Lesson: Ezekiel 2:1-5
1 The LORD said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the LORD GOD.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
Ezekiel is one of the three “Major” Prophets – so called because of the length of the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a Zadokite priest (descended from the High Priest Zadok in the time of David and Solomon) and was among the first group of persons deported by the Babylonians to Babylon when they captured Jerusalem in 597 BCE. His name means “God strengthens.”
The Book of Ezekiel is in three parts: (1) Chapters 1 to 24 are prophesies of doom against Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE; (2) Chapters 25 to 32 are prophesies against foreign nations; and (3) Chapters 33 to 48 are prophesies of hope for the Judeans written during the Babylonian Exile (586-539 BCE).
Similar to other prophets, Ezekiel “prophesies” by speaking for God. Prophesy in the Hebrew Scriptures is not about telling the future. A prophet is one who speaks for YHWH.
Today’s reading is part of the “Call of Ezekiel” and followed the nearly psychedelic visions of God described in Chapter 1. These verses are part of the “Commissioning” of Ezekiel to give him authority to speak for YHWH and to imbue him with the spirit of God (v.2).
In verse 1, Ezekiel said that God addressed him as “O mortal” – the translation used 93 times in the Book of Ezekiel for the Hebrew words “ben adam.” “Ben adam” literally means “son of the earthling/human.” “Adam” was the “name” of the person who was fashioned from fertile earth (in Hebrew, “adamah”) by YHWH in Genesis.
“Ben adam” is elsewhere translated in Scripture as “Son of Man” or “human being” in Daniel 7:13, and Son of Man is a frequent title given to Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels.
The charge of Israel’s rebellion against God is a constant theme in the prophets and is understood as justifying Israel’s suffering as a divine punishment.
In the verses that follow today’s reading, Ezekiel was directed by God to eat a scroll of Scripture — which Ezekiel found was as sweet as honey (3:3).
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows — 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the LORD about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic. Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community.
Based on internal references in the two remaining letters to the Corinthians, scholars agree that Paul likely wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians. The so-called Second Letter to the Corinthians is composed of fragments of these letters.
In today’s reading, Paul described his own mystical experience of God as validation of his own spiritual authority. His experience was an ecstatic one (“whether in the body or out of the body I do not know” (v.3). Paul said the things he heard are “not to be told” – consistent with the notion that mystical revelations are to be kept secret.
In verse 7b, Paul then spoke of a “thorn” with which he was afflicted, the nature of which is not known. Rather than asserting the Hellenistic ideal of sufficiency to transcend hardships, Paul accepted the hardships as real and as coming from God who would also give grace that would be sufficient (v.9). His recapitulation of them (v.10) contrasted with the ecstatic experience described in verses 1-7a.
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
1 Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is generally dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
The notion that a prophet has no honor in his hometown was also a common theme in the Hebrew Bible – particularly with prophets such as Jeremiah and Amos.
In Mark, the lack of faith by others in Jesus meant he “could do no deed of power” (v.5). Matthew 13:58 says, “he did not do many deeds of power there.” In Luke 4, Jesus was rejected in Nazareth but there is no mention of his not performing deeds of power.
The commissioning of the twelve is generally seen as the appointment of symbolic heads of the renewed Israel while expanding Jesus’ mission of proclamation, exorcism, and healing.