The Third Section
Updated: Mar 16
The third section will prove to be one of the most difficult sections to write, correctly. This section will begin with the three characters leaving Rome on their venture to collect the various traditions concerning Jesus. It is important to note that the emphasis upon this collection process will be with eyewitnesses or highly credible sources. The other aspect of this section which will take an incredible amount of work and reworking is to make sure that the theology of Mark comes through. It is tempting to shift towards a Pauline interpretation of the moment or even Luke and Matthew. Mark’s theology is unique from the others. In Mark, there are several themes which are consistent throughout the gospel. The primary theses are the suffering messiah motif and the cost of discipleship, leading to the cross. ]
The theology must also be kept in concert with the Sitz en Leben (life setting or context) to keep some type of accuracy. While there is much discrepancy about the audience of Mark, there is strong support that the Christian church in Rome was the intended destination. Therefore, the characters in the book will start out from Rome and travel to Jerusalem meeting with reliable sources and local churches along the way. It will become obvious to the characters and the readers that while many stories are available, the process of determining legitimacy will become a problem. It will be in the context of the fourth section that the two charters who will work together to compose the gospel will have to make decisions on accuracy as well as utilizing some stories that will help to promote the theological agenda.
In trying to bring in the many different cultural aspects that the author of Mark portrays, three characters will be inserted into the narrative of the historical novel. The main character will be a Christian Jew from Jerusalem who has traveled to Rome to help with a dilemma facing the church. He is asked by the leaders to collect the Jesus traditions and to organize them in a written document to help sort out what is the true story of Jesus and how this understanding might help their current members who are facing tremendous persecution, even to the death. The next character that is presented will be a young man who is a Roman citizen who has been educated in the Greek language. Since Greek was the universal language at the time, the gospel was written in Greek to appeal to a larger audience. In this story, the Greek young man is an unbeliever who will accompany the Jewish Christian on his mission to collect the Jesus material. He will hear all the stories and he will be the one responsible to write out the gospel. Of course, the direction and writing will be at the direction of the Jewish Christian character. The issues of composition and who has creative priority will come up in the next section which will also be challenging to write. The third character of this story will be another young man who is a Christian from the Roman church. He will act as guide to navigate the trip as he has in his possession a list of credible sources and their locations. Although he will not have any involvement in the writing of the gospel, he will certainly be available to express the concerns of his fellow believers in Rome.
The part that needs to be worked out has been alluded to earlier. That is, making sure the theological themes of Mark come through. In Mark we find a Jesus that understands himself to be the new Elijah. He sees himself as an apocalypticist who has come to share the good news of God. The summary of Mark’s Jesus can be found in Mark 1:15 where Jesus states, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” This statement alone demonstrates the apocalyptic belief that in a world controlled by evil, God’s reign is imminent, people are given a choice through repentance to live a righteous life and reject the controlling evil influences, and finally the good news is that those who chose to live a righteous life will be vindicated and allowed to enter the Kingdom of God.
Other theological themes that need to be incorporated into the story is portraying Jesus as the ‘suffering servant’. After the death of Jesus, the early church was in crisis for survival. How could it be that the one they believed to be the promised messiah, did not come as the people’s political champion who would destroy the enemies of Israel and take power back to restore the twelve tribes to prominence. Instead, Jesus died a shameful and humiliating death on the cross. Traditionally, this was considered a cursed way to die. So, the problem was how does the early church understand and explain this? How does the church promote Jesus as the promised messiah when his final destiny resulted in death and not victory? Through careful readings of their scriptures, what modern day had deemed the ‘Old’ Testament, it was determined that God foretold of a suffering servant as described in Isaiah 53. And it was this new understanding of Jesus that Mark wanted to get across to his readers.
In addition, Mark wanted his audience to understand that there was a cost to following Jesus. The cost of discipleship that might lead to one to their own cross and death. If the audience is indeed the Roman church, a church which was under great persecution from the Emperor Nero, the believers needed to be encouraged to stay the course. That despite the daily threats of horrible death, one must have faith that like Jesus his faith led him to his death. People cannot give up hope and fall away and be controlled by evil for then they forsake their chances to enter the Kingdom of God. In other words, Mark’s story describes God’s activity through Jesus to reform his audience and prepare them to enter a new age of vindication.
It will be these themes along with others that need to be expressed through the collected traditions that are them molded into what we now know as the Gospel According to St Mark.