Moses has been on Mount Sinai receiving from God the two tablets of the covenant law: "the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18b NIV). His absence lasted so long that the Israelites became frustrated and impatient with Moses... and his God. Complaining to Aaron, they wanted a new god since they didn't get what they wanted from Moses -- the result a golden calf made by their own hands. What a substitute! They were so happy that they shouted and danced the night away so loudly that it reached the heaven of God and the cliffs of Moses' mountain.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.