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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s jump right in. I will do my best to answer any questions or comments as they arise.
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.
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.