Monday, January 23, 2012

Mark 16

     Mark 16 is Resurrection Sunday. It is simply told: the women went to the tomb to anoint the body when they got there the body was gone and there was a vision of an "angel" (young man dressed in a white robe). The story seems to end with them in amazement and terror and they went away afraid. Later Jesus appears to them and commands them to proclaim the message of eternal salvation. It is short, it is abrupt and it appears unfinished.
     This "unfinished" nature of ending of Mark may explain why later scribes have attached some longer endings and post resurrection stories. Most of the most ancient authorities don't include verses 9 through 20 in the original text of Mark. The stories and text that are in 9-20 seem to be duplicated in the other gospels and are likely authentic stories of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, what scholars question are the placement of those stories here. Given Mark's propensity for action it would not be surprising to have the Gospel end as abruptly as it began. It began with John the Baptist preaching, it ends in awe and wonder, an empty tomb and some great questions.
     These textual difficulties appear in the New Testament on occasion. This passage and the first part of John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) are the longer passages in question. We tend to hold them lightly and to rely on the other extended resurrection narratives for details on the story.
     What I am left with is an empty tomb and a big question: so what happened? What did the "young man dressed in white" mean "he is risen"? What happened later in Galilee? We know the story so apparently the women got over their awe and fear and began to tell others.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


In anticipation of our beginning Romans 1 on Tuesday, January 24. Here is my introduction the Epistle to the Romans from the Biblical and Theological Sampler I wrote for Nexus Seminary, Uganda:

The Epistle to the Romans is the only systematic presentation of Christian theology in the New Testament. Written by Paul as a letter of introduction to the Church in Rome around AD 57, Romans provides the most balanced statement of Paul’s theology in the New Testament. He wrote the letter in the hope that the church in Rome would support Paul’s mission to Spain. Paul had been taking a collection for the poor in Judea and intended to visit Rome and go on to Spain after he delivered the gift to the elders in Jerusalem. The book of Acts reveals that Paul was arrested in Jerusalem shortly after delivering the gift and when he arrived in Rome several years later, he arrived in chains and under house arrest awaiting trial before the Emperor.
Rome was the capital of an empire which stretched from Britain to Arabia. The Mediterranean Sea was essentially a Roman lake. The central theme of Romans is that faith in Christ is the only ground for humans being accepted by God. We are all alike, Jew or Gentile, we all stand condemned. But God offers free pardon and a new life through Jesus, who served our punishment for us.
Romans’ place in Christian history is incalculable. Augustine of Hippo (ca. 400), one of the great doctors of the early Church, was converted to faith in Jesus Christ while reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. Martin Luther (ca. 1500), an Augustinian monk, had his tower experience of conversation to faith in Christ while studying Paul’s letter to the Romans. John Wesley (ca. 1735), the founder of Methodism, felt his heart strangely warmed while listening to someone read from Luther’s preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans at a prayer meeting in London.
         Key Learning: Salvation is not earned by keeping the minute details of the Hebrew law; Salvation comes by faith (trust) in Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mark 15

     Good Friday in Mark's gospel. Jesus is taken to Pontus Pilate who is the Roman Governor. Judea has a Roman Governor because the puppet King (one of Herod the Great's sons) had to be removed because of his brutality and because he could not keep the peace. I've often imagined how bad the king had to be for Pilate to be considered an upgrade.
     Verse 16 is describing an ancient roman military game called the "King's game" there are drawings and documents that suggest that the soldiers amused themselves by mocking political prisoners in this way. Remember, because Jesus claimed kingship (even if his kingdom is not of this world) under Roman law he has set himself up as a rival to the emperor. Jesus was sent to Pilate by the Sanhedrin for religious reasons. He was crucified for political reasons. The charge "King of the Jews" in Roman understanding means "treason".
     Verse 21 -- notice Simon of Cyrene "the father of Alexander and Rufus" seems an odd detail. Reasonable conjecture would be that Alexander and Rufus are known members and leaders in the Christian community that John Mark (the author) is a part of. They are included here to remind the listen (reader) that the facts of Simon's carrying Jesus' cross can be verified by asking Simon's sons.
     Verse 34 -- eloi eloi lema sabach'thani? My God my God why have you forsaken me? This statement by Jesus has led to an unusual amount of commentary. How has God forsaken him? Does he feel cut off from his Father for the first time in his life? Why does he feel this? Now at the end of the story, when the work is soon to be accomplished, does Jesus feel alone? My current favorite thought is this: in the ancient world the Psalms were not numbered as they are in your bibles. The psalms were remembered by the first line of the Psalm. They would not say, for example, "Psalm 23" but Psalm beginning "the Lord is my shepherd". To quote the first line was to invoke the rest of the psalm. I mention this because "My God, My God why have you forsaken me" is opening line of Psalm 22 -- you might want to check out the rest of the Psalm.
     Note that at the foot of the cross is Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus and "Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome." -- that would be Mary, the mother of Jesus.
   Monday, Resurrection day as per Mark.
   I will also be posting over the weekend my introduction to the Epistle to the Romans.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mark 14

     Holy Week Wednesday and Thursday are the focus on Mark 14. The anointing at Bethany and Judas' deal making are the focus of Wednesday. Wednesday of Holy Week is sometimes called "Spy" Wednesday because of Judas' "looking out for an opportunity to betray him". We move from there to Jesus Last Supper (Passover) with the disciples. There is one oddity in the story. Notice that Jesus has set up the dinner preparations and location ahead of time: they are waiting and expecting and room has been prepared. The oddity is that they are told to follow a man carrying a jar of water. In the first century a key household responsibility was bringing water from the village well or cistern to the home. This was women's work. The women would gather early morning and/or evening with their stone jars, draw and carry water for household use. The only reason for man to be carrying a jar of water is that he is in a household that does not have women. We know from the Dead Sea scrolls that the Essene community lived gender segregated lives and that they had some urban houses. Could the location of the last supper be one of the Essene community houses in the city of Jerusalem?
     I am going to talk about Peter's denial in my sermon on Sunday (both the prediction and the event).
     Jesus goes to Gethsemane (word means "place of the olive press"). Gethsemane was at the foot of the mount of olives (so called because of the abundance of olive trees that grow there). This garden was a quiet place that was less than a half a mile from the gates of Jerusalem. Here Jesus prays for strength to face his coming ordeal. He is taken to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish council) where he is challenged and eventually convicted. He is held for the night before being taken to the Roman governor. He has to go to the governor because the council has pronounced the death penalty which the council has no authority to enforce. Under Roman occupation only the Romans were allowed to legally put someone to death. Jesus goes to Pilate and to the Cross in tomorrow's reading.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mark 13

     This section is often called the "little apocalypse" in Mark. It is written in a different style than the rest of the gospel and utilizes much more symbolic language (dark suns, powers shaken, etc) than the rest. The difficulty for most modern readers is that the chapter is really about two different things and we often merge them or misunderstand them. The two issues are:
     1. Jesus is predicting the impending destruction of the temple. History records a Jewish revolt  that began in the late AD 60's (66-67). This revolt "liberated" Jerusalem and two other fortresses moving south and east from Jerusalem (the Herodian and Masada). In response to this circumstance, Imperial Rome sent General Titus and the Roman army who laid siege to Jerusalem, eventually captured the city and completely destroyed it. Titus reports to his superiors that he burned the buildings, broke down the walls, cut down the trees, salted the fields and "did not leave one stone standing upon another". By the way, the famous Western or "Wailing" wall in Jerusalem is the foundational retaining wall of the temple mount. When Jesus speaks of the Persecution, being on trial, etc. he is speaking of the days leading up to this destruction. The temple was destroyed in AD 70 and has never been rebuilt. The current Muslim holy site (The Dome of the Rock) currently occupies much of the region where the Temple originally stood. It is worth noting that Jesus words are spoken 40 years before the event and the writing of Mark's gospel was, at best guess, 15 years before Jerusalem's destruction.
     2. The second piece begins at v 24 and is speaking of the second coming of Jesus. The critical understandings in this section are that A) Jesus is coming back; and B) no one knows when (see verse 32). When people attempt to stir others up with predictions of Jesus return or other doom and gloom end of the world predictions -- Biblically they will never work. Cannot know when Jesus is coming back all we can truthfully know is that he IS coming back and that we should keep awake and a watchful eye.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mark 12

     Mark writes in this chapter about the increasing conflict between Jesus and the various religious authorities. First the Pharisees and the Herodians (Pharisees were the ultra orthodox religious folks -- the Herodians were a political party working in collaboration with the Roman government) who ask a question that is part theological and part political. Is it lawful to pay taxes. If God is the sovereign ruler of the Israel then supporting any foreign government would be a form of idolatry. The political question is trickier: When one rose to power in the ancient world the first act was to mint coins with one's name and image on it. This displayed ownership of the currency of the realm. The coins, in fact, belonged to the ruler and were used by everyone to trade and buy and sell. Is it lawful to pay taxes? Since the image and likeness of Caesar is on the coin it belongs to him -- return it to him. the bigger question is: What is the image and likeness that should be returned to God? (see Genesis 1:26)
     Next up are the Sadducees. Dr. Jerry Horner, New Testament professor at college, used to tell us: they do not believe in the resurrection that is why they are "sad - u - see" (makes it easy to remember them). The question of the seven brothers for one bride, though rooted in the Old Testament law, is ridiculous and Jesus treats it as such. Notice his description of our post resurrection selves.
     The question about the great commandment -- there were hundreds of commandments in the Old Testament and thousands more that made up the "oral Torah". If 100 Rabbis of Jesus time were asked this question nearly all of them would have given the same answer Jesus did. From the Old Testament, the heart of the matter is the unity of God and our call to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Rick Warren once wrote that a great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20) leads to a great church. A church that is committed to loving God and our neighbor and going out to make disciples for Jesus will make a huge impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ in this world!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mark 11

     The Palm Sunday, Triumphal entry into Jerusalem is staged. There is a provocative intentionality to Jesus actions that is often over looked. I believe he prearranged for the the colt to be tied where it was. I believe he chose the donkey to convey a very specific meaning: a king rode a horse to conquer by force but a king rode a donkey when he came in peace. The donkey is chosen to convey his intentions -- not a political revolution but a much more dangerous kind -- a revolution of heart and soul!
     He cleans out the money changers, the sellers of doves and "those carrying things" through the temple. The golden gate from the Kidron valley into the City of Jerusalem opened onto the temple mount. It was a short cut for merchants to come in through the Golden Gate on their way up to the city. However, this route took the merchants through the "court of the Gentiles" the outer court of the temple. The money changers are changing money from Roman and other currencies to the temple shekel (at a profit). The sacrificial code allowed that if a person could not afford the animal sacrifice they could substitute a pigeon or young dove: the sellers of the doves are taking advantage of the poorest who are coming to worship. Animals and merchants are occupying all of that court of the Gentiles space made it nearly impossible for people to have peace and to be able to focus their prayers. Imagine being in Church on Sunday and having the back of the church filled with people clinking coins, the parlor filled with the cries of animals and the sounds of birds and, through and above it all, men shouting to their beasts of burden as the beasts carried merchandise through the middle of it all. I'm thinking it would be really really hard to concentrate, to listen and to pray. "My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL the nations. But you have made it a den of robbers!" (Mark 11:17) The chief priests are looking to kill him because he is now directly impacting their livelihood -- the money changers are taking a profit, the sellers are taking a profit . . . and the priests (the Sadducee party) are skimming their share and renting the tables and booths.
     Making money off of religion is nothing new. We often decry the outrageous lifestyles of television preachers and evangelists and the enormous wealth of certain denominations . . . it is nothing new. All we can do is keep ourselves clear of the love of money and NEVER ever sell what God has given for free. This is not to say the priests were not entitled to their livelihood (Biblically this is provided for). It is not having the priests and Levites taken care of -- but the amassed wealth and using the place of worship to increase that wealth that is so troublesome. This makes Jesus angry and he responds appropriately.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mark 10

     The teaching on divorce and adultery that begins today's reading has to be balanced with the rest of the New Testament. In other passages related to this Jesus permits divorce in the case of adultery or abandonment -- when doing Bible study the individual verse and story have to be seen in the broadest context of the whole chapter, the whole book (in this case Mark) the whole New Testament and ultimately the whole Bible. Jesus teaching here is actually very conservative for his time. Rabbis had defined the divorce clause in the law of Moses to include pretty much anything. Divorce was easy and apparently commonplace. Because women could not hold property in 1st century Palestine, divorce would leave them homeless and destitute. By tightening the easiness of divorce (and since women could not divorce at that time only the men could) Jesus is helping protect women. I am disturbed with this same passage is used to keep women from divorcing when it is legitimate.
     The Rich Man (sometimes called the Rich Young Ruler) is a perfect story for modern readers. In Jesus time it was generally believed that wealth and material prosperity was a sign of God's favor -- this is why the disciples are astonished at Jesus in verse 24 -- if the rich, who clearly have God's favor, cannot make the Kingdom of God what hope is there for the rest of us. This prosperity attitude is nicely exemplified in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. When Tevyeh sings "If I were a Rich Man" the third verse speaks of having the leisure to read the Torah and to study and to pray and to discuss questions that would "cross a Rabbi's eyes". There are passages in the Bible that seem to indicated that faithful living leads to material prosperity. However, like the divorce passage, these have to be balanced with the other passages that suggest that God's favor is experienced in a wide variety of ways and Not necessarily material prosperity. My favorite example is Hebrews 11 -- the first part of the chapter are all the happy stories of people being blessed by faith -- dead raised, Noah's faithfulness, mouths of lions are shut, etc. People who did great things by Faith. Then verse 35 of Hebrews 11 suddenly shifts -- others were tortured, refusing to accept release . . . and we read of all the FAITHFUL people who suffered and/or died for their faithfulness. God wishes us well but this life is not the be all and end all of our journey -- we move from glory to glory. If I am "prosperous" in this life then I need to be a good and faithful steward and if not I still need to be a good and faithful steward of what I have.
     I am looking at the request of James and John (10:35ff) as part of this Sunday's sermon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mark 9

Mountains to Valleys
     Jesus, Peter, James and John have a "transfiguring" experience on the mountain. It is one of those great, amazing, awesome, spiritual encounters with God that many people have. Peter, overwhelmed by the experience seeks to erect permanent monuments for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Whenever we want to turn a spiritual high into an idol of experience . . . there is God reminding us to get our eyes back on Jesus and his word ("listen to him!") rather than emotion and power of the experience. Mountain tops remind us of the awe and personal nature of God but they are not places to linger, nor are they places to return to. Each mountaintop experience helps move us from where we were to a new place and a deeper understanding of the nature and love of God. However, the point of the mountain top experience is to help us be transformed for the work that follows in the valley.
    Afterwards, in the valley, we learn that the disciples have some growing up to do. They cannot bring help to a boy and his father. Jesus reminds them that "this kind can come out only through prayer" (Mk 9:29). In the context of the story, Jesus is telling his followers that the spiritual life is not a static experience. The spiritual life is a dynamic experience. The challenge is to discover where we are and to keep growing. Only after a lifetime of prayer -- that is a deepening, transforming, universe altering relationship with God will we be able to do all that God has called us to do. Prayer is not about asking God to do what we want. Prayer is communing with our Lord so that God can do what God wants through us. Prayer is becoming available to the power and presence of God -- not just for our sake but for the sake of the will, purpose and reign of God.
     33-37 is part of this Sunday's message at Christ Church. Greatest, least, servant hood and leadership.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mark 8

Hi Everyone -- a little late today . . .

In chapter 8:27 ff there is Peter's declaration about Jesus. Jesus asks the question: "who do people say that I am" and the non followers have a wide range of opinions saying he is John the Baptist, he is a prophet, he is Elijah, etc. That situation has not changed in 2000 years. Ask people who do not know Jesus and you will get a wide range of opinions -- he is a legend, he is a lunatic, he is a good moral teacher, he is a fine example for us to follow, he is (find your own favorite and insert it here). It is not possible to know who Jesus is outside of an actual relationship with him.
  Jesus then turns the question to his followers: and you, who do you say that I am? Peter, answering for the entourage responds: "You are the Messiah". Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning the anointed one. That same word in Greek is Christos (we would say Christ). When we walk with Jesus and when we learn from him and when we come to know him in profound and personal ways . . . there is never any doubt that he is who he says he is.
Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mark 7

Chapter 7 begins with the continuing conflict between Jesus and the "religious" folks. The whole hand washing, bowl washing discussion has nothing to do with sanitation -- first century people did not know about germs. This has everything to do with ritual cleansing. This ritual cleansing evolved over the years to the place where the tradition of doing it became of prime importance. This is another example of the Rabbis building a "hedge around the Torah". These traditions evolved to protect people from actually getting close to breaking the law. If the law said "no work on the Sabbath" the "hedge" defined exactly what work was. And so forth. This is legalism at its worse -- many many Christian groups fall into the same trap. When the traditions and the external actions become more important than the actual relationship with God and other people we have fallen into legalism. Note in this passage that Jesus clearly says you are not made sinful or unclean by what you eat "it is not what goes into you that defiles you". What is sinful or unclean is what comes out of our own brokenness -- from our broken selves comes murders, greed, pride, slander, adultery, etc. Change the inside and the outside changes. Focus only on the outside and, in the words of Jesus, we simply become "white washed sepulchers (tombs). Early Christians understood this to mean that the Old Testament dietary laws are no longer valid -- this understanding was reinforced by Peter's vision in Acts 10.
     We learn in the story of the Syrophoenician woman that Jesus came, initially, for the lost house of Israel. But he extends here and in several other situations the new found grace to those outside the family. The "dogs" conversation seems harsh in the English -- the word for dog that both Jesus and the woman uses in this story is in the diminutive form and could be translated "puppy". The exchange is more playful than exclusionary.
    There is a ministry to the deaf in Syracuse that calls itself "Ephphatha (be opened)" based on Mark 7:34. Ephphatha, (be opened) Talitha cum (little girl arise) (5:41) Eloi Eloi lema sabach thani (my God my God why have you forsake me -- a quotation from Psalm 22) (15:34) and Marana tha (Lord Come) are words that the Greek New Testament preserves in the original Aramaic. Aramaic would have been the dialect of the common people in Palestine of Jesus time. Hebrew was the language of worship and faith, Greek the language of commerce and education, Latin the language of the conquerors -- people had to know a little of several languages to navigate the world in which they lived. Why were they preserved in the Aramaic? The early church may have seen them as "words of power" or may have kept them because they were difficult to translate or they may have been preserved for other reasons (find 5 biblical scholars and get 7 opinions on the subject). (grin)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mark 6

Jesus' ministry begins to expand. After his rejection at Nazareth, Jesus commissions the 12 Apostles to "prepare the way for him" by teaching and preaching and healing the sick.
      The death of John the Baptist sends Jesus and the inner circle on retreat to a deserted place. John was Jesus kinsman. John had been preaching against the King because King Herod had taken his brother Herod Phillip's wife away from him. Under Hebrew law (and Herod was Jewish) it was forbidden to marry your brother's wife if your brother was still alive -- no divorce could change the provision in the law. John, being the firebrand preacher that he was, had been challenging Herod on this point. In order to silence him, Herod had John thrown in prison but respected him enough as a prophet to not have him killed, at least until the story reported in 6:14. Ministry is prophetic and those in power who claim to be people of faith have to be called to accountability and injustice must be opposed in all circumstances -- regardless of consequences.
    The story of the feeding of the 5000 is unique in the Gospels because it is the only miracle of Jesus that appears in all four of the Gospels. Like any true "eyewitness" account of an event, when the four stories are compared they tell the same essential story but differ in the details. They differ in where the bread and fish come from, who initiates the conversation and details on the location. I was once told by my Uncle Jerry, who was in law enforcement in Michigan, when the police get the exact same story from several people they assume that these people collaborated on the story before hand (and are probably not telling the truth). It is the hallmark of eye witness accounts that they will differ in the details.
     Notice in 6:53, when Jesus returns to Gennesaret (see 5:1ff where we had the whole incident with Legion and the pigs rushing down the hillside), the people have been looking for Jesus and when he comes they immediately bring their sick and infirm to him. How often does that happen? Once we realize what a difference Jesus has made . . . we want more.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mark 5

"Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the LORD has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you. And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him;" (Mark 5:19) Isn't that the very essence of evangelism? There are some who are called to be "Apologists" for the Christian faith. Their role is to provide convincing proofs for unbelievers. Most of us are not called to this more argumentative approach to sharing our faith. Most of us are simply called to tell our story. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says we are to be his witnesses. A witness simply tells what he/she has seen or heard. Too many Christians have ceased to be witnesses and have become prosecuting attorneys. What is your story? What has the LORD done for you?
     All Jewish men in Jesus time wore a prayer shawl. The shawl was square with tassels on each corner. These tassels generally hung below one's cloak or outer garment. It was widely believed, and taught by many Rabbi's of and before Jesus time, that when the Messiah (Christ) comes his tassels (sometimes call the "fringe") would hold healing powers -- it would be a sign or a marker that the individual was in fact the promised Messiah. The woman with the Hemorrhages must have believed something like this. In Matthew's 9:21 -- she is touching this fringe as well as in Luke 8:44.
      I am praying that you are all enjoying our first week of reading the New Testament together. We resume with Chapter 6 on Monday January 9 and will read chapters 6-10 of Mark next week. Thank you for making comments and we have had some fun conversations before and after classes and meetings this week. BJ

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mark 4

Parables are extended metaphors -- a story to help us see kingdom values in a new way. Someone once suggested that one should view a parable like a painting. Step back and get the whole picture before beginning to examine the details, brush strokes, etc. In Jesus parables we need to see the big picture -- the key central point or motif before we examine the details. That's what makes the parable of the sower so interesting -- the big picture is that not all who hear and respond to the good new of the Kingdom of God will become fruitful. Some will be dragged down by the cares of this world others from lack of depth and still others because they missed the path. On a macro scale we can all remember people who began this journey only to give up at the first sign of sacrifice or difficulty. On a micro scale I can see myself in each and every one of these examples. There have been times when I have refused to allow the word to be born in me. There have been times when I have lived in profoundly shallow ways and got scorched by the noon day heat. There have been times when I have been so preoccupied with the cares and worries that life brings that God's word has been choked out of me. Fortunately, there are also all the times when I have been fruitful.
     Don't hide your light and remember that small beginnings can produce great results.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mark 3

Jesus has the hardest time with "religious" people. Religion is about being obedient or performing certain rituals or avoiding certain behaviors so as to make myself acceptable to God. The Pharisees had developed such a "hard line" definition of the Sabbath that they even forbade doing good things (such as healing the distressed man in the story) on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are so upset when Jesus heals the man on the Sabbath they collaborate with the Herodians (verse 6) on how to kill Jesus. A common enemy (in this case Jesus) makes for strange bedfellows. The Pharisees were the hyper religious types, the Herodians were political and collaborators with the occupying Roman government.
Notice, also, the opposition from the religious authorities (the scribes) -- 1st century Bible scholars -- and from his own family. Jesus mother and brothers are distressed about his activities and reputation. The brothers mentioned, the younger children of Mary and Joseph, are listed by name in Matthew 13:55. The oldest of whom is known to the early church as James the Just is also the likely author of the epistle of James and presides at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. Jude (or Judas) is the likely author of the epistle of Jude. It is worth noting that although Jesus mother and brothers do not understand his mission and purpose at this early point of his ministry by resurrection day they are part of the early Christian movement. Jesus mother is at the foot of the cross and is in the upper room on Pentecost and James is visited by the Risen Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
Followers of Jesus are not worried about what they have to do to earn God's favor, followers of Jesus know that God, through Jesus, has already made us acceptable. We strive to live into that grace filled, grace driven, grace provided relationship.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mark 2

I love the story of the healing of the paralytic in Capernaum (2:1-12). What I like most are the unnamed four friends carrying the mat with their friend on it, digging a hole through the roof and lowing their friend down through the hole in the roof into the presence of Jesus. On the spiritual journey we all need friends who will go well above and beyond the normal call of duty to help us into the presence of Jesus. These friends, carried their friend, they did physical damage to someone's home (dug a hole in the roof) all for the hope that Jesus could help their friend. The Christian life is impossible to live out alone, we need each other, we need close companions and we need fellow spiritual travelers who will go beyond the normal protocol to help us along the journey. The question of the day . . . who is holding your rope? Equally important: whose rope are you holding?

Mark 1

The thing that strikes me about chapter one is its urgency. Mark has no time for babies or shepherd or magi, he begins with "the beginning of the Good News!" and goes right to John the Baptist. In the RSV the word Immediately shows up 8 times in chapter 1. Things happen quickly, John is preaching, Jesus is baptized, the disciples are called a man is healed, an on it goes. The sheer action of the chapter jumps out at me.