The Mark 16 Challenge 2.0 - October 29, 2023
"The point I wanted to make was that Jesus was a good man, and that a man of his time had to be religious because everybody was. But I suspect that if he had the knowledge we have today, he probably would have been an atheist, and he probably would have been a good man." - Richard Dawkins
“Despite the enormous range of opinion, there are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree. Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.” - Bart Ehrman
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” - C.S. Lewis
The quotes above provide an overview of the modern world's opinions on Jesus. Some claim his life was turned into legend by his followers, while others say he was a good moral teacher but couldn't possibly be God's Son. Still others make a life commitment to him and say that he's worthy to be honored by everyone.
If you search "Jesus" online, you'll find countless more opinions, arguments, and beliefs. So how do we even know what to believe about a man who lived two thousand years ago?
A Biography of Jesus
Often the best way to find out the truth about an issue is to go back to source documents that were written very close to the time of an event, by people who had very close knowledge of the situation. For example, with the history of the United States, people interpret the founding values of the country in radically different ways. The good news is that we can go back to the source documents written during the founding of the country, like the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and come to our own conclusions about this.
The same is actually true about Jesus and his life and legacy. Around 30-60 years after Jesus' death in first century Palestine, some of his followers compiled biographical information of Jesus' teachings and interactions with the world around him. One of these followers, a man named John Mark, finished his biography of Jesus likely between 60 to 70 A.D., according to scholars' estimates, and presented it to the world as one of the first known biographies of Jesus' life and teachings.
Since this biography (called a "gospel" by many of Jesus' followers) was written fairly soon after Jesus' death, the information and teaching it contained could be cross-checked and verified by people who had followed Jesus while he was on the earth. This gave it credibility among first century readers.
The author of this gospel, Mark, presented an action-packed account of Jesus' life. Using words like "immediately" and jumping from one event to another, Mark's biography of Jesus reads like a short newspaper article, covering the important information in a small amount of space (only 16 chapters, in Mark's case, which takes about 1 to 2 hours to read or listen to).
Mark wrote his biography of Jesus to give a clear, reliable account gleaned from firsthand witnesses to Jesus' life - an original source document we can go back to. And it's one that doesn't actually take that long to read!
Find Out For Yourself
That's why I'm inviting you to join the Mark 16 Challenge. Likely you've had a friend invite you to do this with them, and that's a good thing!
The goal isn't to come up with all the answers to the hard questions about God and life, just to start a conversation with the people around you about the life and legacy of Jesus.
But I do enjoy a challenge, so it might not seem easy. The Mark 16 Challenge is to read through the gospel of Mark in one day with friends and people all over the world who are also taking this challenge. Our current date is set for October 29, 2023. Twenty-four hours to read or listen to Mark, which likely takes 1-2 hours.
That might sound overwhelming to try and get through it all in a day, and that's okay. If you feel like you need longer but still want to do the challenge with a friend, just let them know. The goal is to read through a source document biography of Jesus and talk about it.
But - I believe many of us can take this challenge in a single day. Two hours of the sixteen hours we're probably awake. One day. A chance to talk about those hard questions in life in a safe place where no one is trying to push their opinion.
And maybe reading Mark might help us begin to find some answers.
All right, so we're here ready to start the challenge. But where do we start?
First, don't do it alone! Probably a friend invited you to join this challenge with them, but if not, reach out to someone and ask them to do this with you. Finding someone else to do it with will definitely help with the motivation on the day of the challenge, and hopefully it'll provide a chance for conversation later, too.
An important next step is to find a Bible you can read the gospel of Mark in. Maybe see if you can borrow one from a friend, check one out from a library, or even just download the Bible app on your phone so you have it right there with you whenever you want to work on reading Mark during that day. (A good one that's easy to navigate is the YouVersion Bible App, but there's a lot of different apps that will work.)
Then mark (no pun intended) your calendar for October 29th, or set a reminder in your phone, or ask your friend to text you to remind you. Maybe try to think about how you'll make time to go through the whole gospel of Mark that day, whether you'll read or listen to a chunk in the morning or evening or some other time during the day - because having a plan definitely helps in the process of finishing the challenge.
I'm looking forward to doing this challenge with all of you. If you're up for joining the Mark 16 Challenge, click the "I'm In" button at the top of this post. We'll get to watch the votes count up with all the other people joining us in this too! And feel free to comment on this post with any questions or thoughts so we can discuss things here too. It's a time to ask the questions and talk about the things that we might not normally think about.
Let's go for it and see what conclusions we come to!
Spread the Word
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