THAT'S THE BOOK: MARK
My daughters are both taking piano lessons. One of the weekly assignments this year is to listen to a classical piece of music and then write down a personal response. The little one is supposed to write what it makes her feel. Tonight we decided to start with Beethoven's Fifth. Everyone has heard of Beethoven's Fifth but I wondered if they'd ever actually heard it. As the familiar opening Ba Ba Ba Boom played I watched my girls' faces. I listened with fresh ears. Its a very different thing to know of a work of art and to actually take the time to listen to it for yourself.
The book of Mark is the shortest of the four accounts of Jesus' life. Like Beethoven's Fifth, it is packed with action, movement, and big emotions. The book focuses on the power of Jesus and how his life overturned the status quo. As I read through Mark this last week I was thinking about how many people know of Jesus but have never read the book. In pop culture, Jesus is frequently portrayed as meek and mild. Or boring. This is not the Jesus found in Mark.
The beauty of the book of Mark is it calls readers to get to know the whole Jesus. Not just a flat substitute. As I read this week I tried to compare what I think about Jesus with what the story actually told. Here are the things I wrestled with. If you read Mark this week let me know what you think. Where were your preconceived thoughts of Jesus challenged?
If my faith doesn't include the teachings of Jesus which call us to care for the broken hearted, to rescue the lost, to welcome the stranger or to host a dinner party for the most difficult people in your neighborhood than I think I may be following only half of his legacy. A gospel without compassion makes a mockery of Jesus' teachings.
"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
On the flip side, Mark makes it clear Jesus cared about people's behavior and frequently called people to leave their former lifestyles behind them. So while current culture wants my faith to be ONLY about serving the broken while ignoring personal integrity or repentance from sins, I think that's missing half the story. If the church preaches a gospel without repentance it is editing the work of Jesus.
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23
Can I be honest? Sometimes I cringe when I hear mention of end times. It's confusing and can be embarrassing. But then I am disregarding a major sermon topic from Jesus. The entire chapter 13 of Mark is all Jesus' prophecies about the end of the world. And Jesus says the sermon is for everyone. When the church ignores sections of Jesus' teaching because its uncomfortable its like telling God we know better.
"What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13: 37
Honestly we all have our favorite verses and can spin the word to support our particular cause. Me too. Reading Mark is convicting. If I want to know the real Jesus I have to read the whole story and recognize that choosing to follow him may actually undermine my status quo. My power structure. My habits. My preferences. At one point in Mark he does enough miracles in an area that the people become scared and ask Jesus to leave. I understand. It can be scary to follow.
BUT. When people left behind their former lives to follow Jesus they were witness to the miraculous.
The real Jesus was incredible and powerful and joyful - he was a man of deep distress, of sorrow to the point of death, of compassion and courage, of miracles and wonder. Jesus was constantly on the move, teaching, preaching, and healing. He expressed a wide range of emotions including anger, compassion, sorrow, indignation and humor. He taught, healed, walked on water, called a storm with a word. He was tempted by the devil, attended to by angels. He was anointed by a prostitute, had dinner with sinners, gave orders, helped children, prayed, taught. cleared out the temple and rose from the dead. Not mild or boring.
Perhaps my favorite story in Mark is this one.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I love this. Cheer up. On your feet! He's calling you. If you follow, count on adventure.
When I asked my littlest one what Beethoven's Fifth made her feel she said 'What if it made me feel angry, sad and happy?" Well my love. I'd say that's how life works. Rarely are things experienced on one flat plane. It was gorgeous though, Same with Christianity. Scary, uncomfortable, challenging, exciting and beautiful. But I believe its true. The whole thing. Want a faith checkup? Read the book of Mark with fresh eyes.
Another gospel? Same story? Nope. The guys at the Bible Project show in this Read Scripture video why the book of Mark is important and distinct. Watch and learn.
You have no time? Want the big picture. Here you go - courtesy of New Spring Church.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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