Friday, November 21, 2008

You'd Think Moving Baskets Was a Lot of Work

In our study of Mark, last lesson our pastor asked us some questions at the end of it to summarize, and I loved those questions. It made me ponder what I would like to have asked Jesus. I'm not saying that if I was living at that time, and in the same culture and education and surroundings as the people of Israel, that I would have known to ask these questions. But from my perspective in the here and now, it's an interesting pondering.
Here is what Pastor Ken asked us:
"Imagine yourself being one of the disciples that Jesus had called. After several days of listening to Jesus and watching Him in action, you would have much to explain to those back home. Use your imagination to record your first impressions about Jesus--your fears, your hopes, your questions. As a devout Jew, you would have wanted to talk to God about this experience as well. What might that prayer have sounded like? Now, how about you? Are you encountering Jesus daily? Is He alive and active in your life? What is He saying? What is He doing? What is your response?"
So I ponder. If I can criticize the disciples for their dullness (and truly I can't), I had better be ready with some valid questions that I might have supplied. Shall I play the part of a reporter, as a 13-year-old in our class did, and interview Jesus for the culture around me? That seems like a good approach. Still, the questions might not be as personally applicable as if I was asking just as a wanderer, a searcher, a lost person in need of finding the truth. So I will do that, and grant myself the privilege of having Jesus' full attention at the end of every chapter. I am not going to pretend that I would know what He would answer. You can always ask God to help you with that part. His answer may very likely be different for you than for me! And don't we all, at all times, have that access? To read a chapter of the Bible, and stop, and ask God, "What do You mean by this? Why was it written? Why did it happen this way? Why did You respond this way? How is this writing supposed to change my life, my attitude, my view of self and of God? How does it make me know You better and love You more? How does it help me obey You more fully? How can I become less because of it?" There must be an infinitude of questions we could ask at the end of every chapter! These questions come to mind as typical to fit probably any chapter in the Bible, some to which the answers would be more obvious depending on what chapter you are reading. The questions that I am going to ask specifically for each chapter may or may not be with specific spiritual growth in mind. Some are just compelled because I find various verses intriguing. Don't you? I'm sure you do! So if I'm just being nosy in idle time, maybe you are too, if you find the questions are things you have wondered as well.
So here I am with Chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark, many of these more from a reader's view than a participant's view. I am not promising that I will finish posting questions for the whole book. I am honestly just writing this as I sit and type; I haven't pondered a list of questions beforehand, so if they're a bit disheveled, that may be why.

Questions from Chapter 1, from a present-day reader:

1. What did You do to draw people to come out to John in the first place? What instigated their interest, and how did word start to spread regarding him?
2. These Jews got a baptism that is different from ours today, in that it was before they were specifically believers. Why was it done that way? I know that many picture the present-day Christian baptism as a picture of death and resurrection, but the Jews hadn't seen You undergo that yet, so that wasn't the picture for them. What were the Jews picturing?
3. Were there people who turned completely to follow You from that day, especially since Your Father spoke to affirm You from heaven? Were they as amazed as it seemed they should have been?
4. Did the people see the Holy Spirit as He impelled you to go to the wilderness?
5. Why doesn't Mark tell more details about Your temptation in the wilderness? It seems that more specifics about what temptations You resisted would have shown more of the suffering role, if that was what he was trying to portray. That particular scene seems strangely lacking for what would seem pertinent detail.
6. What kind of ministering did the angels do for You? That is such an intriguing picture!
7. Why did You pick fishermen as your first followers? And what compelled them to follow You without question?
8. What did You teach on that first teaching in the synagogue?

Questions from Chapter 1, imagining that I'd been a Jew in those days, just seeing what the crowd saw (these are harder for me to come up with):

1. Why did John come looking so reminiscent of Elijah, and so clearly deny being him?
2. Why do I need to repent, if I'm one of God's chosen people, and if You already have us giving sacrifices for our sins?
3. What sins did You commit, if You needed to be baptized by John?
4. Why did You go away so suddenly after being baptized? What were You doing?
5. How did You learn so much about the Scriptures that is so different from what the Scribes teach?
6. After hearing You preach, I could sit and ask questions for quite a while, I'm sure.
7. You have a new way of teaching; You have power over demons and fevers and leprosy. Why didn't You use Your wisdom and authority and power to get John out of jail? What can You do in my life?

Here are my questions for Chapter 2, from a present-day reader:

1. Why did You start with the paralytic by forgiving his sins, even though judging by what is written, he hadn't asked for it, hadn't acknowledged his sin before You? Were these things on his heart?
2. How could the healed paralytic stand the thought of leaving, when he'd just been healed physically and spiritually by You? I'd be so inclined to stay and listen and watch, and shout hallelujahs!
3. Again, I don't know how Levi got up without question and followed You, except that by now word would have gotten around...maybe he'd heard about You?
4. Why did John have disciples that hadn't made the transition to be Your disciples?
5. I was always amazed at that story of David receiving consecrated bread, that both he and the priest didn't get in trouble. How did they understand their freedom to do that on the Sabbath even though the bread was specifically supposed to be for the priests?

Questions from Chapter 2, imagining that I'd been a Jew in those days:

1. How do You know whose sins to forgive, and whose not to? Do I need forgiveness, even though I'm a Jew, and in spite of all of the sacrifices? Can You forgive mine?
2. How did You know what the scribes were thinking about Your forgiving the paralytic?
3. Why did the paralytic need to go home rather than stay and listen to You?
4. Why was it okay for David to eat the consecrated bread? Was it because God's compassion trumps His desire for orderly worship and observance?

Here are my questions for Chapter 3, from a present-day reader:

1. Why is it that demons don't seem to avoid You, but rather are quite willing to talk to You? Why do they always seem compelled to announce who You are?
2. On what basis did You choose the Twelve? How do You choose believers overall?
3. How did Your family forget who You were, to think that You could have lost Your senses?
4. What types of things have I seen/experienced that You would qualify as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Are there ways that Christians today criticize other Christians and the Holy Spirit's work in them, that would be such blasphemy? Have I ever done any of that?

Questions from Chapter 3, imagining that I'd been a Jew in those days:

1. Why do the demons always seem to say that You are the Son of God? Why do You tell them to be quiet?
2. Have I ever blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?
3. How can I do Your will and be sure to be Your sister?

Here are my questions for Chapter 4, from a present-day reader:

1. Would it be reasonable to expect that one out of four people who hear the gospel would respond rightly to it?
2. Since You want all to come to You and be saved, why is it that You also say that You speak in parables so that "while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand; otherwise, they might return and be forgiven"? I realize it's an OT quote, but why would it be that You wouldn't consistently seek all men in whatever way worked to reach them, and make it an easier thing for them to turn to You? The answer I come up with is that those who seek You will find You when they seek You with all their heart; that You want them to persist and meditate, and ask and seek and knock until they get it.
3. It seems a strange placement to talk about a lamp being put under a basket rather than on a lampstand, right on the heels of Your telling them why You speak in parables. The parables seem a little like a basket over a lamp. Why did You place these thoughts together? Perhaps it "comes to light" in the next sentence, "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light." Maybe You're lighting the lamp, and setting a basket over it, but anyone could ask for help removing the basket, and You would reveal it to them, as You did with the disciples. Is that it?

I have to say, I'm tired. I thought about as much as my old brain can think for a while. I'll have to return to this when I can, and finish my pondering. Asking questions in the faith is a funny thing: I find myself wishing, "I wish I could talk to Jesus face to face. I have so many questions I could ask Him." And then I realize. "I can ask Him any question I want. If He abides in me and I in Him, I'm actually better off than those old disciples. Ha!" So why am I not more savvy about all the Bible? I guess that like them, I get tired of asking, tired of thinking. I want it spoon fed, but there are places where there's this basket over it, and oh, I'm tired of moving baskets.

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