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DE


DEEPER UNDE UNDERSTAN


ANDING


NGS


Themes in Mark By Mark Allan Powell


It’s time to become better acquainted with the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of our four New Testament Gospels. The church will use readings from Mark throughout 2018 as it follows the series B lectionary.


Mark tells his story of Jesus with an urgency that surpasses what is found in the other Gospels. Jesus’ fi rst words in this Gospel are: “The time is fulfi lled!” (1:15), and after that everything seems to happen very quickly in a world that is rapidly changing and will never be the same again.


Mark’s Gospel is imbued with a sense of mystery and ambiguity. Jesus doesn’t mind leaving people in the dark (4:10-12), nor does Mark feel any compul- sion to sort everything out for us. In particular, Jesus speaks about “the secret (or mystery) of the kingdom of God” (4:11); he tells people not to make his miracles known (1:43-44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26); and his very identity remains a mystery to most throughout the story (1:27; 2:7; 4:41; 6:2-3, 14-16; 8:27-28). The eff ect seems to be to focus attention on his climactic death and resurrection, for it is only through the cross that Jesus’ true nature and purpose becomes apparent (15:39).


Series editor’s note: This month’s article on the Gospel of Mark is part of our new series based on seasons and texts in our worship life. Next month we’ll look at Lent. —David Ratke, dean, College of Theology, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, N.C.


Mark off ers a very human portrait of Jesus. Of course, Jesus is an extraordinary, divine being who exhibits power over disease, nature and unclean spirits. But he is also depicted as a man subject to human weakness and frailty. He gets hungry (11:12), he doesn’t know everything (13:32), and he is unable to work miracles for those who have no faith (6:5). He exhibits a full range of human emotions, including pity (1:41), anger (3:5), sadness (3:5), wonder (6:6), compassion (6:34), indignation (10:14), love (10:21) and anguish (14:34).


Jesus is presented as a preacher of the gospel and the content of his preaching can be summarized in one sentence: “The kingdom of God has come near” (1:14-15). The phrase “kingdom of God” refers to the phenomenon of God ruling, wherever and whenever that may be. When Jesus says this phenomenon has “come near,” he means that the possibility of God ruling our lives is greater now than ever before. Childlike faith makes the possibility of God ruling our lives greater still (10:14); attachment to riches makes it more remote (10:25).


44 JANUARY 2018


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