Bible Study week 3 reflections



Some of us had an image of King Herod as a villain and re-reading the story of John the Baptist’s death had given us a different view of him. He actually regretted John’s death. We were reminded that Herod was the name of the dynasty.  (Herod the Great was responsible for the Slaughter of the Innocents. The Holy family returned from Egypt when they learned that  he had died. His eldest son Archelaeus succeeded him and Joseph was warned not to return to Judaea. Herod Antipas was the king responsible for John’s death. It was his half brother, Phillip’s wife that he took as his second wife. Philip ruled Itrurea and was known for his moderation and justice.)  We noted that Mark spends more time on John the Baptist than the other Gospel writers. Could he have been a disciple of John?

We puzzled over the two stories of the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000.  Were they different versions of the same story?  However, Jesus refers to the feeding of the 5,000 in the account of the feeding of the 4,000. The 12 baskets of leftover food may have symbolised the 12 tribes of Israel and Jesus’ mission to the Jews. Possibly the second account represents the broadening of the mission to the Gentiles. After the walking on water story we are told that despite the previous miracles the disciples still didn’t recognise who Jesus really was, because their hearts were hardened. (Perhaps a bit like the Pharisees.) They were Jews, who for generations had been promised a Messiah and would have their own expectations of what he would be like – probably not a carpenter from Nazareth!  The healing of the blind man takes place in two stages possibly symbolic of a gradual recognition of Jesus’ identity. We felt that all this showed that the disciples had to work things out for themselves just as we have.

The story of the Phoenician woman made us wonder if Jesus himself grew into a realisation of the range of his mission. It seems to suggest that initially he saw his mission as being to the Jews. Given that he lived an ordinary life for thirty years, we wondered when Jesus knew he was special. There was a general feeling   that the temptation in the desert was a key stage and we wondered what had been said at the transfiguration.  It was suggested that if Jesus had been clear about his mission from the beginning it would have invalidated his humanity, which was the whole point of the incarnation.

Finally we looked at Jesus’ teaching on the food laws. Once again he was in conflict with the Pharisees over the strict Jewish food laws. Once again he accuses them of hypocrisy in their insistence on the detail of the Law while ignoring the important principles. Much of the Law resulted in exclusion and Jesus’ ministry was always about inclusion. This particular challenge to Jewish Law could also be seen as a stage in breaking down barriers between Jews and Gentiles

We considered whether the church today was guilty of creating barriers. Our experience led us to believe that much had improved over our lifetime and there was a much greater realisation of the importance of welcome now. However, sadly, the denominations still maintain barriers between each other on some issues.