Monday, June 25, 2012

Embodied Covenant and Kingdom

Jesus is the revelation of God: when we look at Jesus, we see God represented without any distortion.  Moreover, Jesus’ revelation is consistent with the two great themes that give structure to the story revealed in Scripture (that is to say, the living Word is consistent with the written Word), Covenant relationship and Kingdom responsibility.  Jesus taught that God is our Father, who provides what we need, and protects us (not least from ourselves); and King of the Universe, who passes judgement on our debts with justice and mercy held in perfect balance, and delivers us from his enemies.  But Jesus also lived out these truths.

The Gospel reading for this coming Sunday is Mark 5:21-43, the account of the healing of a woman who had suffered continual menstrual bleeding for twelve years (and as such was considered permanently ‘unclean,’ was permanently excluded from her family and wider community) and of the restoring to life of a twelve-year-old girl who had died (note: this is not a resurrection – the girl was not given an imperishable body and would have gone on to die at some point in the future; but it is the restoring of life that had been taken away by death).  In this account, I would suggest, we see can see Jesus as the revelation of God as Father and as King, in relation to both the woman and the girl.

Jesus addresses both the woman – ‘Daughter’ v34 – and the girl – ‘Little girl’ v41 – in relational terms and with familial tenderness, driving out fear with love.

Jesus provides for the woman in the broadest and deepest sense, by restoring her to her community; and ensures that the little girl is given something to eat, v43.

Jesus sends the healed woman out to ‘Go in peace’ v34, to be led on the path of wholeness, to experience the guidance of God’s peace that keeps us within his will, that lifts from us to alert us when we are straying.  And he protects the little girl from become the centre of the attention of the crowd – a celebrity freak – by giving strict orders not to let anyone know what had happened, v43.

That Jesus reveals the kingship of God is seen both in the crowds who gather to see him pass by wherever he went, v21, and in the way he exercises authority over them, issuing orders that are to be obeyed, vv37-39.

That Jesus represents without distortion God’s kingly role as judge is seen in Jairus (the little girl’s father) falling at his feet and pleading with him, and Jesus going with him, vv22-4; and in the woman, likewise, falling at Jesus’ feet, trembling with fear, and Jesus responding with compassion, vv32-34.  We plead and tremble before one who judges us, who exercises power over us; and discover that our debts – here, debt includes the inability to pay for the healing sought – are not held against us.

Jesus delivers the woman from suffering, v34, and the girl from death, v42 – both of which oppose God’s will and neither of which will have any place in God’s future when his kingdom is fully come.

Unlike Jesus, we cannot reveal and represent God without any distortion; and yet, we are called to reveal God as faithfully as we can and represent him as fully as we are able.  Like Jesus, we are called to embody Covenant relationship and Kingdom responsibility, to live in and to live-out their implications and consequences.

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