Mark's gospel has a rapid pace, an excellent starting point for people new to the faith or simply exploring the possibility. Mark does not engage in long essays. Jesus does not make many long speeches. The stories themselves are compact. I tell students that it is like a flavorful sauce. Skilled cooks make rich sauces by the art of reduction. A broth may be simmered till it is reduced by half, then some wine is added and reduced. Finally cream is stirred in and reduced enough to cling to a spoon. In the same way, Mark extracts the essence of Jesus's story and tells it in small flavor components which add up to a rich experience. When we study the gospel, we separate each story as a component, and then tease out the flavor elements by repeated readings. Our skill in teasing out the elements is enhanced when we read what other gospel students have learned. Sometimes we compare what they say with what we see for ourselves, and decide that they made a mistake. That is okay. The key to successful study, transforming study, is to submit consciously to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. In the end, the importance of our study is not the ability to recite verses or reel off the content of a dozen commentaries. The importance lies in one thing: how each student draws close to Christ and how each student is changed by that experience. Nobody should read from the gospel and go away without being changed in some way by the Christ who is the center of the message. It is possible to study the Bible as an intellectual exercise, but God has prepared and preserved the Bible for his work of transformation, not for curriculum.