Jesus and the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of Mark. Mark 12:30-34: One of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The scribe answered, “‘to serve your neighbor as yourself’ is worth all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus, seeing his understanding, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This scene is also found in Matthew, but the tone and details are different. Matthew says that one of the Pharisees “tested” Jesus by asking the question as if to challenge him. The scribe in Mark is impressed by the way Jesus conducted himself in a previous controversy. Matthew has sharpened the scene, and Jesus’ commendation of the scribe is lacking. Anyone who understands that the whole deal is the kingdom of heaven or God, whether within your heart, or within your faith community or in the vast universe all of which are connected by Christ-consciousness would be blessed beyond belief….. Mark 13:24-27: But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken… And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory, and then he will send out his angels and his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” This passage reminds me of the “Left Behind” series of books. I read all of them. They all were so exciting I couldn’t stop reading them. The authors had followed the Bible as closely as possible. But back to Mark. The clouds in the description indicate the presence of divinity. In his role as Son of Man, Jesus is a heavenly being who will come in power and glory. The natural occurances like the darkening of the sun symbolize the earth-shattering impact of God’s judgment upon a rebellious city or empire. But here Jesus is giving a portrayal of the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple, which for Jews was a microcosm of the universe. Images of stars and constellations were embroidered on the temple veils; the seven lights of the menorah represented the sun, moon and the five known planets. Jesus’ words were fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. This ended the sacrifice system and led to the rabbinic and synagogue system……………………… Mark 14: 22-25: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, gave it to them and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” The actions and words of Jesus, within the framework of the Passover meal, the sacrifice of himself through the offering of his body and blood to form a new covenant. This offering of his body and blood anticipates his passion and death (CSB). Wine is a symbol of joy, festivity and abundance and divine life. But Mark also suggests another level of meaning: the cup that Jesus will drink is his passion, the full force of God’s judgment on sin, which he willingly accepts. Jesus’ declaration that now his blood is the blood of the covenant means that now the covenant is being definitively established. Now there is a kinship bond between God and his people that can never be broken (Healy).

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