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/

Call No Man Unclean

Human communities fixate on self-preservation, naturally forming traditions and customs that protect them from outside threats. The problem of protectionism is amplified when a group’s leaders benefit from it, turning the community against itself—even alienating children from parents—for self-gain. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why religious rules often devolve into an “us against them” paradigm. In human communities, self-preservation is wrongly elevated as virtue, enabling the very behaviors the Bible warns will lead to our destruction. It’s counterintuitive, but in the Torah, self-preservation works against the survival of the community. In seeking to keep the evil out, we neglect the evil within. Unfortunately, by turning away “the unclean” outsider, we cut ourselves off from the life revealed in Mark’s gospel, extended to us from the wilderness, by way of the very outsiders we fear. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:53-7:13.

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Episode 165 Mark 6:53-7:13; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Sunday Dub” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night

According to the website of the US Postal Service, their motto, “chiseled in gray granite over the entrance to the New York City Post Office on 8th Avenue,” comes from an ancient account of the Persian Wars by the Greek historian, Herodotus: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The saying lauds the fidelity of mounted Persian couriers who, during Persia’s war with the Greeks, braved all manner of obstacles to ensure the delivery of royal dispatches. To borrow from St. Paul, such men clearly “have a zeal for God,” but insofar as they carry messages from the wrong king in the service of Persia’s war, their zeal is “not in accordance with knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)

In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples are also called to be couriers; not of a worldly message with worldly concerns, but of Scripture. Insofar as their zeal lacks understanding, no matter how hard they row against the elements, they will never match the speed or efficacy of Jesus, who without boat or mount easily achieves “the swift completion” of his appointed rounds. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:45-52.

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Episode 164 Mark 6:45-52; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Crossing the Chasm” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Voice of the Shepherd

When studying biblical literature, it’s easy to fall into the trap of attempting to lock down the meaning of the Bible’s characters and symbols. For example, students of the Bible often assume that “Egypt is evil,” or, “Assyria is evil,” ignoring contradictory evidence in the text. “Egypt and Assyria,” proclaims Isaiah, will be “a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.’” (Isaiah 19:24-25) It’s not that any of these nations are good or evil—in the Bible, no one is good but God—it’s that their value pertains strictly to the Lord’s commandment. If they serve the Lord’s teaching, they function as the Lord’s people, as Paul explains in Galatians, “the Israel of God,” no matter their nationality.

In Mark, the crowds, like Egypt and Assyria, seem to have a negative connotation. For the better part of five chapters, the mobs fawning over Jesus have obstructed his mission to proclaim the Father’s teaching; but does that mean the “crowds are evil?” On the contrary, like Egypt, Assyria AND Israel, their narrative value must be constantly reevaluated relative to the commandment. In Mark 6, the situation with the crowds may look the same, but as the Good Book teaches, human beings should never trust what they see. The only thing that counts is what they hear from the voice of the Shepherd, crying out in the wilderness. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:30-44.

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Episode 163 Mark 6:30-44; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Doobly Doo” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s Your Move, Herod

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” These words, spoken by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese author and civil leader, reflect almost perfectly the biblical teaching about fear and the power of death. King Herod, a man who would sell his people’s honor to appease their occupiers; King Herod, who in Matthew, would murder children to safeguard his throne; King Herod, who ordered the execution of the Lord’s prophet to save face, on an oath made against that which was not his; King Herod, the last in a line of imposters who would dare to sit on God’s throne in Judea. King Herod. You successfully murdered John, but you cannot stop his teaching. There is no wall, no prison, no form of execution that can help you now. Not even the power of death, which you so carelessly wield, can save you. As St. Paul, the least of the Apostles, proclaimed: The Lord, whom you murdered, is coming in power and he will put all things in subjection under his feet. “For He will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance on his adversaries, and will atone for his land and his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) It’s your move, Herod. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Mark 6:14-29.

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Episode 162 Mark 6:14-29; Subscribe: http: // feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature (http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature); “Metalmania” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/