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The online journal of Luke Dockery

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Mocking Jesus

In Mark 15, in the narrative of the crucifixion of Christ, there is the following description of the Roman soldiers mocking Jesus:

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

(Mark 15.16-20)

When I read these words and let my imagination drift back to that scene, one clear emotion springs to the surface of my thoughts: anger! I am outraged at the way my Savior is openly mocked by sinners for whom He is about to die! How dare these lowly soldiers make fun of God’s Son and spit in the face of the Creator of the universe? If they had any idea Who this was they were dealing with, surely they would not treat Him with such contempt!

But then, I begin to wonder…

The favorite title for Jesus in the early church was Lord (2 Corinthians 4.5). This was a title of ownership. The master of a slave or the owner of a vineyard was called Lord. It was also a title of authority. Army commanders and judges were called Lord. It was the official title of the Roman Emperor. All laws, edicts, and decrees were signed Lord Caesar.

Out of this background, we begin to understand what early Christians were saying when they spoke of Jesus as Lord. They meant that He was the absolute owner of their lives: He was the One who had the right to decide what they would be, what they would do, and where they would go. They meant that He was the final authority over every thought, emotion, and action of life. Above all, they meant that He was the King of Kings to whom they gave their highest loyalty and obedience.

That is what it means to call Jesus Lord.

Returning to the story from Mark 15, I am outraged when I read of these soldiers openly mocking Jesus. But then I wonder: do we mock Jesus any less than the Roman soldiers did when we call Him Lord but then comfortably ignore any demands He makes of our lives?

Jesus: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6.46)

Christianity As Invasion

I first read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity back in 2008, and I really liked it. That has been over a decade ago now, and a lot of things have changed since then. In 2008, I was a fairly recent college graduate, was also still pretty new in youth ministry, and I hadn’t started grad school yet. I had been married for a couple of years, but was not yet a father.

So it had been a long time, and I have changed in significant ways, and I thought it would be good for me to read this classic again. I started it again last week,[1] and I am absolutely blown away with how much I am loving it this time around (I don’t remember liking it this much the first time I read it. Of the many parts that I have loved (maybe I’ll do a full review later), one has been Lewis’s description of Christianity as opposed to Dualism (emphasis added by me):

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: this is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery.

Mere Christianity, 45-46

I think this is a really helpful and accurate image. Scripture is clear that we are at war—not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces. As Christians, we establish beachheads on hostile coastlines and expand into the territory of the Enemy, holding the banner of our King.


[1] This time, I am actually “reading” it as an audiobook, and it is read by a British guy. This is outstanding.

Are You Like Jesus’ Enemies?

If you are familiar at all with the life and ministry of Jesus, you know that He encountered opposition from various groups. In Mark’s gospel, the controversy surrounding the ministry of Jesus begins very early. In chapter 2, Jesus is criticized in the following circumstances:

  • In 2.1-12, Jesus receives criticism from some scribes when He forgives the sins of a paralyzed man after healing Him.
  • In 2.13-17, the “scribes of the Pharisees” criticize Jesus for having table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners. This occurs after Jesus calls Levi/Matthew to follow Him and then goes to eat at his house.
  • In 2.18-22, Jesus seems to receive a mild criticism because He and His disciples are not fasting, while John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees do.
  • In 2.23-28, the Pharisees again criticize Jesus, this time because His disciples were plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath day.

These events provide the immediate context for Mark 3.1-6, which is the passage that I want to look at a little more closely:

“Again He entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.”

Although there are several aspects of this account that we could focus on, I particularly want to look at a couple of characteristics of Jesus’ enemies, characteristics that I think a lot of people—even those who are supposed to live as citizens of God’s kingdom—continue to exhibit today.

First, watching people and waiting for them to mess up is a characteristic of Jesus’ enemies. The text says in verse Mark 3.2 that the Pharisees “watched Jesus, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.”

The Pharisees watched Jesus carefully, not to glean wisdom from His teaching, or to be awed by the miracles He performed, or touched by the compassion He showed, but to catch Him in some alleged mistake that would provide grounds for accusation.

Unfortunately, I have known people like that…

  • People who miss the main thrust of a 30-minute sermon because they focused in on one statement that they disagreed with or one Bible verse that was incorrectly cited.
  • People who come to Bible class not to learn or to grow as a part of the body or to be transformed by Scripture, but instead to correct the teacher every time they hear something they disagree with.
  • People who ignore the constant, tireless, loving care of the shepherds of their congregation and instead look for missteps or questionable decisions so they can loudly voice their criticism.

Watching people just so we can catch them doing something we don’t like in order to criticize them is not a characteristic of Jesus, nor of those who would be His followers. It is a graceless way of approaching life, where we feel justified in neglecting all of the good things a person does in order to focus in on their faults. It is what the enemies of Jesus did.

Second, making immediate plans to punish or pronounce judgment upon others is a characteristic of Jesus’ enemies. Mark 3.6 states that “the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.”

If you are very familiar with the Gospel of Mark, you know that “immediately” is a key word. Mark is a gospel of action, and people are portrayed as quickly moving from one thing to another. In this instance, the clear implication is that the Pharisees take no time to absorb what Jesus is trying to teach; rather, without reflection, they rush headlong into a meeting with another group that is opposed to Jesus to begin making plans on how to bring Him down.

Although we should not be waiting and watching for people to mess up (see above), the reality is that people will mess up from time to time, or they might say something that we disagree with. When that occurs, the solution is not to go flying off the handle, enslaved to the demands of our emotional responses in the moment. Sure, there are times when someone says or does something that is so incorrect or inappropriate that it must be dealt with immediately, but not everything is a big deal.

A better course of action is to address the situation after our emotions have cooled and after we have had time for reflection, study, and prayer. And when we do that, many times we realize that it wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Without a doubt, our 24-hour news cycle-documented and social media-dominated society provides an environment where people can always be looking for the mistakes of others and can immediately condemn them. On top of that, it is an election season, which always seems to reveal that many of us think we can respond to political figures however we want to regardless of the fact that we claim to be disciples of Jesus, and that claim should have a major impact on our behavior. But let us be aware that when we take part in those practices, we look more like the enemies of Jesus than we do our Savior.

Reading and Walking in 2019

In April 2013, I started walking laps around the church auditorium while studying or reading. I found this helped me to focus better, and also it was a good way to be a little less sedentary while at work.

Each lap around the auditorium is approximately 74 yards:

2019 was a year of transition for me, as we moved midway through from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Searcy, Arkansas. Not only did this transition lead to a lot of busyness, affect my routines, and alter my reading (and walking) habits somewhat, it also changed the size of the auditorium that I walked around, so moving forward, my number of laps will be much smaller. The total mileage remains a constant measurement, though.

Without further ado, here are my totals for the year:

Total Laps, January–May 2019: 5,075 (approximately 74 yards per lap)

Total Laps, June–December 2019: 3,217 (approximately 118 yards per lap)

Total Distance in 2019: 429.1 miles

Total Distance to date: 2961.1 miles

In 2019, I went from Lake Placid, New York down to Syracuse, out to Buffalo, and finally stopped in Erie, Pennsylvania.

My rate of walking decreased slightly after moving, but this also reflects the time of year: I always get less walking done in the summer because the schedule of youth ministry has me out of the office more during that time. On the whole, though, I did less walking in 2019 than in 2018, and I think that was just a reflection on having to devote more time to other tasks.

My goal for 2019 was 500 miles, which I did not reach. I think that is a good target to aim for in 2020.

Reading in 2019

Regular readers of The Doc File know that I keep track of what I read each year, and that I enjoy chronicling that here on the blog and offering some reflections about my favorite reads from the previous year.

Without further ado, here is my list from 2019:

  1. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  2. The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story From the New Testament World, by Bruce W. Longenecker
  3. Enter the Water, Come to the Table: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Scripture’s Story of New Creation, by John Mark Hicks
  4. Success Sparklers: A Treasury of Quips, Quotes and Sparkling Sayings for the Positive Person, compiled by Ivy Conner
  5. The Honorary Consul, by Graham Greene
  6. Small Group Strategies: Ideas & Activities for Developing Spiritual Growth in your Students, by Laurie Polich and Charley Scandlyn
  7. Walking Away From Idolatry, by Wes McAdams
  8. The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
  9. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, by Eric Metaxas
  10. The Hidden Harbor Mystery, by Franklin W. Dixon
  11. Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander
  14. Selected Stories of O. Henry, Introduction and Notes by Victoria Blake*
  15. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
  16. Beyond Atonement: Recovering the Full Meaning of the Cross, by N.T. Wright, Gregory Boyd, and Ruth Padilla DeBorst
  17. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence S. Ritter
  18. God, Guys, and Girls, by Derry Prenkert
  19. Sabbath Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggemann
  20. Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring our Best When the World is at Its Worst, by Ed Stetzer
  21. How To Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years, by Michael Whitworth
  22. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  23. The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, by Kenneth E. Bailey
  24. Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki
  25. I Am A Church Member, by Thom S. Rainer
  26. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, by Robert Alter
  27. That’s Why We Sing: Reclaiming the Wonder of Congregational Singing, by Darryl Tippens
  28. Fire Upon the Earth: The Story of the Christian Church, by Norman F. Langford
  29. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
  30. Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney
  31. The Shepherd’s Ring, by Whit Jordan
  32. The Yellow Feather Mystery, by Franklin W. Dixon
  33. The Clue in the Embers, by Franklin W. Dixon
  34. Murder at Wrigley Field, by Troy Soos
  35. Visions of Restoration: The History of Churches of Christ, by John Young
  36. New Day: Restoring the Revolutionary Mission of Christ’s Church, by David M. Young
  37. Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith
  38. The Greenest Island, by Paul Theroux
  39. Disrupting for Good: Using Passion and Persistence to Create Lasting Change, by Chris Field
  40. The Secret Agent on Flight 101, by Franklin W. Dixon
  41. Jesus for President, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
  42. Discipeshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples, by Jim Putnam & Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman
  43. Faith Unraveled: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions, by Rachel Held Evans
  44. Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry: The Not-So-Simple Truths That Matter, by David Fraze
  45. 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
  46. The Fourfold Gospel, by J.W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton
  47. Prayer, In Practice, by J.L. Gerhardt
  48. It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, by Peter Walsh
  49. Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing—and How We Can Revive Them, by Jonathan Merritt
  50. D2: Becoming A Devoted Follower of Christ, by Phil McKinney II
  51. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
  52. One Loaf and One Cup: A Scriptural and Historical Survey, by Clinton De France

A few observations before I talk about my favorite books of the year:

  • My reading total decreased from 54 books in 2018 to 52 in 2019. I was pleased with this number considering that we moved in the middle of the year, my life was crazy busy preparing for that move and adjusting to it, and my reading time was (probably) somewhat less.
  • For the last several years, I have been between 48-54 books per year. This really seems to be my sweet spot.
  • This was my first full year removed from grad school, so I wondered how that would affect my reading. I still read a lot, with a decent amount of reading still geared toward faith, ministry, discipleship, biblical studies, etc.
  • I enjoyed my reading this past year. There were some books I didn’t love, but really, no major disappointments.

I want to share my Top 10 books for the year, but before I do so, I wanted to offer some brief thoughts on a few books that didn’t make my Top 10, but I still wanted to comment on:

  • The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It, by Lawrence S. Ritter: this was a great book of memories of baseball players from the early 1900s. As a huge fan of Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball, I was delighted to recognize that this book was a major primary source for many of the quotations for that series.
  • Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney: This was a very short, yet very convicting, read. Christan parents, we really don’t have a good excuse for not having regular worship or devotional time at home with our families. If you want motivation, guidance, or conviction related to this, read this book.
  • The Shepherd’s Ring, by Whit Jordan: This was a novel for children written by a friend, and I loved it. It is currently unpublished, and I read an early draft. I can’t wait to hold the real thing in my hands and tell you about it.
  • Gorky Park, Martin Cruz Smith: This is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it frequently. It doesn’t make my Top 10 list because that feels like cheating. Otherwise, it would be there almost every year.
  • Faith Unraveled: How A Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions, by Rachel Held Evans: RHE was just a couple years older than me, and tragically died from an illness earlier in 2019. I am not really the audience for this book, but I listened to the audio version (read by the author) and am so glad I did. I disagree with Evans on a variety of issues, but she is incredibly likable and it is clear that she genuinely loved God and other people, and wanted to remove barriers that prevented people from knowing the God she loved so much. It was good for me to read.

My favorite books from 2019.

Regarding my Top 10 books for the year, here are some brief thoughts on those (presented in order of when I read them, not ranked 1-10):

  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs: This was a fascinating and tragic true story of a man who grew up in the rough neighborhoods of Newark but managed to find his way out and graduate with honors from Yale, only to end up back in his former neighborhood where he ultimately was murdered in a drug-related crime. This story was well-written and gripping, and also filled with impending dread, as you knew from the title that it would not end well. Memoirs are not the best way to analyze complex social issues, but this book did provide for thoughtful reflection on racial issues (which, between this book, The Other Wes Moore, and The New Jim Crow {described below}, was a repeated focus for me in 2019).
  • The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story From the New Testament Worldby Bruce W. Longenecker: Longenecker, a well-known biblical scholar who specializes in the origins of Christianity, writes this epistolary novel that consists of a series of letters between several characters, including Luke the Evangelist. What results is a moving story that helps to illuminate the New Testament world including aspects such as honor-shame culture, patronage, the nature of letter writing, and Roman persecution. It took a little bit for me to get into it, but by the end, I absolutely loved it.
  • The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expeditionby Caroline Alexander: This was a fascinating account of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition complete with penetrating character studies and amazing photographs. This is simply an incredible, unbelievable tale. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • The Nightingaleby Kristin Hannah: I have discovered that I love reading fiction set in WWII, and this is a good example of this. This novel tells the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France, and the very different ways they seek to survive and resist during a very difficult time.
  • The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentaryby Robert Alter: Alter is a world-renowned expert on the Hebrew Bible who gives special attention to its literary features. This is his own translation along with commentary, which I used for my daily Bible reading early in the year. I don’t know Hebrew well enough to evaluate how great his translation is, but it was certainly readable, and I found his commentary to be frequently insightful.
  • New Day: Restoring the Revolutionary Mission of Christ’s Church, by David M. Young: I mentioned this book, and Young, in my recap of this past year’s Harding Lectureship, where I heard him speak three times. The short version of the book is that Churches of Christ (and really, churches across the spectrum) are declining in the United States, and the solution to this problem is to get serious about prayer, making disciples, and planting churches. If you have come to suspect that church should be about more than a social gathering, worship wars, and a consumeristic buffet of programs catering to the whims of members, this book is for you (wow, that was a little preachy!).
  • Disrupting for Good: Using Passion and Persistence to Create Lasting Changeby Chris Field: I did not have high expectations for this book, but I really liked it. Basically, it is a book about how to bring about culture change: you have to find a problem that really bothers you, and then attack it with creativity and perseverance. Most of the book is a series of inspiring vignettes of people who did exactly that. This was a really encouraging book for me.
  • Practical Wisdom for Youth Ministry: The Not-So-Simple Truths That Matterby David Fraze: I already reviewed this book here on the blog, so I don’t feel the need to say much here, other than the fact that this is now one of my favorite youth ministry books (I read a lot of them), and I plan on using it from now on with all of my youth ministry interns.
  • 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaosby Jordan B. Peterson: Although I have friends who are big fans of Peterson, I was not a fan, and actually began to read this book with a great deal of skepticism. Peterson’s breadth of knowledge is so vast that I found it difficult to evaluate at times (Is this brilliant? Is this nonsense?). At other times, when he crossed into areas I could better evaluate, I was blown away: his handling of the biblical text, especially the Book of Genesis, was very impressive (he is a little shakier on the teachings of Jesus—on a very deep level, I don’t think Peterson knows what to do with Him). Ultimately, what I would say is that each of Peterson’s rules range from helpful to profound, even if I don’t fully agree with all of the reasoning he uses to arrive at them. I “read” this book in audio format, and will likely reread it, soon.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnessby Michelle Alexander: This is not a fun read. On the contrary, it was devastating. Alexander has two basic arguments in the book: (1) the American criminal justice system disproportionately punishes people of color (specifically through the War on Drugs), relegating a large chunk of African American society to being residents of an “undercaste”, and (2) this has been done intentionally. Although I don’t believe she established her second argument (to be fair, I don’t want to believe it), her first point seems absolutely clear to me. For those who do not understand (or worse, deny) the reality of systemic racism, this is a great book to read.

That was my reading for 2019. For comparison’s sake if you are interested, you can see my reading lists from previous years:

As always, I have a bunch of books lined out to read in 2020, and can’t wait to get into them.

What are some of the best books you read this past year?

*Books that I did not read in their entirety, but read significant portions of.

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