Recently, I started a group at my school called “One Read”. The goal of the group is quite different from others. Many people will put together bible study groups aimed at studying Bible passages. “One Read”, rather than looking to pull things out of individual pericopes, reads the entire text in one sitting. Today we read through the book of Mark in an hour and twenty minutes. While it did take much time, it was more beneficial than I expected. In it, there were two major benefits that the Church, often unable to focus on one thing for more than five minutes, misses out on: humbleness and understanding.
In hearing the Gospel of Mark read for an hour and twenty minutes, there was a certain amount of patience and humbleness required in order to let it speak the way it was meant to. Mark was originally written to be read out loud, not studied with individual life verses. That is not to say pericope focused studies are bad. Rather, in order to fully understand a pericope, it is necessary to read the text in its fullness. Too often people have little or no willingness to hear the fullness of the story. And that is the problem. Mark is written as a story with the expectation that the hearer will partake in the emotion, feeling, and flow of it. Human beings are creatures that live and thrive in the world and cultures through stories that express humanity. That is just what the Gospel of Mark works with. It is a story that a person should submit themselves to in order to feel the full intention and aim of the text, a challenge for many. To do otherwise is to read it in a “non-human” way of thinking.
The second major lesson was that of understanding. Scholars often write long and complicated papers expressing some idea in the Bible. The average person considers them smart because the scholar saw something nobody else did. What if every person actually has the potential to see what the scholar can see? When a person invests their heart and soul into feeling a story, into experiencing the story with the characters, they open themselves up to feeling the emotions and thoughts of the character. In that, they realize the motifs and themes within the story that try to shed light on and define humanity, the same things scholars often write about. Once the hearer of the story is humbled to the text, they can understand the story in ways that they never believed possible. A willingness to humble the self allows an understanding of what the author is actually trying to express, thus allowing people to consider whether or not the message is something the hearer is willing to take up and live by.
So what? The Gospel can be understood as the essential story, a story that gives definition to humanity and purpose. To read it merely as an academic piece of work is to dishonor the original goal of it, to ignore the purpose of it. It is a story meant to challenge the reader. And we should read it as one. It is essential to always remember that the Gospels are written as stories, essential stories to human character and life.