The Center for Pastor Theologians is pleased to announced the results of the application process for our newly formed Fourth Fellowship. The CPT’s Fourth Fellowship pulls together a theologically and culturally diverse group of evangelical pastor theologians from across the country. The Fourth Fellowship includes representation from the Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Episcopal, Baptist, Wesleyan, Anglican, and independent free church traditions. We are excited to meet our new Fellows–and for them to meet each other–at the inaugural symposium of the Fourth Fellowship, to be held in March, 2018.
Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer (Theological Mentor, Fourth Fellowship)
PhD, Cambridge University
Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Dr. Rachel Stahle
PhD in Historical & Systematic Theology, Boston University
Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Towanda, PA
Dr. Neal Presa
PhD in Liturgical Studies (Liturgics/Ecumenical Theology), Drew University
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Worship, Fuller Theological Seminary
Associate Pastor, Village Church, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
PhD Candidate, New Testament, Durham University
Pastoral Tutor, St. John’s College, Durham University, UK
Dr. Nathan Barczi
PhD Candidate, Theology, University of Nottingham
PhD in Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Associate Pastor, Christ the King Presbyterian, Cambridge, MA
Dr. Austin Shaw
PhD in Patristics, University of Oxford
Assistant Pastor, Grace Church, CMA, Middleburg Heights, OH
PhD Candidate, Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Pastor of Middle School Discipleship and Communications, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, IL
Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt
PhD in History, University of St. Andrews
Parish Associate and Teaching Elder, First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Glen Ellyn, IL
Associate Professor of Theology & History of Christianity, Wheaton College
Jon English Lee
PhD Candidate, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Education and Administration, Morningview Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL
Dr. Babatunde Oladimeji
PhD Candidate, Intercultural Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary
DMin in Leadership, Asbury Theological Seminary
Assisting Priest, St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Frankfort, KY
Dr. Jady Koch
ThD in Systematic Theology, Humboldt University
Rector, St Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, Harrods Creek, KY
Dr. Amy Peeler
PhD in Biblical Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary
Associate Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Geneva, IL
Associate Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College
Dr. Daryl Ellis
PhD in Theology, Vanderbilt University
Associate Pastor For Spiritual Formation and Mission, Mission Viejo, CA
Dr. Kiem Le
PhD in Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Lead Pastor, Living Word Community Church, San Jose, CA
Eric C. Redmond
PhD Candidate, Capital Seminary and Graduate School
Assistant Professor of Bible, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL
Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, IL
Dr. Chris Ganski
PhD in Systematic Theology, Marquette University
Pastor, City Reformed Church, Milwaukee, WI
Dr. Nathan Chang
PhD in Church History, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
English Pastor, Chinese Evangelical Church, Hillsboro, OR
Dr. Laurie Norris
PhD in Biblical Theology, Wheaton College
Associate Professor of Pastoral Studies, Moody Bible Institute
Pastoral Research Assistant, Harvest Bible Chapel, Rolling Meadows, IL
The Center for Pastor Theologians is pleased to announce that recent grant funding has made possible the launch of a new CPT Fellowship. This new Fellowship will meet for the first time March 5-7, 2018 (thereafter always the first Monday-Wednesday of March) in Chicago. Candidates for the CPT’s Fourth Fellowship will be assessed along the following seven criteria …
- Vocational Calling: The extent to which the candidate is presently engaged in pastoral/local church ministry, and plans to continue in the same.
- Theological Calling: The extent to which the candidate views the writing/publication of theological scholarship as a significant ministry calling.
- Education: The terminal degree of the candidate, and any ongoing degree program.
- Publishing CV: The extent to which the candidate has an established publishing record in theological scholarship (monographs, chapter contributions, journal articles, etc).
- Age: The extent to which the candidate is still becoming established in his or her career, and the CPT’s capacity to meaningfully invest in the candidate’s future as an ecclesial theologian.
- Social Location: The extent to which the candidate is able to engage as an ecclesial theologian from within minority and underserved communities.
- Availability: The extent to which the candidate has regular availability to attend the March Fellowship symposium, as well as year round vocational space to meaningfully engage in the task of ecclesial theology.
We are keen on theological diversity within a larger evangelical framework, and therefore invite applications from all denominational backgrounds within the evangelical tradition. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.
The application window will stay open until March 1, 2017. At that time applications will be reviewed and the CPT board will invite the top fifteen candidates to join the Fourth Fellowship. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Fellowship Prospectus, the CPT Statement of Standards, Gerald Hiestand’s Expository Times essay, and to submit a CV to Gerald Hiestand at email@example.com prior to applying.
The Fellowship Application can be downloaded here. Please return by mail to the address noted on the application, or via scan by email (the latter method preferred).
The Center for Pastor Theologians is pleased to announce our new Advisory Board (distinct from our governing board). CPT Advisory Board members provide counsel to the CPT governing board and serve as informal champions of the CPT vision, working within their existing networks to help advance the mission of the Center. We are proud to partner with such an august group of men and women.
Dr. Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School
Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling, Associate Professor of Theology, Northern Seminary
Dr. Peter Leithart, President, Theopolis Institute
Dr. Sydney Park, Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School
Dr. Timothy Tennent, President, Asbury Theological Seminary
Dr. Dana Harris, Associate Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Dr. Phil Ryken, President, Wheaton College
Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Dr. Fred Sanders, Professor, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University
Dr. John Yates II, Rector, Falls Church Anglican
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition
The Church of the Resurrection in Washington DC (Anglican Church in North America) is seeking to hire a Missioner (Church Planter in Residence) starting as early as autumn 2016. This is a three year assistant pastoral position in preparation for planting a new church within the Diocese of Christ our Hope.
Church of the Resurrection has a strong track record of raising up and sending out clergy, especially evangelical pastors who are drawn to the Anglican tradition from other denominations. Minority applicants are especially encouraged to apply for this position.
A link to the job description is here: http://rezchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Missioner.pdf
Check out Douglas Estes’ new piece in Behemoth, “Two Towns’ Eureka Moments: How a Fishing Village and an Old Lumber Station are Revealing Mysteries about the Galaxy and Ancient Jewish Worship.”
One might not expect a little carved block or two vacuum tubes to answer some of the world’s most significant questions, but they do. Physical science and biblical scholarship have at least one thing in common: Both use inference to determine how things were and how things are….This ability to infer is one aspect of our humanity—using our intellect to achieve greater discovery. Though we are but a small blip in the grand scheme of things, we have a divinely inspired desire to search for more and greater inferences of the greatness of God and the vastness of his creation.
Behemoth is Christianity Today’s new digital magazine which “aims to help people behold the glory of God all around them, in the worlds of science, history, theology, medicine, sociology, Bible, and personal narrative.”
Estes piece was written as part of the CPT’s series on Faith and Science, sponsored by the generous support of the Sir John Templeton Foundation.
I am excited to announce that registration for the 2016 CPT Conference is now open. Here are the relevant details:
Theme: Beauty, Order and Mystery: The Christian Vision of Sexuality
Dates: October 24-26, 2016
Location: Calvary Memorial Church, Chicago
The Christian vision for marriage, gender and sexuality has remained largely unchanged for nearly two millennia. And for much of Western history, the larger culture has–in principle, even if not in practice–adhered to the general contours of the Christian faith.
But the cultural landscape in the West has shifted dramatically in the last half century. Gender reassignment, co-habitation, no fault divorce, recreational sex, marriage redefinition, pornography, the Tinder culture–all of these represent a seismic shift in our culture’s view of marriage, gender, and sexuality.
In light of the shifting cultural landscape, the 2016 CPT Conference brings together a diversity of theological and pastoral voices with a view to illuminating, clarifying, and applying the Church’s historic teaching. We invite you to join us.
Keynote speakers include: Dr. Richard Mouw (Fuller Theological Seminary), Dr. Beth Felker-Jones (Wheaton College), Dr. Jeremy Treat (Reality LA), Dr. Todd Wilson (Calvary Memorial Church), Dr. Wesley Hill (Trinity School for Ministry), and Dr. John Yates (Holy Trinity Church). Breakout presentations include papers from Gerald Hiestand, Amy Peeler, Matthew Milliner, Matthew Mason, Joel Willitts, Dan Brendsel, Matthew Levering, and Matt O’Reilly.
This is a fantastic line-up of speakers and presenters–a generous mix of pastors and academics. I have every expectation that this will be a helpful conference for pastors, academics, students and lay people who care about the heath and vitality of the church.
Early bird rates are now available. For more information about speakers, topic, and to register, visit us online at cptconference.com.
Hope to see you there!
I look out the window. The dark outline of the temple is slowly emerging against the pale light of the dawn. Some of the women are stirring and I suppose they are leaving for the tomb. I have not been to the tomb, and the thought of going sickens my stomach. They should not be leaving this early, while it is yet dark and without the men. But I watch them leave and say nothing. I feel nothing.
The remaining torch casts a flickering shadow against the far wall and the noises of soft groaning and steady rocking are the only sounds that disturb the dark silence. My back is stiff from staying too long upon a hard floor, but I do not move. The effort is beyond me. I have not slept this night, nor have most of the others. The ones fortunate enough to sleep have found a temporary peace, but I do not envy their waking moments when the knowledge of what has happened comes fresh again upon them.
No one says much. Even Peter, who normally has plenty to say, says nothing. He did not come to the house until the fourth watch and will not look or speak to anyone. He has not been with us much this Sabbath. By the looks of him this early morning, I do not think he has slept much either. There is a deep, unquenchable sorrow in his face, and I fear that he blames himself for what has happened.
But I have no energy for judgement. I have no energy for anything. Hope died two nights ago in a garden. Fitting I suppose, that humanity was first ruined in a garden and now in another garden it has been ruined again. The night my father died, that awful night that, does not equal the pain that engulfs me now. But it is not the pain, so much, that smothers me. It is the hopelessness. One can survive pain when one has hope, but without hope there is nothing. Hope is a dangerous thing. The more you trust in it, the more it destroys you when it fails . And my hope has failed. I am crushed, ruined. There is nothing left. I do not even have the energy for anger at God to sustain me. He has crushed me, crushed us all, and I have not the strength to resist him.
I find myself staring at my hands, slowly opening and closing them, watching the tendons contract as they pull my fingers into a fist. I wonder how much it hurt him… I wonder why I cannot cry.
My wounded thoughts turn toward Heaven and questions that I have been too weary to ask begin to drift painfully from my lips. Does not the Psalmist say that you deliver your righteous one from all his enemies? Yet were not his final words, “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” How heavy your hand is upon me. How thoroughly you deceived me. We had been so sure that he was the one whom you sent to redeem Israel. Even he had thought it so. Was he not a prophet mighty in deed and word? He delivered even from death by the might of your hand. Lazarus, the widow’s son, the sleeping girl. But you would not deliver him. You who shook the earth when he died and blackened the sun as he gave up his spirit. You who hold all things together. You who parted the sea, and sent the destroyer. You who raptured Elija. Enoch. “Eloi Eloi Lameth Sabactheni.” Are these to be the dying words of one who did not forsake you? No Lord, this day you do not make sense. My spirit is crushed within me and my hope has fallen to the ground.
And then it comes, like a breath, like a whisper, as gentle as a thought. “In what have you hoped, child?”
I answer the whisper, my heart heavy with bitterness. “I have hoped in you”.
Brushing aside my answer, the voice asks again, “In what have you hoped child?”
Sorrow upon sorrow, I have hoped in you.
The question comes again, soft, relentless, “In what have you hoped child?”
And now the pain comes, the bitterness of betrayal, the sickening feeling of misplaced trust. I had hoped in you.
Once more the question comes, ignoring my answers, “In what have you hoped child?”
I say nothing, my spirit heavy within me.
And then the voice speaks. The voice that call things and they are, that speaks and it is so. The voice of final judgement . Softer than before, but heavier, a statement, so sure, so true that it cannot be questioned.
“You have hoped in your own understanding.”
I hear the sound of foot steps on the stairs. The door crashes open and morning sunlight floods into the dark room. It is Mary. A heavenly light dances in her eyes and her smile shines like that of an angle.
See below for the press release from Davenant Trust about their new Latin Institute. Looks like a great resource for pastors (and others) doing theological work that requires a working knowledge of Latin.
The Davenant Latin Institute, now in its second year, is pleased to announce an expanded array of online courses in theological Latin designed for seminarians, graduate students, pastors, and teachers at all levels of Latin proficiency. For our Introductory level courses, we have partnered with BibleMesh and New Saint Andrews College to offer a powerful new approach to rapidly acquiring Latin reading skills through online tools. BibleMesh has for years been a leader in online language instruction and theological education, offering self-guided Greek and Hebrew courses used by seminaries across the world. This year they are launching their first Latin courses, created by Tim Griffith at New Saint Andrews College using his pioneering approach to Latin paedagogy. The Davenant Latin Institute will serve as the recommended provider of live online class and tutorial instruction for these web-based modules.
For students seeking to progress to more thorough engagement with and translation of Latin theological texts, our Intermediate and Advanced courses offer a unique curriculum of linguistic, theological, and historical studies through multimedia recorded lectures and live instruction and translation that will help you master the most difficult patristic, medieval, or early modern theological texts.
At all levels, one-on-one tutorials are available for students with particularly busy or irregular schedules. We also offer intensive residential courses at our property in upstate SC, Davenant House.
Man that is born of a woman has but a short time to live and is full of misery. Like a flower, he blossoms and then withers. Like a shadow he flees and never stays.
We gathered round the grave. Fifty of us, or thereabouts. Silent. Watchful. The fine, misty rain had stopped. Faint patches of blue peered through the ash grey clouds. The air was still, the roar of the road dulled by the trees. By the grave, the coffin, with its simple brass plaque: a name, two dates, and a stark reminder: “Aged 25.” In the coffin, what now remained of a life that had been beautiful but short. Too short. And filled for too long with suffering. Nearly two decades long. Too long.
In the midst of life we are in death; to whom can we turn for help, but to you, O Lord, who are justly angered by our sins? Yet, Lord God most holy, Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death.
You know, O Lord, the secrets of our hearts; hear our prayer, O God most mighty; spare us, most worthy Judge eternal; at our last hour let us not fall from you, O holy and merciful Saviour.
In the church, we had defied the sentimental contemporary preference for funerals that do no more than celebrate the life of the deceased. The service had woven together thanksgiving for God’s gifts of life and love, with the reality of a long-term illness and an early death. We had not flinched from acknowledging the sin through which death entered God’s good creation. Nor from the just anger of a holy and mighty God. We had refused to avert our eyes from the bitter power of our enemy death, or from the bitter pains of eternal death.
Now, we stood at the burial ground, silent for a moment around this deep, neat hole. The pallbearers began to lower the coffin.
It has pleased Almighty God, in his great mercy, to take to himself the soul of our dear sister. We therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by his mighty power that enables him to subject all things to himself.
Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was designed to provide pastoral care for an entire nation. In its occasional offices, Cranmer gave a way for the English people to organise and interpret the major events of their lives according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his baptismal rite, life begins with the promise of new birth by water and the Spirit. The marriage service reaffirms the place of man and woman in the natural order, celebrates the fundamental familial relationships of human life, which were consecrated by Christ in his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, and looks ahead to the eschatological order that will be inaugurated by the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Order for the Visitation of the Sick focuses (to a fault) on the need for repentance from sin in preparation for death. And then, as life began with the promise of new life, so, in the Order for the Burial of the Dead, life ends with the promise of eternal life.
The predecessor of Cranmer’s burial service, the medieval requiem, had a strongly pastoral purpose: to care for the deceased as the priest led the mourners in praying for the departed soul’s repose. Cranmer’s liturgy is also strongly pastoral in intent, but in step with the Reformation’s recovery of the biblical doctrine of justification, the orientation has changed. Deceased believers do not need our prayers; they have passed immediately into their Saviour’s presence, where they rest in bliss, awaiting the final resurrection. The focus of pastoral care therefore shifts from the soul of the departed to the souls of the congregation: reminding us of the awesome realities of sin, death, and judgement; reassuring us with the strong comfort of the resurrection. As a result, Cranmer’s service has an unflinching seriousness and intensity, coupled with a joyful and confident hope. Never does Jesus appear more glorious and filled with love and power than when believers gather at a Protestant graveside.
I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “for they rest from their labours.”
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen
The language has been lightly updated, but the liturgy is unmistakably Cranmer’s: simple, direct, steeped in Scripture. For more than 450 years, this is how the English have buried their dead. And so, as we stand at this graveside and lay to rest the mortal remains of a sister in Christ, we are reminded that this grave does not stand alone. Millions of English Christians have passed through the bitter pains of death, and their souls have entered into rest with their Lord. With these words, their lifeless bodies have been laid to rest in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. We therefore share a sure and certain hope that one day not just this saint, but countless saints will rise. And so Cranmer’s funeral liturgy places us once again in the middle of our baptismal confession, believing in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, ever more. Amen.
The CPT is hosting a parallel session at this year’s Midwest Regional ETS meeting. The session is Saturday, March 12, 8:00-10:20AM. Paper presentations will include:
- “The Pastor’s Exegesis: Biblical Interpretation and the Pastoral Office” — Mickey Klink (Hope Evangelical Free Church)
- “The Ecclesial Theologian as Local Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Practice” — Dan Brendsel (Grace Church)
Following the papers I will lead a panel discussion with Klink and Brendsel on the role of the pastor theologian. Klink and Brendsel are both pastors and CPT Fellows. They are two of our our shining stars, so if you are interested in the vision of the pastor theologian or the CPT (or both!), this will be a great session to attend.
And I’m encouraged to see a number of other paper presentations related to the theme of the pastor theologian:
- “Preacher as Pastor-Historian”– Pastor Joey Cochran (Pastor at Calvary Memorial Church)
- “Hospitality as a Paradigm for Theological Education” — Ben Espinoza (CPT Fellow)
- “‘Written for Our Sake’: Preaching, Figural Interpretation, and Evangelicals; or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fourfold Sense”– Jeremy Mann (CPT Managing Director)
- “The Pastor as Theologian-Philosopher under Christ in His Church” — Richard Ostella (Westminster Reformed Church)
- “Pastor as Theologian in the Context of the Mission of the Church” — Richard Ostella (Westminster Reformed Church)
For more information, and to register, visit here.
Jesus as Descendant of Adam, Son of God: Luke’s Genealogy as an Introduction to the Wilderness Temptation
Luke 3 records the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and the voice from heaven. With respect to Jesus’ early years, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all follow the same basic order of events: birth, baptism, voice from heaven, and then wilderness temptation.
But Luke uniquely offers us Jesus’ genealogy between the baptism and the temptation. This is a curious placement for a genealogy, and at first pass it might seem to interrupt the flow of Luke’s narrative. We might expect Luke to place the genealogy at the beginning of his Gospel (such as we find in Matthew), or perhaps at the end of Luke chapter 1, right before Jesus’ birth. Yet Luke strategically places it here, just prior to the wilderness temptation.
The key to understanding the placement of the genealogy is found within the genealogy itself. Unlike Luke, Matthew’s gospel is written to the Jewish community. As such, Matthew’s genealogy (presumably following Joseph’s line) links Jesus to King David, the greatest of the Jewish Kings, and then to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. And there Matthew’s genealogy stops. But Luke’s gospel is written to a non-Jewish audience, and his genealogy does not focus on Jesus’ relation to Abraham. Instead, Luke (presumably following Mary’s line) traces Jesus all the way back to Adam, and then ultimately to God.
Matthew’s genealogy presents Jesus as the second David, a son of Abraham. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus as the second Adam, a son of God.
And thus Luke offers us the genealogy — linking Jesus to Adam, and ultimately to God — as a means of introducing Jesus’ wilderness temptation. It is Jesus — the decedent of Adam and the Son of God — who will overthrow the Devil. With the placement and nature of his genealogy, Luke intends us to see Jesus’ wilderness temptation as a recapitulation of Adam’s garden temptation.
Where the first Adam failed, the Second Adam would succeed.
(This doesn’t take away from the strong allusions to Israel that we see in Jesus’ wilderness temptation (i.e., the wilderness, the 40 days, the matter of bread, Jesus’ responses all drawn from Deut 6-8, etc.). Jesus recapitulates both Adam and Israel — both are called sons of God in the Old Testament. So the typology works in both directions. A good reminder that we can’t get so focused on the Jewishness of Christ that we forget he is first a son of humanity. [The Bible begins in Gen 1, not Gen 12]. Nor get so focused on the humanity of Christ that we forget he is a Jew.)
There just might be a useful sermon illustration here. Yes, it’s a Christmas post, not an Advent post; I’m only doing this to drive Matthew Mason nuts.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi highlights an aspect of Matthew’s text that other artists — and some exegetes — have missed: 2.1—12 has not only a foreground but also a background. In da Vinci’s painting, behind the magi and Jesus and Mary there are buildings in ruin and horsemen at joust.
The meaning is manifest. The world into which the Messiah comes is in chaos and decay; things need to be righted. This is also an element in Matthew’s story. When Jesus is born, Jerusalem, instead of being overjoyed, is troubled at the news. And there is upon Israel’s throne a wicked and illegitimate ruler. And innocent blood is about to be shed (cf. 2.13–23). In brief, the world is ill. Is it any wonder that the first word of Jesus’ public proclamation is, ‘Repent!’ (4.17)?
From Davies and Allison, Matthew 1-7 (ICC), p. 254.
Parallel Structure of Mark 6:31-8:30
(from W. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark [NICNT; Eerdmans, 1974], 269)
6:31-44 Feeding the Multitude 8:1-9
6:45-56 Crossing of the Sea and Landing 8:10
7:1-23 Conflict with the Pharisees 8:11-13
7:24-30 Conversation about Bread 8:14-21
7:31-36 Healing 8:22-26
7:37 Confession of Faith in the Messiah 8:27-30
Two Stories in Parallel in Mark 8:22-30
8:22 the setting 8:27
8:23-24 “partial sight” 8:27-28
8:25 “sight” 8:29
8:26 “Don’t tell anybody!” 8:30
As a kicker, Mark concludes the next section (8:31 through the end of chapter 10) with yet another healing of a blind man who understands that Jesus is the Son of David (“partial sight”?), then launches readers into the great final week of drama in Jerusalem as Jesus shows the world the sort of King he is (“sight”?).
Here are a few reasons why I enjoy this sort of material:
Reading with the literary grain produces so much more appreciation for Scripture and so much more pleasure than some of the alternatives. I remember rolling my eyes at sterile academic treatments of these passages: the arid terrain of “messianic secret” theories that (mercifully) seem to have run their course in the past two decades; or the idea that Mark inherited these stories from dubious sources and naively repeated two versions of the same event. Conservative approaches to texts can have their pitfalls, too; raise your hand if you’ve participated in the well-meaning (but ultimately puzzling and often boring) activity of viewing Mark merely as a window onto real historical events and not an authoritative portrait that interprets those events.
Secondly, Mark also encourages multiple dives into the text and reading the earlier parts of the text in light of the later parts. It won’t do simply to read it through once or twice; you have to learn to follow the threads backwards and forwards.
Mark engages our imagination for application, giving readers a melodic theme on which they can improvise their own message as the ancient Word jumps the gap and engages modern readers. And an imaginative presentation is very likely, I think, to produce an imaginative response.
But while Mark inspires our imagination and improvisation, he also controls them. He instructs our interpretation by assuming his rightful role of authorial director. Students often have difficulty figuring out how to preach biblical narrative. No such problem here, as Mark does the hard work of drawing connections for you. Your outline for Sunday is practically written out for you. (Not really, but hyperbole is biblical.)