B Absence of Boundaries

The point emerging above highlights a remarkable feature of the discipleship to which Jesus called. As with his initial call to 'the poor' (§13.4) and to 'sinners' (§13.5), so with the character of discipleship for which his own practice provided the template. Whereas others sought to protect Israel's special status before Yahweh by drawing tighter boundaries round the people of promise, Jesus sought to break down these boundaries and to create a fellowship which was essentially open rather than closed. His open table-fellowship, so much both constituting and characterizing the community which practised it, made the point more clearly than any other aspect of his mission. How far the point can be pressed is less clear. Presumably Jesus had meals alone with his disciples which were of a private nature and not obviously open,286 and presumably also the last supper (Mark 14.22-25 pars.) was not an isolated occasion.287 But otherwise the fact that the Synoptic Evangelists have made so little attempt to depict Jesus using shared meals as opportunities to give his disciples private instruction288 both indicates that the predominant memory in the Jesus tradition was of the openness of Jesus' table-fellowship and implies that even by the time of the Synoptic Evangelists there was no great wish to contradict that

286. Are such meals hinted at in Mark's references to Jesus and his disciples having no time to eat (3.20; 6.31)?

287. Note again, however, that the 'houses' into which Jesus was able to slip every so often were for private teaching (n. 234 above); no mention is made of eating together in such houses.

288. The tradition of Mark 14.3-9 is confused atjust this point. Other than the occasions listed above (n. 254) only the last supper (much elaborated in the Fourth Gospel) and Luke 24.36-49 could be so classified.

pression. Unlike both Pharisees and Qumranites, table-fellowship was not fenced around to mark off the insiders from the outsiders. There was no purity barrier to be surmounted before one could enjoy Jesus' company and listen to him.

This inference and its implications become all the stronger when we recall the even more 'thunderous silence' in the Gospels regarding any practice of baptism by Jesus. As we saw earlier (§ 11.3a), baptism was a practice initiated by John the Baptist. And in his hands it formed a preparatory gateway which by passing through one prepared for the baptism of the one to come. It formed a rite of passage, analogous in function, despite its once-only administration, to the purificatory baths necessary for membership of the Qumran community and prior to members' participation in the common meal. At the other end of Jesus' mission, at the very beginning of the post-Easter community, baptism reemerges — and again as an indispensable rite of passage for those committing themselves to the new community.289 But in between, we hear absolutely nothing about any baptismal rite being administered by Jesus. And even if Jesus, or at least his disciples, did maintain John's baptismal practice for the period of overlap with the Baptist's mission (§ 11.2b), the clear implication is that he or they ceased the practice when Jesus began his own distinctive Galilean mission (which is where the Synoptics pick up the story).

Some have recently argued that Jesus himself did baptize and in fact continued to baptize throughout his mission.290 But on this hypothesis, the complete silence of the Synoptic tradition regarding Jesus' continued baptismal practice is quite simply baffling. There are many episodes in which some reference could have been inserted — as in Jesus' reply to the rich young man (Mark 10.21 pars.). And one might well assume that those performing the tradition in the company of the baptized would have been happy to insert several such references in order to underline the continuity between their own practice and that of Jesus. In fact, the only reason given for the post-Easter groups' subsequent baptismal practice is that it was received as a command from the risen Lord, and that is how the authorisation of Christian baptism is remembered.291 Since the first Christians trace their practice to a post-Easter revelation and since the only hint that Jesus may have continued John's practice for a time (John 4.2) is quickly refuted, we have little choice but to conclude that Jesus himself did not baptize during the bulk of his mission, that is, the mission recorded by the Synoptic Evangelists.

289. Acts 2.38, 41; 8.12-13, 16, 36; etc. 1 Cor. 12.13; Heb. 6.2; 1 Pet. 3.21.

290. R. T. France, 'Jesus the Baptist?' in Green and Turner, eds., Jesus ofNazareth 94111 (here 105-107); Meier, Marginal Jew 2.126-29, 166-67; Taylor, Immerser 294-99.

Matt. otherwise the longer ending added to Mark See further vol. 2.

But if that is so, then the question Whv did Jesus not baptize? becomes of pressing relevance. Jesus' mission neatlv between two missions marked out bv the practice of baptism (the Baptist's and the post-Easter Jerusalem commu-nitv of his followers), with lines of influence and continuitv linking all three. But on this point Jesus' mission is distinct. Whv? In the light of our findings regarding Jesus' table-fellowship, one answer obviouslv commends itself. That Jesus did not baptize for the same reason that he did not fence his table-fellowship with puritv restrictions. Even baptism could form too much of a ritual barrier, excluding those not (vet) prepared to undergo it for whatever reason. No less than the Baptist, Jesus called for repentance But the repentance he looked for expressed itself not in terms of baptism, but in acts of loving concern (Mark 10.21 pars.) and restitution for wrong-doing (Luke 19.8).

The point need not and should not be pressed too much, to argue, for instance, that Jesus was The tradition of the last supper is sufficient counter on that issue (Mark 14.12-25 pars.). And if Jesus did indeed call for the highest lovaltv from his disciples (as implied above all bv Luke 14.26), then it can scarcelv be denied that such lovaltv has an exclusive side to it. Nevertheless a circle of discipleship which acknowledged its centre in Jesus could be said characteristicallv to look outward rather than inward. Anv dispute regarding questions of status and hierarchv was roundlv rebuked bv Jesus: the model of discipleship is preciselv not the stratified hierarchv of tvpical social organisations and national structures.292 Converse^, anv attempt to control access to Jesus293 or to withhold recognition from another 'because he was not one of us' (Mark 9.38-39/Luke 9.49-50) seems to have met with Jesus' equallv strong rebuke. Such a persistent note of a fellowship which is characteristicallv open and never simplv preoccupied with its own affairs is hard to escape and should be given more weight than has usuallv been the case in Christian questing for Jesus.

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