Holiness and Agony….the real High Priest

11 03 2011

DAY SIXTY-NINE : Leviticus 21 v. 1 – 22 v. 33; Mark 15 v. 1 – 32; Psalm 31 v. 19 – 24


LEVITICUS
Rules for Priests – Aaron and sons were given the clear instruction not to defile themselves by
~ attending to the dead body of anyone other than immediate family
~ cutting their bodies or shaving off their hair / beards
~ marrying former prostitutes or divorcees (fatal punishment for a high priest’s daughter who prostitutes herself!)
Higher expectations for the High Priest – not to attend to any dead body (even immediate relatives); to keep hair and clothes tidy; must marry a virgin from his own people.
If any of Aaron’s offspring in future generations is disabled in any way (blind, lame, hunchbacked, with any eye defect, blotches or sores, or damaged testicles – now, that would’ve been a very intrusive candidating medical inspection!!), they are not to undertake the priestly duties.

again, the language of desecrating the sanctuary by allowing a disabled person to approach the altar, is so alien to what we know of God in the ‘new covenant’ through Jesus who sought out the disabled, touched the untouchable, accepted the ‘unclean’  and inferred that everyone is welcome; once again, though, I hear the desire for this new community to marked by a purity and holiness, and that the priests and the High Priest have higher levels of holy expectation placed upon them

The priests are to respect the sacred offerings (to defile offerings would lead to being cut off from the God’s presence); if they are unwell, they are not to attend to the sacrifices (good protection against spreading disease); the holy offerings may not be eaten by anyone other than a priestly family (no guests or worker, although a slave owned by a priestly family was viewed as part of the household and therefore included); restitution to be paid if someone mistakenly eats holy food.
 
 
Unacceptable Sacrifices – defective animals are unacceptable to be sacrificed (only the very best – unblemished – for God);

Time and again, in these passages in Leviticus, God reminds His people that He is holy, and that He is making them to be a holy people; holiness is not an option, it is a necessity in this new community, new nation God is moulding. 

MARK
Jesus before Pilate – so, it’s very early in the morning that Pilate (the Roman governor of Judea, most concerned to ‘keep the peace’, and clearly here more concerned with his popularity, fearing uprising, than doing the right thing) is disturbed to make his judgement and send Jesus to be crucified; Jesus responds to Pilate’s direct question by affirming that He is ‘the king of the Jews’, but Jesus doesn’t respond to the charges of the chief priests; Pilate offers his usual gift of the release of a prisoner at festival time, so presents them with the choice of freeing Jesus or Barabbas (again, Barabbas means ‘son of the father’…..interesting….the choice is between a father’s son and The Father’s Son).
It is the chief priests who stir up the crowd to call for Barabbas’ release, and to call for Jesus to be crucified.
Jesus is flogged and led off to be crucified.
The ill-treatment and flogging add to the agony…

The chief priests, who we are reminded through the Leviticus reading today, have a high calling to holiness, do not want to appear to have ‘blood on their hands’ in this process (want to remain ‘clean’), yet they are very bloodied by their actions throughout (truly ‘unclean’).



The Soldiers Mock Jesus – the purple robe, the crown of thorns, mocked, punched and hit, spat upon – it just reads as ‘party-time’ for the soldiers who treat Jesus like a play-thing; they don’t realise the King of Kings stands before them, the creator of the universe is being crushed beneath their blows.
They laugh as they bow down and pretend to honour this figure of ridicule, yet it is actually the One who all creation worships, before whom all people will bow, whose very presence they cannot perceive.  
The irony is agonising…

The Crucifixion – Simon of Cyrene is forced to help carry the cross to Golgotha (The Skull).
Jesus is nailed to the cross.
The soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ remaining possessions.
By 9.00a.m. Jesus is hanging on the cross.
Jesus hears only insults from the bandits either side of Him, from the passers-by, from the chief priests…..
Jesus is totally alone, abandoned, a crushed and beaten figure…..
The agony is unbearable….

PSALM
In the shelter of Your presence You hide them (those who fear You),
from the intrigues of men;

In Your dwelling You keep them safe from accusing tongues.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

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