The Good Book Club | Week of January 24-30
Read Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

Viewing the Gospel of Mark as a three-act play, our readings for this week move us into Act II, as the focus shifts from Jesus as miracle-worker to Jesus as teacher. To be certain, the Jesus in this account is not one of an endearing mentor who greets students with a warm hug and is gently encouraging. In Mark’s just-the-facts-mam style, Jesus’s teachings are delivered in staccato, like bullet points in a research paper:
·     Whoever wants to be first must be last
·     Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes you
·     Whoever is not against us is for us

At times, Jesus seems terse and weary. But who can blame him? He literally has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Despite an array of miracles (including one at the beginning of this week, in which Jesus casts out evil spirits from a young boy), the disciples still don’t quite get it. He tells them directly: “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they do not understand.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of jockeying for position. Even if the disciples can’t quite fathom the resurrection, they recognize that Jesus is an influential leader, and they want to be considered MVPs. Like children, they argue about who is the greatest among them and, later, who gets to sit at his right and left sides. I imagine Jesus as a frustrated parent, pulling the car onto the shoulder after the backseat bickering reaches a crescendo. “To sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant… whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” And don’t make me pull over again.

Jesus’s teachings continue to upend conventional norms. To lead means to serve. The kingdom of God belongs to children. Wealth is not a key to heaven. Jesus shocks the disciples, telling them that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Throughout the readings, we see Jesus moving into ACT III, his arrival in Jerusalem and ultimately the crucifixion and resurrection. As foretold in Zechariah, Jesus enters from the Mount of Olives, taking a similar path as the traditional lamb sacrificed in the Passover. As Christians, we celebrate this triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, recalling how Jesus rode a simple colt and was welcomed with palms (or, as Mark says, “leafy branches”) and great joy. The people praise, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” But crowds can turn quickly to mobs; these shouts of joy become chants for vengeance. “Crucify him,” these same people will bellow. “Crucify him.”

Our reading ends with Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers and merchants, a story present in all four gospels. Many scholars consider Jesus’s direct challenge to the authorities to be the trigger for his death just a few short days later. The end is near. But so too is the beginning.
Reflection

1. What type of teacher do you prefer? Why do you think Jesus is so direct and sometimes terse in his teachings? Do you see Jesus as more of a nice guy or a fervent radical?

2. Jesus takes on the question of divorce in chapter 10. How do you understand his teachings on the subject?

3. Wealth is a demanding master, especially in the United States. When you hear Jesus’s admonition to sell all you have and give the money to the poor, do you respond more like the young man in the scripture, shocked and grieving because you have many possessions? What is Jesus saying to you today with these words?

4. If Jesus were alive today, which tables would he overturn? Are there actions you can take to be the hands and feet of Jesus in those areas?
Partner/Participant Spotlight

The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast features weekly videos from Bishop Russell Kendrick. Bishop Kendrick and the diocese have been faithful participants in the Good Book Club since its beginning, even appointing Sally Crenshaw to serve as a diocesan coordinator for the initiative.

The Tuesday Bible Study from St. Jude’s, Niceville, Florida, writes that they “meet, pray, and listen to our Bishop’s (Russell Kendrick) weekly discussion and then re-read the weeks’ verses.” Dottie Doherty, one of the members, says, “We are grateful for the Good Book Club and have participated in each of the offerings.

How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Share your story with us (and send pictures too, if you have them, whether it’s a screenshot of a Zoom meeting or a picture of you with your Bible in a comfy chair!). We’ll highlight participants from across the church. Send the information to Richelle at rthompson@forwardmovement.org.

Let’s learn from and be inspired by each other!
Listen Up

Want to hear the passage from Mark? The Good Book Club Podcast features speakers from across the church reading each day’s lesson from Mark and a reflection from A Journey with Mark. You can also ask Alexa (or another virtual assistant) to play the podcast.
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