Into The Wild Blue Yonder

I think I’ve prepared well enough: I’ve looked at Mark chapter 6, and I’ve listened to J. C. Ryle’s commentary on it - which took about an hour - while I was busy with various utilitarian tasks; and now I’m all ready for further enlightenment. My wife’s laptop screen comes to life, and begins to fill up with the faces of those taking part. It’s nice to see them. Greetings are exchanged, then there is a prayer, and the study begins.

A portion of the passage is read. I can see folk settling back or plumping up the cushions behind them, some sipping hot drinks and others with eyes down - presumably following along in their own bibles. One or two appear to be surreptitiously searching elsewhere. Are they already consulting a commentary, anticipating our pastor’s questions even at this early stage?

I have my study bible in front of me, and from time to time I glance at the notes at the bottom of the page. When we get to “and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon”, I look down again. I have a vague memory of there being some controversy to do with these relatives and the sisters mentioned in the next sentence. No, not according to this bible: “The identification of Jesus as the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, as well as the mention of his sisters, most naturally implies that these are all biological children born to Mary and Joseph after Mary gave birth to Jesus.” And yet... No, focus, our pastor is sharing his thoughts on the passage. Consider the question at a later date.

It’s an interesting and engaging commentary. Then come the questions and, of course, the answers: some factual and some fanciful, some insightful and some overly intellectual, some weighted with wisdom and some wandering off into the wild blue yonder. That’s fair enough - it’s what you would expect from this type of bible study, with a wide variety of people taking part.

But the answers are not coming quickly enough for me - and when they finally arrive, they don’t always satisfy my curiosity, even after others have added their own thoughts.

My laptop is on Blue Letter Bible, so I shift over to Bible Hub for easier access to various classic commentaries. Now, who amongst all of these learned men will have the answers? No single individual, alas! I speed read through John Gill, Matthew Henry, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Matthew Poole, and then The Pulpit Commentary, all in a matter of moments - no, come on, one of them must know! Why are they so maddeningly reticent?

Meanwhile, the actual bible study fades away into the distance, becoming just a background murmur.

By the time I’ve found what I want, we’re on to the next section, and considering our Lord’s instructions to the twelve, and I’m wondering what to make of that list of items that they were told not to take with them - and was the staff for walking or for fighting, and what was the bag for and is it the same as the “scrip” in the KJV? Hmm, there are several renderings of the Greek word in various translations, so what does the English/Greek Interlinear say? It says “pēran”, meaning, er - “bag”! Oh…

Back to the bible study, and someone is over-spiritualising to an alarming extent, so I get up and walk around for a while as I explain to them why this should not be so, breaking off all of a sudden to make sure that we’re on mute. Fortunately, we are. It’s never my intention to give offence… well, hardly ever. I take great exception to something that the next speaker says, and walk up and down again, haranguing the pot plant in the bay window. It remains obdurate...

Hang on, someone is mentioning my name! Have I ever shaken the dust off my feet as a testimony against someone? No, but I’ve had it done to me, and I recall the incident, albeit briefly. There is a moral to this tale, but it would take too long to explain the circumstances surrounding it… Who was with me at the time? It was someone older than me, and he did most of the talking, and then they went to the door looking as though they’d lost a pound and found a penny. They shook hands with us, but at the same time there was an odd sound, a sort of soft, scuffing noise, I thought. I looked down to see them both carefully cleaning the soles of their shoes on the carpet. And then they were gone! It was about this time that I came to realise that…

And then I realise that the bible study is over, and it’s time to have tea.

As I put the oven on, it occurs to me that, though one or two folk might possibly have been on the wrong track in their comments on a couple of questions, I was the one who was away in the wild blue yonder for far too long - forgetting all about applying what there was to learn to my own heart. I make a mental note to try harder, next time.

What does it say in 2 Timothy? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3.16-17)

Well, am I? Complete and equipped for every good work, that is?

No, not really. Far from it, in fact.

How about you?