32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Scribes-as-Foil
The gospel of Mark reflects theologically on the life of Jesus through, especially, his encounter with his disciples and the Twelve, the scribes and the Pharisees, the chief priests and elders, the crowd and those whom he healed – all for the sake of inviting us to walk with him more closely toward his cross and resurrection in our lives.
The scribes show up about the same time the disciples are called. Both groups are in focus throughout. Seems to me that Jesus’ dealing with the scribes are also meant to instruct disciples, then and now, regarding the Way to the Reign of God.
So, briefly, let’s look at characteristics of the scribes – that reveal the inner workings of disciples everywhere (!)
The Scribes seem offended by the people’s regard for Jesus: Mark 1:22 (NRSV) — 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 2:6f (NRSV) — 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The Scribes regard display invincible ignorance: Mark 2:16f (NRSV) — 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
The Scribes nitpick: Mark 7:1f (NRSV) — 1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.
Mark 7:5f (NRSV) — 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…
The Scribes’ defiance turns deadly: Mark 11:17–19 (NRSV) — 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
Mark 14:1 (NRSV) — 1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him;
Mark 14:43 (NRSV) — 43 Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.
Mark 14:53f (NRSV) — 53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
Mark 15:1 (NRSV) — 1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Mark 15:31 (NRSV) — 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.
About that picture above. In our own way, modern day scribes are faculty members at universities and colleges. We are those who have gone through the hazing of education to the max. And we have returned it upon the heads of our students one way or another. And we promote our ways of looking at the world, sometimes in opposition to “them.” Are we hypocrites? Well, I am. Others will have to determine that for themselves.
More tomorrow on the garb of scribes.