It was a 7:30 AM class with the most distinguished Bible professor at my University. Everyone wanted to take this classes, and there were rumors that if you did well… you might even get an offer to his Wednesday night bible study group. But that invitation was for the seriously intelligent and going-somewhere Christian.
I had just signed up for the class to take a course with my best friends. It was spring semester of 2013. Christ & Culture with Dr. Cox. Of course, it could never hurt to learn more about Jesus… so I wound up being in the most coveted bible course of the semester with the Oscar-Award worthy celebrity Bible professor. I remember the first day well. It was the only day of the semester that I happened to be on time to class. My education-major best friends, of course, wanted to sit in the first row, and so we began Christ and Culture smack in the middle of the first row with Mr. Celebrity himself towering over us.
He hands out his syllabus which was fairly straightforward.
Lectures. Textual Readings. Four Tests.
I peer down my row observing students anxiously zooming over his syllabus, already taking notes.
What could they possible be writing down right now?
Mr. Celebrity takes a deep breath. “Open your bibles to Mark 1.” he says. And he begins to read.
He pauses. Takes another deep breath, while each student but me has their pens strategically positioned on the first page of their notebooks…
“What happens to you when you die? Where do you go? Does what you do in this life count for the next?”
The Hindus believe in reincarnation, Buddhists focus on Nirvana, and Atheists say there is nothing after this life. But Christians? They claim an eternal life. A place, an existence, a state of being where you are always alive. And Mark- a gospel writer claims this life is achieved through a mediator, a messiah, named Jesus.
If there really was an eternal life, and what you did in this life really mattered… If Jesus Christ really was the man of God, somehow All God and All human All at the same time, and he was the link from this life to the next stage of life….
Let me ask you—If Jesus Christ really is who he says he is, and if Jesus Christ really is who Mark says he is…
Would that change your life?
If Mark’s thesis is right.. If there really is Eternal Life, and Jesus Christ is the only answer- the only good news.. Well.. That could change things. For the next 16 weeks, we will read the book of Mark with fresh eyes. Imagine yourself on a deserted island with no insight into modern civilization and the Gospel of Mark washes up ashore. And you read it. That’s what we’re going to do. Read this book, and study Mark claims, and see if they actually mean anything. See if they might actually change our lives…
And as suddenly as he began, Mr. Celebrity emphatically stops. Shuts his bible.
Begins lecturing about culture, lens of culture, layers of culture..
And the hours go by and we leave our first class.
People around me look dazed.
“there’s no way we’ll be able to retain all of this information” I hear someone behind me say.
“we better begin studying our lecture notes tonight” another student adds.
Just what is so life-changing about the Gospel of Mark?
That class was indeed a true challenge. Our professor expected us to remember all of his lectures. Literally, absolutely all of it. His tests consisted of all fill-in-the-blank and essay so there was guessing the answer. You either knew the material or You didn’t. Pass or Fail. I pulled four all-nighters to pass his four exams. It may have been the only class in college I had near-perfect attendance. And while I have found the content of his class both relevant and reliable as the years have passed- even more relevant was Mr. Celebrity’s gospel presentation of Mark.
This was the method he used as a missionary in the rural villages of Nairobi, Kenya. This was the conversation he started while engaging with strangers on airplanes. He asked this question to the waiter that got his drink at a restaurant and the CEOs who sat on the University board.
And it was the first five minutes of each class- when he challenged me to break down the Gospel of Mark- to read it as if I’d never read the bible before- with no prior knowledge of scripture nor religion…. That changed the direction of my life.
If Jesus Christ really was the Son of God… Do you think it might change your life?
I invite you to join me for the next 17 weeks to think critically through Mark’s gospel. I will write a series of posts, 1 introductory post, and 16 consecutive posts which outline the gospel of Mark chapter by chapter. I’ll include a series of questions for you to answer which will help you personally study Mark’s gospel. I’d challenge you to download the questions, and answer them in your own time. Use them to study with a friend. Invite someone to study with you.
If you have any questions, you can comment on each post, or you can email me your questions, firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to answer them!
My professors challenge to us at the end of our class was to invite a stranger- a total non-Christian- to read through each chapter of Mark (one a week) for 16 weeks and allow them room to engage with the text of Mark. Allow them space to become familiar with Jesus.
Join me for 17 weeks and let’s answer the question together-
Is Jesus really the Christ?