Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from Gospel of Mark

Today marks a radical departure in my writing for Internet Monk.

One of my greatest desires over the last ten years has been to bring Michael Spencer’s study of the Gospel of Mark into the hands of his readers. While I have had some initial starts on it over the past decade, the time has come to focus my attention and bring it to its conclusion. Each Monday and Friday for the next number of months I will be bringing a mini-chapter from Michael’s Devotional commentary to the pages of Internet Monk. There are approximately eighty mini-chapters in total. The hope/plan is to be able to have completed the first half of them by Christmas of this year as Volume 1: Mark 1 – 8. We will be seeking a publisher for this, so that we can get properly printed copies into your hands or the hands of your friends and family.

Here is what I would like you to do:

1. Interact with the weekly material.
What questions does the material prompt in your brain?
What questions would you put into a study guide?
What is unclear and needs further editing or clarification?
Can you find any grammatical or spelling errors?

2. Promote the series.
Let others know that there is a great book out there to be read.
I will create a website where you can express your initial interest in receiving a published copy and where you will be able to eventually be able to buy the book.
For now, expression of interest can be sent to: michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com

Let’s jump right in. I will do my best to answer any questions or comments as they arise.

 

Foreword

When Michael Spencer passed away in the spring of 2010, there was a consensus among the many readers of his popular blog that he was just hitting his stride as a writer. Michael’s life’s desire was to know Jesus better. The tool that he used more than any other to accomplish that task was his study of the Gospel of Mark. Through scouring Internet archive sources, and through the assistance of his wife, Denise, I was able to find the following source material originally composed by Michael Spencer:

  • Thirty five written Bible studies covering Mark 1-8
  • Twenty seven hours of audio Bible studies covering most of Mark
  • Five sermons covering portions of Mark 9, 10, and 13
  • Fifty blog posts referencing significant sections of Mark.

When all was gathered, transcribed, and collated, I ended up with about 800 pages of material. Massaging and editing this material into what you see in front of you was a monumental task. Michael really varied his writing style and content depending upon his audience. A sermon to a rural Kentucky church reads quite differently from a blog posting on internetmonk.com. To bring it together into one cohesive whole has been a challenge, but one that I felt I needed to take on.

The voice that you will hear as you read this book will be overwhelmingly that of Michael Spencer. When you read the word “I”, it is Michael Spencer who is speaking in the first person. I have done my very best to not project my own thoughts and ideas into the text. Although we were able to gather so much source material, there were still some outstanding gaps. The most significant of these were the latter half of Mark 13, and most of Mark 16. I have filled in these gaps in as best I could, while aiming to be consistent with Michael’s teachings on the rest of Mark.

The book you are about to read is best described as a devotional commentary. I have merged Michael’s folksy spoken material with his more formal written style to produce something that I hope is both meaningful and easy to read. If you are interested in learning more about Jesus, but have been turned off by the words and actions of others, this may be just the book you are looking for.

In April of 2009, Michael Spencer welcomed me on board Internet Monk as his “co-pilot” and “first officer.” Through the completion of this book I am glad that I have been able to continue in this role, and bring his life’s project in for a safe landing.

Michael Bell

 

Preface

In 1982, I returned to seminary and took a job as youth minister at a church near the seminary. Because of some of my studies in seminary that semester, and because of an encouragement to make one book a life’s project, I determined to make my life’s project the Gospel According to St. Mark.

At the time, many years ago, it seemed like many other resolutions that I made but probably wouldn’t keep. Surprisingly, I have kept that resolution, much to the chagrin of all those around me who have come to hear far more sermons, lessons and talks from Mark than any other Gospel, and especially to the regret of my Bible students, who have come to view my annual trek through Mark as the great mountain to be climbed in my Bible survey class.

This began with seeds planted by Dr. G.R. Beasley-Murray’s introduction to the New Testament, and Dr. David Garland’s class on the Gospels. It continued in my own studies of the New Testament and building an extensive library on Jesus studies, particularly regarding the literary aspects of the Gospel of Mark.

In my ministry, this turned into something I love to do: Cover the entire Gospel of Mark in the setting of a retreat or 3 sessions. A large part of this is asking everyone to read Mark and then, working with a group, graphically present the Gospel of Mark. I’ve now led studies of the Gospel of Mark dozens and dozens of times. I go through the book 3-4 times a year with my students, and have done so for 15 years. I’ve concentrated on Mark in my preaching and teaching. I can be annoying about my interest in Mark, but I hope it’s been helpful to my students and congregations.

This was in real contrast to my own church experience. The Gospels were never addressed as texts other than to say “The Bible says” or to preach from various verse combinations. Obviously we sang about, taught about and preached about Jesus, but little of this was rooted in the Gospels. Most of what we believed and preached were expansions and exaggerations based on Paul.

I believe Paul accurately (and in an inspired way) taught the same Christ and the same message that the Gospels present. (Many of his books were in fact written before the Gospels.) But I believe the Gospels have a specific intention in regard to Jesus himself, and especially his ministry, that Paul does not have. If we want to be intentional about understanding or following Jesus, then the place to start is not with the writings of Paul, but with the first book that was written about the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark. We will begin this journey by asking the question, “Why Study Mark?”

Michael Spencer – May 17, 2009.

74 thoughts on “Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from Gospel of Mark

  1. I did a consult a few style guides after the fact. The consensus was that “different from” is the best form to use. “Than” is used when you have a comparative adjective.

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  2. This is really good news, the more I think about this.

    “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

    All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    Wow

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  3. What a great project, both Michael’s dedication to a single book for such a long time and this new endeavor to organize his writing. I’m looking forward to reading more!

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  4. Grace itself is paradoxical. We are given what we cannot earn by God. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Godly path to follow; Jesus tells and shows us what that path looks like. But I know for myself that without grace, I won’t go two steps on that path without falling down, and backwards. I was never an athlete, nor am I a spiritual athlete who will pull myself up hand over hand by rope either into heaven, or into sanctity. I’m more like Lazarus laying helpless at the gate of Dives, except that I’ve surely been a much nastier bugger than Lazarus, or Job, or the man lying by the side of the road who the Samaritan found. All the more do I need grace, and to be held in the bosom of Abraham, or better yet, Jesus.

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  5. Picking apart verse-by-verse is not good exegesis. Several weeks ago, I listened to an on-line sermon by the pastor at my wife’s church (my former church). Young guy, SBC-trained. His sermon “exposited” Philippians 1:1, which says,

    “Paul and Timothy, servants[a] of Christ Jesus,

    To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers[b] and deacons:[c]

    2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ”

    That’s the first two verses, and is a good standard greeting in an epistle, but the sermon was on the first verse, and insisted upon what is truly church and what is not—that church must include believers (saints) and that it must include deacons and elders (rendered here “overseers” which is a good translation of episkopos—and his tradition refuses to translate it “bishop,” which is much closer etymologically and practically than “elder.” ) Whatever.

    I don’t dare check on where he got to with Philippians 2, one of my favorite chapters,but I probably should.

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  6. I think this is why Calvinists are so drawn to Paul’s books: they feel very much of the Law. I hear them quote the epistles MUCH MORE often than Jesus and/or the Gospels.

    I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent. As you suggest, my more recent readings of Paul’s letters have also led me to believe they are more balanced than I at one time thought. Even more so if you read them in one sitting, as a letter would be read, and NOT picked apart verse by verse.

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  7. It interesting that this statement by Jesus comes in the context of the teaching about loving our enemies in the Sermon on the Mount. I agree that we are justified by grace. At the same time it seems that Jesus actually wants us to love our enemies and be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

    There seems to be some tension and paradox there. Good things to think about.

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  8. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.“

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  9. Dana, I caught that second point of yours too, but I couldn’t decide whether to replace “to” with “than” or “from” so I kept my mouth shut. Glad Richard Hershberger clarfied it. I think I like “from” better too. Could be a regional thing.

    Incidentally, I half-expect Mike Bell’s Canadian English to come up with the word “yet” in place of “still” from time to time. Or “zed” instead of “Z.”

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  10. Paul’s writing more closely resembles “Law” and that’s what a lot of people want—those who want to know “What do I have to do…?” as well as those who enjoy telling people what to do.

    However, I’ve found that Paul is very well balanced, usually giving an “on the one hand… and on the other hand…” kind of message. For example, Ephesians 5:22 says “Wives, submit to your husbands, as unto the Lord.” But look at the verses preceding as well as following and you’ll get a more balanced commandment. These verses get left out far too often.

    Hit me if I’m wrong, but John Piper kinda reminds me of Paul, giving long, stream-of-conscious pontifications on stuff, but in Piper’s case he goes beyond what is necessary and really should know when to retire.

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  11. Ah, so I wasn’t hallucinating. I suddenly noticed several writers using “different to” about a year ago, and could not figure out why. I’d been instructed to avoid “different than” in favor of “different from” in school, sure, but did not realize “different to” is how people roll elsewhere in the Anglosphere (which I somehow envision as a sort of spherical Union Jack.)

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  12. I have come to think that “You must be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” is not so much a command as an example of what would be necessary to become justified on our own. Perhaps “You would have to be perfect” would make more sense.

    And, since we’ll never be perfect, that logically leads to the idea of grace as our means of justification, which many people can’t seem to grasp.

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  13. That part in Matthew 26 with Caiaphas is cool.

    At first Jesus was silent altogether at the high priest’s question, even after Caiaphas stood up to intimidate him—and all others stood up too in response. But when Caiaphas demanded, “I adjure you by the living God…”, then Jesus was bound by Jewish law to respond. Even then, he evaded a direct answer and gave them more than they bargained for, equating himself with the Son of Man in Daniel, “sitting at the right hand of the Almighty and coming in the clouds from Heaven.”

    Well, then they had to kill him.

    Pretty sure I got that from Morison’s book.

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  14. there is this to think about also:

    ” learn of Me, because I am meek and humble in heart . . “

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  15. This makes much more sense to me. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus is quoted as saying “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    This is a tall order without mercy and grace from Him.

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  16. I just ordered a used copy of that. I’ve always liked F.F. Bruce. And somewhere I have a copy of Bruce’s The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? which I’d recommend, if only from fond memories from 40 years ago.

    I also recommend Frank Morison’s Who Moved the Stone? which gets behind the scenes of what happened during the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. I think Morison was more of a journalist than a historian, but there’s a lot more going on in the gospels than what can be seen at a casual reading, and he does a good job.

    Looking forward to reading what Michael has to say about Mark.

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  17. Most of more “High-Church” congregations like Greek Orthodox, Angelican, Presbyterian, etc. have every Sunday an OT reading, a NT reading, a Gospel book reading, and sometimes a Psalm. Those are usually either set by the lectionary and church calendar and the sermon (or homily) invariably relates to those readings.

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  18. ‘perfect’
    not like the Pharisee in the temple was ‘perfect’, no

    ‘perfect’
    like the humble publican who sought mercy and admitted he was a sinner

    Our Lord changes the meaning of the word ‘perfect’ so that the paradox is in effect that what the world sees as ‘perfect’ is not what God sees

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  19. As one of that team who is still here, let me say that it was an honor to work on the project, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in its completed form. May God bless you & the project, and may the work be lighter than you anticipate it to be.

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  20. And by claiming that this is the case have excused the vast majority of Christians from reading Jesus’ words as meant for themselves.

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  21. I’m sorry that I haven’t clearly expressed what I was trying to say. Let me try again. I’m saying there is no warrant in anything Jesus said to believe that there is one teaching for one class of believers —- a strict standard for those capable of the “consecrated life” or the “counsels of perfection” — and a more lax standard for the rest of us, even though many down through Christian history have claimed that this is exactly the case.

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  22. Thanks! I will definitely be reading along with the series. Most of what Michael Spencer had to say was relevant to real life, no matter what religion you practiced–or didn’t. It’s what kept me reading him for years before his death, and this blog since. All the writers have done a superb job keeping the spirit of Michael’s writing alive.

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  23. “Differently from” feels more natural to me. As for “differently to” – born in England and raised in Canada and former British colonies in Africa. No wonder I picked that one.

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  24. 2) “Different to” is standard in British English, but rare in American English. Canadian English is in the cross-hairs of both. Given the context, I agree that “differently to” is not the best choice. I would have gone with “differently from” rather than “differently than,” but this is a matter of personal preference.

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  25. This is a particularly tricky pair, as they look almost alike and have similar meanings, yet are entirely unrelated, etymologically. “Foreword” is a compound of “fore” meaning in front and “word” meaning word. So far, so good. “Forward” is the adjective/adverb “fore,” still meaning in front, with the suffix “-ward,” meaning in the direction. Hence also “backward,” “upward,” and so on. What happened to the letter ‘e’? Shouldn’t this be “foreward”? Yes, it should. But it isn’t. That’s English for you.

    To further confuse the matter, there is a prefix “for-” with a sense of exclusion. So we get the pair of “forgo” and “forego,” both formal to the point of being fusty, but still current words. “Forgo” means to do without. A Catholic priest forgoes the joys of marriage. “Forego” means to go before. I discussed “foreword” and “forward” in the foregoing paragraph. A widower who becomes a Catholic priest forgoes the pleasures he had enjoyed in his foregoing marriage. Both of these words arise in legal writing. It gives me great pleasure when I see a lawyer using the wrong one. I’m not necessarily against using jargon, which is what this essentially is in context. But using it wrong? Hilarious!

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  26. As an agnostic you might have a lot to add. Michael Spencer taught at an International School where many of his students were agnostic. My hope is that you may find that in reading the book (or the posts) you might find what Michael has to say very relevant.

    I think this will be much clearer when you read MIchael Spencer’s introduction on Monday.

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  27. Exactly. I’ve heard a couple of synonyms/analogies for “perfect” in this sense:

    1) Perfect as in “Complete.” Thus, you are a “complete” chair if you can be sat in/on… you have four legs (or three, in a “stool” sense), maybe with a back, maybe with arms.

    2) “As God intended.” If you are a chair, you are “as God intended aka ‘perfect'” when you allow yourself to be used as such. (The analogy I heard was regarding being a ballpoint pen. You are perfect when you allow yourself to write on paper. You don’t need to write on a chalkboard or sky-write “to be perfect,” or be erasable or be a hammer or be a chainsaw, you just need to write on paper.

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  28. Being an agnostic, I probably won’t have much to add to discussions of Mark, but it does sound like a very interesting series. Thanks, Mike!

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  29. Therefore, the Lord is saying:

    “Become a Human Being”.

    And in a little while, Pontius Pilate will confirm it: “Behold, the Human Being.” There, at the place where the Lord is judged and condemned to crucifixion, we are shown what a Human Being is, and also the kind of god God is.

    Dana

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  30. “Perfect” in Greek has quite a different sense to it than the English.

    Something is “Perfect” when it fulfills the task to which it has been given.

    A chair is perfect when it can be sat upon. So it that sense perfect does not equal sinlessness.

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  31. You might want to rethink your serial mini-posts…LOL. The comments are gonna come fast and furious.

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  32. –> “Let’s just admit that very few people in history have followed this directive…”

    I’m just saying, I (we?) have to throw ourselves in that same boat of failure. Well, speaking for myself, anyway…

    Being perfect
    Turning the other cheek

    …yeah, for me, not so much (or not very “successful” at it, anyway).

    Again, thank you Jesus for your grace and mercy.

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  33. Of course I didn’t ask this question out of curiosity. I grow heartily weary of the accusatory fingers that go flying around here when Jesus’ social teachings are brought to the fore, as if all Evangelicals were heart-hearted Biffs and Karens concerned only with complying with their homeowners’ association’s rules, or that all Catholics were concerned about was keeping the real estate value of their neighborhoods up.

    About two and a half years ago I made a comment in response to a brunch item excoriating “Duck Commander” Phil Robertson for asking the Democratic Party whether they loved Jesus. It was about the trials and tribulations of “Mother” Johnson, a black Pentecostal lady who set up an impromptu homeless shelter on her property in Pensacola, Florida. Now, you may say, ‘That’s different, Mule. She was a Black Pentecostal. She’s covered by the imputed righteousness of Martin Luther King, Jr’, but you didn’t see all the Karens pulling up in their Honda Odysseys in a sketchy neighborhood to drop off clothes, diapers, and food. You didn’t see the Biffs giving up their golf days to help Mom Johnson wash dishes.

    Really, there’s only one way to answer the demands of Jesus to be perfect – just admit to him openly – ‘I’m a turdroller who doesn’t appreciate being pushed outside my comfort zone even on other people’s behalf. I’ll do it once in a while for self-congratulatory purposes. I prefer it when Father (or Pastor) preaches about sins I’m not tempted to commit. What’s worse, I don’t foresee myself changing that much between now and the time I have to cut books with You.”

    “Forgive me.”

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  34. This is the best way to read DB Hart’s translation of the NT. It’s a bit difficult in that the chapters are still separated off, but you get used to ignoring that. Reading it in blocks like that really allows the writer’s voice to come through and makes one think more about what one has read.

    Dana

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  35. Great work you’re doing, Mike. And so kind of the transcribers to put the time into it, too.

    I’ve spotted a couple of grammar things.

    1) “Forward” I think this should be “Foreword” the noun – the “word” that comes before the bulk of the book’s text. “Forward” is an adverb (or a verb) and connotes movement ahead of something else. Yes, it’s ahead of the bulk of the text, but it’s not movement.

    2) “A sermon to a rural Kentucky church reads quite differently to a blog posting on internetmonk.com.”
    I would use “reads quite differently than a blog post”. “To” in that place seems awkward usage to me.

    3) “When you read the word “I””
    “Although we were able to gather so much source material”

    These are dependent clauses and need a comma at the end. (My “rule” for using a comma: Where do you breathe or pause when you read this out loud? Put the comma there. No matter how much writing experience you have, reading your text out loud always helps.)

    If you want my grammar notes by email, send me an address where they will reach you.

    Dana

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  36. I love this idea, and thanks so much to Mike Bell for taking it on.

    I do have one copy-edit pet peeve… the words from the editor/compiler before the actual beginning of a book are the “Foreword”. Though they do constitute part of the “forward matter” from the publisher’s point of view.

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  37. I think Jesus meant exactly what he said. I don’t do exactly what he said, but I admit he said it and meant it. But there are really no grounds for saying that is not what Jesus meant, based on poorly substantiated ideas about cultural differences between then and there and here and now. People reach for any straw that floats down. Let’s just admit that very few people in history have followed this directive, and those that did didn’t survive very long.

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  38. –> “Jonah is an obvious example, and benefits from being easily read in a short sitting. It turns out that it isn’t a story about a whale at all. Who would have imagined?”

    I just led a short Zoom prayer/encouragement session on Jonah’s prayer (chapter 2), and that led to some fun discussion about Jonah (and the book) in general. I love Jonah. The layers upon layers in it are amazing, and I love how it just… ends.

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  39. –> “I’d mention turn the other cheek, but people have found ingenious ways of sidestepping that one…”

    I had to laugh at the “but people have found ingenious ways” line. Like “other people” do this, but I have NOT?!?!?! LOL. Oh, Lord, have mercy on us all…

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  40. All the gospels have their own flavor and they’re not all saying the same thing in he same way. Which is why it’s a mistake to smush them all together into one big gospel that smooths out all the nuances. Over the years Mark has become my favorite gospel. Among other things it speaks of fear and lack of understanding. And as a standalone in some places it’s just plain weird.

    I look forward to this series very much!

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  41. I believe every book of the Bible benefits from being read as a book: a piece of literature with a beginning, a middle, and an end, with the author(s) trying to make some point. We can then ask what is this point? It often is quite different from whatever snippets made their way into the popular consciousness. Jonah is an obvious example, and benefits from being easily read in a short sitting. It turns out that it isn’t a story about a whale at all. Who would have imagined?

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  42. Hard as it gets. Give to any who ask, without expecting return, is also about as tough as it gets. Give all the few clothes you have away if asked, in a time when almost everybody had few clothes — tough. I’d mention turn the other cheek, but people have found ingenious ways of sidestepping that one based on poorly attested, scantily supported ideas of what turning the other cheek might have meant in Ancient Near Eastern culture/Classical civilization such that they are inoculated against the notion that it might have meant then what it would mean now.

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  43. Looking forward to the serial posts, Mike Bell! And thank you for your service to such an interesting project.

    By the way, I once led an adult Sunday school class through Mark and Matthew AT THE SAME TIME. Four years and 81 lessons! It was a fascinating study, full of great “complements” and some interesting contrasts.

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  44. –> “Just for reference, what are these ‘Hard Sayings’ of Jesus that Evangelicals and Catholics seem to have such a hard time following?”

    I created a couple of studies once based on:
    1) The questions Jesus gets asked, and how he responds to them.
    2) The questions Jesus asks, and how people respond to them.

    It was a fascinating study. Go through the gospel accounts some day and look for those questions, and you’ll discover some “hard sayings.”

    By the way, there are only four documented questions asked of Jesus that he doesn’t answer, one asked by Caiaphas, one by members of the Sanhedrin and guards, and two by Pontius Pilate:

    1) “Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?” (Asked by Caiaphas, but Jesus kept silent.) (Matthew 26:62-63a, Mark 14:60-61a)
    2) “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Members of the Sanhedrin and guards, to which Jesus said nothing.) (Matthew 26:67, Luke 22:63-64; also in Mark 14:65, but not as a question)
    3) “Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You’?” (Asked by Pilate, but Jesus did not answer even a single charge, and the governor was quite amazed.) (Matthew 27:13-14, Mark 15:4-5)
    4) “Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer.” (Asked by Pilate, but Jesus didn’t answer.) (John 19:8-9)

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  45. THIS IS SPOT ON!

    ‘This was in real contrast to my own church experience. The Gospels were never addressed as texts other than to say “The Bible says” or to preach from various verse combinations. Obviously we sang about, taught about and preached about Jesus, but little of this was rooted in the Gospels. Most of what we believed and preached were expansions and exaggerations based on Paul.’

    I have believed this (and said this way too often for many of my friends) for years, also having done most of my research and study in the synoptic gospels. I believe this is the main reason evangelicals’ practice is so far removed from Jesus’ teachings. The voice of Jesus is rarely heard in evangelical churches!

    This sums it up well:

    ‘If we want to be intentional about understanding or following Jesus, then the place to start is not with the writings of Paul, but with the first book that was written about the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark. We will begin this journey by asking the question, “Why Study Mark?”’

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  46. Just for reference, what are these ‘Hard Sayings’ of Jesus that Evangelicals and Catholics seem to have such a hard time following? I’d like to know so I can see how I measure against them.

    I will say one thing for Dorothy Day – she was a Benedictine oblate and did not write checks with her mouth that her tuchis couldn’t cover.

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  47. There are approximately 80 mini-chapters in total. The material has been organized for all 80. Volume 1 will cover the first half of these. Of these 40, 25 have had at least a first draft written. Of the 25, 17 are complete. My goal is to get the first 40 complete by the end of the year.

    I don’t have time to earn a living, blog, and work on the book, which is why I proposed the serialization of the book to Chaplain Mike as my contribution to Internet Monk for the next few months.

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  48. It will be. Volume one will be complete by the end of the year. I am serializing it here to light a fire under my butt to get it done.

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  49. Unfortunately, much of the hard work is still in front of me.

    However I would like to thanks those who helped in the project to date. The transcription team included: Aaron Telian, Amy Hopson, Betty Creegan, Bev Phillips, Bill Finucane, Carrie Beck, Christopher Sears, David Clark, David Wierzbicki, Duane Young, Eric Love, Galen Doyel, Joel Joslin, Jonathan Dame, Josh Blake, Julie Stepp, Karen Warwick, Keri Cobb, Lealla Broadhead, Lee Holsenbeck, Mark Chmielecki, Miguel Ruiz, Paul Bruggink, Sally Ratliff, Tammy Smith, Tim Yearsley, Tina Seward, Tom Roes, and Wanda Henry. They collectively volunteered hundreds of hours to create text versions of Michael Spencer’s fifty-nine sermons and audio Bible studies on the Gospel of Mark.

    Scott Lencke provided considerable assistance in the early going as well in helping to coalesce some of the material.

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  50. I fully agree that Paul’s words are inspired, but I love to read Jesus perspectives on so many of the topics he addresses in the Gospels.

    I am afraid that in so many churches the Gospels have become a rare place to preach from. The words and actions of Jesus seem to disturb people too much.

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  51. and yet the saints recognized by the Church include many who were not priests or monks or nuns, but people who lived out their faith so vibrantly in the midst of their ‘ordinariness’, in spite of their ‘ordinariness’ or maybe BECAUSE of their ordinariness that is borders on mystery

    take Dorothy Day, for example and she would have said ‘don’t call me a saint’ and as a matter of fact she DID say exactly this:
    ” “Don’t call me a saint, I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

    what is ‘holiness’ and ‘sainthood’ except that there is some kind of fire in the soul of a person that drives them to serve with such power and force for good that they can overcome the obstacles that discourage most of us

    Jesus in the Gospels gets the last say after all, in the way in which a rough-spoken social agitator like Dorothy Day could end up shining like diamond just from living out the social gospel in the midst of the condemnation of her ‘betters’ – a fearlessness rarely seen in standing up for the oppressed against the status quo, such people would hardly qualify in a sainted world of ‘counsels of perfection’, but neither were they limited in the force they exerted that came to them from saying an unqualified ‘yes’ to Christ’s call

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  52. Different church traditions have different ways of neutralizing and/or sidestepping the teachings of Christ. In Michael’s evangelical tradition, the focus of preaching and teaching was on Paul’s letters rather than the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, which were largely ignored, as he describes in the post. In my Roman Catholic upbringing, the difficult things Jesus requires in the Gospels were said to be the “counsels of perfection,” meant only for those who had a special religious calling to the monastic or “consecrated” life, but not for the rank and file laity, or even parish priests — even though Jesus in the Gospels makes no such distinction between disciples.

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