Well spoken

As a recent arrival in Zambia, I had not heard of Anderson Mazoka until two days ago. He is dead now. The one who told me of him said he could have been a great leader for Zambia. “He was compassionate,” he said. It struck me as an unusual complement to mention in one of our leaders.  We normally speak of their competence in politics or their understanding of economics and so on.  But that a leader is compassionate?  That he “suffers with” the people? That seemed new.  

Towards the end of Mark’s gospel the opposition to Jesus mounts. But there is a sudden mention of a scribe who understands. He is “one of the scribes”, and so influenced by what his colleagues hold. But here he is speaking for himself.

He asks Jesus what is the greatest thing in the law.  What is the basic element that holds our society together?  Jesus replies> “It is to love God and love one another”  The scribe replies,  “Well spoken, teacher”, and he repeats what Jesus had just said as if to emphasise his complete agreement. Then Jesus says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

It is a striking scene.  One might even not notice it in the headlong rush to condemn Jesus and all he stood for in the closing pages of the gospels. Yet there it is: Jesus in harmony with a leading Jew approving the central faith of the Jewish people and making it his own.  Those of us who are Christians are reminded once again how much we owe to our Jewish roots. The fundamental stance is love and the way we show love is through compassion.  The gospels are full of examples; the woman by the well  and the parable of the prodigal son are among the best known.

Nurtured in this tradition we can only stagger in amazement at the news from Pakistan this week. Some people have threatened violence against their own judges because their High Court has set aside a death sentence against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, over something she inadvertently did that offended Muslims. “We just want her to be killed,” they said

4 November 2018                                                                   Sunday 31 B

Deuteronomy 6:2-6                                           Hebrews 7:23-28                                                 Mark 12:28-34

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