Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 13 (Reflections on Mark 1-11)

Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

Reading so many chapters of the Gospel of Mark, you can’t really blog on any single theme since so much is covered in eleven chapters. But while I was reading it occurred to me to expand upon my thoughts yesterday about how people understand God differently.

In today’s readings, we see Jesus teaching in the synagogue and many were amazed. “And when the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands?’” (Mark 6.2)

The other day I was reading an article (I can’t remember where or I would link it for you) in which the author was bewailing the teachings of Jesus as nothing more than a collection of teachings from other rabbis, and therefore not enough “credentials” with which to attach grand claims of His Divine Nature.

That’s what hit me today. Since Jesus is God and in complete communion with the Father, also God, and the Holy Spirit, also God, wouldn’t it be EXPECTED that His teachings had also been heard in the Prophets and other righteous men of the Old Testament? THEY all received their wisdom from HIM, right? So we believe as Christians, anyway.

This also helps to interpret today’s astonishment. They had only heard such wisdom from the Prophets before, and they had only been taught by the greatest Rabbis before. NOW, in One Man, Jesus Christ, they heard it all wrapped up into One. I suppose I would be astonished also.

Then I returned to our contemporary reality of more than 25,000 denominations of Christianity, alluded to in my post yesterday. In today’s readings, Jesus said, “For he who is not against us is on our side. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9.40-41)

On the surface, every denomination “is the same” as I was told yesterday. But clearly they are NOT the same. Some even speak against the Orthodox Church, declaring us pagans. So there must be a place for other denominations, who proclaim Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son and Word of God, at the table, so-to-speak. I NOT talking about the Holy Table, NOR about receiving Holy Communion. The Church wrote the Creed for a reason. It outlines HOW the original Church, founded by Christ and led by the Holy Apostles, understood Jesus Christ. We are able to rationally discuss with our brothers and sister in other denominations how they understand Jesus Christ and how we understand Jesus Christ.

This is where doctrine has a role, but I won’t get into doctrine today. I just wanted to reflect a moment, provided I don’t end up rambling, on how much still is the same in the way people experience God. I suppose if such a discussion helps bring someone closer to understanding Jesus Christ (since He alone reveals Himself to us), it will be a blessing.

Until tomorrow…..

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