An Overview of Mark
As the research and second draft proves to be arduous and painstakingly slow as I am still trying to grasp hold of the overarching themes in the gospel which motivated the author. A close read of the gospel proves that this work is intricate in every aspect. Still an attempt must be made to establish a beginning overview of the work. An overview which will undoubtedly change in time. However, this overview will guide the chapter regarding the characters in the present story and how they worked through crafting a story about the good news of Jesus the Son of God as a means of support to their audience in Rome. Here then are the main ideas that will guide the writing chapter.
The author of Mark has been called to address problems that are occurring in the Church in Rome. There is apparent persecution, fear, and apathy amongst the members of the church. These people are afraid for their lives and feel hopeless and confused as to why they have been abandon by Jesus in their greatest time of need. The church in Rome is under attack, the home church in Jerusalem is on the precipice of being destroy by an impending Roman surge to regain control. The church members are asking why Jesus hasn’t returned and destroyed their great enemy, Rome. The mockery directed at the church, the beatings and killings of its members has them wondering why there aren’t any great miracles being perform like the days of old when Jesus walked the earth.
In light of these horrific situations, Mark has been called to answer their call. Through the gospel, the author establishes a very direct and purposeful approach to their situation. The church members must understand what obedience and faithfulness is, as Jesus provided not only the sacrifice but the example of a faithful disciple that led him to his death. Likewise, there is a cost and responsibility in following Jesus, a responsibility of obedient discipleship and the perhaps the cost of their life in being faithful. This is Mark’s message.
So, how does Mark go about justifying this to his audience? He writes this gospel of good news in a complicated two-level approach. On one level for the simple minded who cannot not understand the depth of Jesus’ message. And then for the faithful who understand and realize the cost to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus, for Mark is presented as an apocalyptic preacher, much like John the Baptist. As an apocalypticist, he understands that the world is comprised of two competing elements, evil and good which fighting for control of the world. Those one who chose to follow Jesus and understands his message has chosen the path of goodness. This who reject his message are controlled by evil and are doomed. At the present time, evil is winning the war and the outlook is pessimistic. However, those who understand and follow Jesus will be vindicated by God at the end of days. And those end of days are currently upon the people. As stated in Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “the time has been fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near; repent of your sins and believe the good news.”
Another key aspect to understanding Mark is his emphasis on the Old Testament understanding of land. In the Old Testament, it was Moses who led the people out of exile with Joshua who leads them into the promised land. It was also the example of Elijah and his protégé Elisha that influences Mark’s understanding of Jesus’ and John’s purpose. At the beginning of Mark’s gospel, John the Baptist is introduced, one who came from the wilderness to initiate Jesus’ ministry through Baptism. For Mark, John set the precedence that Jesus followed. It was John who would provide the people an opportunity to escape exile with his message of repentance. And it was the religious leaders who rejected his message in an attempt to preserve their old cultic Temple practices of purifying people and making them presentable before God. So, like Moses and Elijah, John prepares the way for Jesus to lead the people into the Promised Land, both for the Jew and the Gentile alike. Through various miracles in Jewish and Gentile territories, Jesus purges the land and cleanses the people. He will exorcise the demons of Rome and send them as pigs into the sea. He will perform miraculous feedings in Jewish lands as well as Gentile lands to establish that he is the one that can feed the people a new manna in times of need.
Mark’s Jesus will also go to Jerusalem to replace the Temple, the cultic practices, and the religious leaders. Jesus will figuratively dry up the fig tree from the roots and cast the mountain into the sea. These will be the signs that the faithful disciples must watch for. And there will be a cost to pay, like Jesus who paid the ransom with his life so that all faithful disciples will understand. The audience who hears Mark’s message will understand and will respond but not like the hardhearted disciples who denied and abandon Jesus at his time of need. The church members of Rome are called to likewise understand in their time of persecution that Jesus is there with them at all times, even though they might experience mockery, beatings, and death. Like Jesus they are called to imitate the suffering servant and to be a faithful disciple, one who will enter the new coming kingdom of God which is initiated at the death of Jesus. This is the messianic secret, that the church in Rome must recognize. That the coming kingdom has begun and is slowing evolving. It does come about through an immediate grand political warrior, but a kingdom that slowly evolves and comes with faithfulness even unto death.
This is the beginning structure of what must worked through when placing these thoughts onto the lips of the characters of the story. As mentioned at the beginning, it is a slow and meticulous time for reading, research, contemplation, and writing. Once complete, then the fine-tuning work of reading through and correcting in a third draft will begin.