Selective Hearing

“Don’t waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.” Insofar as Paulo Coelho’s quote reflects the truth of human behavior, it also reflects the behavior of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark. Time and again, Jesus explains to his closest followers that he must fail: he must be judged, treated with contempt, made the least of all, and finally, put to death shamefully in the public square. Still, when Jesus tries to explain this, all the disciples hear is what they want to hear: that Jesus is the Lord’s Messiah; that he is powerful, that he works signs and wonders, and that he will be raised in victory. But of what do the power and victory of Jesus consist? What happens when you talk about the Resurrection without the Cross? What happens to the disciples in Mark? Those who are called to serve the lowest and the least in God’s household change the subject away from the dregs of the teaching to the heights of personal glory: who, the disciples ask, among their privileged ranks is the greatest? What to do, O Lord, when even divine hyperbole falls short? Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 9:30-37.

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Episode 175 Mark 9:30-37; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “The Lift” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Jesus, Give Us a Word!

If you want to understand someone, you need only examine their motivations. What does a person want? Why do the crowds in Mark approach Jesus? Most often, they approach because they want to save their own neck; they want something for themselves. Rarely do they approach to gather supplies in order to help others. In Mark, the example of the father of the demon possessed mute presents an interesting exception to this pattern. Yes, he asks Jesus to help his son, but the way in which he asks hints at the possibility of faith: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief,” namely, “Lord, I trust you, give me something to trust! Give me your teaching!” Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 9:14-29. This week’s episode is in loving memory of Mohsen Yacoub.

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Episode 175 Mark 9:14-29-; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “The Lift” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s All About Priorities

People like to complain. They complain that they don’t have enough time; that it’s too difficult to understand; that it’s impossible to do; or that something else gets in the way. Worse, when they see another person do it, they heap praise, saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” But that’s a lie. You do know how. It’s not hard at all and you know it’s not hard. You just make different choices. The worst such example is when people avoid what must be done by attempting to justify the importance of something else. For those who make such excuses, the buck stops with the Bible: nothing is more important than God’s teaching. Nothing. I don’t mean the teaching you imagine, I am referring to the written text that Jesus keeps quoting within a written text. Nothing can replace it and nothing can convey it, except it. If you are not hearing it, doing it and sharing it in lieu of every other priority in your life, you do not belong to God. “Action,” Ghandi once said, “expresses priorities.” In the Gospel of Mark, the actions of the disciples repeatedly express their disinterest in the teaching of Jesus Christ. They are willing to heap praise on Jesus and eager to join the gossip surrounding Jesus, but they just can’t get themselves to crack a book and study the content of his words. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 9:9-13.

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Episode 173 Mark 9:9-13; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Movement Proposition” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Listen to Him

In the Gospel of Mark, the teaching of the Old Testament is the teaching of Jesus. In obedience to his Father, when the Markan Jesus speaks, his words never go beyond what is written in Scripture: most notably, Isaiah, but also Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Zechariah and Malachi—all these are quoted or paraphrased by Jesus. Not interpreted, but quoted, preached and applied in the story. It is no wonder that Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah in chapter 9. Together, these three embody the purpose of Mark’s gospel: to carry the Law and the Prophets to the gentiles. That is exactly what Jesus does and that is why “a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved son, listen to him!” (Mark 9:7b) Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 9:1-8.

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Episode 172 Mark 9:1-8; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Spellbound” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Who is the King of Glory?

In our culture, great emphasis is placed on the opinion of the individual. We are told that our opinion counts; that our vote matters; and that our personal preferences are relevant. We are taught to think this way because it benefits the institutions we serve. In truth, an institution asks your opinion, 1) because it wants to increase its power, or 2) because it wants to increase its profit. At the individual’s level, the one thing that does matter is the very thing that institutions fear: wisdom and its associated behaviors. Wisdom cannot be exploited or manipulated. Wisdom is honest and straightforward. Wisdom is bad for business.

Unlike our institutions, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus does not care what anyone thinks. His only desire is the knowledge of God’s teaching. He wants everyone to become wise by clinging only to the words of Scripture. He demands nothing of his followers except biblical wisdom. In fact, he cares so much about this wisdom—given for the life of the world—that he is willing to give his life for its sake. This is the glory that Jesus proclaims and it has nothing to do with the glory that Peter seeks. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 8:27-38.

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Episode 171 Mark 8:27-38; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Virtues Instrumenti” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Who is Testing Whom?

When students are challenged in the classroom, their first impulse is to avoid being tested by attempting to test the teacher. Is the assignment difficult? There must be something wrong with the teacher. Is it hard to understand? It must be the teacher’s fault. Am I failing the class? Surely, the teacher has credibility issues. I could go on, but you get the point. A student avoids responsibility for his or her failures by blaming the teacher. Worse, the same student delights in gossip about the teacher instead of delighting in the teacher’s knowledge.

In the Gospel of Mark the miracles of Jesus are given not as proof of his credibility, but as a test of his students’ faith: do the Pharisees and the Lord’s disciples trust in the Torah? Do they delight in the Lord’s precepts, or do they seek signs and wonders as proof of his credibility? “Do you not yet see or understand?” (Mark 8:17b) Twice I fed you in the wilderness and still, you refuse to get the message. Alas, no sign will be given to you except the Bread of my Father’s teaching; and you had better study it, because the final exam is just around the corner. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 8:11-26.

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Episode 170 Mark 8:11-26; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Long Stroll” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Bread of Life

When people use the word “truth” they usually mean a worldview framed by personal experience or established by philosophy. For these ideological systems—whether personal or corporate—truth is understood as someone’s abstract statement about the world. In sharp contrast, biblical truth—like scientific truth—deals with observable phenomena in the world. Where modern science discerns the mechanics of Creation, the Bible catalogs types of human behavior and their predictable outcomes, or fruit. In the case of Mark, the feeding of the multitudes presents one such truth: though counterintuitive, generosity in poverty, hospitality toward strangers, and openness to neighbors are all necessary for human survival. This is not an abstract opinion or a philosophical worldview; nor is it “a perspective.” It is an observable and repeatable fact. It was a fact before we were born and will remain a fact after we are gone. It is the Bread of the Lord’s Instruction: the Bread of Life for the salvation of the human race. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 8:1-10.

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Episode 169 Mark 8:1-10; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Slow Jam” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

This People Honors Me With Their Lips

All through Mark’s gospel, Jesus instructs those around him not to tell anyone about his miracles. Most dismiss this pattern as the “Messianic Secret,” an attempt by Jesus to hide his true identity. When William Wrede coined this phrase in 1901, he wrongly assumed what the Gospel of Mark rejects: the importance of identity. In Mark, Jesus deliberately dismisses identity in favor of his sole mission: preaching and teaching. The Markan Jesus does not care if or what people think about him. On the contrary, his only concern is whether or not people have heard Scripture. So why does Jesus keep asking people not to talk about him and his acts of mercy? Because, as Isaiah proclaimed: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. ‘But in vain do they worship me, teaching as a teaching the teachings of men.” (Mark 7:6-7) Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 7:31-37.

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Episode 168 Mark 7:31-37; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Laser Groove” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

She Has Ears to Hear

People make assumptions about each other based on appearance, personal affiliation or both. A well-dressed person is assumed the better candidate; good taste is mistaken for competence or moral credibility; worst of all, people judge each other by association, as though a person’s social circle, identity, family, or organizational affiliation have any bearing on their knowledge or wisdom. For instance, one might assume that the Pharisees—Israel’s learned religious teachers—would understand Jesus. One might also assume that the disciples—the closest associates of Jesus—would be the first to grasp his parables, let alone his plain explanations. But in the Gospel of Mark, it is a woman—from a nation that is neither holy nor modest—who has no trouble accepting the criticism of Jesus or her station as the lowest and the least in his presence: a gentile dog. In this way, Mark demonstrates the teaching of Paul: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 7:24-30.

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Episode 167 Mark 7:24-30; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Shaving Mirror” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Do Not Follow Your Heart

A wise person, no matter his or her beliefs, understands that human motivations and desires are naturally selfish. We humans think and act from the shallow perspective of personal experience on behalf of our biological imperative: self-preservation. Our view of others, our understanding of the gods we create, and, most importantly, our actions in the world are corrupt because our core motivation, “me, myself and I,” is corrupt. Self-preservation and self-interest are coded in our DNA. How can anyone mitigate an elemental biological impulse? You can’t. There is no ideology, philosophy, or belief system that can change human biology. So how is the Bible different? It assumes the worst. It supposes that all human beings are stubborn and that all human beings will always refuse to change. Its hope is not in humanity, but in the possibility that despite ourselves, a few people with “ears to hear” might be willing to follow a commandment that goes against our nature. In the Gospel of Mark, such a commandment is preached as widely as possible for our sake and for the sake of the common good. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 7:14-23.

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Episode 166 Mark 7:14-23; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Bummin on Tremelo” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/