BiND: Day 71
The gospel according to Mark is my favorite gospel. I love its breathless pace, its never-ending “and immediately”s, its drama, its shocking detail. I also love its relatively simple structure—in basically two acts, Mark (probably not the author’s name—this name as, as with Matthew, attached later to a text that was primarily intended for reading aloud…hence the great story!) tells us what Jesus said and did, what makes him so special compared to those other healers, those other teachers, those other messiahs who were always wandering around. In the first act, Jesus teaches and heals in Galilee. In the second act he heads for Jerusalem, toward conflict and crucifixion. The turning point between the two acts? Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark knows how to tell a story!
In light of the fact that we spend only two days on my favorite New Testament book, I’ve decided to blog it in the two acts rather than in the division laid out in the reading schedule. I hope you don’t mind.
In Act 1 (up to chapter 8:27), we have Jesus calling disciples, teaching people, feeding thousands with only a little bread (and remember, these aren’t loaves of bread like we think of a loaf of bread—re-imagine bread as pita and you’ll be closer to the real deal), healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, breaking the Sabbath…it’s an exciting section! Mark constantly says “and immediately…” leaving you gasping for air at the end of each chapter as you run all around Galilee. Mark also uses a surprising amount of detail—when there’s a storm on the lake, everyone is panicking except Jesus, who is asleep on a cushion. He’s using a pillow, and THAT’S the relevant detail in a near-death experience? When there are 5,000 hungry men hanging on Jesus’ every word (we don’t know if there were women and children there or not) and the disciples are, again, panicking about how to feed them, Jesus says to sit everyone down in groups on the green grass. What? I mean, sure, there is green grass, especially on the hills near the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere along the river, but for the most part Palestine is brown brown brown. When Jesus meets a deaf/mute man, he touches him, spits, and sighs. Sighs? That’s what we’ve got for a healing story? Can you see why I love Mark so much?
Mark Act 1 is broken into a few basic sections of teaching and healing, each begun by the calling and teaching of the disciples. Interestingly, each also involves a story of Jesus giving sight to a blind person, even as the disciples become more and more dense and lacking in insight. I often wonder if the juxtaposition is intended to remind us that sight is more than what we do with our eyes.
Act 1 ends with Jesus asking what people are saying about him, and then very pointedly asking “and who do YOU say that I am?” Peter responds with his one big moment, the one time he gets it right, his flash of insight: “you are the Messiah.” And from that moment, the moment when a human being, not just a demon possessing a person, when a disciple! finally gets it, Jesus enters Act 2 begins to teach them the hard stuff.
What did you notice as you read Mark, Act 1?
photos are from Galilee–ruins of first century Capernaum, ruins of a church built on Peter’s house (marked as a holy site by an octagonal church around the time Mark was written–the site of the friends who lowered the paralyzed man through the roof to reach Jesus!), the pasture/hill/tomb area of Gerasa/Gadara, where Jesus met the demon legion and put him into a herd of pigs who rushed into the lake and drowned, and the view of Capernaum from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. All photos taken by TCP.