I cannot read the Bible well without other people involved. I picked Curt's brain (he is a Hebrew Bible student, and has spent a ton of time in Mark's Gospel) throughout the week as I prepared my message for Sunday. Corrie (my wife) and I are always bouncing scripture around the room, seeing where things land once we've asked some hard questions and shared insights. If you only read the Bible alone, find a friend (or enemy) and read it again together. We are so accustomed to a static and typed text that we forget Scripture is primarily oral. The Gospels would have originated as shared stories about Jesus as experienced in the lives of those first followers. The tales of Moses and the wilderness wanderings would become bedtime stories for little Hebrew children captive in Babylon. This is part of the reason we take time every week to read the scriptures out loud. The scriptures are dynamic and alive.
After worship on Sunday I met a fellow who posed an awesome question. He was responding to the redefinition of "fishers of men" I played with in the sermon. If you missed it, here is the broad picture I painted: While many of us have always assumed that "fishers of men" meant a call to be super-evangelists, the image is more nuanced and loaded than that. We read Jeremiah 16:16-18, Ezekiel 29:4, and Amos 4:2. The phrase is transformed when read along with these Hebrew scriptures. "Fisher of men" may actually have a much more ominous tone, where these first followers are given a prophetic role to censure the powers of their day. They were being called to fish-hook those waging war against the kingdom project of Jesus. When I first came across this redefinition, it was kind of unsettling. What was Jesus calling me to if this is the image he used?
Well, after worship, this fellow found me in the hall, and in the middle of the chaos that is the post-worship shuffle, he asked, "What was the worm? What did Jesus use for bait?" As soon as I thought I was done with these verses in Mark, this guy had blown it wide open again. It has been said that trying to probe the depths of Scripture is like trying to drain the ocean with a spoon.
I did not have an answer for him, but I have not stopped thinking about it since he asked it. I hope he and I can sit down again in the future and share how we have struggled with the scriptures. Maybe "struggle" has a harsh tone. A better word may be "play." We are invited to dive into the scriptures, to explore, to dance in them, to interrogate them, to toss them back and forth. But this process is always richer with others. So find a friend or two and have some fun.