Bible Study – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus Begins His Ministry and Calls the First Disciples

In this passage, we find out that John has been arrested. I don’t see where in any of the gospels it says what for, and I feel like that’s sort of random to just put there as if everyone would know. Then again, John the Baptist was clearly super important and well known, so maybe it’s like if someone said that someone really significant in our society had been arrested-it would just be known that it had happened and not something that would need further intro.

Jesus goes into Galilee, and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV) Now, for me, that’s pretty cryptic. (And, I think, probably for a lot of people, as religions have risen and fallen attempting to declare that the time has come.) What does it mean? The time is fulfilled–what time? And what does it mean to say the kingdom of God is at hand? Is it literal? How current is ‘at hand’, especially since for God time has got to move at a totally different pace–thus making it totally relative and impossible to discern. And He says to repent and believe in the gospel–but he hasn’t, in Mark, at least, declared what the gospel is that I’m supposed to believe.

I think that sentence could take on so many interpretations. However, maybe the end result is the same–repent and believe in the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ‘at hand’ means here-right-now or coming-soon, because in either case, repentance and belief in the gospel is essential. And, I think that both are processes as opposed to final destinations, so practice of both is just a good thing. I may not be good at repenting, or believing, but I won’t get any better at it without actively trying to do it.

So, then, logically, I lead to… what is repentance and what does that entail, and what does it mean to believe in the gospel? As this is the first chapter of this gospel, I imagine that the answer is forthcoming throughout the rest of the book. But, this means that one of the things I need to be looking for is the answer to these questions while I read.
What is repentance? How do I do it? What do I need to repent for?
What does it mean to believe in the gospel? Are there certain things I need to do to show my belief (from an LDS perspective, there are ordinances that you must get that kind of “show” this belief.

Moving on, next in the story tells of Jesus calling his disciples. Now, if you were just going to read Mark, what happens next seems totally nuts (to me, at least). Basically, Jesus walks up to a pair of fishermen brothers (Simon and Andrew), and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And they get up, abandon their fishing nets, and follow him. And then he does the same thing again to another pair of brothers (James and John), who leave their dad in the boat and follow him.

Context free, it seems totally crazy. This story, alone, makes you wonder why in the world that sentence would be enough to get people to abandon life as they knew it. So, I looked to the other gospels to see if there were more details. Luke has a more involved story, telling of Jesus actually getting on the boat with Simon to preach to people, and afterwards telling Simon to cast their nets into what had previously seemed like empty waters, and they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t handle it all. To me, it seems like the kind of thing that one could easily explain away, but that you could come away from, especially after some powerful teaching and some witnessing by the Holy Ghost, that this was the real deal. And then, getting up and following doesn’t seem so crazy.

I have had times in my life that I have up and followed the whispers of the Spirit in directions that seemed to be total about-faces from where I had been. No amount of logic or rationalization could make me deny the spiritual experiences that I have had, even when my family and friends have disagreed or been unhappy with the outcome. So, while I certainly am not, and was not, trying to imply that an overt miracle was necessary to prompt the disciples to follow Christ, I feel like more details to elaborate about what prompted their decision really help shed light and understanding.

The story specifies that James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat. I think the fact that that was noteworthy implies that there was dischord in the family when they left (although I have nothing but supposition to back it up). But I know from experience that it’s hard when you disappoint your family when you follow what you believe.

And that about sums up my thoughts about this passage of Mark.

Something that I’ve always been terrible at is geography, and maybe something I’ll want to do when this is all over is actually map everything out. This story takes place in Galilee, but I don’t really know where that was, or how much happened there. I don’t know if it would be helpful, or even interesting for me, but it’s probably a good exercise to try, at least.

map?

Chilly Anyone?

Ahhh, I’m so punny. No, really. Because jokes about cold are always funny when you live in Chicago, I had to go with this title.

Anyway, I hate chili. I have always hated chili. I don’t like kidney beans, I don’t like spicy foods, I don’t like chili powder, I don’t like the texture, the taste, the anything.

However, last week when my in-laws were visiting, my father-in-law wanted to cook us his chili. And they’re my in-laws. So I couldn’t very well say no, especially since I have such a terrible reputation for being ridiculously picky about food. (For the record, I’m not picky about food, and I will always try a bite, but I’m not going to eat a ton of food I don’t like, and if I have a say, I like to be the one cooking (so I can avoid things like chili) or helping to decide what to make.) So, I made rice on the side and determined to eat a small helping and fill up on rice and never, ever complain.

Here’s the thing though–it was really good! He used pinto beans instead of kidney beans, and didn’t use chili powder at all. What a difference! I guess one might say that those changes make the dish not chili at all… but who cares?! I didn’t have to lie when I said that I enjoyed it!

It also meant that when I came across a chili recipe in a magazine (Real Simple), I actually looked at it. And then I bought the ingredients. And then I cooked it. And it was delicious! I liked changing the ground beef to ground turkey in the recipe. The turkey adds extra flavor while providing a similar texture. There was a generous amount of cumin in the dish, but not so much that it overpowered it. And while I still omitted the chili powder, I did substitute some chipotle hot sauce from Kullervo’s Christmas hot sauce gift set. And, like my father-in-law, I also replaced the kidney beans. In this case, I used a can of pinto beans and a can of navy beans (both drained and rinsed well, of course, so that dinner didn’t taste like a can).

I served the chili with rice and with a French loaf, and basked in the praise as Kullervo raved all night about how delicious dinner was. All in all, culinary success!

Teach Me! Teach Me!

One of the best surprises about our new place is that it turns out that we live in the district for what is considered by many to be Chicago’s best public elementary school. They also have a preschool, and give preference to kids in the neighborhood (us!). Which is great news.

The bad news is that they didn’t have any openings for the current year, and we don’t know (and won’t know for a couple of months) about next year. It’s possible that Oliver won’t be going to preschool at all, and it is definite that I need to get in gear and get applications in at some other places if I want him to go next year, just in case this school doesn’t work out.

Going hand-in-hand with this, Oliver has begun refusing to take naps. This is incredibly frustrating for me, because naptime has always been me-time. Both kids are really demanding of me–they aren’t content to be in the same room with me, they want to be sitting on me, climbing on me, playing with me, etc. So from morning til night, I don’t get a break, either mental or physical. So, after spending a few days being frustrated with Oliver’s naplessness, I decided to be all Serenity-Prayerful about it, and accept the things that I cannot change.

Which means that while Hazel naps and Oliver doesn’t, I spend some time with him one-on-one doing preschool activities. And he loves it. I’m no teacher, and I think I might actually be quite terrible at what I’m doing, but he comes with a lot of raw potential (i.e. he’s kind of brilliant), which helps. I’ve been printing out alphabet and numeral handwriting sheets and really simple word searches, and we’ve been taking them a letter and a number at a time, tracing them and practicing writing them. He really enjoys it (we only spend 15-30 minutes every day, depending on how excited he is about it, and I try not to push him too hard on any of it). And during preschool time, he insists on calling me Teacher.

Oliver has had a good grasp of numbers for awhile, and even surprises me sometimes with his basic math skills. Last week, I was making lunch for him and Hazel, and had put five chicken fingers into the microwave to heat up. Oliver asked how many I was heating up, and I told him that I had made three for him and two for Hazel. And he said, “Oh, so you’re making five?” It blew my mind a little. In a good way. 🙂

Along with getting comfortable with writing the numbers and what the numbers mean, I was curious about whether he could actually recognize numbers when he saw them, and put it together with what they represent. So I decided to try making some matching games on his chalkboard, drawing goldfish crackers and having him match the number of crackers to the number. As you can see, he did a great job. Also, I am terrible and drawing.

Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.

Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?

On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.

I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)

And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)

After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.

Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.

The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?

Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.

And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?

Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.

I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?

Movie (Snuggle) Time!

The kids love the movie Cars. We had a busy morning of playing outside in the really, really cold (I was hoping to freeze Oliver into a nap, unsuccessfully), and this afternoon I had promised Hazel that we could watch a movie. It’s really hard to say no when she asks to “wotch a mooooooovie”.

I put on the movie, hoping that I’d be able to get some unpacking and organizing done, but Hazel said she wanted me to sit on the couch with her. I figured her attention span wouldn’t last too long, so I would sit with her for a couple of minutes and then when she got up to wander around, I’d get up and get to work.

But she just melted into me. She put her arms around me, lay her head on my chest, and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

So I watched her beautiful face while she watched Lightning McQueen, noticing her nearly-translucent skin, the way the light from the TV reflected in her eyes, how her face shape is so similar to Oliver’s, and just enjoyed the feel of my incredible daughter snuggled up with me to watch a movie. And I hoped it would never end, because one day she’s going to grow up, and I don’t know that I’m ever going to be ready for that to happen.

Stay at Home Mom

Today is my first official day of being a stay at home mom. Kullervo began his job today, and left at 8 this morning to catch the bus. The kids and I are at home, trying to figure out what our new routine will be.

Oliver is going to take a gymnastics class today, and we are going to work on some arts and crafts. Oliver was disappointed when we took down the holiday decorations, so I decided that we would make new decorations for winter to put up. And, if Oliver decides that he doesn’t want to nap today, we are going to have some at-home school, and work on reading, writing, or math.

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Hazel is continuing her love of tutus, and has started letting me put hair pretties in her hair. In other words, she looks adorable… pretty much all the time. Add that to her super-expressive face, and she’s just magical.

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I still have some unpacking and organizing to do, and we haven’t even begun things like painting the walls or hanging pictures. I also need to figure out what I want to do and focus on so that I am still Katy, and not just Mommy.

In other words, today is the first day of our new adventure, and I can’t wait to experience it all! The photos aren’t great, but they will have to do until I take some with something other than my iPhone.

Bible Study – Mark 1:1-8

So, this is the first post in my online Bible Study. See that link for the background about what and why I’m doing this. Basically, I am going to go story by story through the gospels, reading different Bible translations, asking questions and adding my own interpretations and blogging about it. I think that blogging about it will keep me on track and make me actually do it, and I think that there is a lot to be earned on my part from having people comment and correct me where I’m wrong and help me understand things that I don’t know about. So, here goes!

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

This is the first story in the Book of Mark. As the section heading suggests, it is basically about John the Baptist preparing the way. Isaiah foretold a messenger who prepares the way, and John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy by preaching baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and proclaims that someone else (i.e. Jesus) is coming, and is way more awesome than him.

The first thing I noticed in comparing the translations was the difference in story titles (the NIV and ESV both call it “John the Baptist Prepares the Way”, the NRSV calls it “The Proclamation of John the Baptist”, while the Message is safe and calls it “John the Baptizer”). I realize that these aren’t necessarily scriptural at all-the KJV doesn’t have them-but I think that looking at the story titles (or whatever the proper term for them is) gives an idea of what you’re supposed to get from the story. The NIV and ESV seem to want to emphasize the scriptural basis in Isaiah’s prophecy, while the NRSV places emphasis on John the Baptist’s proclamation. I’ll come back to this.

After reading through the story, my first question was, Why do I care that John the Baptist prepared the way? (I mean, I guess I could ask that question about each story–why do I care that Jesus healed this guy or that guy, etc., but bear with me here.) My understanding is that Mark is generally believed to have been written for the Greeks. So there isn’t the same emphasis as in Matthew (I think it is) to speak to the Jewish people and show that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. So, I think there must be more to this than just the fulfillment of the prophecy, although I’m sure that plays a role.

I don’t know a lot about John the Baptist, aside from what little I remember from my reading of the Bible ages ago, and the little I remember from reading the Ann Rice book Christ the Lord (which I quite enjoyed, I might add). But I wonder if John the Baptist was well known by the Judean people (and/or the Greeks) which would make him a credible witness to Jesus?

Moving on, while reading, I noticed that it says that basically everyone was baptized (“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” (NIV), “all the country of Judea and all Jeruselam” (ESV), etc). And they all confessed their sins. That’s a lot of people (if done the LDS way, John’s arms must have been super tired when it was over, or he had muscles of steel)! And, flippantly, it made me think that that’s a lot of temple work that the LDS don’t have to do…

And when it says they confessed their sins–what kind of sins are we talking here? Sins of the Jewish laws? Would we even consider the sins they were confessing to be sins? This leads me to start wondering what counts as sin? Does sin change? Nothing I expect to be able to answer right now, but questions that I might want to keep in mind as I keep reading and studying.

Another thing I noticed that was different between the translations was John the Baptist’s proclamation. In the NIV, John says, “After me will come one more powerful than I…”, which is easy enough to understand. The ESV and the NRSV use slightly stronger verbiage, “After me comes he who is mightier than I…” and “The one who is more powerful than I…”, implying that nobody is more powerful than John the Baptist but Jesus. The Message isn’t really helpful here, because it uses a metaphor in place, and the KJV sides with the NIV and says, “There cometh one mightier than I after me…”. It’s not a major thing, but the ESV and NRSV implication that John the Baptist is the mightiest so far gives a better understanding for why I might care that he prepared the way.

Now, back to the story title. I guess it isn’t clear in the NIV or the ESV what the ‘preparing the way’ entailed. Perhaps, more than the baptism it was the proclamation-the witnessing that Jesus was coming. This would make the titles basically interchangeable (although then I would suggest that the NRSV was the clearest in terms of getting the point across).

So, that was basically what I was thinking about when reading the first story in Mark. If you have comments or opinions or answers, please comment!

Updated to add: some other questions I had: how did John know? I know he was related to Jesus and stuff, but why did he know what to say and what to do and when? It may be explained in another of the gospels, but it is a question I have here.