One of the sad realities of modern Christianity is that the very people who claim to love “The Good Book” and live by it have very little idea of what’s actually in it. Pop quiz: is “Apple of his eye” from God’s Holy Word or Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew? Is “Eat, drink and be merry” from The Bible or Hamlet?
It was a trick question; they’re both from The Bible (Deut. 32:10 and Luke 12:19). But you hesitated, didn’t you? Hey, I’m no better. I’ve been a Christian for more than 20 years and though I can quote John 3:16 faster than I can recite my phone number, I have a very shallow, cursory knowledge on The Bible.
With that in mind, I’ve been making a conscious effort to read through The Bible this year. It’s not a magic bullet to Holiness and it won’t substitute the importance and need for a daily devotion and prayer time. What it will do, however, is give me a step-by-step game plan to chip away at – let’s face it – a really really big book.
Since June 1, I’ve been on a daily reading schedule. It’s usually two or three chapters of the Old Testament and then one or even just half of one chapter from the New Testament. I can’t say I’ve made it everyday, but I’m caught up and have downed Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Matthew. I’m nearly through Numbers and about halfway through Mark. Ten more months, and I’ll finally be able to say that yes, I have actually read the entire Bible.
I tell you all this not to brag (I’m actually quite embarrassed I’ve lived this long without reading it all the way through), but instead to 1) add another another layer of accountability and 2) give me something to write about here. It’s not going to be a weekly sermon, an expository essay or anything, just a weekly update in what I’ve been reading in the Word and what God has laid on my heart and mind: This week covered the last half of Numbers and and the middle of Mark.
I don’t want to shortchange Numbers, but we’re going to focus on Mark today and not even specific passages of scripture. Nope, just a memory.
Every time I read from Mark, I think of one of the high school teachers in Bartlesville. I don’t remember what even started the discussion (he taught German classes and I took Spanish), but he once told me the story of when he left home to join the Army. His father had been trying to talk to him about all that “Jesus stuff” for years, but he simply wasn’t interested. As he dropped him off for boot camp, his father gave him a Bible and said, “Don’t argue with me, just promise that when you get a chance you’ll read the Book of Mark.”
A few months later at his first station, he cleaned out his footlocker and found the Bible. He opened it up to the book of Mark and then ran to find a chaplain to find out more about becoming a Christian.
The irony of this is that most people wouldn’t choose Mark as a great evangelical thrust for their prodigal son. You don’t get the nativity of Luke or the “theological” content of John. Instead, It starts with an Old Testament prophesy and jumps immediately in with Jesus as an adult. Maybe seeing Jesus as a fully grown man and not “just a baby in a manger” is what softened that future teacher’s heart. It’s a pretty straightforward narrative written for Gentiles, not Jews, and Mark shows Jesus explaining His parables to His thick-headed disciples. It’s even a little bit smart alec (see 5:31). Regardless, God used it to bring a stubborn young man to Him and that’s pretty cool.
I don’t know; maybe he just read 8:27-29 and it all just clicked:
27Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”