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Breaking Free: Bible Studies on the Liberating Call of Jesus

Olson provides a practical way of reading Mark through the lens of one of the themes of the Gospel: liberation.

Olson holds a master’s of divinity from Bethel Seminary and a master’s in journalism from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Northwestern University. He is also co-founder of A Distant Wind, a religious consulting firm.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Olson employs a variety of methods in the study of the Gospel. The Bible studies were first developed with a multi-ethnic group at Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) in Fredericksburg, Va.  Olson wrote this book as a result of the insights gleaned from the group.
 
The study selects 15 passages from Mark, found primarily in chapters 6-10, which reflect the theme of liberation. He groups Jesus’ actions in the Gospel around three large headings: preaching, parables and performances. 
 
Each individual study is organized into two sections: “Setting the Stage,” designed to provide the historical and literary context of the passage; and “The Text to Read,” a running commentary on the portion of Mark being studied. 
 
Discussion questions follow some of the sections entitled “A Text to Read.”  For instance, in his discussion of Mark 4:33-41, Jesus’ calming of the storm on the sea, Olson interweaves helpful historical background on the characteristics of the Sea of Galilee and ancient fishing vessels.  He locates the text within a narrative framework, being careful to note how passages that precede and follow this text amplify his interpretation. 
 
Olson discusses connections to the contemporary audience by illustrating his argument with stories and music that reflect the theme of liberation. His discussion questions also facilitate application to daily life. 
 
Olson provides a practical way of reading Mark through the lens of one of the themes of the Gospel: liberation. Olson misses an opportunity, however, when he ends his book with a study of chapter 14. He should have carried the study forward with a discussion of the ultimate example of liberation in the Gospel of Mark: Jesus’ liberation from the tomb. 
 
Any discussion of freedom in the Gospel of Mark is insufficient unless one reads the book in light of its ending.
 
William D. Shiell is senior pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.
 
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