The Bible as Network

If we are alert, we can come to recognize connections we may not see at first.

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It always gives me a thrill when I recognize a connection between two Bible passages that I’ve not seen before. That happened twice for me last week.

In the first case, I was reading the passion story in Mark 14. Mark describes the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane just before Jesus’ arrest. Jesus is emotionally struggling to accept the gruesome death that is coming. He has come to the garden to pray.

He retreats into a secluded spot, taking with him three disciples, Peter, James, and John. He asks them to remain with him and to keep awake. Presumably they, too, are to engage in some form of prayer. Then he goes off to pray in private.

When he returns, he finds all three disciples asleep. This happens two more times. Each time the disciples are asleep.

Jesus singles out Peter, saying: Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[Mark 14:37-38]

As I pondered those words, that’s when I made the connection. Peter will shortly deny Jesus three times. Jesus seems to be suggesting that if Peter had been diligent about staying awake and praying, then he might have had the spiritual strength to resist temptation when it came in the high priest’s courtyard just hours later. Instead Peter fell asleep. When his time of trial came, he had no inner resource to help him resist.

I discovered that the story of the prayer session in the garden and Peter’s denial are more connected than I had ever realized.

And Now to the Exodus Story

Later in the week I was reading the account of the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. The Israelites panic as they watch the Egyptian army chasing after them. The army hems the escaping slaves into a place of no escape on the sea shore.

In this dire situation, Moses says to the Israelites: The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. (Exodus 14:14) Israel is to remain calm and await its deliverance from God. They, as well as the Egyptians, will soon come to know the exalted power of God.

This is the exact same counsel we find in Psalm 46. Israel once again seems to be in great threat. Its world is in an uproar. Kingdoms are tottering. Armies are on the march. Yet the psalmist quotes God as saying:

“Be still, and know that I am God!

             I am exalted among the nations,

            I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us;

            The God of Jacob is our refuge.

 I was struck by how Psalm 46 and Exodus 14 mirror each other. The counsel to keep still ties the two passages to each other. I don’t know if the psalmist knew the Exodus passage, but certainly both passages advocate the same spiritual stance as the people face an existential threat.

I love it when I see such connections in Scripture. I become aware that the Bible is really a network, with lines of connections going this way and that, binding seemingly disparate passages into a whole. I find that fascinating.

Photo: The dome of the meditation hall, Yogaville, Virginia.

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