The Story you wouldn’t make up
The Guinness Book of World Records is full of strange but true stories - some of them so outlandish they couldn’t be made up. In a way, some of the gospel accounts, especially the book of Mark, are made up of strange but true accounts as well. Several aspects of the book of Mark would never been written if they had not truly happened.
For example, throughout the book Jesus is referred to as the Son of Man. It was a term originally used by Ezekiel and primarily means that Jesus has come to save the lost; all of the lost no matter what race. The big deal about this definition is that most of Jesus’ audience was Jewish. They would not have considered themselves lost and they would not have considered a Jewish Messiah coming to save Gentiles.
An example of this is Mark 8 verse 2: Jesus and His disciples encounter a group of people. He says He has compassion towards the group and wants to feed them. Two chapters earlier, He fed another large group, so how could the disciples not know what He was going to do? It’s because Jesus is now on the Greek side of the Sea of Galilee and this group is full of Gentiles. The disciples are confused as to why the Jewish Messiah is feeding this Gentile group.
As you read, notice the number of baskets left over; seven for the seven cities of the Decapolis that were close to the Sea of Galilee. (This is different than the last feeding, which had 12 baskets left over to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel, and was performed on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee).
The point is, this story would have never been made up by a Jewish writer. It was inconceivable at the time.
As another example, look at Peter. As an author writing a story about Peter and eventually portraying him as the leader of the early church, you would never allow your main character to seem so clueless on the Mount of Transfiguration (Ch.9). Or portray him as turning his back on the Messiah and deny knowing Him (Ch. 14). If the early church made up Peter’s story, he would never have been portrayed this way.
Next week, the beginning of Chapter 16 offers another unbelievable story when the women are the first eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Sadly, in the culture of the Bible, women were not allowed to be witnesses. Therefore, this is something that must have actually happened, since no writer of the times would make this scenario up. In fact, when Paul writes about who has seen the Savior after the resurrection, he does not include the women. It just didn’t help the case for that audience.
See how many of these stories you can find in your reading this week. They are all around. This is not definitive proof, but it sure looks like clues to the truth and reliability of the gospel of Mark.
Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip #10)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Last week we worked through the parables and how to interpret them, today we look at narrative and biography. Three things to look for in this type of literature are plot, characterization, and how they are relatable to real life.
The plot is the movement of the story. It could be physical, like Exodus and the movement of the people, or it could be relational, spiritual or political. What is different from the beginning of the book to the end? How would you answer that for Mark?
Second, look for characterization. Who are the characters and how are they presented? How do they relate to each other? Why are they in the story? Do they fail? If so, why? What do you like about them? How do you see yourself in them? What would we do in their place? How do they progress the story? What is the picture of God in the book? Take one character in Mark and answer these questions. I always choose Peter because I see my mistakes and myself in him.
Lastly, is this story true to life? What questions does this story raise? What lessons do they learn? What do the folks encounter that we should be sure to avoid? What do they discover about God?
Next week we go back to the Psalms and discuss the topic of poetry.
Notes from David Chadwick’s Journal
Mark 13 may be a good chapter to consider deeply. Jesus talks much about His Second Coming. This is echoed in Matthew 24 as well. We see in these verses what happened in prophecy with the destruction of Jerusalem. But it also points to the very end time when Jesus will return one day in splendor and glory! It's not very constructive to try and figure out exact times and dates. In fact, we're expressly told by Jesus not to do it. However, we should live every day wondering if today may be that day! We should be ready, no matter the day or the hour.Are you ready to meet Jesus? May there be anything in your life about which you'd be embarrassed if you met Jesus face to face today? If so, please eliminate it immediately. We are called to be steadfast and immovable in our faith until Jesus returns. His Second Coming will be glorious. I pray He will meet a pure, undefiled, holy Bride...you and me!