Discipleship Series: “What Does Mark Say?” – #9 (House Rules)


The “indebtedness code” is something that was being dealt with by Jesus head on. Like a casino, the purity traditions and debt laws of the priestly class forced the Israelites into classes of people. There were the wealthy and powerful elites like the Pharisees and there were the poor like we begin seeing early on in Mark’s gospel. There we also see Jesus of Nazareth beginning to turn the social order upside down. Those that were indebted to the Temple were having debts cancelled by this rogue traveling healer. According to the elites he was out of line in a big way. He had no legal right to do this!

In Mark 1 we see how quickly popular Jesus became. He was driving out demons and healing many with various diseases (1:34). While in Galilee a man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees (1:40). “If you’re willing you can make me clean.” According to the purity code of Leviticus 13:1-14:57 the man would understand that he would need to visit a priest (Lev. 13:2) to determine whether or not he was in a clean or unclean state. We can assume the leprous man understood he was in violation of the Levitical code by asking Jesus, unqualified as a priest, to make him clean. Obviously, the man knew he was leprous, and possibly had been to the priest prior to his begging Jesus. It’s also possible that he knew there’d be no rationale for visiting a priest if he was poor.

What we’re likely looking at (but cannot see directly) is that the Mosaic law (Torah) was given to protect the poor and outcast, to lift them up to respectable and equal social status. The priestly class was not allowing this to happen but instead opted for their version of a justifiable elitism. They justified the leprous man’s state as deserved, thereby disabling him from ever returning to a blessed state. …Jesus disagreed.

Jesus wasn’t challenging Mosaic tradition. Jesus was challenging the established order’s indebtedness code. Jesus healed the man by touching him. The contagion wasn’t transmitted to Jesus. Jesus orders the man to show himself to the priest. This is not Jesus wanting a photo-op for his work, sort of. He’s not bragging, but rather incensed at the priestly class and their “indebtedness code.” He wants the man to expose the priestly class.

The Pharisees are obsessed with purity yet inwardly they’re most impure. They extorted money from the people, “legally.” They impugn people for not devoting (korban) property to the Temple, constricting their income so that they cannot even feed their aging parents (Mt 15). They “devour” widows’ houses (Mk 12) and created an impoverished class of people rather than allowing Israel to flourish under true Mosaic instruction. Jesus mocked them for their “purity” and exposed their neglect of justice, faith, and genuine charity (Mt 23:23).

The casino in Jesus day was the Temple, and it successfully monopolized the nation. It should’ve enabled them, help them flourish, protect and heal them. Fortunately, Jesus did.

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