Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Tuesday it is Mark

Mark 14:1—15:47

In the final analysis, Mark's gospel is really about the death of Jesus. It is more or less a passion narrative that also has an extended introduction.  Mark tells the story of Jesus primarily through the lens of His death and with the truncated account of the Resurrection, this is even more significant.  All of Mark's Gospel must lead to the death of our Lord.  It is a direct telling of the events with brevity, yes, but more in the sense of a lean telling that lets the death of Christ be the focus and nothing else.

Mark begins the Passion with brooding, shameful betrayal and tender fidelity. The enemies of Jesus in Mark's telling are the same from the beginning of the telling of the story of Jesus until now when they appear to have accomplished their purpose in killing Him.  They stay in character all the way through, hounding our Lord all along His ministry, opposing His teaching, and now seeing their plot to take His life fulfilled.

Amid the fragrant oil that filled the room and the shock of the extravagance of the woman's act we see the betrayal of Judas the the denial of Peter.  Jesus defends the woman and her act of love even as He warns the betrayer and the denier of what is to come.  Particularly poignant is Mark's record of Jesus' words: “she has anticipated anointing my body for burial” (14:8). 

Mark is particularly skilled at connecting stories -- the Holy Supper with the betrayal is but one example.  Even as the threat of an agonizing death hangs over the Upper Room and the Olive Grove, Jesus is calmed by prayer even though the rest of the apostles are too weary to pay attention.   The interrogation of Jesus is framed by Peter's denials as Mark adeptly points to both the courage of our Lord and His refusal to be distracted from His saving work.  

Amid the lack of clarity among some, when the High Priest poses the key of Mark's Gospel question to Jesus, He answers unequivocally: ”Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”  Jesus’ reply: “I am.”  As they mock our Lord with the symbols of authority He does not own, it is those very symbols and all that they represent that end up being mocked by the true authority of Him who came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

The end comes very swiftly in Mark’s account of our Lord's Passion.  In a sparseness of words that highlight what happened, it is as if Mark found it too painful to elaborate.  With one final taunt the irony of what lies hidden in Jesus and clear by faith is put by Mark: “Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (15:32).   Indeed, it is only because He is the Messiah that He will not come down from the cross and it is only belief must be in His suffering and death or it is no faith at all.  

Mark leaves Jesus stripped of His disciples, His freedom, His dignity, and His life.  Everything is surrendered for the sake of the world.  In Mark’s account, Jesus dies with a silent scream echoing from the dread hill to the temple where the veil is split and down into the heart of a centurion -- an unlikely witness who sees in the manner of Jesus’ death what is missed by those who put Him there. There, at the end lies the first full confession of faith expressed in the gospel: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (15:39). 



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