Monday, March 2, 2015

Corban and the Unclean (would make a good punk band name)

Today's Reading: Numbers 23-25 and Mark 7:14-37

Back in August I did a series of posts on the humor of Christ. Today I'm re-sharing one of those posts, which explains Mark 7:

The words "funny" and "Bible" don't usually appear in the same sentence. But really they should! Check out some of the images Jesus shared:

     Building house upon the sand instead of the rock
     Mustard seed growing into a big tree
     Parents giving their child a stone instead of bread
     Putting a lamp under a basket
     A camel through the eye of a needle
     Straining a gnat out of soup and then swallowing a camel
     Washing the outside of a cup but leaving the inside dirty
     Pointing out a splinter in another's eye when you have a plank in yours

We've been trained to think of these in very serious ways. But try to suspend your training for just a second and consider how absurd these would have been to the first audiences.

These images teach us about deeper truths, sure, but they also elicit a smile when we actually picture what Jesus is describing.

Still not convinced that Jesus told jokes? Well let's look at what Jesus said about the Pharisees. These guys were the very definition of humorless. Their goal was to create enough rules that they would be guaranteed "good," and guarantee all non-Pharisees as being not good enough.

Jesus had a great time poking fun of these guys. He made fun of the way the Pharisees prayed; we get this image of the Pharisees scrunching their faces and clenching really hard to squeeze out their prayer. Jesus made fun of the way they tithed; it is crazy to think of someone tithing out of their spice rack.

Probably my favorite little exchange, though, comes from Mark 7. And to fully appreciate this joke, you have to understand the concept of corban. Corban is when some money or resources were set aside to later give to God. This tradition was just fine for most Jewish believers but the Pharisees had taken corban to a strange new extreme. Basically, picture going to your friend and asking for $10 and the friend says, "Oh, eeps, well I would, but the thing is that I plan on giving God $10 in about 5 years. So I can't loan you money to buy a sandwich right now."  That's basically what the Pharisees were doing.

Jesus teases the Pharisees by explaining to them that food is great for everyone when it comes from the outside. But if you keep it to yourself, what comes from the inside is no longer good. Oh, snap! Now if you're like me, or like the 12 disciples, then we missed the joke. But the Pharisees sure got it. They were enraged.

The disciples, a little later, pulled Jesus aside to ask why the Pharisees got so upset. Jesus explains the joke and in Mark 7:19 even spells out that he was talking about feces. Haha, basically, Jesus was saying, "Those Pharisees are obsessed with staying ritually clean but they are full of crap." That's funny.

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