the time to read the whole of Mark’s Gospel right through (it should take a couple of hours or so) you may be struck by how often Jesus was in conflict both with the religious leaders of his day and, at times, with his own disciples. From the start of chapter two we have five stories in which Jesus or his disciples are criticised and in which he spells out important aspects of his ministry. Today’s reading is the third of those stories.
The conflict arises over the religious practice of fasting, which was quite common in Judaism. Whereas other groups who took their religion seriously observed a number of fasts, Jesus’ disciples did not. However Jesus’ reply takes us into new territory. In talking about himself as a bridegroom he suggests that in his presence the time is right for rejoicing. People fast not least because they longed for a better future and prayed that it would come. Jesus’ point is that God’s kingdom of love, justice and joy is not just some future event. It is breaking in now with him.
The analogy of the bridegroom then takes an unexpected twist. At weddings bridegrooms are not taken away. They go on hopefully to enjoy a happy life with their spouse. Jesus hints that his story will be different. In the heart of these stories of conflict the shadow of the Cross begins to appear. God’s kingdom may be breaking in with Jesus, but the love, which is the hallmark of this reign, is expressed through sacrifice.
Mark then brings us two little illustrations which make the point that God’s reign won’t simply fit into our old comfortable patterns. We can’t control it or think of it as a religious add-on to our normal lives. As the hymn set for today (SiF 163 'When listening prophets dare to speak') reminds us:
“True prophets challenge us to change,
To wake and wonder, risk and grow.”
- There is both joy and challenge in today’s reading. Do you find joy in Jesus? Where is he challenging you to change and be renewed?
Loving Lord, please forgive me when I resist the changes you want to make in me. Bring me to the place where I rejoice that you make all things new. Amen.