Archives for posts with tag: Mark

 

As some of you are aware, I spoke this past weekend at the annual Minnesota Bible Lecture Series (MNBLS) in Minneapolis(http://www.mnbls.org).  The topic this year was the Gospel of Mark.  Gwen and I had a wonderful visit and were able to see some old friends from our seminary days, and made some new friends as well.  I thank Fr Marc Boulos and his parents, Paul and Rose, for their hospitality during our stay.

During the course of my talks, one of the listeners had a question related to miracles.  This topic again came up in today’s Bible study at St Mary.  They were both good questions, and since they were raised I have thought quite a bit about the topic of miracles. 

It seems that when most people think about Jesus or the Bible, or even religion in general, they think about miracles.  And certainly there are miracle stories throughout the Bible.  Even down to our own day we hear about various miracles throughout the world.  I must admit, nonetheless, that speaking about miracles makes me a little uncomfortable.  What makes me uncomfortable is not the miracles themselves, or the idea of miracles, but the fact that so many people misunderstand or overemphasize miracles.  I made a couple of points related to this topic at the MNBLS and during Bible study.  Since the people who asked the questions seemed to benefit from what I said, I will share my thoughts with you as well.

First, miracles are miracles because they are extraordinary.  Miracles are miracles because they defy the natural order.  They operate in a way that makes no logical sense.  In other words, they are not everyday occurrences in our lives.  If everyone–or even most people–who have a terminal disease are healed, it would not be miraculous when someone is cured of an otherwise incurable disease.  It would simply be the natural order of the universe.  If every time a car spun out of control on the interstate it was put back on its course before hitting another car or causing an accident, then it would cease to be miraculous when that does happen to people.  But these exceptions are not the norm, and thus they may fall into the ‘miracle’ category when they do happen.

My point in bringing this discussion up is certainly not to discourage people from hoping in a miracle.  Nor would I tell people not to believe in miracles.  Again, I have heard (and perhaps even seen) miracles happen.  My wife has seen them happen as well in her work as a nurse.  As a pastor, what concerns me about people’s hopes in a miracle is that the hope is often misplaced.  The hope is often in a miracle because we idolize this life.  The hope is because we are scared to die.  The hope is that we will not have to face our Maker–or at least that we could delay it a little while longer in order to have some more fun on earth.

This misplaced hope for a miracle is related to the second point I made.  Even in the Bible when a miracle happens (except in the case of the Resurrection of Christ), the person on whom the miracle was performed still dies later.  St Lazaraus, who was raised after being dead for four days, is no longer with us–he died again.  Tabitha/Dorcas, who was raised by Peter, once again died.  The blind, the deaf/dumb, the people with the unclean spirits, they are all dead and gone.

Again, this post is not meant to depress people, but is an effort to encourage us to focus on one of the main aspects of the Bible: our judgment after death.  Even when God allows a miracle to happen, the people on whom the miracle was performed die eventually.  Sooner or later we all are faced with the grave.  And if we believe the Bible, we all will be faced with the Day of Judgment, at which time all things hidden will be manifest; every deed will be revealed. 

To sum up my (hopefully coherent) rambling: whether we are the beneficiary of a miracle or not, we all will face the dread judgment seat.  One of the main purposes of Scripture is to prepare us for that day.  It gives us the answer key to the final test, before the final test is given.  If God allows us to benefit from a miracle, we thank Him; but we always need to remember the end is eventually coming.  We thank God for giving us more time to repent and we make every effort to correct our behavior before we are called to give an account before Him—because we know miracle or not, that is the final destiny for all of us.

The main purpose of this blog, as I have mentioned before, is not to provide a full commentary on books of the Bible, but to highlight certain aspects of the Bible often overlooked by the average reader (and sometimes the average commentator).  Today’s post is quite short for this reason, but I did want to point out an interesting aspect to yesterday’s reading in the Orthodox Church.  We read Mark 15:43 – 16:8.  Much could be said about this passage, but I will limit myself to an important distinction made between 15:43 and 15:45.  This distinction is entirely lost in every English translation I have found.

In Mark 15:43, Joseph of Arimathea asks for the body (Gr. soma) of Jesus.  In Mark 15:45, English translations unfortunately translate like the NKJV: “[Pilate] granted the body to Joseph.”  This translation misses an important distinction.  The word translated as “body” in vs. 45 is actually the Greek word ptoma.  As you can see, this is an entirely different word than the soma in verse 43.  The Greek word ptoma means body/carcass.  So the translation as body is not entirely wrong, but it misses an important distinction made by Mark’s Gospel.  Someone hearing the Gospel in Greek would hear it similarly to how we would hear the following in English: Joseph asked for the body of Jesus…he was granted the carcass.

I personally believe the biblical writers chose every word carefully, and thus I think it was no accident Mark used two separate words in vss. 43 and 45.  The body (soma) of Christ is used in the New Testament as a reference to the Church.  In Mark 15:43, Joseph asks for the soma, but according to 15:45 he is granted not the soma/body, but the ptoma/carcass.  In other words, Christ’s body, the Church, is not granted to Joseph.  The body of Christ/the Church is directly under God and is not permitted for anyone to hold or control as their own, except God Himself.  To put it simply, we belong to the Church, the Church does not belong to us.