THE HOUSE OF GOD (XAnon CONSPIRACY)

(I have N.T. Wright to thank for this line of thought.  While the work presented here is entirely mine, it was a comment Wright made about the parable of the wise man and fool building houses on either rock or sand in the Sermon on the Mount which I found many years ago that tipped me off to the larger significance that developed into this study of Mark.)

“The House.”  

“The House of God.”

What makes a temple?  The man who builds it and calls it “temple”?  Or whether God is INSIDE it???

I will let you bake with that as we look into Mark’s Gospel again at yet another level.  The level of temple.

Let’s go to Mark chapter 13; (let the reader understand). 

This chapter is generally understood by the masses of modern Christians as a depiction of “Christ’s Return” at the end of time.  The language in this chapter is definitely apocalyptic in nature. In fact, scholars have dubbed this chapter “The Little Apocalypse” since the language in it is so very much LIKE that of Revelation and other apocalyptic documents of the ancient church and of the Jews.  And no doubt this language lends itself to the interpretation of END of TIMES.

If, and I use “IF” here emphatically, if Mark 13 is about the “end of times” and the “Return of Christ” and all that usual interpretation in some sense, then the chapter is doing double (maybe even triple) duty on meaning and levels of understanding.  I will not argue against that, but I will play my cards and say, I am not convinced.

I know for sure, though, that it very much is all about the fall of the temple in Jerusalem.  This I know just from reading the chapter sober mindedly.  Jesus and his crew are leaving the temple in 13:1, and the boys are marveling over the fantastic building project going on there.  Herod’s temple takes 70 years to build (as I said in a previous post).  It is an enormous undertaking that stretches beyond the lifetime(s) of those who start it.

Like many major building projects of staggeringly huge undertaking, it is controversial – especially at the start.  I will not discuss all the ways and reasons why.  I likely don’t know all of them.  But I will say this much, if it had been an American project, we would complain about tax money literally going down hole at the “big dig” for years and years.  

We know that on the day Jesus and the boys come out of the temple for this little conversation, the project is roughly halfway done.  Jerusalem has been orange-barrel city for the last 35 years or so, and will remain in that state another 30-35 years, but only recently, the stonework has begun going up.  Herod literally moved a mountain and put the temple on it with massive stones like no one has ever seen before.  

I don’t know this for sure.  I am just spit balling here.  But… I think when all the digging and surveying of the massive orange-barrel project begins giving way to massive stones like no one ever saw before, that all the griping and complaining about taxes and “big digs” and so forth begin to subside just a bit, and people start to catch the vision that the builders always were dreaming.  A new reality is starting to take hold of hearts, dreams, imaginations.

And we are talking about The House of God here.

So, as the boys climb up from the Kidron Valley and find a resting spot midway up the switchbacks where they can catch their breath, the conversation about that temple picks up again, and they are at a particularly good vantage point from which to take in the view of it all.  But Jesus had said that not one stone will be left atop another.  It will all get torn down!

Sit with that a minute.

No.  Really.  Sit with that.

For a real minute.

Seriously.

I can wait…

Are you getting the real picture here?

That is The House of God Jesus is talking about!

This is the center of God’s universe.  It is at the heart of God and country for Jews.

If I took an American flag in front of an American Legion Hall and set fire to it, what do you think the drunks inside are going to think and do?

And a flag is NOTHING next to this!

This is The House of God!  There is only one.  There is no separation of church and state for the Jews of Judea.  This is the WHOLE enchilada.  And not only that, but Herod, despite the fact that at least half our country hated him when he came into office, has managed to bequeath to us this marvelous monstrosity which will finally unite the Jews from all the sects and surely warm God’s heart.  And right in Rome’s face!  Surely God is behind this after all!  There might have been SOME doubts whether Herod was God’s man at first (what with the pussy-grabbing controversies and all), but this is proof that God was behind his reign all along!

Right?

And Jesus says, “See these wonderful buildings and stones?  It’s all coming down in a terrible crash!”

Hmmm…

How is this not sour grapes???

Shouldn’t Jesus, God’s Son, be honored by this?

Well, apparently not.  And the boys are once again baffled by this.  Jesus’s closest disciples have been fumbling the ball a little more with each play ever since chapter 1, the last place they got this right.  I’m thinking that when Peter, James, John, and the boys drop their nets and run off to follow him, they se themselves as revolutionaries who sign on with God’s special anointed One who will come now and lay claim to this temple!  But here the “missiah” (yeah, that’s not a typo; it’s a nagging feeling that we are not really right with God) is basically rejecting this temple.

Wow!

(Let the reader understand, cuz the “disciples” in this narrative sure don’t.)

It is part of my conspiracy theory that the church was rocking along for roughly 35 years after Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection preaching, teaching, and, through interpersonal sharing, verbally telling the story of Jesus life without writing it down.  Why?  Why was verbal good enough and writing it down not?

Some think it is because the early church expected the “Return of Christ” to come soon, but as the first generation began to die they decided to preserve the story in writing for future generations in case he didn’t return for a long time.  To my mind, that sounds like a theory in a vacuum – and a lame one at that.  I don’t know why they were satisfied not writing it down, but I know Mark wrote first, and I know he wrote when Herod’s temple was demolished.  

I also know that the temple was just a waaaaaaaaaaaaay bigger deal to the Jews (especially of that time) than we modern, American Protestants really know.  In fact, I don’t think we are capable of grasping just how devastating a loss that was for them.  And I think Mark writes this account AT THAT TIME as a way of presenting God’s real alternative to that shame of a temple.  It wasn’t what they put in the brochures, not really.

I think the other Gospel writers (Matthew, Luke, and John) were also motivated, in part, by this loss AND to tie up loose ends Mark left his readers to wrestle with.  I think that as that first generation of disciples began to die out, those loose ends looked more and more troubling for the church, and the other writers were in position to resolve them faithfully with further accounts.

That’s a lot of my thinking – of what “I think” – alright.  But this is my post, so… join the conspiracy, I guess….

So, this brings us back to the question I left you baking your noodle on before: What makes a place a temple? Is it Herod slathering gold on it, moving mountains and perching it atop, grand stones and buildings?  Or is it a temple when God enters it – no matter the outward appearance???

Turn to Mark chapter 2.

Read verse one carefully. What do we find?

My English translation says, “When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.”

That is a good translation. The translators provided an excellent, conservative translation of the Greek words and phrases. There is nothing linguistically or stylistically wrong with this translation at all. But…

But you need a decoder ring to get this. And I really think that if the translators were super diligent, they would work out a way of highlighting things better. The word for “home” in this verse is oikos, which also, and perhaps more usually, is translated as “house.”

What makes a house a home? What makes a home a house? Is this just a matter of semantics?

Hmmm…

“It was heard he was in the house,” would be a better translation, but even then we need to make some stipulation. “The House” (I will use caps for these words when referring to them in this special sense) is something of a shorthand reference even in the Old Testament for the temple (e.g. II Sam 7:5, 13; I Kings 3:1-2 & chapter 6). Sometimes it is called “The House of God” and sometimes just “The House.” So, if the Old Testament uses this kind of language in reference to the temple, why not Mark?

Only… and here is the conspiracy part … what if by “The House” Mark isn’t referring to Herod’s empty temple, but the fact that God just showed up in a fisherman’s hut in Capernaum transforming that humble abode into something that grand monstrosity in Jerusalem, despite all the large stones and marvelous buildings, only wishes it could be?

Oh, my!

Do tell more!!!

Yeah.  “It was heard that he was in The House.”  I mean… this could go either way: somewhere OR nowhere.  But that is the nature of conspiracy theories.  They are either nothing or EVERYTHING – take your pick at your peril!!!

How about a bit of evidence?  Is there any evidence to support this claim?  Or is it like QAnon (XAnon’s evil twin) just baseless nonsense?

Well, keep reading the story?  What happens while “he was in The House”?  

Well, a number of things happen, actually, but if you are a sensitive reader, especially a young Jewish rebel wannabe having come to Jerusalem in 66 A.D. to defend the temple with Simon bar Giora, but you stumbled onto St. Mark’s little recruiter pamphlet, AND if as that reader you are going through it a second time for a closer look and to wrestle the Angel (so to speak), then probably the thing that jumps right out at you is the fact that Jesus engages in the business of FORGIVING SIN in this place!

Sure he heals a man.  But even that healing, just listen to Jesus, is “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….”  That healing miracle seems a bit more flashy, I think, to modern Americans, but that forgiveness of sins bit has dimensions to it we are not apt to see.  And one of those dimensions is, as the Scribes on the scene think to themselves (Jesus is reading their hearts and minds), only God can do this, and he lives in Jerusalem in Herod’s temple.  This peasant/prophet in Capernaum is blaspheming! (2:7).

Hmmm…

Unpack that all day long.

Oh… and notice the last remark made in 2:12 at the end of this pericope: all the people there that day who witness the healing are “amazed and glorify God” (contrast this against Jesus’s own disciples in chapter 13:1 being amazed by the stones and buildings) and exclaim, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Yeah.  Let THAT bake your noodle.

Good, life-long, God-loving Jews have never seen anything like this!  They make regular pilgrimages to the temple for all the festivals every year, but they have never seen anything like the remarkable forgiveness and healing miracle that just occurred in this fisherman’s hut way up in the North of Galilee, far removed from both Judea and the pride and arrogance of that temple Herod is building!

When Jesus is “IN THE HOUSE,” that house is temple!

When Jesus is in your heart, your body is temple! (I Cor 6:19).

When Jesus is in the church, the church is temple! (I Cor 3:16-17; Eph 2:19-22).

But thus far, Jesus is not in Herod’s temple, and when he ultimately goes there, he looks around the first day for a moment and then walks out, all uneventful like (11:11).  When he returns the next day, he curses the fig tree on the way in and finds it withered on the way out, and in between these fig tree observations, he cleanses the corrupt temple our young rebel has come to defend (as a “rebel” a leistai (do a word study to get the idiomatic meaning here) in fact a “den of rebels”) which is exactly the terminology Jesus uses to describe what the Jews have reduced this Holy Place to in the end.

If you are a young rebel hoping to defend Herod’s temple from Titus and six legions, you had better get ironed out whether or not God is in there and wants this place defended.  But if Jesus is God (and the Scribes in 2:7 actually raise the question), then that fisherman’s hut was temple, and this grand monstrosity with all the fancy stones and buildings in Jerusalem is not! 

How’s that for conspiracy?

Take care dear reader (let the reader understand) that you don’t sign up to fight for the wrong messiah in the wrong war.  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12).

(ALMOST) BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

Two posts back, in our XAnon conspiracy study of Mark’s Gospel, I talked about the “almosts.” In chapter 8, Jesus heals a nameless blind man – ALMOST. He asks if the man can see now, and he says “Almost.”

Okay, technically he didn’t say “almost” – not in English, anyway. But “almost” is a good way to summarize it. He sees men walking like trees. His vision is improved, but not quite healed all the way.

This prophetic healing is not about God’s limitations; it’s about ours. Jesus is working on us, but we are not seeing him as clearly as we might think or hope. We see him like a tree. The tree is a stumbling block. A log in our eye – ALMOST.

Anyway, without chasing that bunny any further (go read the post if you missed it), I also said there are a lot of these “almosts” in Mark. Mark has a way of getting us “almost” there, and then letting us struggle.

This observation, by the way, helps support my thesis that Mark INTENDS to end his narrative account at 16:8. Scandalous, I know. But if you work scandal completely out of your Bible, you won’t have any Gospel left. (Saying that does not prove my thesis, but it does give a little breathing room for it!)

There is another “almost” (as I have termed it) that proves extremely crucial. Did you notice in chapter 1, John tells us that he baptizes in water, but after him comes One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit? (Hint: 1:7-8.)

So, dear XAnon conspiracy theorist, where in Mark’s Gospel does Jesus ever baptize anyone in the Holy Spirit?

I went to school for this stuff, but at no time in my studies there did anyone ever tell me the answer to this question. Not in a lecture, a book, a journal article, or even a private conversation. In fact, no one seemed to notice there was a question there to ask.

Hmmm… Seems like a glaring oversight on the part of major scholarship. No?

This much I did learn though: I was taught to read each Gospel as free standing documents. Each evangelist has a unique voice, a unique perspective, and we do not want to shortchange that. There may be value in conflating the accounts for SOME purposes, but we must not simply do that for all purposes. Matthew has a perspective on Jesus that we simply do not get from John… and so forth. So, I need, when listening to Matthew, really listen to Matthew and not let John barge in unecessarily.

Let me put it like this: I need to let Matthew ask Matthew-ish questions and then listen for the Matthew-ish answers and not run to John for answers to Matthew’s questions. That will skew Matthew’s offering.

Do I make sense to you?

Well, it made sense to me, and I was taught to think this way by the pros.

BUT…

This way of thinking about the Gospels is not the norm, at least not among the masses. It certainly is not the norm in the faith tradition in which I was raised. And we were “people of the book,” as we called ourselves. We worked very hard and very sober-mindedly to adhere to the Bible and not supply our own ideas. We said things like, “Speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent.” That is a great reverence for Scripture.

Still, even within that approach, there is more presupposition at work than we typically realize.

So, let me demonstrate my point AS IT APPLIES to our study of Mark.*

I could go to almost any person in an adult Bible class in the church of my faith heritage and ask, “When does Jesus baptize in the Holy Spirit like Mark 1:7-8 points to?” ,,, and I just bet nearly 100 out of 100 responses would point me to Acts 2. That is not, actually a bad answer. It is completely biblical, and Acts 2 gives us by far the richest and most fully robust account of baptism in the Holy Spirit outlined anywhere in the Bible. So, that answer has a lot going for it, and if we were doing a study strictly on baptism in the Holy Spirit, that text would almost certainly occupy the single biggest portion of our time, energy, and focus!

But… I asked a Mark question, not a Luke question. Where does Mark answer this Mark question?

It may not seem important to many of us modern Bible students, but if we want to hear Mark’s perspective, we need to pay close attention to the answers Mark gives. The different Gospel perspectives should not, in the end, cancel each other out, but rather enhance our picture of Jesus in the big scheme of things. But within each account, we need to let the bits each evangelist offers create the view he is framing for us.

Now. It is possible that rats ate the end of Mark’s Gospel, and it’s possible that in the missing portion the rats ate, Mark gave us a clear answer to this question. If so, we simply do not have it anymore. That suggests that we lost a vital part of the Gospel to the mist of time. I just don’t think the Holy Spirit was so lax!

We have already seen evidence that Mark intends to end at 16:8. Not proven, no. But evidence all the same. (Such is the way of conspiracy!) And part of that evidence is the two-stage healing of the blind man in chapter 8. He is “almost” healed, and sees unclearly at first. I have hypothesized (previous posts) that Mark wants his reader (let the reader understand) to read the Gospel twice! The answers are there in the bit we already have, but they must be wrestled out!

Mark’s narrative may be of a different kind from others before it, and it may be full of symbolic – even apocalyptic – codes and the like, but it is still a narrative. And when narrative makes a narrative promise, it must fulfill it in order to satisfy the narrative logic, and Mark 1:7-8 promises us that One is coming after John who will baptize in the Holy Spirit.

And this is where the “almosts” come in to play: The answer to this promise will be encrypted and must be wrestled out. That I am convinced of, but along the way, Mark is going to ALMOST deliver on the promise twice. The third time he will deliver, but will deliver in such a spartan and encrypted way that it will be easy to miss and hard to catch.

Consider yourself blessed to have XAnon as your guide!

NOW… lest you think I am just out of my gourd, let me point out that John’s Gospel also delivers on this promise. I am not just making this stuff up from raw imagination.

It’s not just Luke’s account in Acts 2, but also John’s in 20:22. Yes! Go look it up. There in that passage, the risen Jesus “breathes” on the disciples and tells them to receive his Spirit. This is the same Spirit God breathes into Adam in Genesis! This is the restoration of humanity! John doesn’t dwell on it a whole lot, doesn’t overly describe or dramatize it. Luke, by contrast, not only depicts it quite differently, but devotes a lot of ink and energy to it. And the difference between the two accounts is so profound that we might struggle to reconcile them in our minds.

But we are in a position now to hopefully see Mark has a wide range of ways he might handle this too.

Let’s open up to Mark 4:35-41.

Verses 33 and 34 really kinda belong with the passage(s) that come previous to our text, but I wonder if they aren’t really a segue in the big scheme of things. So, I make mention of them now and leave open the possibility that we might want to include them in any possible subsequent discussion that might develop in the comments later. But, that said, let’s look at the story of the calming of the storm in 4:35-41.

We are looking, in this pericope, for Mark’s baptism in the Holy Spirit. We recall that John promised us that One coming after him would do this vis-à-vis his baptis m in water back in chapter 1. Two people offering two baptisms.

“Baptism” is one of those Bible words we call transliteration. It’s not, technically, an English word. If we were to actually translate it, we would go with “immersion” or “dip” or “dunk” or “plunge.” To do this in water is to submerge below the surface.

When John says this, in chapter 1, we see him immerse Jesus in the Jordan in water. We see the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus as a dove, and we might, at first glance, consider whether that is what John was talking about in 1:7-8. But it can’t be, since we see John immerse in water, as he just said, and Jesus (the One who will immerse in the Holy Spirit) is currently the One being immersed rather than the one immersing anyone else. And that is why the next stop in this hunt is chapter 4. We might say that chapter 1 baptism is ALMOST a baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it is not the one we are looking for yet.

So, a “baptism” is an immersion, and here in chapter 4, the disciples are on a boat with Jesus that is just about to get immersed. In fact, the immersion/baptism is so imminent, the boys fear they are dying. Jesus is asleep and seems not to notice (a factor we will not in other parts of our study, but not dwell on here). He will ask them about their lack of faith when the whole episode is done, and that will seem like an important feature too.

There are several “levels” to this story. The first, we will call historical fact. The next we will call apocalyptic/symbolic. Then there is an “emotional” level. Perhaps there are others too, but these will suffice.

I personally believe the account. I think this episode really happened in the time/space universe of God’s making. A storm kicked up and threatened to overwhelm the boat. These seasoned fishermen knew how to handle themselves, but this storm was too much. They recognize their number is up. They are in over their heads and find Jesus asleep and wake him with questioning that almost accuses him of not caring, but then he commands the winds and the waves to stop. Thus, he saves their lives and the boat.

At the same time I find the story to be historical fact, I also find it to be symbolic. (I think it does double duty.) The fact that they are on “the sea” at all is already suggestive of apocalyptic literature. The “sea” in apocalyptic is symbolic of the source of trouble and chaos. This adds further dimensions to the miracle of stilling the storm. Jesus doesn’t bring peace merely to the Sea of Galilee; he stills the source of all storms! (See also Revelation 4:6.)

Emotionally speaking? The boys on the boat are driven totally by fear. Jesus saves them, sure. He asks them why they are afraid and have no faith. They ask, “Who can command the storm?”

(That last bit goes back to our last post. It all ties together so closely.)

Let’s look more at the symbolic level.

What do we need for a baptism in the Holy Spirit? If this were a recipe, we would need plunging (which we very nearly have) and we would need Holy Spirit instead of water.

Let’s look at this carefully now.

The word for “spirit” in Greek can be translated as “spirit,” “breath,” or “wind.” In this symbolic story we have water breaking over the boat about to plunge it into the deeps. Of course, that’s John’s baptism, not Jesus’s. But they are very close to having it when Jesus rebukes the “wind” and the “waves.” The wind and the water. It’s all there! Hmm…

ALMOST

It turns out there are two words in Greek for wind. One is anemos which just means wind. The other is pnuema which means spirit, breath, wind. Though we have all the correct ingredients for this recipe in English, we have the wrong wind in Greek. But otherwise, we are oh so close. ALMOST.

Of course, we should notice that the baptism is not complete. The boat almost plunges into the waves, but Jesus prevents the plunging at the last second, rebuking the wind and water, but it’s not the spirit wind.

Wow! That is close!

It’s ALMOST baptized in the Holy Spirit. But not quite. Close enough that it’s obvious Mark is teasing us with it. A deadly baptism. Food for thought, but not quite what we are looking for. And somehow it functions to get us wrestling with the idea.

But why?

Now, I know that right about now, unless you are just really and truly a conspiracy nut, this post and this analysis is getting pretty long and burdensome. It’s all the more ironic that I type twice or three times as many words to describe it than Mark who packs so much dynamite in every word and gives us the shortest gospel account. But, this is XAnon and it is conspiracy here. So drop out when it’s too much for you, but for those sucked in… well… this rabbit hole keeps going.

I will confess. The first time I found ALMOST baptism in the Holy Spirit, in Mark 4, I ALMOST didn’t think it was worth talking about. It just FEELS like such a bunny trail. Surely the point of this story on the boat during the storm is not to say “Fooled ya!” or “Psyche!” Surely it is meant to showcase Jesus’s real identity as implied by the questions the disciples ask.

Surely.

And I will concur. That is the point. But it is not the only function. This ALMOST feature functions to get your baptism-in-the-Holy-Spirit juices going. And it’s not the only ALMOST of it’s kind.

Hop over to Mark 10.

If we are looking for the baptism-in-the-Holy-Spirit recipe, we have another pericope here where all the ingredients ALMOST come together again in the special request put to Jesus by James and John and in his response to it.

It’s important, in fact vital, to point out here that James and John (as well as the rest of the Twelve) are not seeing Jesus clearly, but seeing him like a man in need of a two stage miracle for blindness. They see him like trees walking. They ALMOST see him, but not quite. As we come to this passage in the sandals of the young, Jewish rebel who comes to Jerusalm in 66 A.D. wanting to defend the temple from Titus and the pagan hordes, specifically as we come to it the SECOND time (clearing up our blindness), we see the request for what it is, a desire for greatness.

These “Sons of Thunder” have been struggling with pride since at least 9:33-37 where Jesus challenges them to be humble. The humility is a central part of his teaching since that point when the boys ask Jesus in chapter 10 that one might sit on his left and the other on his right when he comes in glory. These “disciples” think they have joined a revolution following a master rebel. They are looking for a piece of the glory for themselves.

Allow me to paint the picture like this: James and John clearly see that Jesus is here to be crowned King of the Jews, and they are signed on to be part of his army, alright. They even believe in their hearts that this is going to really happen! They are so close, they can taste it. But there’s ten other top lieutenants in this ragtag army, and James and John don’t want to be rewarded and remembered as the ones in charge of latrines or supply. No. They want glory! It’s as if they are saying, Grant one of us to be in charge of a tank division and the other in charge of nukes! (maybe fire from heaven?).

Jesus replies in what surely is a bit cryptic fashion asking them about their level of commitment and sacrifice. “You don’t really see clearly what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup that I drink? To be immersed in the immersion in which I am immersed?”

Aha! Jesus is talking about them getting baptized now, and it is the immersion you get following him! This will not be John’s baptism in water, this will be Jesus’s baptism in the Holy Spirit – at least we are seeing it hinted here. James and John are sure they can, that they are able. So, Jesus assures them they will. But, of course, that is future tense. It is not this moment in time, but another yet to come.

This ALMOST is the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but not quite there yet. But it gives us something of the shape of it, AND it points us readers (let the reader understand) especially those of us undergoing a second round of healing for our blindness, that we will find our answer at the cross. The cross is where Jesus will drink the cup and be immersed with the cup and immersion which will await James and John. It also is the place where he will be crowned King of the Jews with a sign above his head confirming it for all the world to see.

Just one thing blurring the vision there still: pride. This will be a humiliation, not a proud moment. It will be glory, but the glory will be God’s. It will have the things of God in mind and not the interests of man.

You now have been ALMOST baptized in the Holy Spirit in Mark. Your blindness is now lifted. Jesus asks what do you see? And now we go to Mark 15 to look again at a man on a tree.

Mark 15:39 brings all the ingredients of our recipe together finally. We have the immersion/cup Jesus spoke of in chapter 9, and just as the pneuma (yes, the Greek word is the right one this time), the breath goes out of him the last time, the centurion standing there SEEING it makes the confession that no mortal human has been able to make to this point.

This centurion is not one of the Twelve. He is not one of the closest three. He is a complete outsider as far as this revolution is concerned. But apparently he is standing in the way of that breath and looking intently at Jesus at just the right moment to have his blindness healed!

He is baptized in the Holy Spirit.

And you, my young, Jewish rebel friend, you are reading Mark for the second time. You see it now too. At first glance, you saw just one more dead Jew. That was the initial healing touch that didn’t quite complete your clear vision. You saw one more failed revolt – there are soooooooo very many! But now, with your second look suddenly you are confronted with more.

Do you see a common execution here or a coronation?

Just how do you expect YHWH, God, to receive a crown? How does LOVE get crowned King of the Jews in Jerusalem? What would that look like… when you REALLY think about it?

You came to Jerusalem willing to lose your life in order to save it. Suddenly you see Jesus for who he is. This changes everything.

It’s a short and fast path from 15:39 to 16:8! Mark’s narrative is known to move swiftly. It’s only sixteen verses until we readers are the one left holding the bag! We have subtly become the 13th Apostle… somewhere along the way. The women are told to go and tell. They are the only witnesses left. But they don’t because of the fear, the lack of faith Jesus rebuked when he calmed the storm!

It all comes to a head on me! The READER! (Let the reader understand.)

What will I do with this insider information, even though I have been an outsider up until now?

I am baptized in the Holy Spirit!

Or not.

The ALMOSTS got me here, but we are done with them now. I am either with Jesus or with the terrorists.

(There is more for us to study. A lot more. But this crucial study should come into focus and remain with us from here on. I think.)

Did you pray with me at the start of this series? Our prayer was, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see Jesus.” We are now having our second touch from his healing hand. How are you seeing him right about now?

Please, leave me a comment.

* I have to thank a certain prophetess for my insight into the baptism in the Holy Spirit according to Mark from a different faith heritage than mine. We will call her Agent Holy Roller on this blog.

At the time, I was fresh out of school and had joined an ecumenical group in prison ministry when I was tasked with leading a study of Mark. Our group was mostly Protestant, but had one Catholic. It was mostly Baptist, but a few Methodists and a couple of Pentecostals. Agent Holy Roller was one of our Pentecostals.

At first my respect for Agent Holy Roller was a bit lacking. She didn’t seem to know her Bible as well as many of the others in our group, but she fancied herself a leader and a prophet. I always afforded her deference, but it wasn’t until she, the one most acutely aware of the Holy Spirit, asked me “When in Mark does Jesus baptize in the Holy Spirit?” I had been making my point that we should let Mark give us Mark answers to Mark questions, and yet I had never considered this one.

Agent Holy Roller could not supply the answer to the question she highlighted for me either, but she stumped me and sent me back to Mark with new vigor. After rereading Mark again several times with this question in mind, I found the answer which this post presents.

I certainly came to appreciate Agent Holy Roller after that. Without her input in my Bible study, without her voice and leadership in our group, I would likely not have found the depths of Jesus Mark offers. (And I doubt very seriously that I have exhausted Mark’s Jesus yet.)

DEMONS & CODEWORD: “SON OF GOD”

(Let the reader understand), this rabbit hole gets deeper still. The view from down here is intimidating. You might be nervous that The Abyss has a welcome mat, but trust me… come on in; the water is dark. Open your Bible and take the plunge – won’t you? This is your next session in the XAnon conspiracy some of you internet junkies just can’t pass up.

Here we go:

If you ever took a serious academic study of Mark’s Gospel, you were introduced to the scholar William Wrede and the “Messianic Secret,” a motif Wrede discerned, primarily in Mark, demonstrating how Jesus seems almost constantly to be suppressing information about himself. (What an irony is that?) Jesus goes around making a bid to be crowned king of the Jews, alright, but is always healing people and ordering them not to tell anyone about it. (There is an exception to this (1:44), but it is the exception that proves the rule!)

Mark’s Gospel emphasizes this motif more than the others. Far more. And that too is ironic beyond accounting for it. A “gospel” by definition is “good news,” and good news, it would seem, should be shared. So why on earth would Jesus inhibit it? Why would a gospel writer feature it so profoundly? Doesn’t that kind of suppression run completely counter to the point both of Jesus’s life and mission AND Mark’s purpose in writing?

In fact, it is my case that a large part of the reason(s) Matthew, Luke, and John also pen accounts is to clear up the difficulty/ies presented by Mark’s Gospel. Just imagine (let the reader understand) if Mark’s Gospel was the only account we had and if it stopped at 16:8 – even in our English translations! Just imagine all the signs and wonders and teachings which elsewhere are handed to us on a silver platter, but if we only had Mark, we would not know! Mark’s account was enough for its time (the war of 66 A.D.), but the Holy Spirit determined that between Theophilus and the church at large through the eons, more would be required, and we didn’t need to be left only with Mark’s loose ends.

Yet another conspiracy for us to wrestle!

But there is one other element to this motif. It’s not just those who are healed (who witness and experience the grace of God and the healing touch of Jesus) who are told not to tell. It is not just ironic that the written narrative stops at 16:8, the last verse we have of Mark’s writing (see previous posts for explanation of this assertion if you are not already familiar), a troubling verse where the women are actually told to go tell, but due to their fear the flee the empty tomb and tell no one. No. It’s also especially ironic because all through Mark’s Gospel, demons know who Jesus is; they announce it nearly every time they meet him, and he is always, always, always telling them (the demons) to shut up about it!

How’s this for a conspiracy? The demons are the best gospel preachers in the whole story, and Jesus orders them to shut up!

But wait. There’s more!

Oh, yeah. The plot thickens.

If you read Mark very, very carefully and pay close attention to detail, you will notice that the demons are frequently confessing Jesus’s secret identity. They keep referring to him specifically as “God’s Son.” This, it seems, is the tip of the spear, the point which Jesus especially wants kept secret.

Why is that?

Codeword: Son of God

Well… there are lots of sons of God. And there is a whole can of worms we can open up with regard to that title. If you are an immersed Christian, a disciple of Christ, then you too are a “son of God.” If you were to read Luke’s Gospel (an account of Jesus’s life not yet written when Mark puts pen to parchment, btw), you will find he offers a lineage, a genealogy for Jesus, which goes in reverse through time and goes all the way back to Adam. So we have the lineage saying “son of…, son of…, son of…” all the way back to Adam. When we reach Adam, he is called “son of God.” If we read Exodus, a book written long before Mark’s Gospel, we will find the first time God refers to Israel (the whole nation) as “My son” in 4:22.

It is beyond our purpose here to bog down in Mark’s particular meaning with that title as applied to Jesus. It is enough to note that as far as Mark’s Gospel is concerned, the title “Son of God” means something extra special when applied to Jesus. We also discern that the demons are ready, willing, and able to divulge this information to anyone willing to listen, but Jesus shuts them up.

In fact, if you are a really sensitive reader, “(let the reader understand)”, then when you read Mark all through in one sitting and stopped at 16:8 you noticed that only one mortal human in the whole story ever makes the confession that Jesus is “the Son of God,” and that confession is made at a most crucial moment.

Did you notice?

Were you paying attention?

Let’s bounce through some pertinent passages and see what we missed.

There are four* sources of this insider information scattered all through Mark. The first is Mark himself. The title of his book is not “The Gospel According to St. Mark” like is printed at the top of the first page in bold font in my English translation. Not really. No. The first verse, chapter 1: verse 1 is the real title of Mark’s Gospel, and it says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).*

The second source (first if we trust textual criticism)* is God, the Father – the voice from heaven (1:11; 9:7). God interjects his own voice into the narrative to identify Jesus as his own Son twice, first at his baptism and later on the “Mount of Transfiguration.”

This is the most trustable source for this information for a reader (let the reader understand), but none of the characters within the narrative show any sign of hearing this message in chapter 1, and only the inner circle of the Twelve (the three) hear it in chapter 9. But by the time we reach 14:50, it is clear that just because they have had opportunity to hear the voice from heaven in chapter 9, it does not translate into their acceptance and right handling of this most sacred information later.

The third source (second if we trust textual criticism)* are the demons! The demons know who he is, and they tell us (the readers and characters in the story) repeatedly that Jesus is the “Son of God,” but Jesus is always shutting them up! (See 1:24-25, 34; 3:11-12; 5:7,19;**)

(Let that bake the reader’s noodle.)

Finally, the last source of this information is one of the most unlikely of all – a flat character who exits the narrative as fast as he enters it. The centurion at the foot of the cross! (15:39).

Yes. Something very ironic, but very special too, happens at 15:39. It is the climactic moment of Mark’s Gospel – barring only the cliff-hanger we are left with at 16:8. Here we find a mortal human pronouncing what previously no other mortal human could manage.

NOW… Go back at read chapter 8 again. In the last post we saw how the blind man was healed in two stages and how that broken act prophetically dramatizes the fact that Peter (and the rest of the Twelve) and us readers too are all suffering a type of blindness that must be worked out with more effort, more time, more care. Peter was asked, “Who do you say I am?” and answered offering, “You are the Christ!” (8:29).

(Let the reader take care here not to conflate this passage with Matthew’s account of the same moment, where Peter completes the thought proclaiming, “You are the Christ! The Son of the Living God!” (Matt. 16:16). For one thing, Matthew has not written his account yet, and so there is no chance our young rebel come to Jerusalem to defend the temple in 66 A.D. will be familiar with Matthew’s account. No. But when he goes back for a second, deeper, look at Mark, he will notice that the centurion at the cross is able to confess what Peter’s confession lacks, and it will prompt our young rebel to wrestle the angel all the more.)

Yes. Jesus is The Son of God in a very special sense. God knows it (of course); the demons know it; but neither the disciples nor any of the other mortal human beings within the narrative have this most precious insight and are able to confess it except for, and until we meet, the centurion at the cross in 15:39.

Do you think this little arrangement has any particular significance for Mark’s Gospel?

(Let the reader understand), OH YEAH IT DOES!

This is no mere coincidence of Scripture! There is no such thing. This was divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit for Mark to feature in his story. And it impacts a soul (especially of a young, Jewish rebel) who stumbles onto 16:8 and finds himself seeing Jesus, but unclearly seeing him… like trees walking around. It will send this reader back for more healing touch, a second round of Gospel to clear things up.

It’s a conspiracy.

A divine conspiracy.

You came to this recruiter’s pamphlet looking for your place in God’s Army. You expected to join the rebels defending the temple from Titus and six Roman legions. You are ready to fight and to kill, and to die if necessary, in service to God and country, when Mark put this pamphlet in your hands and tripped you up on a stumbling blog (Did I say stumbling blog?) ahem… stumbling block.

You might be feeling a strong urge to put it down and go running off to join Uncle Simon and fight. But then again, you might be just a little bit hooked too. Maybe even jealous. Tripped up. Stumbling in your convictions.

Is it possible that you don’t see Jesus clearly? Is it possible that God, the Father, really does claim Jesus is My Son? Listen to him! (Let the reader understand.)

The Holy Spirit is conspiring with your conscience right about now. You MIGHT reject Jesus outright. You might prefer to take up a sword and follow Uncle Simon rather than take up a cross and follow Jesus, but you must harden your heart to do it. Not a big leap for young rebel, really, but it’s been pricked now, and you might want to attend to it.

Why do demons and a centurion know what I can’t quite yet see? Shouldn’t I get this ironed out before I just reject him? There was, after all, quite a lot in this story that did actually ring deeply true with God. I probably should pray on this and look again more intently. He might open my eyes from the blindness I have been suffering and didn’t even realized.

Oh, my… This is a conspiracy, alright.

* There is a textual variant here. The oldest manuscript copies of Mark do not, in fact, have “the Son of God” in verse 1. Thus, we can safely argue that there are actually only three sources for this insider information in Mark’s Gospel. But, if my theory about Mark’s whole document is correct, then the later addition of this bit to verse one is all the more understandable as a compelling observation a later copyist could not resist adding to the work.

** The “Legion” demon(s) seems to be somewhat of an exception to the rule. Jesus casts out the demons, never tells them specifically to shut up, and tells the man after they have left him to go tell his people (Gentiles, by the way) “what the Lord has done for him.” There are enough exceptions to this story, all of them not directly impinging on the general point, that I think we can just acknowledge it has anomalies, but it still supports the trend.

More about these matters in the comments if questions are submitted.

(LET THE READER UNDERSTAND) XAnon GETS INTO MARK’S GOSPEL (down the rabbit hole)

Alright, let’s take this conspiracy to the next level. It’s time to get crazy-weird with this. We have been swimming at the shallow end so far, but young rebels coming to Jerusalem in 66 A.D. don’t have much in the way of kiddie pools. Six Roman legions are surrounding the place fast, and history tells us (modern readers) that they will have the whole city leveled soon. But for the young rebels, that is still just sober-minded conjecture. Simon bar Giora (among others) has placed a call on our lives to come defend the temple, but we “stumble” into Mark and read his recruiter’s pamphlet where we find the cross to be a “stumbling block” for our rebel ambitions.

ALMOSTS

Getting suspicious right away, let’s jump (for a moment) into the middle of Mark’s pamphlet. Turn with me to chapter 8. Midway through this middle chapter, we find a baffling little vignette that almost – ALMOST – almost has nothing to do with anything.

Did you notice I say “almost”?

Get used to that. There are other “almosts” in this book which will prove surprisingly central to our conclusion. (It’s hard to get more conspiratorial than that!)

Seriously. If we lifted the passage in 8:22-26 out of Mark’s Gospel, you would hardly notice it missing. Leave the last of the story after 16:8 off, and the whole book becomes a wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord and a consternation for modern scholarship worldwide. But if we took 8:22-26 out, we would be cutting out of Mark’s Gospel (and out of the whole Bible) the only – ONLY – the only account of a miracle of God that didn’t quite work out right on the first attempt. I am talking about a failed miracle here! A miracle that doesn’t take! Seriously.

So… why is this little story so important to Mark? What purpose does it serve? How does it function in our Gospel?

Think it through carefully. You pick a miracle from ANYWHWERE in Scripture and consider it carefully. Let’s say turning the Nile River into blood. Moses (in Exodus 7) is told by God to preach to Pharaoh saying, “I will strike the Nile with my staff, AND SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW THAT YHWH, GOD, means it when he says ‘Let my people go,’ the water will turn to blood.” Then Moses strikes the water with his staff and it becomes wine. So, Moses asks Pharaoh if he is convinced, and Pharaoh says, “Not quite. But it tastes good!” So Moses strikes the water again and it becomes blood.

What do you think?

Does that sound biblical? Does that sound like our God?? Does that ring true???

Of course not.

Pick another miracle. Any miracle.

The axe head floats (in II Kings 6), but not all the way to the surface. It bobs up and down and the prophet is unable to actually catch it. So the prophet has to cut off yet another stick and throw it into the water to get the iron to float with real buoyancy.

Feel me yet?

What if “take up your mat and walk” is followed by “stagger up and stumble”? It would still be a miracle, sorta… but not much of a God behind it. Right?

What if the woman slipped up in the crowd and grabbed Jesus by the neck in a headlock and held on for dear life, and he felt a burp go out and she felt a little bit better, but not quite all the way healed? (This is starting to sound more like a lucky charm than the healing power of Jesus!)

What if Jesus tells the sea to “Hush, be still” and about five hours later, the sky begins to clear up and half an hour after that, the sun is out and the wind dies down?

I could keep going like this. But I think you get the idea. There are no stories of God (via Jesus or any prophet or miracle worker of any kind) pulling off miracles only halfway. When God moves, miraculously, the miracle is always a full-blown miracle. It always, always, always has the desired impact, and it’s always immediate.

Got it?

Yeah. If the Bible was full of miracle stories that only achieved half the miracle, we would not have any real confidence in God.

But here in the middle of Mark’s Gospel, we have the one – THE ONLY ONE – account of a miracle that doesn’t quite take the first time and must be buttressed, shored up, braced and so forth with a second attempt. And this happens to Jesus! Jesus, it seems, couldn’t quite heal the blind man’s sight! He has to work his miracle twice to get the right result!!!

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT???

You do realize, don’t you – my XAnon reader, that Jesus heals another blind man of blindness just two chapters later in Mark’s Gospel and does so with no problem!

So, it’s not like healing blind eyes is extra challenging for Jesus.

So what is it then?

Maybe it’s a matter of “unbelief.” Consider the scene Mark sets in chapter 6, two chapters before our selected passage, where Jesus preaches in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth. The hometown crowd holds Jesus in contempt and Mark tells us (6:5-6) “He could do no miracle there except that he laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them… marveling at their unbelief.”

Hmmm… (Here is another one of those “almosts” I was talking about.) The passage seems to settle our question, but then jerks the rug out from under it at the same time. Due to their unbelief, he could do no miracle… Yes… Yes… Yes… That sounds like the answer… Except that he laid hands on and healed….

D’oh! (Thanx Homer Simpson.)

But the “almost” of this answer, though as incomplete as the healing miracle of chapter 8, is still instructive, and seems to point us in the right general direction. These “almosts” that Mark teases us with may not give a direct answer to the questions we bring them, but they will keep nudging us closer to God’s goal anyway.

We got to 16:8 and found ourselves with an incomplete Gospel and decided (in the last post) that we simply must read this text again looking for DEEP text meaning that isn’t just lounging around on the surface and handed to us on a silver platter, but we must wrestle the issues out of the text. Here is a text that offers us a lens through which to refocus our search, AND it’s a story about healing blindness!

Let us sit with that.

There are deeper levels in this rabbit hole, and if they start adding up, perhaps we should trust the findings after all.

Sight as symbol/metaphor

Sight, physical sight, is a very easy symbol or metaphor for understanding. We trade out the word “see” for “understand” all the time in regular speech; so it’s not actually some deep Bible code really, though I bet your decoder ring will confirm what I am saying. And while we are here, “understanding” also is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from “belief/faith.”

What if, and this isn’t just a wild leap, what if Jesus has to heal this man’s blindness in two stages, according to Mark, because the act itself is a prophetic way of saying the disciples don’t yet really see Jesus for who he really is? And if that is true of the disciples who are closest to him, then it is likely true for me, the reader too. No? (Let the reader understand.) If I am right about this, then the story functions in Mark to alert a careful reader to start opening his heart and mind a bit more sensitively to other levels of meaning.

Let’s test this hypothesis.

Look at the passages both immediately before and immediately after 8:22-26 and see if this two-stage miracle story doesn’t appear to address the disciples faith and understanding (or lack thereof) rather than the generic, flat-character, blind man in question.

Mark 8:11-21

So… sure enough we have Jesus chewing out men of God who oughta know things they don’t seem to know in these verses. Two groups of them, actually. The first being Pharisees who seek a sign and want to argue about it with Jesus. He tells them, “This generation ain’t gettin’ one.”

But immediately following that exchange, he gets in the boat with his closest twelve friends. Jesus begins speaking about “leaven of the Pharisees” with them, but they completely don’t catch his drift and think he is talking about the bread, of which they are in short supply, and this all despite the fact that in recent days, he has worked feeding miracles that should be rendering this speculation pointless.

Mark 8:27-38

Now… this bit starts off simple enough to see, but it gets really dark and heavy fast. So bear with me a moment.

Immediately after healing the bind man twice, Jesus gathers his close friends together and quizzes them about his reputation – quite literally, his identity. “Who do the people say I am?” followed closely by, “Who do you say I am?”

Well, the boys sitting there with Jesus that day have been with him on his messianic journey for a while now and have traversed more than a few dusty Galilean trails with him, they have crisscrossed the Sea of Galilee a few times with him, they have SEEN things – miraculous signs, the casting out of demons, the feedings and healings, and all – and they have camped with him a few nights. Only his Mama knows him better!

These guys know his favorite meal, his favorite drink, his favorite watering hole. They know when he is happy, when he is grumpy, and even what his farts smell like! These guys don’t need to see his driver’s license to identify him, so this should be easy.

First the question: Who do the people say I am?

This is a bit of gossip, so to speak. Let’s gossip about gossipers – after a fashion.

Well, Herod and some think Jesus is the ghost of John the Baptist. Still others think Jesus is really Elijah come back. But a lot of people think he is one of the old prophets returned. This is the skinny going round.

Then the next question: Who do you say I am?

If we modern readers didn’t catch on to this idea in chapter 1, chapter 8 will not make much sense, but Jesus is, and has been, making a bid to be “king of the Jews.” Most Jews of the time hope that God is calling forth a new messiah to give the crown to, something very much like David, the shepherd boy of old. If you recall in that story, the people asked Samuel for “a king like the nations,” which actually was a betrayal of God himself (I Sam. 8:7). God indulged the people, but at first he gave them Saul, a young man who seemed regal and really “looked the part” so to speak. Though it’s a complicated assertion I am not going to iron our in this post, I liken Saul to “the people’s choice” award. But the people chose poorly, because Saul turns out not to be such a great king.

However, right under Saul’s nose, God calls up another – David. If you go examine that story closely, you will notice that the calling of David is quite a surprise. He does not look the part. God sees what is on the inside and does not judge by the outward appearance. And so he has Samuel “anoint” David to be king of Israel in something of a secret ceremony.

The word “anoint” only means “chosen.” The choosing process involves pouring oil over the head, and so that act is called anointing, but the act is a sign of the choice, actually. The choice is the part that matters most.

But wait, there’s more!

When Samuel anoints David, signifying in a secret ceremony that God has chosen another king who will supersede Saul, David goes underground – so to speak. In fact, over time, David winds up a wanted man on the run, like a criminal. In fact, for all intents and purposes, he is a criminal – certainly in the eyes of the legitimate court back at Saul’s place. Thus, for all the years between the day of the secret ceremony and the day David finally ascends to the throne of Israel, he is “the anointed” – the chosen one. As such, he is something of a boogeyman vis-à-vis Saul. But to his friends and allies, he is “the anointed.” The one chosen by God to be the REAL king of Israel.

Eventually, David does in fact take the crown. And when he does, he becomes the most legendary of all Israel’s kings. He unites the people and liberates them from foes. He is a great warrior king who loves God and blesses the nation with unparalleled rule.

All of this is a backdrop to Jesus’s question with the disciples. He too is making a bid to be crowned king, and this is going on right under the nose of Herod – that OTHER king of the Jews (who will not take kindly to a usurping messiah!). When Jesus runs around making his bid to be king, he is claiming (through his actions (though not in so many words)) that he is “the anointed” – the chosen one of God – chosen to be king!

Oh, and that word “anointed”? Well, it get’s translated also as “messiah” or “Christ” depending on the ancient language you are using.

So, when Peter pipes up saying, “You are the Christ!” … he is saying that Jesus is like David. He is playing the role of David in a recast, prophetic dramatization of God choosing a new king under the nose of the other.

All of this, by the way, is rebellious in nature. One king toppling another? Yes. That is pretty much the text book definition of rebellion. So, Peter is signing on for the revolution when he answers Jesus’s question. It is a dangerous answer to cough up, but Peter is only too excited to finally say it.

(I hope you are seeing, dear XAnon reader, how pertinent all of this is to a young Jew of about fightin’ age looking to join the army of God and defend the temple. Mark is offering an alternative leader and army to join. In fact, THE alternative. Do you think Mark has his attention?)

But…

But it’s right there. Right at that point of Peter’s confession that something else changes. You gotta get your head and your heart in the game to get this in focus. Pull out your decoder ring for this. You could read a passage like this for years and years – all your life – and miss the relevant impact of it if you are not very, very careful.

As soon as Peter confesses that Jesus is the “Christ,” Jesus begins predicting his own death.

Sit with that.

Jesus, up until this point, has NOT told the boys about this his plan to die – not in so many words. But he is “stating the matter plainly” (v. 32) which is curious since, as we read in 4:33-34, Jesus was “speaking the word to them in parables… and did not speak to them without a parable.”

Now… we can get all bogged down in parables, and we will! Eventually. But for now let’s just notice that parables are (or can be) hard to understand and require explanation (decoder rings). And by the time Mark tells us in 4:33-34 that Jesus is only preaching in parables, he has already been at it through all of chapter 4 and some of chapter 3 too.

Did you ever hear a preacher/pastor who preaches … well, maybe good sermons, but… in hifalutin ways that are hard to understand?

Well, that is the kind of preacher Jesus is/was! People seemed to like to hear him, and they certainly liked the healing, but clear understanding is not something they typically walked away with much. Maybe sometimes or some bits, but mostly they got baffled.

But on the occasion of Peter’s confession, Jesus dropped all that parable and encoded talk and began stating the matter plainly. And what is his sermon topic? “I’m gonna get killed in a horrible death!” That would be the title, it seems.

But here’s the kicker: This message is so jarring and so hard to accept that even though he is stating the matter plainly, Peter just suddenly can’t follow it. So, Peter starts to rebuke Jesus. He can’t surely mean what it sounds like he is saying!

But Peter would be wrong! Peter is actually about half blind, and in need of further healing of his sight.

Peter can’t fathom what Jesus is saying (and doing) just now (and you and me as life-long followers can’t either, not really). And so Jesus unloads one of the most chilling rebukes on Peter a disciple can ever hear from the teacher, “Get behind me Satan! You are not setting your mind (your understanding? your belief? your sight? your faith?) on God’s interests, but on man’s!”

Hmmm…

Peter takes a harsh scolding, and takes his seat. He was the one brave enough to pipe off with “You are the Christ!” and that had to be a real mountaintop moment in his relationship with Jesus, but it was swiftly and brutally followed by a valley low! It seems his head is spinning and he is just not grasping anything after this moment, and I think that is exactly right. He is like a blind man who sees unclearly. The men look like trees walking! He will require a bit more work before the vision clears up.

This nameless blind man getting half healed and then fully healed in 8:22-26 turns out to be a flat character of not too much substantive consequence as far as the surface narrative goes, but if we start reading Mark a bit more deeply and allow this story to function as a decoder ring for the disciples failure to grasp the depth of meaning they are finding in Jesus, then we might begin to see ourselves more deeply impacted by Jesus too.

I think a young rebel in Jerusalem come to defend the temple from Rome and finding this pamphlet just might hit a snag with this passage and find the rest of the pamphlet becomes unlocked with this as a symbolic key. And once unlocked, you just can’t get the Spirit back in the barn (to mix my metaphors). You just might begin to see in Jesus, the image of God in a way you had not bargained for when you agreed to give Mark’s little pamphlet a glance.

I have no doubt that many young Jewish rebels will walk away from Mark 16:8 and scoff just like Jewish leaders at Jesus’s crucifixion. But some will be drawn to wrestle the angel, to wrestle with the text. Some will discover in chapter 8 and the healing of the blind man in two stages that they are ready for more healing fo their own faith too.

(Let the reader understand… that goes for XAnon bloggers too.)

We will start working our way through it next time.

Welcome to Mark down in the XAnon rabbit whole!

XAnon SIGN UP SHEET: A FEW GOOD MEN WANTED!

So… I sat down and read through Mark. Did you?

Did you read The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God) by St. Mark and stop at chapter 16: verse 8?

Are you going to sign on with Jesus? Or with the temple defenders???

Will you go with Simon, Jesus, or some other “messiah”? (There are hundreds of them for about 200 years either side of Jesus, btw. They are, literally, a dime a dozen!)

(Okay. Let’s just be honest about this a minute. If you are reading here, odds are really good you are an American “Christian” already. And if that is true of you, then odds are good you grew up in a “Christian” home with one or more “Christian” parents and likely “Christian” grandparents too. With a heritage like that, odds are really long that you will choose Simon or some other “messiah” or messiah-wannabe. That leaves you with the choice of either Jesus and you keep going down this rabbit hole with Agent X or Jesus and you click off here.)

It is a really lame idea, but one we have to live with anyway, but you have the option to just sit in your easy chair and keep reading here like a gawker at a train wreck if you want. I won’t stop you. But if you were one of the young men of fightin’ age who showed up in Jerusalem about the time of the 66 A.D. revolt, you would not have that convenient choice. You would have to choose to either be with us or with the terrorists, so to speak. So… welcome to your armchair theology, if that is what you want, but I encourage you to make the effort to really stand in these sandals and listen to Mark with the eyes to see and the ears to hear as best you can. Our American politics in recent years come close enough to give you a feel for what I am talking about. If you do, it leads to repentance.

That said, let’s get on with this.

So… what did you think?

16:8! Wow! Huh???

Even in English translations, it’s a stunning place for the pamphlet to leave us! Surely, surely, surely there is more to the story! Are you sitting there having a “wait/what?” moment?

We just came through a fast paced, dark story. A lot of it seems mysterious, and disjointed (to our modern American ears especially), but in the grand sweep, it makes enough sense. The part about the crucifixion seems to go way too fast! (To me, anyway. How about you???) I mean, I have spent so much of my spiritual life dwelling on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – contemplating, meditating, thinking, analyzing – that I feel like I have more to say about it than Mark. The climax comes and goes so fast! And then, that ending.

The women flee afraid and don’t tell anyone?

I know/you know the story does not end there. I have read Matthew, Luke, and John before, and I know this is not the end! Somebody told somebody, cuz I worship with a lot of people who have heard about it.

Of course, if you stop at 16:8, you get rumors of resurrection, but Mark never actually depicts Christ raised. I don’t ever actually see this marvelous miracle with my story-reading eyes! Why on earth would Mark lead me to this point and just leave me here?

Well (let the reader understand) what if Mark’s primary audience was that young Jewish rebel wannabe of the first century A.D? What is Mark doing to THAT person? Remember to stand in those sandals as best you can.

Your reaction will likely be different from mine in significant ways, but here is what happens to me when I get to this point: I plainly see the importance of this document and even some of its power. I feel like I was led here on purpose by the Spirit of God. But I am now dumbfounded too. I look at my options, and I see that I can scoff at this pamphlet and walk (even run) away. (Judas sold out the revolution for a little money, I might actually want to betray it for even less.) After all, it has all the look and feel of a doomed messiah about it, except for… for… hmmm… I can’t put my finger on it.

Implications.

I have one other option, actually, but it’s a hard one. However, the more I think about it, it feels like the only reasonable option: I am gonna have to read Mark again. A little slower this time. Try to absorb all the implications.

(NOW, dear XAnon reader, you are a modern person (maybe post-modern) and likely American. So there are SOME implications in this which are readily available for a young Jew in Jerusalem in 66 A.D. that just are not readily available to you. Even I, this far removed, discover more in this document nearly every time I read it, and I have been at it many, many years now! So, let’s allow a little bit of wiggle room here for our growth to happen over time.)

Back to the implications.

The story Mark shares opens with a drifter blowing in from the desert, a rebel leader, getting baptized and placing a call on the lives of fishermen. (I will explain that in detail later.) Soon he is healing people and amassing a following, taking the “disciples” (is “disciple” a euphemism for rebel?) up on a mountain, reminiscent of Moses in the wilderness, and creates the Twelve. He is reconstituting Israel! Like starting the whole nation all over again! He heals some more people, gets more of a following, and even acts like he is King David at a couple of points! He calls Herod a fox and clearly is making a bid to be crowned king of the Jews, which Mark carefully depicts in the most ironic way – a crown of thorns! It’s obvious that Mark’s pamphlet is revolutionary.

But do you notice how the “disciples” in this revolution bungle their responsibilities? To be fair, in chapter 1, they do answer the call. They drop their nets and leave their fathers in the boats and run off to follow Jesus. That is the last/best thing they do right. They fumble again soon after that, and eventually they fall flat on their faces in utter, abject failure. By chapter 14, one of them betrays him and the rest flee and leave him alone to be arrested and put through a late night railroad trial. They deny him, run and hide, and after he gets killed, it’s only women left to witness anything, and even they aren’t talking.

But (let the reader understand), I joined them along the way. I became one of them too. I am not exactly sure when it happened, but I began to have privileged intel and close proximity to him IN THE STORY that even the Twelve did not have. In fact, within the Twelve, there are three who are especially close to him, and I had better access to him through this pamphlet than even they do. In four simple examples, here’s what I mean:

1) In chapter one, I hear the voice from heaven announce “This is my Son!” No one there on the ground that day has this privileged insight.

2) The boys on the boat in a storm cry out for salvation, and when they see the sea become placid, they ask, “Who is it that calms the wind and the sea?”

Well, who does that?

There is only One I know of who does that, and if He did that on that day, I mean really did that, then why do you need to ask? Your question answers itself!

3) Jesus withdraws a couple times to pray, and I as the reader of the pamphlet go with him, whereas the Twelve do not. They are bewildered and lost without him, but I am with him and see them straining at the oars against the wind and the waves. They think he was a ghost! I know it is Him walking on the water.

4) When the others fall asleep in the garden the night of his arrest, I am awake with him. When they all flee and deny him, I am still there wondering how on earth he is going to pull off this rebellion!

You see, somewhere along the way, I got roped into this call. I became the 13th Apostle. The women of 16:8 run away scared, afraid, and frightened and they don’t tell anyone anything, but I am left there holding the bag, so to speak. The women might not tell, but what about me???

I realize now that I have become somewhat impatient with the others. Over the course of the story, they become bungling idiots, and I am frustrated with their lack of faith. When the written story suddenly stops at 16:8, the onus of responsibility is left with ME! Will I answer the call the rest do not? Or will I walk away unconvinced too.

Ahhh! But…

From implications to wrestling the angel (or difficult questions).

You see, I still have questions. I have no use for a failed messiah. This one got crucified, and that is the telltale signal that he was not actually God’s special anointed one. Right? Crucified messiahs are, by definition, failed messiahs and not really of God.

Yet, there was something about this one… something that won’t let me go. What is it?

I need to read the document again. I need to look closer.

On the other hand, Titus is bringing six legions against Herod’s temple, and Simon and a few good men are putting out the call to God’s people to have faith and come stand with God at the temple NOW! I don’t want to miss that!

It’s either Jesus or that temple!

What choice to I make? Where is my allegiance… REALLY?

This is… well… scandalous! It’s a conspiracy! And though I can’t quite put my finger on any one sure indicator, just yet, I notice that Jesus amasses an army! But look at his army closely. Who are his recruits? The blind, the lame, the poor, and the dead! He heals them, of course, but those are the ones who actually answer the call. It reminds me of the valley of dry bones Ezekiel spoke of. Exceedingly dry, dead bones! Can they live? Ahhh… yes! And there arises an exceedingly great army! Dead bones answer the call of God, not “religious leaders” and political leaders.

Jesus has the 5000 sit on the green grass in platoons and companies of 50s and hundreds! Mark says they are 5000 MEN! A FEW GOOD MEN! The “green grass” recalls Kind David tending sheep and raising armies! When a Jewish rebel leader takes a group of Jewish men into the wilderness and feeds them miracle food, it not only recalls Moses, it also recalls the ARMY of God that Moses forged of those wandering Jews of old!

And this is an army of LOVE! No other army in the history of armies was ever assembled of blind, lame, poor, and dead warriors. The closest thing we find in the history books (in this case our Old Testament), is when God made an army out of timid, begrudging, grumbling, and faithless slaves in Egypt, led them into the wilderness and whipped Amalekites, Hittites, and Philistines with them! Or like when the Spirit of God blows on the dry bones and the love of God creates an army!

But the disciples forsake Jesus and flee (14:50), ever last one of them. Again, a failed messiah!

But wait. There’s more.

What about baptism in the Holy Spirit???

John said, “I baptize you in water, but after me comes One who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

When did Jesus baptize any of us in the Holy Spirit? At exactly what point did that happen? It was predicted in chapter 1, but when did it get fulfilled? Surely Mark didn’t just forget to follow up on that strand of the narrative plot! Surely that is not some loose end left untied!!!

And what about those demons? Where did they come from? How is it that the demons keep announcing and proclaiming his hidden identity, but Jesus keeps telling them to shut up? What is THAT about?

What about the blind man healed twice? Did Jesus just slip up and fail to heal the blindness the first time? Was there a glitch in the healing touch? Surely Jesus can heal, and heal rightly and with power… NO???

I need to look at the pamphlet one more time. I have scandalous questions that must be answered. I need to wrestle with this pamphlet again. In fact, I feel like Jacob of old wrestling the Angel of God deep into the night. Will I prevail?

It’s a conspiracy! I know it. But I just gotta know. I gotta look again. What did I miss? I can’t put my finger on it, yet, but I know I will. Let me just wrestle this angel and read it one more time. Then I will be able to answer the call or not.

See you next time.

“UNCLE SIMON WANTS YOU” POSTER ON THE POST OFFICE WALL vs. CLANDESTINE JESUS in the XAnon CONSPIRACY

So… if you have been following the leads down this internet rabbit hole, you surely know by now that a war is afoot in Jerusalem. The temple is only just complete. Herod’s temple. Solomon’s temple got destroyed when God moved out (ask Ezekiel), and there is a hope that one day he will really, finally, return.

The Roman General Pompey paid the Holy Site a visit a few generations back and actually entered the Holy of Holies as all of Israel watched hoping against hope that he would find YHWH, God Almighty, there and be struck dead. Even our priests don’t enter there except once a year and only after strict purification, and even then with a rope tied around the ankle in case God is displeased with him.

Just what would you expect God to do with this uppity, little pagan grown too big for his britches?

We don’t keep a dead idol in there. No statue or image of a god. No. And so the irony, the paradox, the conspiracy of it all comes home to roost when Pompey, who thought he would lay down Rome’s terms of surrender to Israel’s God, reemerges alive! Not only does he come out alive, but he proclaimes the place was empty – there was no god in there with whom he could make his silly little pax!

Every Jew there that day felt abandoned and defeated. It was our own sin to thank, of course, but today this is Herod’s new and glorious welcome mat for God! Today would be, like my favorite Mexican restaurant down on Roosevelt Blvd, in Phoenix, AZ, “the after-health-department-Grand-Reopening!” (Gotta try the Menudo! … let the reader understand.)

Titus is coming. Soon there will be six legions surrounding the temple. Poor Romans. They are gonna need to bring more body bags!

That is, of course, assuming YHWH shows us his favor and actually moves back in.

Hmmm… Better live right. This, of course, is right at the heart of Pharisaical teachings and emphasis on personal holiness. If we all live like we could enter the Holy of Holies in our daily lives, even the most mundane among us, then surely God will be pleased with us, and then when he gets here, we will kick some Roman ass! Oh… sure. You might not get EVERYTHING in your life worked out completely holy, but you certainly could observe the biggies like Sabbath, diet, and circumcision! Everyone had better get those basics right for sure.

And yes, there is risk. Faith involves risk. It’s inherent in the idea. But I easily imagine someone like Simon bar Giora hanging “Uncle Simon Wants You” posters around town and holding recruiter rallies down at the high school or the college. This isn’t some American thingy. No. Americans didn’t invent this stuff, and the recruiters aren’t outlining all the perks you get for college, for GI loans, or for training in a chosen career after your service is done (F’ing mercenaries!). No. Simon would have you recall the glory of the day YHWH repelled Sennacherib with something akin to the Death Angel of Egypt. The warriors got more success on the battlefield in prayer than in sword wielding. And the glory will be ours again, of course, if we have faith now too in the face of six legions!

So get your big boy pants on and have zeal in your prayers! YHWH is coming!

Simon is looking for a few good men! Come to the recruiter’s rally and hear all about it tonight at 7.

Let us PRAY

Now… YOU (let the reader understand), my XAnon friend, are going to take a role in this drama. You are about to sit down and read Mark’s Gospel through all in one sitting and stop at 16:8, like we discussed a couple of posts back.

I urge you to pray about that now. Pray like your life depends on it! Because this rabbit hole goes a lot deeper, and we are about to descend it fast, real soon now. Take your red pill, and pray this prayer with me:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see Jesus.

Now…. (let the reader understand) … I ask you to imagine you are a young Jew (a male) of about fighin’ age. But you have come from a distant part of the empire (the Diaspora) to be here. You have traveled a long time, and come from a distant land. Your roots in the Jewish culture have been slipping for generations, but you feel the draw of God and the call of duty on your life, and you are here now seeking to get purified and find your place in the ranks of God’s Holy army.

(This shouldn’t be too hard for you to do (let the reader understand), since you logged on to this post as an American “Christian” sitting in your best easy chair with a cup of Starbux next to you and ready to go places in your mind.)

I want you to imagine yourself as this young eager boy come to fight. You could have been tending flocks when your daddy sent you to take lunch to your big brothers down at the lines at the valley’s edge. You want to fight! But when you arrive in Jerusalem – a city going into “lock down” – you are getting your bearings. You just attended Simon’s recruiter rally and almost signed on (You were “almost persuaded”), but one of the first things you did upon arrival last night was to stop in on your dear old Aunt Salome, and she urged you to be selective… to not just sign on with the first rebel leader you meet, but to pray on it and have an open mind. Simon is not the only game in town!

It so happens that dear old Aunt Salome has an old friend who is holding his own clandestine rally “after hours.” It’s not published down at the post office wall. There are spies infiltrating the city already, and so her old friend must be careful about over exposure.

His name is Mark. And Mark has a recruiter’s pamphlet he will share too. Check out his rally before you sign on with Simon or any of the others. Keep an open mind. (Let the reader understand.)

And so you slid Simon’s pamphlet back to him across the counter at the mom-n-pop record shop. You can always come back later for more of Simon’s call for “A FEW GOOD MEN,” but you can’t do that with Aunt Salome’s friend Mark.

And so you go looking for this Mark and his rally.

Salome tells you there will be a room made ready, an upper room. It’s down a narrow street and on the left. You will find it just past the colt tied up on which no one has ever sat. You can ask the people nearby about the colt, but they will point you to Mark’s rally.

You don’t know this yet, but you are going to listen to a somber tale of secrets, woes, treachery, and it will mostly come out in coded language involving Apocalyptic and parables. It is a strange story about a young prophet who came to this doomed city many years ago, who claimed to represent YHWH, God, prophetically in all his love and glory. He too placed a call on the lives of twelve friends and led a revolution of sorts which seemed doomed at that time, but which is now already underway.

This story, in this clandestine pamphlet, which will be shared in this clandestine way is full of the mystery of God which people long to see and hear but neither have the eyes nor the ears to really gel with, lest they repent and be forgiven.

And the story is filled with a certain content. A story about this special prophet, alright, but there is more to it than just narrative. It draws you into the very story (or conversely the story moves off the written page and invades the physical universe of history). Take your pick.

And as you read the pamphlet (or have it read to you), you won’t notice at first, but over time, along the way, and as you make your way through the twists and turns, you will begin to sense that you are drawn into it in a special way.

You are the 13th Apostle.

Like I say, this won’t be clear at first, and actually when you get to the “end” (for it doesn’t end on the parchment), you will find you are in HIS world living out his story (or not, as the case may be).

Mark is placing a call on your life. He never suggested otherwise. But the way he does it, as well as the content of the story he tells, you cannot bargain with or anticipate.

So, like I said (let the reader understand), pray. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart. You want to see Jesus.

This is a dark and fast paced, twisted story you are about to enter. You will be confronted, and you will make some deep choices. The battlefield is your heart and mind, and there will be carnage. Someone is going to die!

But depending on your answer to the call of Jesus, you will see either one more dead Jew, another wasted revolutionary hanging on a Roman cross, OR you will see God in all his glory, and you will find that LOVE and SACRIFICE and HUMILITY and SERVICE permeate every word, every paragraph, and penetrates your soul.

NOW…

Go sit and read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting. Stop at 16:8. Pray some more.

And let’s see who is still in this army come next time.

XAnon DECODER RING: MARK session 2

Your decoder ring for Mark’s Gospel “…(let the reader understand)…” (Mark 13:14) requires you appreciate two historical factors regarding the time frame in which this recruiter’s pamphlet was written. Otherwise, you will constantly find yourself nagged with little details always pulling your attention off to the bunny trails, kinda like when the bank robbers blow up the church down the street as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the real crime! Those two factors in a nutshell? 1) Recruits instead of draftees and 2) “What wonderful and marvelous stones!” (Mark 13:1) bulk up Herod’s temple.

There! Clear as mud, right?

Okay, just stay with me… ask questions if you need to at the comments.

Yeah. Recruits: Modern America has gotten fat, slow, and lazy. This is true about most aspects of American life, but no less true of our Bible study too. Long gone is the idea that you might be enlisting into God’s Army – that you had better work out your allegiance to your One Lord and this Army will not tolerate traitors. Discipline, spiritual or otherwise, isn’t too high on your list of Christian devotions. You think you just need to “let go and let God,” and that settles it.

Does that seem familiar?

Then that temple: There are some American Christians who want to send tithes and offerings to Israel and hopefully see the temple rebuilt one day. Never mind the things Jesus says about Herod’s temple (things that come to pass right about the time Mark writes his Gospel, by the way), and never mind the things St. Paul says about the Temple Jesus is building in our midst as Christians. (Ephesians 2:18-20, anyone?) The vast majority of us modern American “Christians,” in my experience, either have practically no appreciation for the importance of Herod’s temple looming behind everything depicted in the Gospels or we have the mistaken idea that redundant monstrosity should be brought back so we can … so we can… can… can what? Indulge in a whole new idolatry???

Yeah. We will clear this stuff up as we go. But now you are tipped off about what to look for in this post. Keep your decoder ring handy, and filter your information through this decoder from here on.

Fightin’ age.

Let me tell you a story. If you are a Queensryche fan, you might recall the Operation: Mindcrime album. (Google it if you need to.) Yeah. That was almost my story too. It’s almost a cryptic story, but maybe that is more because it is about cryptic stuff than it being encrypted itself. Either way, it goes so well with conspiracy, you should probably have the red wine with the red pill.

I have told this story before, maybe even on the blog (I think), and so if you look it up and find discrepancies in my retelling, well… that is part of the drama, I guess. I really must change some names and dates and a few other details to protect the guilty. So here it is again… in a new version.

I was about 20 years old (that’s fightin’ age for you recruiters), and working in the mom-n-pop record store (innocently minding my own (well, actually someone else’s) business) when one morning before any other customers came in, the stranger looking like a rugged mountain man, ambled over to the counter where I was working and slid a pamphlet across the glass suggesting I give it my attention. I had never seen the man before. He didn’t look like a regular in our store, not there for the new Van Halen album or the Tupac cd. No. He looked more like he mighta rode his horse into town than that.

I casually opened the pamphlet there before me as he turned and thumbed through the Bon Jovi records.

I saw things I never dreamed in that little booklet, not more than ten or sixteen pages, held together with staples in the spine, and small enough to fit in your back pocket. I don’t recall the name of it on the front, and I cannot, all these years later quote a single line from it, but I do recall that it was full of images of Hitler and swastikas, of assault rifles, and cultic symbols I never saw before. The rhetoric of the thing was forceful and fast. As I recall it now, it informed me in no uncertain terms that not only do I have a right, but a duty – an obligation – to protect myself, my family, and my property with firearms and special tactics. Society, it threatened, is about to take the big plunge, and if I am not ready, I should be ashamed of myself. This man’s little club would be the last best hope for America and American values.

Now…

I should give a bit more context to my experience before applying it all the Mark, because even though I had never been exposed to anything like that encounter or that pamphlet before, I had heard rumors, and I did live in a particular area of the US that might be considered “ripe” for this kind of thing.

My home town is located in the Four Corners, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah all meet at a single point on a map. If you go look at a map now, you will quickly discern that area is some of the most remote and most rugged, underdeveloped part of “the lower 48.” If you are standing on that spot, the nearest big city is Albuquerque (not exactly big), and it’s almost a four hour drive away. It takes twice that long to get to Denver, Phoenix, or Salt Lake.

I had often heard whispers over the years about farmers and ranchers over in the Mancos Valley that kept arsenals, Gatlin Guns, even Sherman tanks, and the like in bunkers beneath barns. I heard that they had little militia clubs and would practice their war games and all in the mountains or in the deserts nearby. I really didn’t believe any of it, but I had to admit it seemed plausible. I did a lot of camping and hiking and snowmobiling and so forth in the area for years, yet never encountered anything of the sort. But…

Then Walmart came to town in the mid 80s. It was the biggest store in the county. And one night a friend of mine told me a strange rumor. Supposedly, a truck from the Walmart distribution center in Plainview, Texas would arrive at our local Walmart every Thursday afternoon, and on that truck would be a full shipment of ammunition. As the story went, by Friday night every week, the store would be sold out.

Wow! I had family in Texas, and I had driven past that distribution center many times in my travels, so that part sure seemed accurate. But the rest? It was still speculation. Right?

So, anyway, the stranger entered the mom-n-pop shop, finding me alone there early in the day before the regular clientele generally got around. I looked like a prospect! This man was placing a call on my life! He even burdened me with words of obligation and shame! War is coming! I need to be prepared. This man would guide me in the right direction.

What can I say, just seven years later, a local cop pulled over a box truck at the edge of town about midday, and as he sat in his patrol car calling in the tags on the radio, two young men hopped out of the truck armed with fully automatic assault rifles and opened fire on that officer as he spoke to dispatch. It being policy for back up to come support even routine traffic stops anyway, it only took seconds, really, for other officers to arrive, and a chase ensued.

I wasn’t living there at the time, but the way I heard it from my parents and friends, it was a wild-west style shootout at high speeds right through downtown. Lead flying to the four winds, and sirens in pursuit. It was a dangerous day to be out walking the dog or stopping at the drug store. The boys led the cops out of town and down into the desert southwest, AND they managed to get away!

It’s not likely that you remember this now, but I recall seeing the man-hunt story unfold for several nights on Peter Jennings news! Law enforcement from as far away as New York City, Los Angeles, and Montana descended on my hometown and hunted the deserts for months…. deep into the winter.

What can I say?

Maybe there was something to the rumors.

I am glad I turned down that stranger that day, but it was hard to do. To slide that pamphlet back across the countertop and tell this man that I didn’t think his little revolution was for me was like painting the word “PU**Y” across my forehead. His pamphlet left me no other choice.

But ohhhh, how I wish I had a copy of that pamphlet now! What a wonderful illustration it would be for my point here!

In the years since, I have come to see St. Mark’s Gospel counteracting that pamphlet and others like it. His Gospel is the shortest, fastest, and darkest of the four we have in our Bible, AND it came first. This Gospel is Mark’s version of that man’s pamphlet and aims at a similar goal – recruit young men of about fightin’ age!

66 A.D.

We cannot know for certain if Mark wrote just before the Jews rebelled against Rome or just after, but almost certainly very, very close to that moment in history. It also came very soon after the temple Herod built was completed. To be honest, I don’t know exactly how soon, but depending on which part of the temple we are talking about, it could have been as little as four years after it was complete.

We absolutely MUST deepen our appreciation for that temple. Not for its own sake, but for the fervor it inspired in the Jews. It took more than 70 years to build. Herod did not live to see it completed. No one did. It took more than a lifetime for most people, and it was a monstrous undertaking. The temple itself was rebuilt to the specifications laid out when King Solomon built it, but Herod built up the mountain on which it sat and added outer courts and made a massive plaza of it such that some scholars today don’t speak of the CITY of Jerusalem, but rather the monstrous temple with a small village surrounding it.

The Jews hoped against hope that once it was complete, God would finally be pleased to return and enter it and make his dwelling there among his people. When that happened, so it was thought, THEN this little nation would throw off the Roman yoke! Like the shepherd boy against Goliath, Israel would cut off the head of this giant oppressor, and the people would be free.

NO ONE ELSE saw it that way, but if you were a Jew, you surely felt the pull. And so in just four years time, the Jews are revolting against Rome and the great general Titus surrounds Jerusalem with his legions and prepares to level the place to the ground, which ultimately he does. But in the meantime, little pamphlets are being written up and disseminated throughout the empire – the Diaspora – faster than a viral Facebook or Twitter post. Young Jews from far and wide would be expected to rush to Jerusalem and stand with God at the temple against the marauding hordes of pagans and legions. You really must have faith!

Right?

Sure enough, young Jews answer the call a plenty. They come from far and wide. Some don’t even speak the language anymore, but they feel the draw of their God, their heritage, their destiny, and they come to Jerusalem prepared to lay down their lives, if necessary, and stand with God when he comes and teaches those Romans a lesson in civics and in who the real Lord of the world is!

(Wow! Though you change the names and a few other details, if you talk about America today, the story is the same one!)

I faced such a call on my life when I was hardly 20 years old one day. There are no draftees in this army, only recruits. No double-minded, divided allegiance welcome here. You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists. That kind of thing.

There is just one problem with all of this.

Some 30-35 years before the revolt, before Titus, and before all the pamphlets, there was Jesus. And Jesus practically predicted all of this. Jesus showed up and took the crown of thorns long before the marauding hordes arrived. He already became king. And he said this temple was gonna get leveled. His disciples said, “Wow, Jesus! Look at all these marvelous stones! Herod’s building project must have just begun taking shape about the time Jesus and his disciples had that little visit. It was moving away from just being a big dig to being a real, honest to God, temple mount! But Jesus said, “…not one stone left atop another…”

If Jesus was the real Son of God, and if he was really crowned King of the Jews all those years before, then to stand with this temple would be a mistake.

Here’s a bit they didn’t put in the Bible, but it would have been in the headlines about the time Mark wrote his pamphlet: One rebel leader named Simon, Simon bar Giora specifically, and his closest lieutenants survived the rebellion by digging tunnels out of the city, but when they hit solid rock, they had to surface and give themselves up to the Romans. Legend has it that when Simon surfaced, he popped up out of the ground right at the spot where the temple had stood only the day before.

Simon donned a royal robe and summoned the victorious Titus for surrender claiming he was the king of these failed rebels. So, Titus sent him back to Rome where they paraded the victory with Simon in the procession and they ceremoniously executed him as “King of the Jews.”

That’s kinda right in Jesus’s face.

So, when Mark circulates his little pamphlet, he is recruiting young Jews come to Jerusalem to defend the temple and drawing them away from Simon bar Giora and others like him.

How does he do it?

With this pamphlet.

We call it “The Gospel According to St. Mark,” but he called it “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).”

All through the rest of our little conspiratorial study of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, I will ask you to imagine you take the role of a young Jew of about fightin’ age, come to town ready to die in vain with men like bar Giora. But Mark tells a story about another young Jew who prophetically enacted God’s return to Jerusalem and being crowned King of the Jews a full generation before. This young prophet warned about the fall of this temple, and longed to draw people to him instead of that vain fight. No matter how important that temple might appear, it did not meet with God’s plans or expectations. No. This would be a call for young Jewish hotheads to repent.

Under the circumstances, both then and now, that is a pertinent call on your life.

But you need the XAnon decoder ring to see it.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK (ACCORDING TO XAnon) session: 1

An XAnon look at the Gospel According to St. Mark first off notes that the final twelve verses (as included in your English translation Bibles) are not included in the oldest manuscript copies. For those lame stream media following “Christians” believing the Bible is “inerrant” this will need careful explaining. For those who could care less OR who think the Bible has errors, this will probably not be too big a deal. For those who find the Bible to be authoritative despite discrepancies, there is still a need to make some kind of accounting for this one.

How will we do that?

Conspiracy theory, of course. Thus, XAnon.

This observation about the final twelve verses is not actually a hidden feature (or if it is, it’s hiding in plain sight). Though not advertised in the brochures, any decent “study Bible” and most reputable “reference Bibles” too will disclose this information in a footnote or a side note. The information is readily available, but the conclusions are up for grabs.

The final twelve verses are canonized, a conspiracy in its own rite, and so the church surely must accept these verses as Bible truth, though they include some of the strangest features in the whole Bible, and the bits that are not too strange can largely be found in a slightly varied version at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. This leaves very little text and spiritual teaching outside the realm of verification and authentication on other grounds anyway. In simplified form, then, the only bits which might be deemed questionable in the entirety would be snake-handling, poison-drinking, and walking on scorpions.

But even with those issues safely tucked away to the side, marginalized, rejected or accepted on whatever theory you might like, it seems clear, based on textual criticism, that Mark did not write these verses, but they were added later by copyists (scribes) who knew full-well that the story of Jesus simply does not end at 16:8 (the last verse we trust Mark did write).

Why the addition to the Bible? Where did the original ending go?

Aha! Questions abound! Nasty little questions that have a pesky way of NOT being answered with confidence or convention, rather answered only with theories – conspiracy theories!!!

Seriously! Friends. Sometime open up Mark’s Gospel and sit down and read it through in one sitting. Average readers can do this in about an hour and fifteen – maybe hour and twenty – minutes. Out of your whole life as a follower of Jesus, try this little exercise just once as part of your spiritual discipline. But, when you do, stop reading as you get to chapter 16: verse 8. See if this “gospel” doesn’t leave you feeling troubled.

If you aren’t troubled by it, then you didn’t really read it.

For that matter, even if you continue through the “long ending,” you will likely feel a bit troubled by the account of Jesus you just read, though certainly some relief will be had.

But, seriously, stop at 16:8 and ask yourself: Where is Jesus? Did Mark present him alive again, resurrected from the grave? Or did Mark merely leave us with a few women as witnesses, women who (at that time) are not even allowed to testify in court. Women who are afraid, astonished, terrified, and run away not telling anyone anyway! Did THEY see Jesus alive again? Or only an “angel”?

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE???

Of course, theories abound, as I have said. Probably Mark wrote more, but we lost his original ending. Perhaps it was lost in a fire, or maybe rats ate it. That kind of thing definitely happened to parchments in ancient libraries from time to time. Mark wrote this “gospel” during the rebellion of 66 A.D., and so maybe it was destroyed in the conflict. The later copyists who added the “long ending” surely knew the truth about how the story ends, even if the original ending was lost. Right?

We don’t have the original manuscript of Mark. In fact, we don’t have originals of any of the Bible writings. We have mere copies. But we can trust the older copies more than the newer ones. The older the copy, the closer to the original we get. It stands to reason, then, that when we determine the content of the oldest copies, we should trust them more.

And well… the oldest copies of Mark we ever found do not include the final twelve verses.

Now… maybe you are willing to think that a piece of Holy Writ inspired by the Holy Spirit got ate by rats or burned “accidently,” but I am not. I find it much more likely that Mark wrote as he was inspired by God to write, and I find that the book he wrote calls us disciples to wrestle the angel of God like Jacob before us. Mark’s Gospel does not make it easy for us, he makes us work for it. We must wrestle our own misguided allegiances, and listen extra carefully to Jesus, and then maybe – MAYBE – maybe we will have the guts to follow Jesus.

Mark is “looking for a few good men”! (We will get into that more anon!)

I will have a lot to say about this in future posts. I will outline the conspiracy in detail over time. But for now I merely ask you to read Mark 1:1. Read just that one, single verse and sit with it. Pray on it. Think about it carefully. (You will find textual variants with it too, by the way.)

Do you see any verbs in that sentence?

No. Of course not.

Why not?

Let me ask you this: When St. Mark first sat down with pen and parchment, what do you think he entitled his work? Did he call it “The Gospel According to St. Mark” like is printed in bold type across the top of the page in my English translation?

No.

He most certainly did not.

No. Mark wrote these words at the top of the first page: The BEGINNING of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).

The fact of the matter is, and it helps if you can read the old Greek to really get this, the last word of the last verse (assuming it really is 16:8) is “gar.” “Gar” in the ancient Greek is a conjunction. No language in the history of languages ends a sentence with a conjunction – much less a whole book.

Technically, we would rightly translate “gar” as “for” in English. But for our purposes, let us think of the word “AND” in English. Not the correct translation, strictly speaking, but perhaps the most well worn conjunction. It’s as if Mark ended his inspired Gospel with the word “AND”! “The women fled the tomb frightened, scared, and terrified, and they didn’t tell anyone [what they saw and heard] AND….”

THE END???

Really, Mark??? Is that how you end it???

How do you end a book like that?

How do you end any book like that?

Especially, how do you end a GOSPEL of God with a sentence like that?

It’s not a complete sentence. It’s not a complete story.

It just doesn’t seem right. It almost makes you want to believe rats ate it.

But our very first clue to this mystery is found right in the opening line of the whole book! Mark calls this book “The BEGINNING of….”

Did you catch that?

The first sentence of the book has no verbs. It’s a title of sorts. A title does not require verbs. It also is not a complete sentence, but it describes everything that follows. And among the descriptive terms there, it claims to be THE BEGINNING of the story. Just judging from the title, Mark never intended to write the end of this story.

Mark never said he was telling the whole story; he said he was telling the beginning.

But, as I said before, he invented a new genre of writing when he did this. (Many believe the gospels to be “biographies,” but that is not quite accurate, even if largely true. There is MORE to this genre than merely biographical information!)

So, there, dear reader. You have your first clue to the conspiracy of Jesus.

Come back again, and as time permits, I will divulge more of this mystery, and we will see Jesus for who he really is.

In a time of Capitol Assaults with “Christians” waving “Jesus Saves” flags while inflicting violence, injury, and death in rebellion against the state (something the Bible elsewhere prohibits, by the way), we need to see Jesus the way Mark intended from THE BEGINNING, and wrestle the angel of God all over again.

Hope to see you soon.

X

XAnon: YOUR ALTERNATIVE CONSPIRACY THEORY PROMOTER

(Disclaimer: I don’t know much about QAnon. I appreciate and enjoy the entertainment value of a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but I don’t take too many of them too seriously (grassy knoll exceptions of course … and a few black helicopters too… and it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you….). So, like I said, not too seriously. But in the wake of such powerful disruption and popularity among friends, family, and Christian brothers, I want to offer the alternative. I will, therefore, from time to time, post some outlandish ideas about Jesus, about trust in him, and about his kingdom call on your life and on the world.)

There.

It’s been disclaimed.

Now to move on with the claims.

Watch for XAnon posts. Get the REAL Truth behind the real truth. We won’t bother even trying to prove anything. But you should probably give your life to it without question. (Did I say “it”?)

We will look for the REAL Jesus, and not some war-making “Jesus saves” flags threatening violence on our capitol. No. The naked, young prophet tacked up on a Roman cross at the city gates forgiving the mob that put him there.

That one.

Look forward to your participation.

Tell your friends.

Get a secret handshake and a decoder ring.

Then meet me back here for more…. later.

(wink, wink)

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO READ HERE?

Look. By far MOST of what I write about here in one way or another impinges on homeless vis-à-vis the church. This is a Christian blog and the poor and homeless are a particular focus here. I do stretch out into other territory a little, but not too much and not too often, however, the pandemic, racism, and gun violence have joined the circle lately quite a bit more than in years past.

I say that because I MOSTLY want to talk about homeless ministry and the like. I have a lot of experience in that, and a lot to say about it. But it dawns on me that there are lots of angles, lots of emphases, lots of experiences, lots of theories, lots of observations even within that which I may or may not cover so much.

(To be honest, this blog for years has banged away on “3 cords and the truth” so to speak -thanx Bono.) I have beat a dead horse here. I don’t generally say a whole lot that is really new or fresh.

Readership is down too. There are a number of reasons for that, most of which I do not care to address. But it occurs to me that IF there is something particular you would like to read about here (especially as pertains to homeless, Jesus, church, and the like), then I should consider what offerings I might have for that.

Please let me know.

Oh… and if you meet a homeless person and/or a beggar at the off ramp or at your local Starbux or where ever… please slip that person my blogsite address. I REALLY want more readers from the streets. Church leaders and the streets.

I was surprised that I didn’t get more readership from the streets when I moved onto the blogs. But they didn’t make the transition from hardcopy to electronic. Dunno why not. They use their phones and library internet access all the time. But they did not make the jump with me. Now, I have both of you.