“Heavy-handed authority must be abandoned by Jesus followers.”
The task of getting to know Jesus again, for the first time, is not difficult. It is a journey, so it takes quite awhile, but it is not complicated or strenuous. You can begin like this…
Something has been bothering you, perhaps for a long time, about what you have been learning within your Christian tradition and the every-day practice of the people around you who profess to be Jesus-followers. Beliefs you have been questioning for a long time make less and less sense to you. Your experience, maybe like mine, points towards a God who is a whole lot more accepting and loving that your religion’s convictions. You know you have to start all over again to encounter Jesus, and you know the place to begin is with the four gospels. You ask God to guide your reading. You invite the words to come alive for you. You decide that you are going to actively share what you hear God saying to you about Jesus with others, initiating a conversation with other Jesus seekers who have asked God to speak to them from the written witness of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
I am presently meeting Jesus again, as if for the first time, in the early chapters of the Gospel of Mark. The other day I found myself puzzling over the meaning of verses 33-34 of chapter 5:
With many similar parables, Jesus spoke the word to them [the crowd], as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was with His own disciples, he explained everything.
What do I know about the people who hear only the parables, without explanation and with very limited understanding? Since, in the Bible, the parables are rarely interpreted, I know that most often you and I are among those who do not hear and do not see!
What do I know about the disciples for whom everything was interpreted? I read in scripture that most of the time even they do not get the point that Jesus is pointing to! They struggle to grasp and they struggle to practice what Jesus preaches. As followers of Jesus, we are so much like them!
Which leads to the conclusion, nobody, not the crowd then or now, not the followers of Jesus, then or now, are able to consistently get the message and live it. Jesus teaches truth, it seems, that everyone, then and now, has a difficult time hearing and living.
Yet, we act like we know what we cannot know. We interpret texts–preachers and scholars are especially vulnerable to this error–as if we can be dogmatically certain that we know and can easily do what that knowing requires of us. And, God forbid, we tell others what they must believe and do!
What I am hearing from the scriptures, as I meet the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel again, for the first time, is that dogmatic certainty is out, for everyone. And humility is in. Humility is the only way for Christ followers to approach the truth and strive to live what that truth requires of us.
Heavy-handed authority must be abandoned by Jesus followers.