This Lent, I’ve decided to give up Starcraft. There is nothing to be gained by admitting this, except a stage for the next statement.
I’ve also decided to read the gospel of Mark, along with a commentary. I’ve selected William Barclay‘s commentary, which is both readily available and approved by the likes of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Actually, I consider this my primary objective, and the former creates time to make it possible.
So what? Well, perhaps not much. I’m only here telling you because I want to (try to) hold myself accountable. My aim will be to share some thoughts – Barclay’s or mine as the muse suggests – and hopefully come to know Christ more nearly.
I can start there. That last phrase – to know Christ more nearly – is somewhat famous among Christians, and I think has been made into a hymn (if it wasn’t originally that). Now, it is a veritable cliche, and the worst kind – a religious cliche. (That’s an interesting topic).
Let us set aside the cliche and I will say it – I have been wondering, in my heart and out loud, whether Christ listens to me. This is apart from His omniscience, by which He would necessarily know all of my thoughts, words, and actions.
And the implication is vastly true – I believe Christ is the greatest man, the Son of God (if there ever was one). I am, rather, vastly disappointed in myself. If I believe these things, how do I account for the way I actually think, speak, and act?
I mean, I can be a real prick. I am envious beyond my control, spiteful even when the real damage is to my own position, impatient with reasonable requests, and insidiously selfish with my time and energy. Total prick.
That’s when I want to blame God, and here is why: I have asked, so many times, for God to guide me. Not abstractly, not indirectly. Come down – I’ve even said, “Come into this room.” – and precisely show me the Way. Show me my errors, show me the excellent way, and I will follow it. Insanely, I believe that last part.
I don’t say that I want to “follow Him more nearly” in a light way. I’ve wept deeply, recklessly because of my desire that He would draw near and lift me up. (It is too easy, in such a case, to conclude that God does not exist. Atheists accuse believers of intellectual laziness, but many atheists are made by way of emotions overpowering the intellect. There is no such thing as a blind watchmaker).
You can see that, among other things, I’m in my head, right? I don’t think that is a fault, as long as there is balance. But that other side – the immediate, long-term decision, the commitment made without any thought of the cost – does not come easily to me. Where could I find it? Where will I encounter Christ so concretely that I can be sure of His authentic personality, without any of the mitigating interpretations (and let’s say it, sensibilities and fears) that accompany the modern world?
As Barclay says, “If ever we are to get anything approaching a biography of Jesus, it must be based on Mark, for it is his delight to tell the facts of Jesus’ life in the simplest and most dramatic way.”
He adds that Mark’s gospel was likely based on the immediate preaching of Peter, which explains the sometimes discordant chronology and so many of the minor, vivid details.
As for my psychological burdens, my (seemingly) insurmountable sinfulness? Here, we have Barclay’s translation of Mark’s opening:
“This is the beginning of the story of how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brought the good news to men.”
Let’s have some good news.