“When Christ calls…

There is no point in sugar coating any statement made by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He has not given mankind that luxury. What we must realize is that we are dealing with a man who has an incredible view of the God of the universe and how small he, and every other being is. Bonhoeffer is a rare man. Many people seek to find faults in mankind and with any system, but Bonhoeffer strove to find remedies to the faults. This could be seen in the way he preached and the way he stressed the sovereignty of God in all facets of life. Perhaps the greatest of these areas was the realm of discipleship.

What was obedience to Bonhoeffer? Obedience was something that one did because Christ had done a work in that person’s life. Obedience, for Bonhoeffer, could cover salvation in response to Christ’s call (irresistible call of grace), or it could cover the sanctifying process. For Bonhoeffer, obedience was and always will be tied directly to faith. The faith of man is never better on display than when it is demonstrated through the obedience to Christ.

“Again, when Peter was called to walk on the rolling sea, he had to get up and risk his life. Only one thing was required in each case⎯to rely on Christ’s Word, and cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities of the world.”

For Bonhoeffer, the word of God is something far more than a plea to live for righteousness. It is a command from the incarnate God-Man. Scripture never makes a request of the unrepentant. Scripture never seems to reason with the lost so as to negotiate a peaceful surrender. These are not the actions of the God of all creation. The Apostle Paul states in Acts 17:30, 31 a command from God that all men are to repent. The question must then be asked, what is this repentance?

For Bonhoeffer, repentance was nothing less than radical obedience. “But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe.” Let that sink in. He could not.

This is a sobering truth for all Christians. John 3:18 says that those who do not believe in Christ have already received their judgment. Obedience to Christ’s calling is never in control of the decisions of man. Christ never asked mankind to obey Him legalistically. Christ has not asked of Christians to sell all their possessions because material wealth is of the devil. He has not asked for obedience because he’ll damn you to hell if you don’t. He has asked for radical obedience, obedience that does not require material wealth, obedience that does not require potential followers to cross items off of their bucket list before taking up the cross for the first time, obedience that is so dedicated to the incarnate God-Man that it radiates a love that is so bright that the evil hate it and the righteous flock to it, obedient love that is so devoted to Christ that it almost comes across as hate since a Christian’s love must pale in comparison to the radical obedience to Christ. Radical obedience spurred on by love, “because He first loved us.”

Christians are called to be like Christ. That is a truth that cannot be argued. Though it is true that Christians cannot be like Christ in His perfections, Christians must be like Christ in how they live and act. This is most beautifully expressed in how the incarnate God-Man suffered and was rejected.

“Had He only suffered, Jesus might still have been applauded as the Messiah. All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on His passion.”

What Christians must understand is that Christ did not just suffer pain physically during His passion week. The people rejected Christ as an outworking of their father, the devil, whom Christ accused accurately the Pharisees of being just a short time ago. This was ultimately what Satan had done to God. He rejected Christ, and the sovereignty of God, and was used by God to cause Christ to suffer and be rejected at the hands of His creation. This is the relationship that Bonhoeffer tried to stress with dying to Christ. Dying on the cross necessitates being despised and rejected by men. If suffering and rejection is what makes Christ the Christ, then suffering and rejection is what makes a disciple a disciple since we are to be crucified with Christ. The suffering and death of Christ is so integral to the theology of the Church. Christians need the death and resurrection of Christ for salvation as empirical proof against a world gone mad as it drowns in a quasi wave of “reason.” The fact that so many churches were trying to disprove the resurrection of Christ proves that the Suffering Servant at its very nature, is a scandal to most churches. But it is this very suffering and rejection that is a source of joy for the believer.

“Only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.”

Every command of Christ is a desire to put to death the desires of the flesh and to put on the actions of the regenerated man. Christ demands radical obedience because the Father answered Christ’s prayer to have the “cup” taken from Him by having Him pass through the ordeal. So also, Christians will have the “cup” of tribulation taken from them as they live through it.

When Christ described Himself as the Good Shepherd, He stated that if one were wandering astray, he would leave the others and go out looking for that one lost sheep. This begs the question, how does discipleship occur on a personal level?

“Through the call of Jesus men become individuals. Willy-nilly, they are made to decide, and that decision can only be made by themselves. It is no choice of their own that makes them individuals: it is Christ who makes them individuals by calling them.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that he determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. This is what Bonhoeffer was trying to get at, at its core. Man is at a state of hostility with all of creation, whether God or man. Man needs an mediator who can restore relationship to the King of Glory. Only a fait accompli (something that’s already happened that you have no choice but to accept) action of Christ can separate man, as a disciple, from a world of material and relational chaos. This is what happens when the words of Christ are no longer an ideal or an ethical system, but rather, as the words of Mediator who restores relationship to the hearers of the call to discipleship. It is this Gospel call, that severs ties to the world and places Christians into relationship with the God-Man. To love an exterior relationship more than the relationship to Christ, is to hate Christ, according to Bonhoeffer.

Some may say that since Christ has paid the penalty of the sin of Christians that they need not worry since Christ has established relationship with them, they can go back to the relationships they just left. What many Christians forget is that this is the same world that crucified the King of Glory. When Christians embrace this, they embrace merely a justification of sin, and not the sinner.

As we can see in The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer was stressing how the outward change meets the inward change in the life of the believer. This is such an important concept to understand for the Christian community today. We live in an era where most accusations of legalism are, in actuality, someone just trying to encourage someone to abide to a standard of holiness. This is the point that Bonhoeffer tried to stress. Faith is so much more than a mere mental assent, as most in the church see it today. Faith is obedience, and obedience is faith.

This is why the church must study church history, and why the church believes what it does today, and who brought these things to attention. We should study this because we live in an age of Christianity where discipleship is in most circles, vague. Most people view discipleship solely as a man-to-man relationship. This is what Bonhoeffer was trying to get away from. As always, he got back to the root of the issue. Discipleship is a vertical relationship first, and a horizontal relationship second.

The church must realize that we are facing an epidemic of believers who do not understand that they are clinging to ties that separate them from a firm relationship with Christ. This could be the form of anything that supplants the King of Glory in the life of a believer. Christ does not desire acquaintance. He desires intimate, personal relationship.

“…the same Mediator who makes us individuals is also the founder of a new fellowship. He stands in the centre between my neighbor and myself. He divides, but He also unites. Thus although the direct way to our neighbor is barred, we now find the only real way to him⎯the way which passes through the Mediator.”

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A Moment in Church History

When one stops and looks at the church of Jesus the Christ, one does not have to look hard to realize that it, at several points along its’ existence, has gone astray in the realms of orthodox theology and thought. From the earliest outset of the church one will see that the people of Christ are striving constantly to establish a sound series of principles that will aid Christians in their worship of God.

Inevitably, mankind strays from sound theology. Neo-Orthodoxy is one of these movements that managed to stray from sound theology. The purpose of this post will be to examine the beginnings of the system of Neo-Orthodox theology, the famous theologians who helped create it and held to it, the theology that typifies the system, and the contributions it has made to the church to date.

The purpose of this will be to understand some of the theological ideas that still affect the church today, why they did what they did, and to understand that what they did was not all bad.

Neo-Orthodoxy can be defined as the middle point of traditionalist orthodoxy and the subjective abstract nature of liberalism. Some would even consider it to be a double-negative of sorts in theology. It is a reaction against the liberal reaction against traditional orthodoxy (Smith 1992, 27). It did not acquire the name Neo-Orthodoxy until the belief actually hit North American shores. In Europe it was know as crisis, or dialectical theology (Ibid.). This basically meant that proponents of this system sought truth in a paradoxical fashion.

Neo-Orthodoxy did not accept the traditional orthodoxy of the church, in fact, they kicked against it rather hard. Liberalism failed to satisfy them too. Therefore, they decided to blend the opposing ideas together in order to find an adequate amalgamation of truth (Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 18). In part, it is this constituent nature of Neo-Orthodoxy that must receive considerable praise from Christians. The strong rejection of liberalism is something to be admired (Smith 38).

While some scholars will pinpoint the birth of Neo-Orthodoxy with Karl Barth, a case could be made that the beliefs began with the existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard (Ibid, 321). That being said, the life of Karl Barth and his contemporaries is where Neo-Orthodoxy began to really gain favor in the world. The ultimate success of Neo-Orthodoxy can be summed up in understanding that it rejected liberalism and cheap Christianity. Its greatest failing is that it failed to do exactly what its very name implies—remain orthodox. What Barth and his contemporaries left Christianity with were extravagant words with little purchase and vague definitions (Ibid, 39).

Anytime there is a movement that changes the overall scope of Christianity in the modern world, it is important to look at who the key people were who helped found the movement. The key people involved with the development of Neo-Orthodoxy were Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Barth was predominantly a student of Adolf von Harnack, and Frederich Schliermacher. He began to leave the movement of Liberalism when World War I broke out. 93 German pastors had decided to side with the Kaiser. Barth refused and began to study Scripture again with a friend of his with renewed passion. From his published commentary on Romans he gained notoriety and acclaim. He became a key player in theological circles as he taught at key universities in Germany for 10 years. Barth penned the Barman Confession, which was signed by 200 leaders who stated that obedience to Jesus Christ was more important than to Hitler. He ended up being expelled from Germany for refusing loyalty to Hitler (Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 19; Bacik 1992 103-114).

Brunner received his Th.D from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and was a professor of systematic and practical theology at the University of Zurich. He published several books, totaling almost 400 in all, and contributed his educated mind to several journals (Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 21; Bacik 1992 103-114).

Niebuhr graduated from Yale and abandoned his liberalism during his pastorate in Detroit. He was the professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary for over 30 years. He was a social activist, and helped establish the New York’s Liberal Party (Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 22; Bacik 1992 103-114).

Bonhoeffer was a student of Barth, and became a lecturer at the University of Berlin. Bonhoeffer became renowned for preaching out against the liberal church’s reliance on “cheap grace” or grace that demanded nothing of the recipients. Bonhoeffer preached that salvation requires costly grace. He was involved in an assassination plot to kill Hitler, but failed. He was imprisoned for his treason, and hung shortly before the war ended (Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 23; Bacik 1992 103-114).

As one can see, these men were by no means incapable of intelligent thought. Each and every one of these men were incredibly gifted in their abilities to understand the warfare going on around them, and put into action a solution that they thought was surely the best route to take. Now that the mainstays of this theological movement have been discussed, it is necessary to understand what exactly these men believed doctrinally, and why they have caused so much controversy in so many evangelical circles.

When it comes to their understanding of the doctrine of revelation, they often do not refer to the word of God in their writing. Because the Bible is written by humans, it cannot be inerrant. The Bible itself is more of a witness to Christ through an existential experience with Christ. Thus, salvation is an experience. Their view of Scripture divides the word into two separate categories—story and history. Story refers to the significant moments in time when God physically reveals Himself to mankind (e.g. Incarnation), and is therefore errorless and eternal. History, however, is nothing more than description of these incredible events and contains flaws. They are not worried by this because what matters is not the details of the story, but the truth associated with it (Smith 1992, 37).

Within the camp of Neo-Orthodoxy there is some split on special revelation. In this regard, Karl Barth is one of the rare figures of the movement to believe that special revelation exists only with Christ. The opposing view is Brunnerian and believes that the created order is the medium through which God speaks (Hughes 1966, 104-107).

In theology, God is often considered in evangelical circles to be transcendent and immanent, that is, He is holy and personal. In Neo-Orthodox theology God is only transcendent. People are only able to know anything about God to the extent that He has revealed Himself. Even after God has revealed Himself, it is not possible to know anything about God until one takes a “leap of faith” (Smith 1992, 38; Elwell 2001, 126-127).

In the doctrines of Christ and salvation, the Neo-Orthodox movement elevated Jesus the Christ as the focus of God’s revelation. As the ultimate symbol of reconciliation between God and man, Christ’s death and resurrection are the fulfilled promise that God has not abandoned humanity to die (Smith 1992, 38).

The importance of Christ is not in the historicity of His life, but in the cross which is the symbol of God’s electing of mankind to salvation. Neo-Orthodox theologians rejected the historical claims of Scripture (Ryrie 1956, 36).

While some of these men did hold to a “wishy-washy” view of salvation which bordered on universalism (which states that everyone will be saved no matter who they believe in), there were some who held to faith in Christ alone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, wrote often on absolute faith in Christ and the costly grace of what following Him actually meant, and that without obedience it is impossible to believe in Christ (Bonhoeffer 1959, The Cost of Discipleship, 54).

Neo-Orthodox theology also failed to come to grips with the concept of original sin, and in the end rejected it outright. For these theologians, the account of the Fall of mankind in Genesis 3 was nothing more than a tale to relate the sinfulness of mankind to the readers, rather than an historical account of how all mankind became sinful. For most of the Neo-Orthodox theologians, sin was a relation flaw in people because they simply chose to sin. People were sinners because they chose to be sinners, not because of any inherited failing from Adam (Smith 1992, 38).

Neo-Orthodoxy did a great service to the church in the late eighteenth-nineteenth centuries. Neo-Orthodoxy started its movement with an ideal premise in mind—take the orthodox truths of Scripture, and communicate those truths to the people in modern language. Communicate the truth of the Word of God in the vernacular of the people today. This has been the goal of evangelists since the beginning. However, it failed to complete this task. Yes, the movement may have used different words to communicate the truth, but rather than substituting words, Neo-Orthodoxy completely replaced the words with misplaced ideals (Ibid. 39).

The movement failed as a whole because it lacked the most necessary of foundations with which to stand on—a completely inspired and reliable Bible (Ibid.; Norman Baker Class Notes, CBC 18), and a necessary Christ who was radically different from His creation.

Neo-Orthodoxy began as a movement attempting to counter the liberal reaction to conservatism in the 19th century. It sought to explain the truths of Scripture in a modern context, but failed to uphold the truth it wanted to communicate. In the end, Neo-Orthodoxy became the product of theologians who failed to believe in the trustworthiness of the very book that their entire faith was predicated on. Because they placed such a high priority on experience, and spiritual existentialism, they failed to see that a transcendent God had gone to great lengths to make Himself known to mankind, and had done so through His living Word (Jesus the Christ), and His written word (Scripture).

Becoming the Bull: Black Friday

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It’s that time of the year when people start making holiday plans for Thanksgiving. It’s time to get ready for spending time with family, counting our blessings, eating good food (even though Thanksgiving food is my least favorite), and watching the Cowboys get their fans’ hopes up before easing into their year end slump.

Thanksgiving is also famous for the day that follows after it–Black Friday. Black Friday has become a quasi-holiday in our culture as people flock to stores in droves (90+ million shoppers are expected this year across America) to save money on merchandise they could not ordinarily afford. It’s this time of year when I see Facebook posts like this smattered all over my news feed:

“Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks for what we have, we then go to stores and kill each other over crap?”

“Only in America can we give thanks for our families and friends one day, and then trample each other for Call of Duty the next. LOL!!!!1!1!”

“Not only will we ask you to work overnight on Thanksgiving, but we’ll also pay you minimum wage. Welcome to the workforce, drones!”

Before you read any further, understand that I am fully in support of spending time with family on Thanksgiving Day. In a world that rewards personal endeavors and scoffs at sacrifice, you should use holidays to laugh with and love your families so much more. Put whatever chores you can on the back burner. Holidays are precious moments that need to be used to greatly be a godly influence in the lives of our young people.

The pervading understanding of Black Friday shoppers is the carnage and mayhem portrayed in movies and television. The scene in the toy store in Jingle All the Way is another classic example of shoppers gone crazy (even though that was not on Black Friday). We always hear about store doors being pushed down, employees crushed, fights started, and customers being taken to hospitals with horrible injuries. Black Friday has been painted as a battleground where people fight with shopping carts, plastic cards, and camping equipment.

Is that really what Black Friday is about? What’s the history of Black Friday?

To find this out we have to start with when Thanksgiving started as a federal holiday. Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be when Thanksgiving was observed. The celebration stayed this way for 70 years when in 1939 Thanksgiving fell on the 30th. This was the second time in 6 years that this happened leaving retailers in a pinch. President Roosevelt was approached with changing the date of Thanksgiving so that:

1. retailers would not have to break the tradition of beginning Christmas advertising until after Thanksgiving.

2. retailers could have at least a 24 day shopping period.

FDR agreed that the change would help all involved and thus changed the official date on December 21, 1941 to the date that we know today. The decision was not entirely popular with some labeling Thanksgiving in 1942 as “Franksgiving”.

What makes Black Friday black? Where did this nickname come from?

The name began with police officers in Philadelphia dubbing the mass amounts of traffic jams and pedestrian traffic that is common around that time of year. Being from Chicago, I completely understand how ridiculous traffic can get around Christmas time. Thus, the day became bleak, or black, because it became a nightmare for police officers, bus drivers, and any others trying to navigate/manage the traffic. It could also refer to the number of people coming into Philadelphia for the customary Army v. Navy football game.

The background behind this name put Black Friday in a negative light in the minds of retailers, thus the meaning behind Black Friday came to refer to the time when retailers’ balance sheets move from red to black.

Another interpretation of Black Friday could refer to the recent tragedies associated with Black Friday shopping, the most famous of these being the Valley Stream, New York Walmart trampling. But is Black Friday really as violent as people say it is?

As of writing this post I was able to find that there have been 7 deaths associated with Black Friday and 90 injuries among a smattering of threats. The common understanding is that all these deaths and injuries are the sad product of a consumerism-driven culture. People killing themselves and each other for things they don’t need, won’t use, and spending themselves into debt solely so they can buy buy buy because having things is rad. As for the threats, who knows how valid they are in our ultra-sensitive liberal agenda worshipping culture.

Before we condemn this time as a menace to society, let’s look at some facts.

Is violence a common theme in Black Friday activities? In 2011 there were 86 million shoppers on Black Friday across the U.S., and 89 million in 2012. Let’s look at those two years and determine how likely you are to lose more than money this Black Friday.

Of the 86 million shoppers in 2011 there was one death recorded, and 46 injuries. That death was 61-year old Walter Vance, who died of a heart attack while shopping. News reports claimed that Vance collapsed in one of the aisles while shoppers continued to shop as normal, walking right over his body. Vance’s wife, Lynne, refuted those reports saying that 6 off-duty nurses who happened to be shopping that day administered CPR until paramedics arrived.

For the one awful woman pepper spraying shoppers in order to snag a video game, you can see that there were 6 willing to step up and restore faith in humanity.

In fact, I challenge that if someone looks long and hard at all the negative publicity surrounding Black Friday, you’ll find that it’s the news outlets that have blown the situations out of proportions. You can read more about these deaths and injuries at your leisure if you don’t trust my word for it. Give it a read. Most of these deaths and injuries happened a) at Walmart (go figure), and b) by people who came with weapons ready to go. Most of these deaths are related to Black Friday by the following the criteria:

1. These people were participating in Black Friday shopping, and then tried to go home.

2. These people died falling asleep at the wheel of their cars. That’s not Black Friday’s fault. That’s lack of sleep in not knowing your limits, and lack of sensibility in letting your passengers drive without wearing seat belts.

Don’t get me wrong, even one of these deaths or injuries is one far too many. Some of these injuries and tragedies really do showcase the horrible depravity of mankind, while others are tragically unfortunate. While acknowledging this fact, let’s also remember the fact that there are people out there who are doing decent things in the midst of the noise.

Amongst the blaring NFL highlights of the electronics section, and the endless drone of Idina Menzel’s voice coming from yet another Frozen toy, let’s remember that these things we’re buying are just that. Things. There will always be those people who, like Matt Walsh said, buy crap they don’t need, and crap they can’t afford. For every one of those crap-buying shoppers, there’s an equal amount of shoppers that are buying things that they genuinely want to buy for others.

Let’s stop this crusade of complaining against consumerism just because we enjoy the feeling of stepping into our bully pulpits and reminding shoppers how awful they are without telling them how needy they are. How will they hear what they need without a preacher preaching what needs to be preached? This Christmas season, let’s stop becoming the bully, and become the bull. If you go shopping, lead the charge and show people that consumerism isn’t the problem, but awful people being simply awful.

Go shopping this Black Friday, and do it responsibly. Be a decent human being, even if it means you can’t buy the exact things you’re looking for. Defend those who can’t fight back, respect the employees working their tails off for you to make ends meet for their families. Don’t be the animals that liberals tell you you are.

Don’t Waste Your Money.

Recently, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to go on a date night. For those of you who don’t know, I recently graduated college, my wife is still in school, and our son is almost 14 months old. Date nights don’t happen often in our home.

We found someone to babysit our son, and went out for dinner and a movie. We decided that we were going to go see “Nightcrawler” starring Jake Gyllenhaal. From the second I saw the trailer the movie looked immensely fascinating mostly because the story for once seemed original.

I must begin by saying that Jake Gyllenhaal delivered the performance of his career in this movie. It was one of the most convincing and memorable performances I’ve ever seen. Dan Gilroy also directed and wrote an entertaining story in his debut.

That’s it for the positives. That is genuinely it for the good things to say about this movie.

Why?

Because the actual methods that Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) took to achieve his goals were so twisted and dark that any positive the movie was trying to convey was ruined. In the character of Louis Bloom we find someone who is almost a savant in his intelligence. The man spends hours on end studying what he wants to learn (despite his admittedly low formal education), has little social capabilities, and is desperate enough to do whatever is “necessary” to him to achieve his goals.

The movie opens with beautiful scenes of Los Angeles as a radio track plays in the background mentioning the difficulty of job hunting in the current economy. The camera stops on Bloom trespassing on closed business grounds stealing fencing in order to pawn it off. He is stopped by a security guard who asks for Bloom’s ID. Here is our first glimpse into the darkness of Bloom. As Bloom hands the security guard his ID, he tackles the guard to the ground, a struggle ensues, and the scene changes showing Bloom wearing the security guards’ watch (implying murder).

Bloom is portrayed throughout this movie as someone who is desperate for money, forcing himself into job interviews, and doing literally whatever is necessary to make money. The fascinating thing about this though is that Bloom never sells this clearly expensive watch for money.

He wears it the entire movie almost as a badge of honor.

Every time that watch appears on screen it forces you to recall the fact that Bloom murdered someone and is proud of it.

The next scene takes us to the plot of the story. Bloom drives past an automobile accident on the interstate and stops his car along the side of the road. As two police officers are pulling a screaming woman from a burning vehicle, Bloom simply stands there and watches while a freelance news crew films the entire scene.

It’s from this event that the plot is delivered. Bloom starts his own freelance news business, hiring an unemployed young man named Rick as his intern (footnote: Bloom acquired his police scanner and video camera by stealing a touring bike in town and selling it to a pawn shop).

Bloom begins his career by filming whatever news stories he can, and selling them to a low-level news producer named Nina. Nina is an older woman and is in charge of choosing what gets shown on the news station. She describes her station as a “woman running down the street with her throat slit.” At this same time, Bloom strikes up a rivalry with the same news team that arrived on the scene on the side of the interstate earlier.

Throughout their rivalry, Bloom and Mayhem News (Bloom’s Rival) trade blows arriving at breaking news scenes. Their rivalry comes to a head when Bloom arrives late at a scene (because of Rick’s incompetence), and the owner of Mayhem News rubs it in his face. Bloom decides to repay the favor by, get this, sabotaging their van, and causing the van’s steering to fail. Result: van and rival news team get in a horrific crash, and guess who arrives on the scene to film the medics lifting the owner from the van? Yep, Bloom. Bloom stares down the bloodied and broken body of his chief competitor with a face so dark and twisted that screamed of revelry and pride in yet another murder.

I wish I could say it gets better from here, but the rabbit hole just gets darker. Bloom then goes on to film several news casts, eventually learning that he can do his job better. He does this by fabricating the news, crossing police lines into private homes, filming people against their will, and filming people dying rather than helping them. He drags corpses into better sight lines so he can film a better “money shot”, extorts Nina into sexual gratification (off screen, thankfully), and then puts people in deliberate danger by withholding information from the police. His purpose? Making money.

Here’s how Bloom put together his final illusion.

He arrived on the scene of a break-in located in a rich neighborhood. He made it before the police showed up. He parks his car, and rushes inside. As he’s about to go inside, he sees gun flashes light up the house. He hides in the hedges and catches 2 men on film running out of the house, and into their van. He gets their identities, and their license plates on film.

He runs inside the house and films the corpses of the people who these men murdered. He then sells the footage to Nina, who is constantly being reprimanded by her public relations staff for showing Bloom’s footage. Footnote: The only people with any moral fiber in this entire film are these PR reps, the detective, and Rick. At this point, Bloom has infected almost everyone that he has come in contact with. Nina praises Bloom telling her news team that Bloom is “inspiring” everyone to reach for more in life. A dark and twisted soul with ambition and no moral compass had won over the people (big surprise).

The story ends with Bloom neglecting to tell the police about the shooters. Why? Because he wants them to be captured in a populated area where there is high danger, high violence, and the perfect “money shot.” Bloom and Rick follow the shooters to a Chinese restaurant with some civilians grabbing an early morning meal. Bloom calls the police and has Rick film the coming conflict from a separate angle. The police arrive and begin a firefight inside this restaurant. 3 civilians die, one police officer is hospitalized, and one of the criminals is killed. The other is wounded, but drives off and a dramatic car chase begins. Bloom and Rick film the car chase (albeit from tailgating the police car). Police gets sideswiped running through a red light, criminal 2’s SUV gets flipped over and screeches to a halt. Bloom stops the car, and runs over to film the corpse of the criminal. Bloom tells Rick “He’s dead,” and to take over filming the criminal, while he runs over to film the police car.

Rick tells Bloom that he is twisted and evil and that all this is their fault for not doing the right thing in the first place. Rick looks down at his viewfinder on his camera, and sees the the criminal’s head move. I’m sure you know what happens next, but here’s how it goes down.

Rick: “Hey, this guy’s still a…”

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Rick goes down as three bullets rip through his torso. Bloom then walks over to Rick, and films his last moments of life. Rick knew it, we knew it. Bloom knew the criminal was alive, and allowed Rick to be murdered simply because Rick was becoming a “problem” for Bloom’s company. Rick had to die, because Bloom couldn’t afford Rick’s want of more money, and more clout in the company. Bloom set him up, just like his news shots.

The movie ends with Bloom addressing his newest interns, and telling them that they are “key components” to his growing business.

Roll credits.

There you have it. Yes, the main character of this movie is the bad guy, clearly. The director does want us to see that Bloom is the bad guy. Problem: Bloom is held in high regard by every character in this movie except for 4. Bloom is rewarded again, and again, and again for his highly illegal, and unethical actions. Bloom sees himself as a good person, never believes he is doing anything wrong, and has 0 problems manipulating, betraying, and crushing everyone around him. It’s survival of the fittest, and Bloom wants it more than anyone else. By caring for no one but himself, Bloom came out on top.

This movie’s premise could easily read thus: It doesn’t matter who you step on to get where you’re going.

The trailer asked the question: “How far would you go for the American dream?”

Bloom’s American dream was paved with the blood of decent people. Our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.

Don’t waste your money on this putrefaction. Don’t even give it the time of day. Is it a compelling story? Yes. Is it worth hearing evil praised and honored so callously? Absolutely not. Bloom saw people as mere animals, and who can blame him? That’s what the world system has taught us. In the evolutionary scheme we are mere animals, and when people are told that they’re animals, that’s exactly what you get.

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Photo credit: http://www.cultjer.com/jake-gyllenhaal-on-the-bloody-stairs-filming-nightcrawler

The elder to the youth

I’ve seen this so many times in so many areas of my Christian life. So many people neglect service to the church as a local body. The point of this post is to promote a desire to serve in the church. If you don’t go to a church, go and serve. Christ died for His church. Men, you will never understand how to love your wife unless you serve in the church and see exactly what Christ loved so much, and gave Himself for. If you are a Christian, you must be part of a local body, and serve in some way. I believe Scripture is quite clear on this (just read the epistles).

This is my first attempt at poetry. This poem is about an elderly man who is struggling carrying all his purchased goods from a store out to his car. A youth happens upon him and helps him with his things, when an interesting conversation happens. Their lines always exchange, (elder, youth, elder, youth). When there are no quotes, the narrator is speaking.

“Thank you for helping me,” said the elder to the youth.

“It’s no trouble at all, sir.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s the truth.”

“Now tell me young man, why would you help an old codger like me?”

“Well I’m on my way to work, sir, and your car is on the way.”

“You’re on your way to work?!”

“Yes, it’s my second shift today.”

“But it’s Sunday,” said the elder to the youth, “Shouldn’t you be in church?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I haven’t the time. My funds are in a lurch.”

“You can’t work any other time?”

“No, I have too many deadlines.”

“You’re in the spring of life, what deadlines keep you harried?”

“I’m in college, sir, and homework and bills have me buried.”

“I see how that must trouble you so.”

“It’s a lot on my plate, I know.”

“Where do you go to school young man?” said the elder to the youth.

“I go to a Bible college.”

“A Bible college?!”

“It’s the truth.”

“Why go to a Bible college, but not make time for Sunday?”

“Money’s too short, and homework’s too long – I’m behind on both by Monday.”

“I want to ask you a question, son.”

“What kind of question is that?”

“Have you ever heard about Jesus Christ, as He’s told in Scripture?”

“Of course I have, I know Him well. I even know the coming rapture.”

“Is that all you know?”

“Oh, how much I know.”

“Tell how much you know of this Jesus, show me this education.”

“I know of Scripture, of spirits, of Calvinism. I know angels, and devils, and Arminianism. I know covenants, commandments, and dispensationalism.”

“That’s impressive, truly.” said the elder to the youth.

“I’m studying to learn the truth.”

“Then why have you learned the terms, and not the teacher and neglected His prized possession?”

“I’m a good student! I’ll graduate with honors! Ministry will be my profession.”

“How can you lead where you’ve never been lead?”

“How can I serve when I’ve no time for my bed?”

“How can you feed others when you don’t know how to eat?”

“How can I move on with all this debt chained to my feet?”

“How can you sharpen a sword with dull tools?”

“How can you stand working with fools?”

“How can you stand not working at all?”

“How can you question so full of gall?”

“Jesus said He’d build His church. Do you believe this to be true?”

“Of course I do, it’s clear in history. It’s never not been true.”

“Do you claim to be part of the body of Christ?” said the elder to the youth.

“I am a Christian aren’t I?”

“You are?”

“It’s the truth.”

“Then why have you amputated yourself from the body?”

“The church has survived for years without this nobody.”

“But this nobody could have been somebody to a local body and turned that local body into some body!”

 The two looked at each other in silence, neither will would bend.

After some time, the elder spoke again,

“Will you reattach yourself to the body?”

The youth had no answer then.

“Do you believe in Jesus, as He’s told in Scripture?” said the elder to the youth.

“I’m sorry, I’ve no time to talk. I must be off to work.”

“Are you sure?”

“It’s the truth.”

The book of Joel:

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Date of Writing and Contemporaries

“The Lord is God” is the meaning behind Joel’s name. Joel makes mention of at least a dozen men in the Old Testament. Joel’s prophecies make one appearance in the entire New Testament. This is seen in the book of Acts (MacArthur Study Bible NASB 1240). The readers learn who the writer is when he identifies himself as “Joel, the son of Pethuel.” Apart from that, the reader knows little else. Pethuel is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. Despite his zeal for temple sacrifices, his knowledge of pastoral and agricultural life, coupled with his separation from a priestly life alludes to the fact that Joel was most likely not a priest (though a case could be made that he was).

The context of the prophecy lends itself to the interpretation that Joel was a Judean from around the general vicinity of Jerusalem. Joel talks with familiarity of the people, rather than as a stranger (MacArthur Study Bible NASB 1240). One thing that separates this book from other prophetic texts, is that little to no information is given in the opening that clarifies the time of ministry. Because of this, scholars rely on the internal evidence in dating the text. The time of writing can cover pre-exilic, late pre-exilic, and post-exilic (Chisholm Bible Knowledge Commentary 1409).

Historical Background

Israel was in a state of constant warfare with Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia. These nations had made constant invasions into Hebrew territory. The souther kingdom had become weak due to an extended drought, coupled with a massive plague of locusts ruining the economy of Israel. It is with this understanding Joel communicates God’s judgment for Israel. No matter how bad the destruction of the locusts was, God’s judgment in the Day of the Lord will exceed it by far.

The message that Joel is trying to communicate is that God will judge His enemies and bless those that remain faithful to Him. What is interesting is that no specific sins of Israel are mentioned, like idolatry. What the writing style lends itself to is an understanding of possible callous indifference. There is a definite call for repentance throughout the book, and commanding the people to “rend their hearts…” (MacArthur Study Bible NASB 1240).

Overarching Message

There is no denying that the major theme of Joel’s writing is the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord has the most coverage in the book, permeating every facet of Joel’s writing. The origin of the idea of the Lord intervening in Israel’s wars is clearly seen in this book (The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh,” Journal of Semitic Studies 4. 1959:97-98). The idea or concept is derived from the Near East tradition stating that a mighty warrior-king could conquer the enemies of His people in a fantastic military campaign in one day.

As with most of the minor prophets, this book carries the name of the author inspired to write it, but God is the main character of this book. Everything in this book centers around what exactly God will do with His people, Israel, during an event called “The Day of the Lord.” The main designations for God are either YHWH, or elohim (or some derivative of elohim like Eloheichem). YHWH is used by Joel to demonstrate to the people that God is still in their midst, and they must call out to Him for aid. He is still willing to save them. The name eloheichem is used by Joel to communicate a possessive nature. “He is eloheichem (your God).” This term is also used in connection with most of the judgments in the book, though the “Day of the Lord” uses the term “Yahweh”.

There are many attributes of God on display in this book. The first of these is Immanence. Joel receives the message (1:1) he must preach from the Lord. God communicates personally to His people through Joel. In chapter two and verse 18 Joel says that the Lord is zealous for His people. Throughout the passage, Joel acknowledges the sovereignty of God by imploring God not to take His favor from Israel. Another attribute of God’s on display is His justice. He declares that judgment will come upon Israel because they have abandoned their first love, and gone in search of other gods (2:12). This judgment will be the great and terrible Day of the Lord, whose foreboding presence hovers over Israel throughout the entire book.

But God also shows that justice involves both judgment and mercy. God will let Israel come back to Him when they repent (2:12).The very fact that God sent this message to the house of Israel shows that God is a compassionate God and rich in mercy. This is not a new development in God. He is willing to extend grace and restoration to those who are His, and are seeking to make things right once again. In the Day of the Lord, God demonstrates another attribute of His, that being His control over creation. The Day of the Lord shows that God owns natural laws. In the Day of the Lord we find seismic disturbances (2:1-11; 2:31; 3:16), clouds and thick darkness (2:2), cosmic upheaval (2:3, 30), and a day of awesome terror and catastrophe (1:15, 2:11).

Throughout the book of Joel, one can learn many things about mankind. This book demonstrates that mankind is looking for something to worship (2:12) and it will be either God or man’s creation. Mankind is intelligent and capable of producing through the means of farming, and cattle raising (1:17-19). Mankind desires life and knows pain is not natural because the Day of the Lord fills its hearers with dread (2:1). Mankind is intended to desire relationship as God makes repentance the focus of His message to Israel (2:12). Mankind has these gifts given to Him from God, and this desire to know God and be known. As relational religious people, mankind is seeking to have a relationship with something greater than himself.

Mankind is capable of understanding God (1:1), mankind can serve the Lord (1:1), mankind can gain and lose favor with God (2:12), mankind can expect God to hear them (1:19), mankind can expect God to keep His promises (2:23), God provides for the righteous, and leads them (2:26-27), mankind can be protected by the Lord (3:16), righteous mankind will be avenged by God (3:21). In this relationship between God and man in this book, one can clearly see that God does not tolerate the adulterous faith of His people. Whether Gentile or Jew, God demands sole obedience and sole worship of Him alone. God judges wickedness, and asks that man respond in faithfulness and repentance when called to obey, worship, and repent.

The Day of the Lord is often seen as a solely eschatological theme with an emphasis on end times. This, for the most part, is true. In Joel, the Day of the Lord refers primarily to the end times, when God is judging the Earth, before He returns and delivers all who believe in Him, and restores creation to what it should be. The exception to this is in Ezekiel when the Day of the Lord refers most likely a near completion in the destruction of Jerusalem by Assyria.

Word Study: Yom YHWH

The focus of Joel is judgment and deliverance. This judgment and deliverance will occur during a period of time called “The Day of the Lord.” Because of the amount of activity that goes on in the book of Joel surrounding the Day of the Lord, I am inclined to interpret this term as referring to a period of time greater than one literal day.

The respected translations of Scripture all record the phrase “Day of the Lord” as is. Some minor variants are “Day of Judgment, Day of Yahweh, Day of Adonai, or the Yom YHWH.” The Day of the Lord is a term within Joel that showcases a sense of fear and dread, followed by hope in deliverance. Because there is no number used with the term in Joel, we can conclude that this is not a literal 24-hour day like what is expressed in Genesis.

Lastly, what we can learn from this book is that the Day of the Lord carries a sense of finality with it. Joel understands this term to be a series of events in the world when all creation comes down. The key phrase in all of this is when God restores the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. In history, this has not happened yet the way God describes it in Joel.

The purpose of this section will be to define what the Day of the Lord means to various authors of Scripture who were contemporaries of Joel. There are 26 uses of the phrase “day of the Lord” throughout Scripture. Ezekiel admonishes Israel for not building a wall “to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord (Eze 13:5).” The day of the Lord is a “doom for the nations (Eze 30:3).” This day of judgment seems to be more focused on Egypt than on the future of Israel. There are multiple uses for the Day of the Lord, but this does not appear to be a Tribulation perspective.

Joel describes that the day of the Lord is “destruction from the Almighty (Joel 1:15),” and tells his listeners to “tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming (Joel 2:1).” Joel asks “who can endure it (Joel 2:11)”, talks of the sun and moon being radically changed on the “great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2:31)”, and “the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14).”

There are a few passages that relate the Day of the Lord to Israel specifically. Joel 2:1-11 states that the Day of the Lord is a time of darkness for Israel. Joel 3:14-17 says that the Day of the Lord is a time that the Israelites will find refuge. Joel 2:31 tells of the darkening of celestial bodies before the Day of the Lord. The frequency that these passages occur in the Old Testament will make itself evident as important to prophetic writings.

Locusts (vs. 1-9)

The trumpets are significant in this chapter and often showcase a pivot in the direction of the book. The first trumpet is a call of warning, and the second is a call for instruction. Joel is playing the role of watchman in the city, and commanding the people that they must repent in order for the doing judgment to be averted. Joel’s prophecy keys around an “army” of some kind, and how they act in the Day of the Lord (McComiskey, 2000, 273).

Joel 2:1-2 mentions that the day of the Lord is one filled with gloom, showing that it is dreadful. When one reads this the language of Hebrews 12:18-29 could come to mind. John also uses the locust imagery in Revelation 9. These vivid images were common forerunners to OT misery and calamity, as well as appearances of the Lord. The army is seen as devouring locusts which most likely refers to their power to destroy all in their path. In the imagery of the locust a parallel can be drawn—just as God used locust to free Israel, so God will use “locust” to put them back into slavery (Ironside, 83, 1904).

The comparison of locusts to fire is not based solely on their destructive qualities. It has been documented that swarms of locust sound like a rampaging forest fire. They are referred to as having horse heads because they are weapons of war. Horses were not farm animals back then. Joel continues to iterate how bred for war this “army” was by stating that they are like chariots, mighty, and like soldiers. Several times in this book the sense of inescapability looms over Israel like the sword of Damocles. But here lies the doctrine of the remnant of Israel. No matter how inescapable this judgment is for Israel, and the rest of the nations on earth, Israel is constantly spared miraculously by God (Price, 1976, 23).

Normally, armies are likened to locust in literature of the old world, but in this odd instance, the locust are likened to an army. This military nature of locust is not only mentioned here, but also in Proverbs 30. The locust are an awesome and horrifying example of inescapable rage, and is going to be the cause of fear, and fleeing as mentioned in Deuteronomy 28 (Pohlig, 2003, 93).

Burning satellites (vs 10-12)

The cosmic disturbances are also tell-tale signs of divine appearances close at hand. One has but to read Scripture and see that creation (human or not) reacts to the entrance of God in remarkable ways, almost as if creation cannot handle God’s presence. While darkening skies and blocking of the sun is common during a locust plague, locusts do not normally move at night. This says one of two things—either the locust are moving supernaturally, or Joel has shifted to describing the coming of the Lord. Thomas Edward McComiskey says, “The Lord appears as the commander of the heavenly host, shouting his orders to his warriors; created order is extinguished and plummets to the starless night of primeval chaos. The work of creation is annulled as the cosmos convulses in congruence with the divine judgment.” The God who fought for Israel now turns His face against His chosen people (Gaebelein, 1909, 88).

So what do these locusts mean? Most likely they are an extended metaphor of chapter 1, telling the people that the Day of the Lord is coming soon. In the present sense, the locust of destruction represent Assyria as Joel was written in the 8th century most likely. It also has the far interpretation of the end times, just after the rapture when another army sweeps down to destroy Israel once more.

Yet another chance (vs. 12-14)

God’s mercy is seen in the second half of this portion of Scripture as Joel 2:12-14 marks God’s plea for repentance. God stood ready to forgive and bless the people of Israel if they would simply repent. As always it is God who extends the hand of repentance to the unrepentant. He is reaching out for them. If the people repent, God will forgive them, and heal the land. The urgency of repentance is a common theme throughout Scripture, and the is seen as the only way to escape the “decisions” of the Lord in judgment. Because of the incessant breach of relationship brought on by sin in the hearts of the Jews, God demanded a heart change of repentance. Their hearts needed to be remade. Joel reminds the listeners in verse 14 that even if God does forgive them, He is still sovereign and has the right to punish them for their sin (Levy, 1987, 33).

Breaking point (vs. 15-17)

The gravity of Israel’s situation reaches critical level when even the bridegroom and the bride are needed to help fight. Their consummation of their marriage had to wait as they fought for survival against insurmountable odds. It is important to note that this was not a fight in a military sense, but is calling for an emergency staffing of the temple for national repentance. With the newlyweds, and the children and infants gathered, Joel was communicating that this was the most dire circumstance that Israel had ever faced in its time up to this point. Every last soul was needed to pray for the rescue of the people (McComiskey, 283).

The location of the priests as they weep between the porch and altar is especially significant as one reads through Jewish history. It was a mediatorial position where sacrifice was made to God. It was in this very place where Zechariah son of Berechiah had been killed, and this was the place where the elders in Ezekiel turned their backs on the Lord and worshipped the sun. The priests now have two points in their prayer—mercy, and that YHWH act in honor of His own glory.

Application

Therefore, it is safe to say that the Day of the Lord is a time of judgment upon Israel, and Israel’s enemies, that culminates in deliverance for Israel. As such, it is safe to interpret the Day of the Lord as a near-far interpretation that resulted in judgment of the enemies of Israel in the 8th century BC (Egypt), and the judgment of Israel’s enemies and salvation of Israel in the last days (tribulation). If there is one theme that can be taken from a study of this book, it is that God will judge the wickedness of the unfaithful in a worldwide period of wrath called “The Day of the Lord” that will result in the salvation and rescuing of those who call on the name of the Lord and repent.

The overarching theme of all the passages listed above is judgment. It cannot be stated enough that the judgments in these passages refer not only specifically to Israel, but also to a period of judgment that is directly linked to the Second Coming of Christ. If the Day of the Lord does not begin until the Second Coming of Christ, and that event is preceded by specific signs, then the Day of the Lord will most certainly not arrive as a thief in the night, unexpectedly, nor unheralded. The only manner in which this day can break upon all humanity unawares is by having it occur immediately after the Rapture.

What does this mean for believers today then? It means that God is fiercely jealous for our love, and will punish ungodliness in our lives. It also means that God desires for us to repent. He does not seek to just punish us maniacally. He wants to have relationship with His people. He cannot be a part of sin. Because of that God must drive it out of His people one way or another. Believers can take comfort in the fact that God did not let Joel end with a pronouncement of judgment. The book ends with a call for repentance, and God’s promise to fight for His people. We can live in that comfort. There will be tough times for us ahead, but God will fight for His people, and preserve them.

Who do you say that I am?

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The book of Mark is an intriguing book. It gives very little detail in areas where one would think that more would be helpful while in others it gives many details when one might consider it not necessary. Mark seems to write with a sense of urgency. He writes as though he must record the minimum amount of information. One must wonder if he wrote with the goal of getting the message of the life of Christ out and into the church as swiftly as possible. This is not the case though.

As the reader will surely know, the Holy Spirit guided the writing of John Mark and caused him to write exactly what he needed to. The Holy Spirit knew that the purpose of the Gospel of Mark would be one with a direct purpose. A purpose that would tell its readers of a man who dared to claim to be God. A man who could make that claim and not sin in saying so. A man who could make the sick healthy. A man who could make the lame leap, the dumb speak, and the dead to live again. A man who could tame the elements. Something that man cannot to this day do. Who is this man, this carpenter from Nazareth? Ironically, He asked this same question to His followers. May the reader read and be blessed on this feeble attempt to explain this magnificent story of the greatest man to ever live.

The characteristics of Mark

Mark was written by John Marcus, an interpreter to Peter. He wrote everything he remembered that Peter had told him. He was well known in his association with Peter because some nobody would not have been accepted by the church. Mark is a unique book because its contents focus on immediate action. This swiftness was because the Romans, the audience the book was written to, were a people of action. They just wanted the facts. Mark does not even include the virgin birth account as Matthew and Luke do. Romans wanted to see power and authority and this is exactly what Mark gave them. This authority that he stressed was over demons, disease, and death. These miracles in Mark have more detail than the other Gospels. Invariably the people are amazed at the works and words of Christ. This amazement stems from His authority.

Mark is unique in that he, more than the other writers, stresses Jesus’ favorite title for Himself; that being Son of Man. That is not the only title, however, that Mark dwells on. No, Mark writes his Gospel in almost two parts with each culminating in resounding statements by mankind. This shall be looked at later. There are many other characteristics that separate Mark from the other Gospels, but this author must move on.

Authority over demons, death, and disease

Mark wrote down specific events from Christ’s word and work so that it would be an aid to the Roman believers who were suffering persecution just as their Savior did. The book begins immediately with John the Baptist preaching and preparing the way of as prophesied in Isaiah with the ministry of Christ following immediately afterwards. One of the things that Mark stresses are the names of Christ. Jesus means the Lord of salvation. It was His human name. Christ means Messiah and King. Son of God refers to His divine relationship with the Father that is equal in essence and possessing the very nature of God. Son of Man refers to His humility and His returning in judgment as prophesied in Daniel 7. All these names of Christ show His authority. This is what the Romans wanted to see. What gives Jesus His authority and why does He have it? This is what they wanted to know. Mark proves His authority through the writing of miracles proving His control over three things that only God has authority over: demons, death, and disease.

The first of Jesus’ recorded miracles is when He visits Capernaum. This city would be a home-base of sorts for Christ in His ministry. In this city was a demoniac who had come across Jesus’ path as He was leaving the synagogue. The demon tries to gain the upper hand on Christ by calling Him out by name, which was a tactic designed to show the exorcist that the demon was more powerful than the exorcist. This strategy does not work on the Son of God. Jesus then immediately heals the mother-in-law of Peter, cleanses a leper, and healing a multitude of people. In this first chapter alone Christ has cast out a demon, healed the sick, and healed a leper over a disease that almost certainly results in death.

Another key point that Mark tries to stress is Christ’s dominion over the law. Christ has authority over the Sabbathian laws and sin, bringing to a boil a heated series of confrontations with the religious leaders of Israel. Christ heals a paralytic man from sin and then from his disease. Christ always sought after healing the spiritual first and then the physical if the people would simply believe. It would appear that Christ would trump the teachers of the law in this confrontation, but this would not be the last of their meetings. They seemingly follow Christ and His disciples from location to location in an attempt to catch Him or His disciples in false teaching. Christ gets to the point very beautifully when He confronts them in the temple after healing a man with a withered hand. He tells them what the true purpose of the Sabbath was and that it was a supplement to man, not man to it. His teaching was dripping with authority and the scribes and elders simply could not match it. As with all of Jesus’ teaching, it either saved, or condemned those who heard His message. The religious leaders instantly sought to kill their Messiah. God’s children could learn much from the suffering of Christ. When believers do right and are persecuted for it, often by those who claim the name of Christ, do they crumble under the minor pressure? Or do they fight the good fight? Christ was called Satan by the people who should have known Him best. He was rejected by His own family. He lived homelessly and relied on the providence of God to carry Him and His disciples through the day.

What typifies this portion of the book is how Mark stresses the deity of Christ. Christ does this primarily through His servant’s heart. He goes to the people. He wants the people to come to Him. He touches people, embraces them, and heals them. Only the hand that holds the world can perform these wonders.

From here Mark reaches a pivotal point in his Gospel. Jesus now begins to teach in parables whose understanding is given only to those who will follow Him. The religious leaders are not granted mercy and understanding and are rejected by Christ. Just as these parables show who Christ’s enemies are they reveal who His children are.

It seems that a key theme to all of Christ’s parables is that the Gospel is controversial. The parables conceal truth that He reveals to His people. From here, Mark continues to show Christ’s deity through another series of miracles. These include calming the storm, cleansing another demoniac who had many demons inside him, cleansing a woman from perpetual uncleanness, raising a young girl from the dead, commissioning the twelve so that they could do miraculous things themselves, feeding over 5,000 people with meager means twice, walking on water, healing the Syrophoenician’s daughter, a deaf man, and many other things could not be contained in all the books in the world. All the while Jesus is refuting the Pharisees and religious leaders every step of the way who only grow more rage-filled at this carpenter.

This brings the book to a drastic shift. Christ will now explain about His passion week, and tell the disciples all that they need to know as He mentors them through what will be an arduous time of life in the name of Christ.

Discipling the disciples

Mark wrote down what Peter had now understood to be a teaching on how to survive and be joyous through persecutions and certain death. Mark also records in this section the beautiful confession of that Jesus is the Christ by Peter. This is one of the two key confessions made in the Gospel of Christ. Whenever a statement like this is made, there is a shift not only in this book, but also in the lives of the people who make this confession. Christ now wanted to help bolster their faith and teach them all that He could about His death and resurrection. Christ presents them with the drastic commitment that following Christ entails and how it is to the end. A half-hearted attempt at life is simply not good enough when it comes to service to the King of kings. This is why Jesus took the three who were closest to Him to witness His transfiguration. This event was a sign to the disciples that they would later communicate to their brethren that Christ was the King of Israel and their faith should not waver. Christ would not leave them derelict.

Mark takes special interest to record the healing of another demoniac to show that healing comes through the power of faith in prayer.

Christ’s preaching on His death is always connected to discipleship. Jesus would communicate His death to the disciples but they could still not understand. Christ spends this time leading up to His passion week dealing with many different things that would create tension in the church and still do today. Christ spent a great deal of time dealing with the false ideals of the disciples who wanted to the big man on campus when the kingdom came, what real servanthood is like.

All the sections of Mark lead up to this final one where Christ proves that He is the Son of God through His death and resurrection.

The Son of God

Mark now shifts focus once again as he records the passion narrative and the atoning work of Christ. The contrasting points of view in the love of Christ and the rejection by the religious leaders are what truly capture this portion of the narrative. Christ continues to teach in parables through the cursing of the fig tree, vineyard workers, the parable of the steward. He also faces various attacks from the religious leaders who are still attempting to prove that He is a sham of a man and is no better than them and their law. Christ continues to sweep away their attacks with brilliant questions and not only asks a question that defeats their questions, but also proves the complete fallacy in their beliefs. Only the God-man could do such a thing. The Pharisees and teachers of the law now shift to full-fledged premeditated murder of Christ. Mark writes carefully and records the word and work of Christ as the days lead up to His ransom for sin.

Christ shared communion with His disciples during the last supper and gave them orders concerning how they were to remember Him and taught them one last time before His crucifixion. Christ then prays in the garden and with His disciples who cannot even stay awake during His hour of plight. Christ is betrayed, arrested, tried before a farcical court, tried before Pilate, and rejected by the people. He is beaten at an unbelievable level. The people choose a murderous zealot to be released over Him and ask that His blood be on them and their children.

As Christ hung on the cross and breathed out His last, crying out that His work was completed, a nameless centurion walked by the cross with his face gazing on the corpse of Christ. With full affirmation he claimed as Peter did that this man was the Son of God assuredly.

It is this that is the purpose of the book. So that people may know that Christ is the Son of God, and that He has died for all mankind. But He is no longer dead. The resurrection is historical proof empirically recorded for the skeptics that corroborate that Jesus truly was the Son of the Most High God because death could not hold Him. After the resurrection, Mark ceases to write as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells him to cease. The word and work of Christ is sent out to all mankind and man can revel in His word and work. Amen.

Conclusion

Jesus of Nazareth is arguably the most disputed person in the history of man. His word and work have been recorded in several accounts that historically reliable and accurate. The purpose of this work, however, is very simple. The Gospel of Mark is designed to teach us exactly who Christ is as a servant, as deity, as Messiah, healer, teacher, cleanser, Savior, Son of God, and Son of Man. In Him can we live, dwell, and die in sheer joy. Oh, that the scales would fall from the eyes of man that they may declare that Christ is Lord. Oh, that we would do the same in our illumination. Let the believers who testify of His name say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Lord, haste the day when we see burning satellites, and your kingdom descending from heaven. Amen.

This is intended to be an overview of the book of Mark. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s purpose is to give you some introductory material. I hope you enjoy it.

Please like this post, share it, comment on it, and give me your thoughts please! I’d love to dialogue with you. Follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/JustraXephon

– Just

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