Reading 21: Wrap-up for Remarkable Mark

You may know that many scholars contend that Mark’s Gospel originally ended quite strangely with 16:8, “and they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” The rest, they say, were later additions to make sure Mark’s narrative included the resurrection narrative, so central to the Christian faith. Indeed, the most ancient manuscripts of Mark do not contain verses 9-20. Well, shoot, somebody said something to somebody, because we have the whole Gospel of Mark before us today! I hope you’ve enjoyed re-reading it as I have, or perhaps you’re just now reading it through for the first time.

Why, do you suppose, looking back now at the whole 16 chapters in which there is a sense of deep urgency (so much so that the word “immediately” is used 64 times in the book), has there been such a “Messianic Secret” in Mark? Though we, the readers, know who this Jesus is in the narrative, it’s fairly clear that most, including the disciples, for most of the time, don’t. And even after Peter correctly names Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus, in turn, tells them three times in his passion predictions that this means he must suffer and die, the disciples don’t get it. Or refuse to get it.

Get what? That for Mark, being the Messiah and following the Messiah are not primarily about power over nature, wind and wave, disease, or even death itself. Being the Messiah means suffering, willingly, for the life of the beloved, and that would mean you and me. Love has a measuring stick, and it is in how much we are willing to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the beloved. Those who follow Jesus aren’t looking for more power or status in worldly terms; we are called to take up our cross and follow, to lose our lives for the sake of finding them. It’s the Mark way. It’s the Jesus way.

  • How might Mark’s Gospel read differently, from a human nature perspective, if all of the characters from the beginning knew the fullness of who Jesus was? (The demons know, but the people don’t?)

Gracious God, the ways of the world are so very seductive, especially when it comes to power. Help us to realize and give us courage to live out the example of Jesus, who wants to be made known not so much as a miracle worker but as one who lays down his life for the beloved and invites us to follow in that way. Amen.

Tim Smith has been bishop of the NC Synod for just over three years now! He is, unimaginably, back in Salisbury where he graduated from high school 40 years ago and then left for 37 years. He and wife Wendy have three adult children and four grandchildren who are their “hobbies” and their “joy.”