Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? (Mark 2:8)
This verse from the Gospel of St. Mark can be read on several different levels.
Eastern culture does not place a premium on privacy. In fact, just the opposite is true. Actions done or words uttered in private are looked upon as inherently suspect. In the mindset of these people, if one has to do something in secret, there must be something wrong with what one is doing. So whenever the Scriptures report that someone is "thinking to themselves," it always involves something bad. In this case, the scribes are betraying their envy of Jesus. He is gaining a following. People are listening to him. They are afraid that they will lose their own following to this itinerant wonder worker who has just burst upon the scene.
On a different note, it is also important that we recognize that opposition to Jesus started in the thoughts of the Jewish authorities. As the Gospel develops, we will notice that this opposition will escalate as Jesus' popularity grows. Next they will speak to the disciples of Jesus of their misgivings and opposition. Then they will speak directly to Jesus. Finally, they will collaborate with men with whom they would not ordinarily even communicate, let alone act in concert. Ugly thoughts develop into ugly actions.
Finally, let us note that Jesus knows the thoughts of these men. The Hebrew Scriptures make a point of saying that it is God who knows the "hearts" of men. Humans can only see and know people through their actions whereas God can judge the hearts and minds of the people. Clearly, St. Mark is already making a statement about who Jesus is, a crucial theme in this Gospel.
Rash judgment can develop into sinful actions. Guarding our thoughts and steering away from judgment is a discipline we all need to employ.