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Columns Pondering with God's Word

The plot to kill Jesus began in Galilee


The solemn days of Holy Week offer us the opportunity to realize and reflect on the human forces who colluded to kill Jesus. But where and why did the opposition begin? The earliest Christians who heard the Gospels would be aware of Jesus’ struggle with supra-human evil forces as well as the series of controversies with some Jews near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The starkness of these experiences is seen clearly in Mark’s Gospel.

The struggle begins with the testing of Jesus by Satan in the desert; Jesus wins since he comes preaching the “reign of God” in Galilee. Jesus’ first conflict involving humans is an exorcism of a person with an unclean spirit. This takes place in the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath. The unclean spirit asks Jesus: “Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus commands the unclean spirit to leave and it obeys. Next Jesus cures the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law; the fever “leaves her” as if a force of its own. Jesus heals many more sick and possessed people, including a person with leprosy which, again, leaves as if a force of its own.

Then, in  a series of five controversy stories (2:1-3:6), Mark lays out an increasing antagonism to Jesus from some Jewish leaders: some scribes question in their hearts when Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic; Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and some scribes of the Pharisees question his disciples; people question Jesus himself on why his disciples do not fast;  some Pharisees question Jesus on why his disciples pick grain and eat it on the Sabbath and Jesus declares himself Lord of the Sabbath; finally, some Pharisees stake out Jesus to see if he will heal a person with a withered hand in a synagogue on the Sabbath, an offense against the law according to them. Jesus is enraged at their hardness of heart and heals the person. Jesus’ action and their hardness of heart immediately lead to the decision of these Pharisees to seek out Herodians to plot on “how to destroy him” (3:6).

While in Jesus’ first struggle with evil involving humans, the unclean spirit in a synagogue on the Sabbath asks Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” Now humans, in a similar setting, with their hardness of heart engage in an evil plot to destroy Jesus. One’s reflections during Holy Week might include identifying instances of “hardness of heart” in oneself as well as in the persons engaged in the many controversies swirling around us.