One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was leaning back on Jesus’s chest.
Has anyone ever let you close enough to hear the rhythm of their heartbeat? Perhaps when you were young your mother or father let you rest your head against their chest and listen. Or maybe as a child you and your closest friend would take a break from playing to listen to that mysterious rhythm in each other. Or perhaps a lover opened their heart to you and let you hear that secret song that plays within them.
It’s not often that another person lets you in so close that you can hear their beating heart. In fact, being given the privilege to put your ear against someone’s chest is such a personal and vulnerable display of affection—you could almost say the pulse within them is the sound of their love for you.
I’ve always wondered—in that moment described in the verse above, did John get near enough to hear it? That night, as that group of thirteen friends ate their final meal together, was John able to hear the pulse of Jesus’s heart?
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Every year I wait for the plum blossoms. They come when winter loses its chilly grip and the warm kiss of spring begins to wake the lone plum tree in my yard. Soon, its branches are filled with the glory of thousands of pink blossoms, and every time I pass by, the sight of them fills me with joy.
Yet, the blossoms don’t wait around for long. After only a few weeks they’re packed up and gone, and I have another year to wait for them.
Last time we looked at this story in the Gospel of Mark together, we examined how Mark uses the word ischuo with a special significance throughout his Gospel.1
In the very beginning, John the Baptist claims Jesus is the “stronger” one by virtue of the Holy Spirit that empowers him.
Later, in ch. 3, Jesus claims that he is the one who has bound the strong one Beelzebul, implying that Jesus is stronger.Furthermore, Jesus is plundering his house. He goes on to connect this with the Holy Spirit just as John did before: it is not the power of Satan that allows him to do this, but the Holy Spirit of God that he wields and that wields him.
Mark hints in the story of Legion that Jesus is again facing the “strength” of the strong man, Beelzebul. However, Mark dramatically reveals partway through the story that the battle is not like before. Instead of just facing off with one unclean spirit, Jesus is now set against thousands of them. After establishing this, Jesus dispatches them with almost no effort. The power of Beelzebul is so far no match at all for Jesus.
There were two more components of the story that I wanted to look at. In this post we will be looking at one of them, which is the significance of Jesus’ allowing the unclean spirits to enter the herd of pigs and their subsequent drowning in the sea.
I just finished reading Money and Power by Jacques Ellul, the late French sociologist and Christian theologian. Although you can see Ellul’s sociological prowess in the background of his work, I appreciate that throughout the work he thinks primarily from Scripture, with copious quotation of and reflection on biblical texts.
I find Ellul to have a very refreshing and challenging perspective on money. Even though I didn’t always find myself in agreement with his conclusions and argumentation, I consider many of his opinions at least loosely in line with Scripture as a whole, the early church as seen in the New Testament, and the Church Fathers and Mothers.
In the first chapter, Ellul discusses the contemporary monetary and economic paradigms and considers how to approach them from a Christian perspective.
Ellul (writing in the 1950s) sees all the economic systems, the -isms, as problematic. The main issue is that they abstract the money problem. For him, the problem is a matter of the human heart in relation to money. When we abstract money into a global economic system, we lost sight of personal relationship and responsibility.
Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I take my writing and research very seriously. I still remember my very first grad school research paper. After spending scores and scores of hours working on it, I received a pretty good grade for it, and I got a lot of praise from my professor. I even got praise from friends who read my paper. I was very proud of my work.
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints—and this not merely as we expected.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5
I bought my first electric guitar when I was fourteen years old. I had spent the entire summer working and saving up for it, and when I had a few hundred dollars saved up, my dad took me over to a music store while we were traveling in San Diego. It was a black Fender Stratocaster I picked out, double humbucker with a brushed metal pickguard. I loved that guitar. Much of my teenage years would consist in practicing for years locked up in my room or jamming out with my friends (note: it’s a good idea to jam at the drummer’s house because their parents are used to the noise).
That guitar was an important part of my life for many years, but as time passed on, I didn’t play it as much as I had used to. My interests had changed, and I was more likely to be playing my acoustic Taylor or learning classical pieces on the nylon string I bought from my friend’s dad for a hundred bucks. More and more that Stratocaster just sat in the closet.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God, The Creator of the ends of the earth.He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles,they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah says to wait for the Lord. Frankly, I don’t know if I like the advice. Do you? I want to prepare, strike out on my path, excel, succeed. Don’t you? When I face a challenge, I want to overcome it. I want to be smart enough, fast enough, strong enough. When I fall down, I want to pick myself up by my own bootstraps. Don’t you?
Recently during a devotional time, I was meditating on the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and during this time I was overwhelmed by my beauty in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this sounds like a strange thing to say. It’s common for Christians to emphasize how wretched, awful, and ugly people can be (some traditions take this further than others)—and I think it is important to spend time reflecting on the darkness and evil that exists within each of us. Part of God’s purposes with Israel was to make human sin fully known, as Paul says in Romans 7:13, “In order that sin might be recognized as sin, it [the Law/Torah] used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” But, whatever else he did, Jesus Christ also came to show us just how beautiful we really are.
It is not unusual to hear Jesus described as “true humanity” or being “truly human.” (I think I first came across something like this from N. T. Wright, one of my favorite Biblical scholars and one of my inspirations for choosing to pursue theology and Biblical scholarship in seminary.) I think this language expresses a concept found in the Bible. It’s what I think Paul is alluding to when he calls Jesus Christ the “final Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15:45, or when he says in Romans 5:19, “just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” It is what I think Christians mean when they say that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life or that he kept Torah perfectly. I think this concept is also evident in some of the early Christian theologians, for example Irenaeus with his concept of “recapitulation,” by which he means that Jesus “redid” human life and succeeded in every place that we failed. Jesus redeemed what Adam destroyed.
Today I’ve been looking at the story of the demon-possessed man at Gergasa (or Gerasa, or Gadara) in Mark’s Gospel.1 This story features in my first graduate-school research paper, in which I analyzed Mark’s use of the sea as a theme and metaphor in his narrative. I’m also planning on featuring this story in a video series that I’m currently putting together—hence my interest in the text today. As I was researching, I came across one intertextaul and two intratextual aspects of the story that I had never before realized, and which I’d like to share here.2
After beginning writing, I realized that I had far too much material for one post. I’m imagining that I can get everything out in two parts. This first one will deal with one of the intratextual features (though, in so doing we’ll touch on a bit of intertextuality yet still). Even still, this first post is far too long. Perhaps I’ll be able to conclude in my next post, yet we’ll see how long it goes, and perhaps I’ll have to split it in half again.
Often I find that poetry helps me to learn about and understand deep topics better than anything else can. One of my favorite poets is George Herbert, a 17th-century Anglican priest. Here are some of my thoughts and reflections on his poem “Temper (i).”
First, the poem itself. Read it slowly and take it in before moving on.