Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Mark 3: Rising Tension
My life, the movie. That’s where I tend to live.
The cast is limited and the jokes sometimes fall flat, but there’s plenty of drama. Enough to jerk my emotions around and preoccupy my thoughts. My private drama hijacks my appetite, too, turning all of my hungers inward. Who am I? What am I doing here? How am I going to manage it all? I’m so immersed in my little world, it can be hard to see anything else.
That’s one reason I’m glad to be studying the Gospel of Mark. It pulls me out of my story and plunges me into the life of Jesus:
Who is he? What is he doing here? How is he going to manage it all?
Seeing his life won’t just give me a break from my drama, it will change me.
Jesus, the Movie
Mark’s gospel moves fast, like an independent film with the camera man running to keep up. It’s not like some movies we’re sorry we paid to see.
Hey, how was the movie you saw last night?
I didn’t like it. It was kinda lame.
Well, there was only one plot line. That made it way too obvious. In the first five minutes I knew exactly how it would turn out–I only stayed for the popcorn.
Not so the Gospel of Mark. Take chapter 3 for instance…
More tension than I realized
It’s tense. And there’s more tension before I first realized.
Here’s some background. If you’re like me, you slide over terms like “Pharisees” and “Herodians” with a vague idea that they are all bad guys, so it makes sense that they should all be on the same team, opposing Jesus. On the contrary, the fact that they are teaming up is extraordinary and throws fuel on the fire of this chapter.
Tim Keller, in King’s Cross explains it this way:
The Herodians were the supporters of Herod, the nastiest of the corrupt kings who ruled Israel, representing the Roman occupying power and its political system…wherever the Romans went they brought along the culture of Greece…Conquered societies like Israel felt assaulted by these immoral, cosmopolitan, pagan values. In these countries there were cultural resistance movements; and in Israel that was the Pharisees.
You can see that the Herodians and Pharisees were as different as the secular left and the religious right are today. The current stalemate in Congress shows that differences of this magnitude tend to stall agendas, not advance them. It’s true now, and it was true in first century Palestine. Now you can see the high drama:
opposing Jesus unites enemies.
Even though you know the end of the story…
It’s hard to watch a movie twice, unless it’s really good. You watch a second time not to see how it ends, but how they get to the end. You already know what’s going to happen. So let the tension build here. Of course you know the end of the story, but what is Mark saying in this chapter? Why did he pick these five incidents to record back to back? What do you see in this rising tension before it resolves?
Day 1: Context–Compare Mark 3 with Mark 2.
1. The first word of Mark 3 is “again.” What exactly is happening again?
2. Compare the opposition to Jesus in Mark 2 and 3. How would you say it has stayed the same? How has it changed?
3. How is Jesus’ response to the opposition changing?
4. Remember what Jesus’ purpose is in coming (see Mark 1:14-15, 38). How is he sticking to his purpose in this chapter?
Day 2: Observation–Read Mark 3 as five distinct scenes.
1. Where does each scene take place?
2. Who are the main players in each scene?
3. What is the conflict or problem in each scene?
4, What is Jesus’ response in each scene?
5. If you could draw a graph of the tension in Mark 3, what would be the high point? low point? Does it end higher than it began?
Day 3: Meaning–Read Mark 3 as one story.
1. What is revealed about Jesus through his actions?
2. What is revealed about Jesus through his words?
3. What is revealed about Jesus through the words of others?
4. What words in this chapter point to Jesus as king?
Day 4: Application–Read Mark 3 as the announcement of good news.
1. The True King has come. How is that good news to you today?
2. The True King has included you in his family. How does that change your attitude/perspective today?
3. The True King is the Strong Man who has conquered the enemy. How does that strengthen you today?
I hope these questions help you get more out of the chapter, but if you’re having a hard week or even if you just can’t figure out how to answer all the questions, the Word of God can still be food for your soul. Reading the chapter each day may be all you need to “live by every word from the mouth of God.”
Have a great week!