|Icon of St. Mark the Evangelist, 1657|
Week 6, Day 4, The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 1
We have finished with Matthew's account of the life and teachings of Jesus and are now starting on the book traditionally attributed to Mark. This book is the oldest of the Gospel accounts, and the shortest. You can feel the bare-bones nature of the writing as you read it, as if Mark was rushing to get this on paper. The events of Jesus' life were still fresh in the mind of the author. He was writing this during the 60's AD, probably in Rome, and was writing to a mostly non-Jewish audience. These were tumultuous times for the early church, as Nero was persecuting and murdering hundreds of believers a year.
What Mark 1 shows us is the urgency of Christ. He only ministered for around three years, and had a lot to accomplish in that time. From the moment Mark begins, Jesus is hitting the ground running. It reads like someone out of breath telling you about the best concert they've ever seen.
The translation I usually read is the NASB, and in its account of Mark 1 alone, the word "immediately" is used 10 times. Often we think of "God's timing," as slow, methodical, or just not as fast as we want it to be. We have problems, we need solutions. We want God to act instantly. We want suffering to end swiftly.
The Greek phrase that has been translated into "and immediately" is kai euthus and it is repeated over and over again throughout the Gospel of Mark. Remember this book was written while Christians were having their homes and bodies burned by Nero and the Jews were revolting against the Romans--these were urgent times. This phrase, its repetition, and the stripped down, just-the-facts nature of Mark reflects when it was written. People needed to hear this story. In a world that seemed to be on fire, people needed to hear about a God that had changed the world.
The world is still on fire, it seems. Things seem to be spinning out of control, and everyone is terrified of everyone else. We like to think of ourselves as progressive and advanced, but we are still scared, violent humans just like they were in the first century. We still need the urgent action of Love that was unleashed on the world in the first century. We are too easily pulled backwards into regressive actions of violence or hatred or legalism when the truth is all of those actions were rendered obsolete. When we realize we don't have to live in fear or hate or legalistic restriction any longer, our lives change.