Welcome, we acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the people of the Kulin Nations have been custodians since time immemorial.

This is our third in a series called The Art of Discipleship where we showcase the material of different books and engage with their material creatively.


The activity this week is taken from:

Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus


This book by Ched Myers looks at the book of Mark as a manifesto for radical discipleship — i.e., Jesus as exemplar of nonviolent resistance to the powers-that-be in his day, and ergo in ours.  We will be reading Mark, all of it, in one go and sitting in the queries; “What do the questions Jesus poses to the disciples have to say to us today?”

The Word is removed from us in time and space. We all tell stories and know how to tell stories. It is a common language that bridges other cultural gaps between us. These stories are not just entertainment but they actually educate and nourish us. BUT because they are good and healing stories, there are powers out there that will try to destroy them or… “let them be confused or forgotten” – BUT these evil powers cannot stand up to these stories (a statement of faith – conviction -hope that there is a power greater than what we face).  So what we are doing, reading scripture is counter cultural – sitting down and sharing, taking time.


Radical – arising from or going to a root or source. From latin radicalis, having roots.

Radical simply means to go to the roots. Twin task of going to roots of tradition in scripture and in spirituality and in social solidarity and in roots of our contemporary pathologies to deal with root causes and not symptoms.

What are the current issues these stories could be informing?

  • War Israel/Palestine/Afghanistan/Syria/Russia
  • Riots/protests throughout middle east – for democracy and Europe/America in relation to global financial crisis.
  • Isaiah 14.:8: strategic asset Cedars of Lebanon, oil of the ancient times. What was empire then and what is it now? Phonecia, Babylon, Rome – clear cut the cedars for masts for ships and bearing poles for temples. Ecological justice.
  • Matt 1-2, Luke 1-2 Christmas story sentimentalised – imperial violence and human displacement, infanticide as a matter of domestic policy.
  • Road to Emmaus – story of courage and resistance, within a few days of crucifixion. Easter Luke 16:31 – under the shadow of death, not a zen walk down a country road. What is the meaning of the death of our leader for our movement.
  • Immigration/boat people – Isaiah 56, scripture and restorative justice – right using the bible to exclude immigrants and gay people. Radical
  • Matthew 18 restorative justice, ambassadors of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2.

Draw parallels and analogies with our current context.

  • Ambassadors in chains Ephesians 2-3 & MLK letter from a Birmingham jail (Eph 3:10, 6:1)

How does the story read in our own context?


As we read be mindful of the following:

  • Oral tradition – uses language to set the scene – are we at the seaside or in the city now?  Look for introduction of new characters, new settings, changes in plot.  Often read the bible like a 5 minute segment out of an entire movie  – how can you understand what’s going on when you come in part way through the story? Need to rebuild critical literacy.
  • We can romanticise the Roman Empire – nothing nice about it.  I am a descendant of the colonising empire – British Empire, conquest, world sovereignty, racial superiority and global management.  Empire looks very different from the bottom IMG_5266up, than the top down – victims are always reminded of their vassalage. Money replaced with that with an image of Emperor or Queen.  The Romans were driven out of Judea and then they struck back. Jerusalem was laid siege, conquered and burned.  The book of Mark was written during this war.  Empire can be defined as the rule of the centre over the periphery.
  • Mark 1:7 baptiser – One is coming who is stronger than I am.  Power contesting power.  Not baptised with only water but the holy spirit and fire.  Baptism was and is a personal and political statement in a social context calling on the Holy Spirit of water and fire out in the undomesticated wilderness against the struggle of empire.
  • “True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feed the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harms it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people” Menno Simons 16th century.  This is a discipleship of struggle and resistance as well as renewal.  Will it have a cost?  Baptism into Christ and into Christs death.  When Jesus was baptised he went right under into the Jordon, shedding  everything of socialisation – rises up completely unobligated to empire.  Jesus was baptised into a specific watershed/river, a specific story, a specific (un)kingdom.


Working from the same copy, read the – whole – book of Mark aloud in one session. The document below, to help with the sense on one whole flowing story (as the oral tellers would speak it), has had all chapter and verse numeration and story “titles” removed.

Mark stripped back

First thoughts?
Sound/feel different than it usually does? What stands out?
Have some general discussion around the ‘mindful’ notes re our ideas about – stories, empire, baptism, discipleship…