Having just attempted to wrap our minds around the dense read that is Isaiah, we decided to flip to a book of the bible that we should be able to more readily relate. We decided to move to the New Testament, to relate things to the Christianity we have grown up with. This would also give me (Mike) a chance to put my Catholic school knowledge (buried in the cobwebs of my brain) to the test.
The first thing that struck Molly and I about this is all of the words in between the stories we all know. Our typical recollection of the life of Jesus is a conglomeration of all 4 gospels, parables, miracles, etc. A gospel reading at Sunday Mass is picked to bring forth a lesson to be taught. Just by going to Sunday Mass every week though, we don't necessarily get the whole story. ALL OF THE WORDS ARE IMPORTANT. If they weren't Mark wouldn't have written them in the first place. As a musical composer and improviser, everything I play/write is designed to give greater meaning to the whole of the piece. Likewise, everything written in Mark's Gospel paints a more complete picture of Jesus.
The first thing that strikes one unfamiliar with the Gospel of Mark is that there is no Nativity story, no flight into Egypt, no 13 year old Jesus teaching in the temple, no wedding at Cana, and really no mention of Mary and Joseph. The book sets in immediately with John the Baptist (which we heard prophesied in Isaiah) and then within a matter of verses, recounts Jesus beginning his ministry. His ministry began with choosing his disciples and then performing miracles casting out demons. Early on, he wanted people to keep quiet about the things he was doing. Naturally though, word of his miracles quickly spread and people from neighboring countries were coming just to hear him speak and be healed (Remember in Isaiah how God said the gentiles would come to join the new society and new covenant he would create?).
How did Jesus go about teaching? With parables of course...but wait, within the words we typically don't hear is made mention of how he taught his close disciples. Jesus did teach to them about the kingdom of heaven in a very direct manor. We just never get to hear it directly, because we are part of the masses that aren't ready to hear the truth...We must discern it through out own quest. The disciples were chosen for a specific reason: They could handle what Jesus was going to tell them so that they could continue his ministry after he was gone. The rest of the people (us), are given parables because quite honestly, if the TRUTH were just revealed to us, we would probably just consider Jesus to be another crazy guy in the news telling us the world was going to end. The brilliance of Jesus' teaching is that it forced people to ask questions and actually seek TRUTH.
Naturally, the religious leaders of the Jewish community instantly wanted to find ways to discredit Jesus. After all, he was showing people how to think for themselves, to be honest and good people without having to strictly follow the absurdly over interpreted rules that the Jewish community was built on. In a community where rules dictated everything, and those who taught the rules (priests, scribes, etc.) had power, Jesus was breaking the interpretation of rules which the scribes, pharisees, etc, kept in an effort to give the power to worship God back to the people. He taught people how to love God and each other. After all, why should we need rules to tell us how to love? Unfortunately, if you don't need the rules, then the people who teach the rules will be deemed unnecessary. One of the greatest things I've learned from composition, is that the rules of theory exist for those who can't understand how to do things naturally (This sets the table for a completely different rant on today's collegiate system).
What can we take from all of this? Read all of the words...they all have importance. Never get complacent (see previous post). Always seek the deeper meaning because until you are ready to receive it, no one will just show it to you.
All the best,
Mike and Molly