This post originally appeared on the Calvary blog.
As a nation, we are bound together by a set of commonly understood customs, arts, our social and governmental institutions, the way we act toward each other and interact with one another, how we speak and the words we say. It’s all the things that are bound up and represented in our culture.
Now, in a country as large as ours, it's not quite that simple. Because there are different aspects of culture based on if you live in the far north, or the deep south, or the west coast, midwest, or east coast.
And then there is the diversity of the ethnic groups within our borders: African-American culture, for example, and what the significance of tomorrow holds for them, versus what it means for others; or Hispanic-American culture; or Asian-American culture.
That said, there are still aspects of our culture that cross all those lines and draw us together. One of those things is pop culture. Take movies, for instance. It is amazing how the stories found in movies become firmly planted in our cultural experience. Even more, that a moment, a sentence, or a phrase, or a song from a movie, can be a shared cultural norm and understanding, pulling an entire storyline down into a shared interaction and relationship between two people. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s consider a few movie examples. Are you ready? Here we go—let’s see if you can complete the statements, and get the movie:
“Go ahead, ______ ____ _____.”
"Luke, I’m __________ __________.”
“Every time I try to get out, _______ _____ ____ ____ ____!”
“Houston, we ___ ____ _____.”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t ___ ____.”
“If you build it, ____ _____ _____.”
“Pedro for President” (what movie?)
Two people, standing in the bow of an unsinkable ship, arms outstretched, wind blowing through their hair, dress billowing….Movie?
Now, they didn’t have movies in the first century, but what they did have were stories. And I imagine that the way they told and shared stories, with such frequency as a verbally based culture, would have been engaging and movie-like. It is like that scene in “The Nativity Story” with the old, Jewish grandmother, surrounded by all the children of Nazareth, telling the story of God interacting with the prophet Elijah, the children sitting on the edge of their seats and finishing all of her sentences in the story.
You see, they had sentences, and words, and phrases, that were a shared cultural experience and understanding, so that merely saying a phrase, or speaking a title, pulled that story down into that moment and interaction between the people involved.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because of what Jesus consistently calls himself throughout the book of Mark. It is not what anyone else says of him, but it is what he always says of himself when referring to himself. Which makes me think it is important to him, that it wasn’t accidental, but purposeful and noteworthy.
But before we see it, we have to understand the story it is coming from. If we don’t brush up on this culture that is very different from ours, we won’t properly understand the story we are reading, and what it means for us. And to do that, we’ll need to look to a vision given to Daniel, in a story long before Mark’s story…..
I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Mark, where we learn that the only way to understand Mark’s story, his portrait of Jesus, is to understand the Whole Story of the Bible.
If you’d like some additional resources on Mark, head on over to the Bible Project page for this story. And finally, to prepare for this coming Sunday, be sure to read the book of John (it is 21 chapters and takes about 2 hours to read) and study it further through these resources.
I look forward to worshiping the Son of God with you on Sunday, if you’d like to join us at the Sunday gathering at Calvary.