Sunday, May 13, 2007

Interpreting the NT: Day 3

We continued with Mark in the afternoon after our own respective church services. In our sermon today, we were reminded very strongly about the way we think, say and do. We were reminded that everything we do comes from our heart. It strikes me because I think I may have been focussing a lot on the mind lately and not so much on the heart. I wonder if God's commandment to love him with all our heart, our soul and our mind has progressive hierarchical steps to it, i.e. to first love him with our heart, then only our soul and finally with our mind. I am not sure, but what I am sure is I am to love him with my whole life, denoted by "my heart, and my soul, and my mind" - the preposition "and" is used for each of the subsequent two nouns. But have I been putting less stress on heart and more on mind? What about my soul? How do I love with my soul? I need to mull about it ... soon.

Back to Mark. We did our study until 1:18 yesterday and we continued until Mark 2 and a bit of 3 today. After which, we have only 2 hours this coming Friday, 8 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday to complete the study. Are we able? I do have my doubts. And even if we did, we would have just skimmed it through.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday, being one who is unendingly fascinated by chiasms, when Kar Yong showed us this possible geographical chiastic structure, I was obviously attracted to it:

The Geographical Movement of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

............Galilee, East Side of Sea of Galilee
..........................Caesarea, Philippi (FOCUS?) 8:27-38
............Galilee to Judea

As it is with most chiasms, the focus of it is usually at the center. How does 8:27-38 read?

Mark 8:2-38 (ESV)
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
28 And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets."
29 And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ."
30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
34 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
37 For what can a man give in return for his life?
38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Is this the central theme of Mark? I am not sure. I have been using the chiastic structure too often in my papers: Introduction to OT, OT Hermeneutics and Homiletics and even Romans. So I better not push it this time!

This afternoon we spent time on the 5 conflict stories found in 2:1 to 3:6. I will concentrate here on the first conflict story 2:1-12.

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7 "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic--
11 "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home."
12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

Kar Yong divided us into 4 groups of people. I was in the hardworking "friends" group, 1 person was the paralytic man, several became the crowd and the remainder, the oh-so-holy scribes. We were asked very interesting questions.

KY: Friends, what were you thinking after lowering your friend from the roof?
F: Jesus, heal!
KY: Paralytic, what were you expecting Jesus to do?
P: I have nothing to lose. If I get healed, wow!
KY: Crowd, what went through your minds when all these were happening?
C: Oh! my house! ... Such a disturbance! All these racketing! Don't you see we are trying to listen here? ... Hmm... what would Jesus do now? ... He must heal this guy.
KY: O honourable Scribes, what are you thinking?
S: Hmm ... let's see.

Most of the people were expecting Jesus to heal, as he has been doing so far, some have seen and others have heard. But what Jesus did next was just too stunning for words.

My son, your sins are forgiven.”

F: Huh?
P: What?
C: Huh?
S: Ho ho! We are gonna have a field day!

Why did Jesus say that? To me, it boils down to this - 2:9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?

Everytime I read this verse, I always come away incredulous. Which is easier to say? What does he mean?

But after some discussion in class, I think I am beginning to understand it. Kar Yong brought out the fact that the purpose Jesus said, "My son, your sins are forgiven" is to declare to the people that he is indeed the Son of God, who has the authority to forgive sins.

Therefore, Jesus is chiding the scribes:

"How shall I say it so that it is easier for you to believe that I am the Son of God? It is easier if I were to say 'your sins will be forgiven' or will it be easier for you to believe if I were to say 'rise, pick up your bed and go home'? Fine, if it is easier this way, then I shall say it."

Then Jesus turned to the paralytic, and said exactly that, "rise, pick up your bed and go home!" So, which is easier?

We then spent the rest of the time discussing a few questions arising from 3:1-6, of which one was this: How can we keep the Sabbath special for God without making the same mistakes as the Pharisees? This is a very personal question to me because strictly speaking, I had no Sabbath rest. I spent almost every day of the week working: Monday to Friday at work, Saturday and Sunday for church. And that has been going on for far too long, too many years to count, which caused my recent burnout. I pray that at this time of my so-called sabbatical, I do take time to rest and enjoy the presence of God in my life. To God be the glory.



  1. Actually, the gospel of Mark (and Luke)tells us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" which is different than Matthew which doesn't include strength. The shema only includes heart, soul and strength. I studied this once and found some interesting things which I can send you if you're interested. I don't think it's hierarchical.

    A few years ago, it felt to me like church was work and I was missing the rest part of it. Perhaps it changes when we know it is the spirit who is doing the work.

  2. Yea... that is what I thought - it is not a first this, then that. Yes, would be great if you could send me the good stuff :)

    we know it is the spirit who is doing the work

    It is still work! lol
    Yes, I agree, if done with the spirit, it makes all the difference. What I am driving at though is this need for rest, to be still and know that He is God.

  3. I think it's not so much a matter of knowing that He is God but having true faith and rest IN that God who He in fact is.

  4. Pearlie, I'll look for my notes and write something up soon. It was about 5 years ago and I thought it was so cool how it all fit together.

    You're right - it's still work, but I guess it just feels better if you have a better perspective.