The 2012 Little Portion Hermitage Retreat with Michael Card

Our Minister of Music, Billy Davis, and I are in Eureka Springs, AR, at a retreat hosted by the Little Portion Hermitage and being led by Michael Card.  The retreat is centered around the gospel of Matthew though it has begun with Card offering concluding comments on the gospel of Mark with which he dealt last year.

Tonight’s session was tremendous, as Card sang, led us in song and offered some fascinating comments on Mark.  I thought I might offer my notes from the session here.  They are raw and offered as I took them.  I hope, however, that they might communicate a bit of the content of Card’s teaching.  I will add my notes from tomorrow’s sessions sometime either tomorrow night or Sunday.


Michael Card – Matthew Conference
Little Portion Retreat Center
Eureka Springs, AR
– the Fall has disintegrated us / affects us on a cellular level / affects relationships / affects the way we read the Bible (head or heart)
– Deuteronomy 6:5 – the Shema (the great creed of monotheism)
– the best way we can show God we love Him is to listen to Him
– the imagination integrates the heart and the mind
– the Bible is not didactic, it demands that you engage / we are not stamp collectors
– the incarnation, the Lord’s table: we must engage
– we take a fact and seek to integrate (what does that mean?)
– who is Mark?  Acts 12, when Peter busts out of prison by angel, goes to Mark’s house / they are praying for Peter’s release / Marks’s cousin is Barnabas / Mark bugs out on 1st missionary journey / Barnabas goes with Mark / eventually restored to Paul / Mark’s mother Mary is important / Mark’s house may be the locus of the ministry in Jerusalem / may have been led to the Lord by Peter
– July 19, 64 AD – fire in Rome / 1 Peter 4:11, end of one letter & 4:12 beginning of second (“fiery” trial, Babylon = Rome, lion = Nero)
– only in Mark: Jesus with wild beasts / Jesus’ family thought He was out of His mind (the experience of the Christians)
– fast movement in Mark / “only 22 minutes of face time with Jesus” / no interest in “the sayings of Jesus”
– Mark is the only gospel without an agenda (not a bad thing that the other gospels have an agenda)
– Mark gives us the emotional life of Jesus (Peter probably behind this) / 15 adjectives to describe emotion, more than other gospels
– in Mark, Jesus is consistently covered up by people / rarely if ever does He get irritated with the crowd
– Mark 1-8 & Mark 9-16, both end with confessions, Peter and the Roman Centurion
– Bartimaeus (bar = “son of”)
– the gospel of Mark is all about Bartimaeus
– He is the disciple that Jesus has been looking for for three long years
– believing before healing is a theme in Mark: Peter confesses before n / man whose daughter dies / “Come down from the cross so we may see then believe.”
– Bartimaeus is blind = perfect disciple
– Mark 10:46-52 [with bracketed comments throughout]
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, [Mark and John translate but Matthew never does] was sitting by the roadside.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus [The only person in Mark who calls Him “Jesus”], Son of David, have mercy [hesed – 250 times in OT / translated in 14 different ways / KJV = “loving kindness” / Bruce Waltke – when the person from whom I have no right to expect anything gives me everything] on me!”
48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” [persistence]
49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.”
50 And throwing off his cloak [that’s all he owns], he sprang up and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”
52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Components of Bartimaeus’ story
1. Blind
2. Mercy
3. Persistent
4. “Jesus”
5. Leaves cloak
6. “go”
– Put yourself in this model. What would you ask of Him? You could be the disciple He has been looking for.
– distinction between primary and secondary: these details and nuances are secondary, but what the Bible clearly says are primary / bullet theology: those ideas you’d take a bullet for


Saturday, June 26, 2012

– review of the Bartimaeus assignment – plugging yourself in the story (share time) / [It’s really moving hearing how others have plugged themselves into that story.  You can really hear the frustration and pain in some of these voices as they call out to Jesus, like Bartimaeus, for help.  I think we sometimes forget the power of testimony, or I do.]

– learning to listed to the voice of Matthew

– problem with Matthew:  Matthew’s voice is less-distinct / i.e., John has a developed voiced over a long period of time, Mark – friend of Peter, etc., Luke – medical doctor, historian, etc. / but with Matthew, not developed around his personality:  i.e., Matthew is the most Jewish gospel and it’s written by the worst Jew (tax collector for Rome, etc.)

– this is secondary, not bullet-worthy

– the most Old Testament:  36 references, more than all other gospels

– only one unique tax collector story, the Temple tax collector, but that wasn’t the kind of taxes he collected

– the voice you hear in Matthew is that of “a Christian scribe” (in the scribal tradition) / scribe was an expert in the Law / knows his O.T., integrated with Judaism, but a Christian

– earliest word on Matthew from Papias in 103 AD [sources:  (Eusebius – Church History, read carefully) / need to read the (Babylonian) Talmud (commentary on the Mishnah – 20 volumes) and the Mishnah / Suetonius –Lives of the Caesars / Tacitus – Annals / Pliny the Younger – Letters / Ginsburg – Antiquity of the Jews (4 volumes, free on Kindle)] / Papias says that Matthew collected a series of logia, a collection of sayings (in Matthew we have 5 blocks of sayings of Jesus)

– 22 minutes of face time with Jesus in Mark

– Block 1 – 5:1-7:27 / Block 2 – 10:5-42 / Block 3 – 13:1-52 / Block 4 – 18:1-35 / Block 5 – 23:1

– Point 1:  the gospel wasn’t written by Matthew, it contains sayings of Jesus that were put together by Christian scribes

– Point 2:  we connect with Matthew by understanding to whom the gospel was written

– Crisis in Galilee:  Matthew is the gospel of Galilee / the explanation for Jesus moving to Galilee is only in Matthew / Matthew likely written for a synagogue community in Galilee (a new idea / the old idea:  that Matthew was written in Antioch for Christians)

– Galilee:  old idea – rural, “kind of a hick place,” people made fun of it / in truth, Galilee was the most heavily populated area in the East / Josephus, the governor of Galilee, estimates the population at 3 million (modern scholars refuse to do that) / looked down upon, marginal Jews

– crisis: Judaism is divided / Talmud says that when Judah is divided into 24 sections, it will fall / that comment was made right before 70 AD

– the Gospel of Matthew was written to Christians who don’t know they’re Christians / question in Acts: do I have to become a Jew before I can become a Christian? / when Claudius kicks the Jews out of Rome, he kicks them all out, including Christians / Christianity, a sect of Judaism / look for the use of the word “synagogue” in Matthew

– 40 AD: Caligula orders statue of self put up in Temple, but dies before it happens

– 52 AD: Claudius kicks Jews out of Rome

– 66 AD: First Jewish revolt begins in Galilee

– 70 AD: the destruction of the Temple (read Josephus’ account – he was there and was begging the Jews to give up – was allowed to go in and save one of his friends who was hanging on a cross)

– what does it mean that the Temple was destroyed? / what it means is, “it’s over”:  no more priests, no more Sadduccees, Herodians are gone, Essenes are gone, Pharisees are all you have left / Pharisees allowed to go to a city called Jamnia (modern, Javneh) where they reform Judaism (where the Mishnah comes from) – how are we going to replace Temple sacrifice, answer:  Torah observance (studying the Bible in the synagogue – accepted which books in the O.T.) / Gamaliel II (grandson of Paul’s teacher)

– Matthew written right around 70 AD, maybe a little before, maybe a little after / we need to be careful not to superimpose post-70 AD Judaism on pre-70 AD Judaism, the two are not synonymous

– Pharisees are not one monolithic group, all opposed to Jesus / the Pharisees divided themselves into 7 groups / all of these groups are divided / Jesus not coming up against a monolithic movement

– the big crisis:  Jamnia, “the 18 Benedictions,” 18 prayers / benediction = barocha, blessings / Gamaliel II asked Samuel the Small, a rabbi, to compose a blessing (benediction #12) / For the apostates, let there be no hope…let the Nazarenes and the heretics be destroyed in a moment and blotted out of the book of life / this created a crisis with the Christians meeting in synagogue / Talmud says to watch closely who does and does not pronounce the 12th benediction in synagogue / Christians being shown the door in Galilee (whether it’s happened yet in Matthew or not, it’s about to happen)

– the Gospel of Matthew is written to establish their new identity / faithful Jews in Galilee being kicked out of synagogue / shunned by families / ratted out by friends (i.e., “He did not pronounce benediction 12.”) / if you can’t recite that benediction, you’re bound / “Jews for Jesus” face this same phenomenon today / son of the orthodox rabbi in Nashville became a Christian and they put up a tombstone for him – “You’re dead to me.” / reading Matthew in this paradigm will make Matthew come alive for you / we do this kind of background work when we approach Paul’s letters but not so much when we come to the gospel

– major theme in Matthew:  kingdom / you’re part of a kingdom and Jesus is the King

– identity in Matthew’s gospel (working through “Identity in Matthew’s Gospel” handout)

– recommended McReynold’s Word Study New Testament

– Identity as an Organizing Principle for the Gospel of Matthew

– lepers are made clean:  has a new identity / you can do this all through Matthew

– Chapter 9 – Matthew given his name in the same way Jesus gave the other disciples new nicknames (Card’s own opinion)

– bleeding one, outcast, given a new identity

– the word “apostle” was recently applied to a ship – “something that is sent out”

– John the Baptist questions the identity of Jesus

– Lord of the Sabbath – probably one of the most shocking things the Jews ever heard / Card was once in Israel at a restaurant when they accidently served a Jewish woman non-kosher food.  She went crazy and tore the kitchen apart: breaking plates, dishes, windows, etc. / Lord of the Sabbath – Jesus is even Lord over the right things, like the Sabbath. / Jesus is Lord over your Catholicism, your Protestantism, your right interpretations, your theology, etc.

– (Bill Lane believe that Jesus became gradually aware of who He was.)

– Jesus and Beelzebub: confronting a false identity

– seed parables

– (Card says that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work – this identity scheme, but he’s working on it) / all the uniquenesses about Matthew have to do with identity

– Transfiguration: an identity issue

– ch.19 – Rich Young Ruler – identity = you follow Me, but he can’t embrace his new identity

– (identity is not just a major theme, it is an organizing principle)

– all self-disclosure in the Bible is Christological / we are defined by Christ

– the workers in the vineyard: identity

– sons of Zebedee: need to think about whether or not you really want to embrace My identity

– Temple cleansing / Jesus’ prophetic identity / etc.

– Mary’s anointing in Matthew 26 – (a woman’s intuition is often better than a man’s wisdom)

– Gethsemane:  Jesus’ ultimate struggle with His identity

– Peter and Judas both betray Jesus:  Peter weeps and repents, Judas tries to fix it / people who try to fix things usually end up hanging from trees

– Card’s diagram on the “Carmen Christi” (Philippians 2) and the Lordship of Jesus


We were unable to stay for the remainder of the retreat and had to get home, but both of us agreed that Card’s handling of Mark and Matthew were profound, insightful and edifying.  I would highly recommend the IVP books he is currently publishing on the gospels.

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