Signpost for Sunday 1 March, 2015, 2nd in Lent: Gen 17:1-7, 15-16; Ps 22:23-31; Rom 4:13-25; Mark 8: 31-38.
Sometimes I wonder why the lectionary prescribes the readings it does. That’s how I felt when I read this week’s selection, particularly with regard to Genesis and Mark; and I wonder how many people will make any connections if they hear these read out on Sunday. I probably wouldn’t.
But I find it often helps to read beyond the prescribed verses alone and in doing that I think there is one big connection between this Genesis episode and the Gospel reading that won’t pop up in church. That’s because the lectionary reading for Genesis stops annoyingly five verses short.
It stops after YHWH has given both Abram and Sarai new names and reiterated that Sarah will get pregnant. We are left with a reading that shows God promising to do something that sounds inconceivable (pun intended). There’s the clue, (but it’s not a clue about believing in the literal truth of the resurrection we will encounter on Easter Day as some will take it to be). Read one verse further and you find Abraham doing something quite shocking – he laughs at YHWH (Gen17:17).
Abraham just can’t see it happening. He’s well and truly past it, and ninety year old women, as the next chapter discreetly tells us, “have ceased to be after the manner of women” (Gen 18:11). He thinks like your average 99 year old.
But that’s not the only shock among this week’s readings. I don’t know about you but I’m always stunned by Mark 8:32 when Peter dares to rebuke Jesus, and then again when Jesus snarls at Peter (Mark 8:32) calling him Satan.
Can Jesus have forgotten that this is the one and only disciple who recognised him as the Messaiah just two verses earlier? I don’t think so.
Peter thinks like your average first century Jew. He is expecting the Messaiah to be the one who overcomes the ruling powers and re-establishes Israel’s pre-eminence in the world. Then everything Jesus says in verse 31 seems to Peter to disqualify Jesus from being that person. That’s why he loses his rag, and that’s why Jesus snaps back so vehemently. “You’ve got the title right, but you’ve got the definition wrong, Pete.”
This is the point in Mark’s gospel, where he and Jesus begin the enormous task of describing who the Christ really is and what he will actually do.
So Peter rebukes Jesus and gets a tongue lashing in return. But what about Abraham, does he get away with laughing at YHWH? Not quite. Look at something else the lectionary stops short of – Gen 8:21. YHWH names Abraham’s son Isaac. Isaac means ‘laughter’ in Hebrew. “Laugh at me, would you? We’ll see about that, Abe.”