Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
2 Samuel 4 – Ishbaal [Ishbosheth] is alone now. When he hears of Abner’s death “his courage failed” (4:1). Two men described as captains of raiding bands associated with his side (Baanah and Rechab) come and kill him (4:7). They cut off his head and bring it to David—hoping, I presume, to get on his good side. But David does to them what he did to the Amalekite who came to him, claiming to have killed Saul. He kills them, cuts off their hands and feet and hangs their bodies by the pool at Hebron (4:12).
2 Samuel 5 – Then all the tribes of Israel come to Hebron and acknowledge that it is the Lord’s will that David be king over them all. So they make a covenant with him, anoint him king and end the conflict (5:3). He is thirty. He will reign over them 40 years—7 in Hebron and 33 in Jerusalem. The tribes of Israel and of Judah, though both supportive of David, remain distinct; and the tensions between them will run through David’s reign—and Solomon’s.
David takes the town of Jerusalem from the Jebusites. There are some strange verses in chapter 5, and the Jerusalem Bible notes that some references to David hating the lame and the blind are totally out of place and absent from the account in Chronicles. After he takes the city, he has a house built of cedar, takes more wives and has many more children, eleven of whom are named (5:14-16). The Philistines go to war against him, but this time he is very strong and defeats them in several battles.
2 Samuel. 6 – David brings the ark up to Jerusalem. David accompanies the procession dancing, along with many others, “with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals” (6:5). It is a joyous occasion. At one point on the trip, one of the two young men going ahead of the cart, touches the ark to steady it and he drops dead. David gets angry at God and is afraid to go on (6:8-9). He leaves the ark for three months with Obed-edom the Gittite, but the Lord blesses his household. So David resumes the journey to Jerusalem after giving sacrifice. He goes ahead of the procession again dancing and shouting. This does not please his wife Michal who now despises David “in her heart” (6:16).
They bring the ark into the tent David has made for it. It is a great celebration with sacrifices, food for all the people and a big party. But when David gets back home, Michal reproaches him for the lack of dignity in his behavior—“uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover[ing] himself” (6:20). David ranks on her a little, telling her God chose him above her father or anyone in her father’s house, to rule over Israel. And he adds, “I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor” (6:22).
Mark 8 – Jesus again finds the crowds hungry for bread and has compassion for them. The disciples wonder how they are to be fed, seeing that they are so numerous and in a desert. Jesus responds by asking them what they do have. He takes the seven loaves and few fishes and with these feeds the crowd of four thousand people, leaving seven baskets full of leftovers. Then he and his disciples go to Damanutha.
He despairs over the insistent need people have for a sign; he tells the Pharisees there will be no sign. And again he gets into a boat and crosses the sea. Again there is no bread; his disciples are so preoccupied with this lack they cannot hear what Jesus is teaching them about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod (their bad effect on the community?). Jesus laments his disciples’ inability to “perceive or understand”, the hardness of their hearts (8:17). He reminds them of the twelve baskets of “broken pieces” they collected after the first feeding of the 5000, and of the seven baskets collected after the feeding of 4000. “Do you not yet understand?” he asks. One gets the feeling that none of this is really about bread. The first feeding episode also ends with a similar passage—“they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” (6:52) And that sentence comes after another intervening episode (his walking on the water).
At Bethsaida, a blind man approaches Jesus, begging for him to touch him (compare 6:53-56 where he also is besieged by people seeking healing). Here he puts his saliva on the man’s eyes and restores his sight—touching him twice. He tells him not to go into the village.
On the road to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answer John the Baptist or Elijah—see 6:14-16, and then “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter responds “the Messiah” (8:29). Jesus tells him not to tell. He refers to himself as the Son of Man here when he makes reference to the fate he must suffer (8:31). When Peter objects, Jesus rebukes him.
It’s interesting that Mark has the rebuke, but not the elevation Matthew gives Peter as “rock” on which the church will be built. If this is the gospel that most closely conforms to Paul’s view of things, it does reflect a little of Paul’s disappointment with Peter as the church’s main pillar.
Then comes Mark’s clearest statement of the gospel message: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it” (8:34-35). It is addressed to both disciples and people. He also refers to the “glory” he will come into with his Father and the holy angels (8:38), and of the judgment he will make there of all who “are ashamed of [him] and of [his] words” (8:38).
Another interesting thing to note about this chapter, so important in focusing in on Jesus’ identity, is its location at the midpoint of Mark’s book. There are 16 chapters in Mark.