Note: I have the fortune of pastoring a congregation of mature young men. Men who love the Scriptures and who are deeply committed to making its beauty known. In this paper–presented at Trinitas Christian School–Mr. Kanaan Trotter provides a creational parallel between the original creation account and the Passion Week of our Lord.
The Creation week is a process that will define the being of things, set matter in its place, and determine its relation to all else in Creation. But Genesis 1 is not the only week concerned with defining Creation. The Passion Week within Mark’s gospel is the act of Jesus’ deconstruction of boundaries and the supposed ends of things and reconstructing their definitions of being. It is, as we will see, a second Creation week. But before we begin comparing these two Creation weeks we should lay out a small amount of background.
The Creation in Genesis is the process of defining the being of beings, but what about the gospel of Mark? In his gospel, Mark is intent on showing how Christ’s ministry is one which destroys barriers between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus reproves the temple leaders for their inability to see the Law as a tool to mature them, not a brick wall to hold them like prisoners. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). Jesus, in the gospel of Mark, deconstructs the legalistic world of the Jews and, as we will see in his death and resurrection, expands and refocuses the people of God on a mature and beautiful understanding of God and His law. Christ does not contradict the law of God, but fulfills it and demonstrates to his people how to live by it. With that in mind, I would like to parallel these two Creation poem stories.
Creation begins with darkness over “the face of the deep.” Then the Spirit of God descends and hovers over that deep and what follows is the first act of Creation. God calls forth Light and separates that light from Darkness, separating Day and Night. In Mark, the Passion Week begins with Jesus’ healing of a blind man, Bartimaeus, outside Jerusalem (Mark 10:46-52). Then in chapter 11 Jesus enters Jerusalem. This is the triumphal entry, where Jesus is hailed “Hosanna” and brought to the temple portrayed as the one who will rescue the Jews. Jesus enters the temple, and what happens next is the act of deconstruction: “So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve,” (Mark 11: 11). Jerusalem is the center of the world for the Jewish mind. It is an image of the entire earth. And at the center of Jerusalem is the Temple, the pathway to God, the pinnacle of the pinnacle. But Jesus, who carries with Him the Spirit of God, the dove descended, enters this pinnacle of Creation, and then leaves. The Light and Word of God departs from the Temple and instead darkness is found, as the hour is late. This is Christ’s act of deconstruction, and yet there is a promise given. Day 1 of Creation is concerned with the separation between Light and Darkness, and while Christ takes away the Light of God from one place, he brings it to another. The healing of Bartimaeus is that promise. Christ brings Light to those outside Jerusalem, showing the beginning of the movement we will see in the rest of Passion Week, away from the private and toward the open. So ends Day 1.
Day 2 of Creation week in Genesis is God separating waters below from waters above and creating a space in between, called Heaven. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus appears to spend much of this day in destruction. On the journey to Jerusalem Jesus curses the fig tree and then enters Jerusalem and drives out those in the temple, literally and symbolically shutting it down. In light of Genesis, we can see Jesus destroying the separation between what is above and what is below, creating chaos instead of order. But lest Jesus appear to be a raving lunatic, I would like to show why Christ is acting this way. When Jesus quotes the Old Testament and says, “Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer?’, but you have made it a ‘den of thieves,’” he quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.
First, Jeremiah is the passage of condemnation. It speaks of Israel’s betrayal of God, how they worship other gods and blaspheme God with their presence before Him. This passage also speaks of the place Shiloh, God saying, “…see what I have done to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.” Shiloh is the place in I Samuel where the Israelites bring out the ark of the covenant to battle with them and, because of their actions, the presence of God, the ark, is given over to the heathen nations. This informs us in the situation of Jesus’ destruction of the temple. He specifically turns over the tables of the moneychangers and the sellers of doves. We know doves to be the symbol of God’s Spirit. So it is not hard to Jesus’ wrath being aroused against those who blaspheme God in selling His Spirit, an allusion to the entire corruption of the temple system. The result of such blasphemy is a departure of the presence of God from Israel, from Jerusalem, from the temple and out into the nations, the very act Jesus is in the process of doing. But there is also a promise for this day. Jesus also quotes Isaiah 56 which speaks of bringing the foreigner into the presence of God and then bringing God’s rebellious children back into His presence alongside the foreigner. This can easily be applied to Jesus’ actions. He is moving the presence of God out to the nations, but that does not mean the death of God’s people. There is, for them, a promise of reconciliation and redemption. And so ends Day 2.
Day 3 of Creation Week in Genesis is a day of two parts. First we have the separation of Water and Land, the dry land brought forth from the waters. Then the earth brings forth fruit trees and herbs that bear fruit. In Mark’s gospel we see the deconstruction of this in reverse order of its creation. First Peter sees the withered fig tree and then Jesus speaks of casting mountains into the sea, returning dry land into the chaos of the deep waters. We should note that the fig tree and the mountain are, within the Jewish mind, obvious references to the temple. Thus Jesus continues to talk about the destruction of the Temple and the weight of such an action. And the parallel continues. Beginning in 12:1 Jesus speaks the parable of the wicked vinedressers. The story itself makes perfect sense with the day of Creation it is beside; it is only natural that Christ tells a story about “the fruit tree that yields fruit.” And, in the context of this story, Jesus is clearly addressing the chief priests and scribes who are questioning him. What we see is a continuation of the reversal of roles. Jesus is calling out the dreadful sin of the temple leaders in resisting the messengers and the Son of the vineyard owner, Yahweh God. And yet in this reversal of roles, we see the promise. The vineyard does not go uncared for. Those outside the vineyard will come in and care for it. The Gentile nation will become the children, the vinedressers of the Kingdom.
At the conclusion of Day 3, I must draw your attention to something. Creation in Genesis can be divided into two groups: Days 1-3 where space is created, and then days 4-6 where that space is filled1, thus drawing parallels between the days. In the same way, we will see parts of Mark where one day of the Passion Week will mirror a previous day. This separation is marked by emptiness. Mark does not relate any events on Day 4 of the Passion Week. It is the line drawn between days. The themes of Creation’s day 4 then appear in the first half of day 5 of the Passion Week.
In Genesis on Day 4 God creates the celestial bodies, filling the Day and Night of Day 1. Likewise in Mark we see Christ deconstructing these kinds of things while paralleling Day 1 of the Passion Week. In Mark 14 we see Christ being anointed for burial by the woman with the alabaster flask, and what follows is a second triumphal entry. Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him into Jerusalem to find a place for him, just as he sent them ahead of him in the triumphal entry. But this time, when Christ enters, he does not come to the Temple, but to the table, the Last Supper, and begins speaking of his own death. The deconstruction we see is the beginning of the end of the Light of God. Christ, the great celestial body, is being anointed for burial and is talking about his own blood being poured out and his body broken. But within this deconstruction is the promise. Jesus says in 14:25, “Assuredly I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” In this we see Christ’s subtle foreshadowing of the resurrection, promising that he will be in the Kingdom of the Living God and centering his people around a new temple, the feast-table. As the Last Supper ends, so does the parallel of Day 4.
Once Jesus and the disciples go out from this feast table, we see parallels to the fifth day of Creation. In Genesis, God creates “living things”, but not upon the earth. Rather, creatures are placed above the earth, birds, and below the earth, sea creatures. In Mark we see these themes deconstructed, specifically in Peter’s denial of Christ in Mark 14:66-72. Peter follows Christ at a distance and literally stands below the court where Jesus is. But Peter is also going beneath Christ thematically in his betrayal. Peter’s denial of Christ is the undercutting of the very temple Christ has just instituted. This new temple, this new earth is, as we saw at the Last Supper, the body of Jesus. And this deconstruction of betrayal is signified by a bird, the rooster. Yet we see Christ’s promises in his identification of himself before the high priest. He says in Mark 14:62, “…you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the glory of heaven.” Christ has done what Peter could not, affirm himself, and has consequently promised truth and righteousness, even when his own disciples betray him.
Day 6 is perhaps the most obvious paralleled passage. In Genesis, God brings forth man and is told to fill the earth and shepherd it (Gen 1:28). In parallel Day 6 in the Passion Week is the undoing of Man. The new Adam is destroyed. God breathes life into man (Gen 2:7) while Christ breathes his last in Mark 15:37. The final promise before the resurrection is found in Christ’s quotation of Psalm 22 in his Cry of Dereliction (Mark 15:34). Psalm 22 is a psalm of movement. It does not end with God forsaking the psalmist, but rather it is declared of God, “You have answered me,” (Ps 22:21). Christ promises movement in this cry, and an answer from God.
That answer is resurrection. And in light of Creation, Christ perfectly fulfills the dominion mandate in his resurrection. Christ fills the earth in a very literal sense. Entering the tomb, by way of death, Christ fills the earth, and through his resurrection becomes its shepherd. And we see proof of that fulfillment in what happens after his resurrection. The first person Jesus appears to in Mark’s gospel is “Mary Magdalene, out of whom he cast 7 demons,” (Mark 16:9). Mary Magdalene is an image of the very Creation Christ has remade. She is the woman, the Creation whom Christ has cleansed of the demons of the corrupted understanding of God and His Law.
But what does this have to do with us, here in this room. How does this view of Christ and Creation change the way we live?
Christ’s call to his people is to follow him, to be like him. If that is our pursuit, then this can change how we view our lives, our interactions with one another. We, as imitators of Christ, are called to participate in this act of Creation, of movement. Look around you, realize that you participate in a Creation act. You are moved and changed, deconstructed and rebuilt by the people around you. So involve yourself in this process. Pour yourself into the people around you, sacrifice for them, and watch as the beauty of a new Creation radiates from them. And know Christ’s promise to you: That your own recreation, your movement towards glory, your redemption is found in their reconstruction and redemption as a new Creation.
1Jordan, James B. “The Sequence of Events in the Creation Week.” Biblical Chronology. Oct. 1997. Web. 1 Mar. 2011. <http://reformed-theology.org/ice/newslet/bc/bc.97.10.htm