Monday, June 8, 2015
Mitch Reads... Mark 1
The Bible is boring. It's dry, humorless, and rather disjointed.
Plus, if it's the perfect, inerrant, literal word of God, then I can't question it. I can't pick it apart and explore it. I can't do anything with that.
Thank God I learned how to doubt (Isn't that a magnificent statement?).
So, in this little project, I set out to read the Gospel of Mark. I didn't approach it as a collection of pithy Bible verses I can pull out to comfort me in times of trouble. I approached it as narrative whole written by a singular (more or less) author. Instead of mindlessly agreeing with everything I read, I brought to the text my questions and my struggles. And hopefully my charming wit.
Now, this isn't any sort of scholarly commentary. This is the haphazard, unorganized theological ramblings of a mad man. And I could very well be wrong about everything. But that's perfectly okay. It was a fun, challenging experience all the same.
So I invite you to join my journey, and I sincerely hope you enjoy the struggle as Mitch Reads.... Mark 1.
Also, enjoy the sandwiches. You'll see.
Mark's got no time for birth narratives! Mark's got no time for Christmas stories! He's not going to help you with your Christmas play! Mark doesn't bother with shepherds or wise men or fancy genealogies. No sir, Mark gets straight to the point. This ain't no baby in a manger story, I tell you what. Mark throws down a quote from Isaiah and before you know it John the Baptist steps into the scene. Now, as eager as Mark appears to get to Jesus, he stops to take note of John's peculiar wardrobe. You can make the claim that this is meant to indicate that John is following the pattern of the prophets from long ago, but I choose to believe Mark was just really interested in John's fashion sense.
Then Mark just casually notes that Jesus came down from Nazareth one day and was baptized. Then the heavens are torn open and a voice calls down talking about Jesus. What the crap, Mark? You didn't prepare me for this! This seems like a pretty big deal to happen to some guy that strolled down from Nazareth. Matthew and Luke have some build up leading into the adventures of adult Jesus, and even John has his trippy, cosmic, high Christology to set the stage. But Mark is all, "Here's John. He baptized Jesus. BOOM! Let's go already!"
And so Jesus goes to the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan and hangs out with wild animals and angels for forty days. Mark, I feel like you could have thrown in a few more details here. That sounds like a pretty crazy time, yet it reads like a list of mundane errands Jesus had to run.
But then Jesus begins to preach after John is arrested (What?! When? Where? Why? Come on, Mark!). And then he walks around a lake recruiting pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew; James and John (no, not that John. This is John, son of Zebedee. John the fisherman, not the baptist). Anyway, Jesus is recruiting these guys to, I don't know, be his entourage? They head to Capernaum where Jesus teaches in a synagogue (this may be a cultural issue, but who lets a random guy that's been living in the wilderness for a month enter a synagogue with his entourage of fisherman and begin teaching?) and drives out an unclean spirit from a man. Does this count as a miracle? Is this Jesus' first miracle in Mark? Take that, you water-into-wine lovers! Mark's got not time for your wedding miracles!
Then the five of them go to Simon's house where Simon's mother-in-law is sick. One thing, where is Simon's wife? We've got his mother-in-law, who apparently lives with him, but no mention of the wife? Well, maybe she wasn't particularly pleased that her husband suddenly quit his job to follow around this itinerant preacher guy.
And then we come to what is perhaps the greatest verse in the Bible (expect me to use that hyperbole often): Mark 1:31. Jesus heals the woman, and then she immediately gets up and serves them. In my mind it plays out like this: Jesus heals her and then she makes him food, probably a sandwich. And now we have the Markan head cannon of Jesus and his love of sandwiches. Stay with me on this, especially if we ever get to Luke, because then we will talk about sandwiches A LOT. What I'm saying is Luke likes to talk about Jesus and food. But never mind Luke right now, this is Marky-Mark time!
Can you smell what The Rock's mother-in-law is cooking?!
I apologize for nothing!
After sandwich time, a crowd gathers, still apparently at Simon's house, and Jesus does what he does and heals the sick and demon possessed. Later, before dawn, Jesus rises early and heads outside somewhere to be alone and pray. But Simon and the rest of the entourage "hunted for him." Yes, the NRSV uses the word "hunted." They hunted for Jesus in the early morning? Why? Maybe he took all the sandwiches with him to his secluded place. Jesus is informed that the people are looking for him, but Jesus replies, "Nah, let's go somewhere else." Jesus got tired of that crowd pretty quick.
So they begin their tour of the towns and villages throughout Galilee, preaching and casting out demons. Then Jesus heals a leper (which could constitute any skin disease or malady, really) and instructs him not to tell anyone that it was Jesus who healed him. Of course, the former leper doesn't follow these instructions and blabs to everyone. Dang it, leper! Respect Jesus' request to maintain his Messianic Secret!
And you know what happened? Everyone heard the big mouth on this leper and Jesus became so popular that he could no longer casually go about town and do his thing. So he and his group stayed out in the country. Forty days in the wilderness? Staying in the country? I think Jesus just liked to go camping. They probably could have used Paul at this point to make them some awesome tents.
And thus ends the First Chapter of the Gospel of Mark.