Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost | Mark 10:1-16
You Probably Think This Verse is about You
Lectionary Project—Part of an ongoing three year project of weekly posts based on the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.
Way back in 1972 (and yes, I remember it) Carly Simon released a song called “You’re So Vain.” Here are the words of the refrain:
You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?
It was a huge hit. Since the song came out, plenty of people have tried to figure out who the subject is—Warren Beatty? Someone else? Several people? All of us?
It should have been playing when the Pharisees came asking Jesus about the legality of divorce. And it should be playing while we read the story in the Gospel of Mark.
We tend to think that the story is about divorce. We may even think it is about us, especially if we have been divorced (or if we’re contemplating it.)
Divorce is the subject matter, that’s true. There is even a followup by way of a private conversation between Jesus and some of his disciples. So you could argue that the passage really is about divorce.
Fair enough. It is just not what I’m hearing in the story.
Still, if you’d like to read more about divorce and about making sense of the various views of divorce in the Bible, you should read Craig S Keener’s book And Marries Another: Divorce and Remarriage in the Teaching of the New Testament. (The link will take you to the Amazon page where you can find it.) Keener’s approach is clear, interesting, and best of all helpful (unless you are looking for ways to beat people over the head with rules—then you’d be happier reading something else.)
In Mark, context matters. The way parts of stories are matched up or put together matters.
Here, we begin with a journey in verse 1 and end with another journey in verse 17. Let’s take those journeys as our bookends and look at what Mark has bound together.
In the beginning we have Pharisees and laws about marriage and divorce. Afterward, we have Jesus being indignant, perhaps even angry, that his disciples were shooing the small children away, keeping them from approaching him. This isn’t about rules or law. This is about relationship and acceptance.
Take Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. He points back to the creation stories, which are overwhelmingly relational: the relationships of God to creation and of human to human are the most foundational theological expressions of the creation stories.
God has joined us all together. It is not just about one marriage, or one relationship, or a handful of people. It is about grasping the relational aspect of God, the relational aspect of the Gospel.
We are all in this thing together. Like that garden in the story of Eden. Like a married couple. Like children running to someone they love.
That’s the point.
Maybe we were right. Maybe these verses really are about us.