Today is Tisha B’Av. The 9th day of the month of Av. A day on the Hebrew calendar that has come to be regarded and observed as a most solemn time of fasting and prayer. It was on this day that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. It was on this day that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. It is on this day that the Jewish community remembers and reflects upon these and many other calamities that have beset God’s chosen people over the years.
I’ve been watching the happenings in the Middle East as closely as I can through articles, videos, reports, and messages from friends and co-workers in Israel. It’s clear that we have entered a time where the temperature is rising, and I’m not referring to ‘climate change.’ Since the start of Israel’s defensive operation to put a halt to the onslaught of Hamas rockets upon its citizenry in early July, the world seems to have gone mad. So many people, especially in the West, have used the Israel-Hamas conflict as an excuse to vent their deep-seated antisemitism. A recent study revealed that there has been a 383% increase in antisemitic acts worldwide since the conflict began. Yes, three-hundred and eighty-three percent. The regions surveyed in the study weren’t even “Muslim” or “Arab” nations. They were Europe, Canada, the U.S., South America, South Africa, Oceania, Central America, and Mexico. We’re seeing that in many cases, behind the veneer of anti-Zionism, antisemitism is found.
Chanukah. Thanksgiving. Their paths cross for the first time since 1888 this week. But is their chance encounter this year the only link between them? Could there be more that binds these two separate holidays commemorating events that took place nearly 1,800 years apart? And is there more that we can take from our simultaneous celebration of the two?
In the previous two posts on Mark’s Gospel we took a look at the Messianic Secret (here) as well as discipleship (here) and how both relate to a major theme in Mark—the suffering of the Messiah. I’d like to wrap up this short series by using Mark as a springboard outward to broaden our view of the topic of suffering. To do this we have to realize something about Mark’s Gospel. It gains apostolic authority and a stamp of approval because of Mark’s relationship with Peter. In many ways Mark can be considered Peter’s Gospel. While Peter obviously didn’t write it, it’s likely that it was heavily influenced by him. Taylor points out:
At the very heart of Mark’s Gospel both structurally and theologically are two events that take place in 8:22-30. Each one includes the messianic secret theme (for more on the messianic secret read my post here) and together they act as the hinge upon which the entire message of Mark turns. Up to this point in the Gospel, Mark has focused primarily on Yeshua’s interactions with the crowds through a “twofold sequence of feeding miracles, sea crossings, conflicts with the Pharisees, conversations about bread, [and] healings.” Beyond this portion Mark begins to zero in on Yeshua’s interactions with his disciples and his impending sacrifice.
Frequently in Mark’s Gospel we see that after Yeshua performs a miracle, a healing, or an exorcism he implores those present to abstain from revealing his identity to anyone else. Rather, he demands their silence on the matter (see Mk. 1:44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). We see him hush Peter after his profound confession in 8:30. We see him command the silence of the disciples after the transfiguration experience in 9:9. And even with the interpretations of the parables, the “outsiders” were not to hear the insight (4:10-12). This strong feature of secrecy within Mark’s Gospel has earned the name “the messianic secret” and has elicited questions of its purpose and place within the writing. So, what’s the deal? Wouldn’t he want everyone to know that he is Messiah? Why is there such an undercurrent of secrecy surrounding Yeshua’s ministry in Mark’s Gospel?