God’s Rule Brings Conflict

This passage from Mark as Story wonderfully captures how and why Jesus inevitably conflicts with those in power:

“ . . . God’s rule engenders conflict because God is acting outside the traditional channels of power. From the point of view of the authorities in Mark’s story, God works from the established center in Jerusalem. By contrast, for Mark, God’s rule begins from the periphery, from the edges. The pardon of sins that took place in the temple now appears in Galilee. The interpretation of the law that emanated from Jerusalem now occurs in the village of Capernaum. The authority of the high priest and the Sanhedrin council is now assumed by a woodworker from Nazareth. The rule of God begins among people of little social consequence—not among the rulers but among the people, not with the so-called righteous but with the sinners. So, Jesus comes in conflict with authorities.

In all of this, the rule of God generates conflict because it ruptures the conventional conception of God and creates a new understanding of God. Instead of guarding boundaries, God now crosses boundaries. Instead of remaining in the temple, God breaks out to become available everywhere (signified by the tearing of the curtain). Instead of withdrawing from defilement, God spreads holiness. Instead of working from the center, God works from the margins. God sends an anointed one who does not dominate but who undergoes persecution and death in the service of others. In all of these matters, the authorities are trapped inside the old wineskins of their conventional views, unable to see the new wine in their midst. By judging the new wine by the categories of old wineskins, they destroy the wine—and they also end up destroying the wineskins as well.”

Rhoads, Dewey, and Michie, Mark as Story, p. 79.

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