What Did You Expect?: Mark 3:1-6


Again he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

What was it about the Pharisees? Why did they have it in for Jesus? The answer may scare us!

It’s hard to understand though, just where they were at, without a little background of the sects of 1st century Judaism.

We are fairly familiar with two; the Pharisees(of course) and the Sadducees (mentioned in the New Testament, Matt. 16:6, Mk. 12:18). Another sect (mentioned in this passage) is the Herodians. There were also the Essenes, the Zealots(of which Simon the disciple came, Lu. 6:15) and the Samaritans (Jn. 4:9).

One of the things I find fascinating, is the “history” behind which these sects are formed. It’s not unlike Christianity today, in that what started out unified, is now splintered into “denominations” and like Judaism in the first centuries before Christ, came the rise of “remnant theology.”

Remnant Theology was developed during and coming out of the Exile. Mainline Jews declared that God would preserve a faithful remnant of His people, who would be the seed of the “new” Israel. For the first time in their history, they entertained the notion that not all Jews were “chosen”. During the Exile, synagogues had been built all over and rabbis (at least those well versed in Torah) expounded on their view of what it said. So in Exile, as these different sects formed, and rabbis with different views taught Torah, they came out with different “interpretations” of what the Hebrew Scriptures said. Of course, like today, more than one sect, considered itself to be the “faithful remnant of God”. This is the mind-set of the sects of Judaism prior to and at the time of Jesus.

The Pharisees descended from a group called the Hasideans. During the time of the Maccabees they are referred to as, mighty warriors of Israel, all who offered themselves willingly for the law(I Macc. 2:42). After the Maccabean revolt, during the time of the Hasmoneans (when John Hyrcanus named himself king and priest in 135 B.C.) The Pharisees emerged from this sect, as master interpreters of the oral traditions of the rabbis. Most Pharisees came from middle class families of artisans and tradesmen (as St. Paul was a tent maker). The historian Josephus observed that when the Jewish people faced an important decision, they relied on the opinion of the Pharisees, rather than that of the king or the high priest (Antiquities, Bk.XII, Chap.X Sect. 5 ). Because they were esteemed so highly by the people, they were often chosen for high government positions, such as the Sanhedrin. Could this be a/the reason why they feared Jesus so, His ability to draw large crowds ? Of all the sects of Judaism, the Pharisees were more in line with Jesus’ teachings on the resurrection of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.

Now why, as we read in our text for this week, did the Pharisees go out and take counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death?

Not much is known about Herodian beliefs as a sect. We do know that they were basicly a political group, made up of Jews from various religious sects. As their name suggests, they supported the dynasty of King Herod the Great, and some scholars believe that they may have taught that indeed, Herod was the Messiah (though there is no hard evidence to support this veiw). But, if this were true, The Pharisees could certainly count on the Herodians to help dispel this Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, not only from the religious side, but from the political side as well.

One thing is for sure though. Jesus was not  the Messiah they were expecting! And the Pharisees, the Herodians (as well as all the other sects) reacted just as they had every other time before. When some self-proclaimed, or people anointed “messiah” came along, they got rid of him by any means possible – even if that meant using the hated Roman authority.

So, what does all that have to do with us?

Plenty!

Do we think of Jesus in a one way only kind of faith? In other words, do we put God in a box? One that He couldn’t possibly work out of? Is He not what you expected, and you’ve made Him into what you did expect?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit
 

711
“Behold, I am doing a new thing.” Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.
712
The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,” speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
    And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
713    The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.” These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.” Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.
714
This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:
    The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
    because the LORD has anointed me
    to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
    he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.
715
The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. 
716        The People of the “poor”—those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah—are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”

Maybe we need to use our time this week, to re-examine who Jesus the Messiah is, in our own lives.

Is He the long awaited Messiah, or is He only what you were expecting the “messiah” to be?

Amen.

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