I Write As I Do Because of Mark’s Gospel

This is why I make critical observations about my inherited culture, and why I critically examine how it fosters confused identities.

Over the last eight years I wrote a commentary on Mark’s Gospel. It is now with the publisher and I am very excited to see it released at some point.

The commentary format called for explaining passages in Mark and then discussing how contemporary Christians might practice them.

A unique feature of Mark is the very negative portrayal of the disciples. The disciples almost never do the things that Jesus says disciples should do, whereas many “outsider” characters do the things disciples are supposed to do. The disciples are called “disciples” but they don’t act like they are, and other characters are not called “disciples,” but they act as if they are.

This raises all sorts of questions, and that’s the point. Mark’s narrative is designed to unsettle Christian audiences, challenging them to examine how and why they are not doing what Jesus has taught. They have become complacent.

Over the last eight years, then, I have had to write explanations of passages in Mark and then turn to examine myself and my inherited culture in this light.

In Mark, Jesus calls disciples to join him on the way to the cross and to resist the appeal of power. This has focused my mind on all the ways my inherited culture craves power and influence.

In Mark, Jesus instructs disciples to welcome the marginalized and put them at the center of their communities. This has focused my mind on my inherited culture’s prejudices and bigotries, all the ways it excludes the already marginalized.

In Mark, Jesus’ preaching draws huge crowds, which Mark portrays negatively. They are an obstacle to Jesus’ ministry. This has caused me to reflect on why my inherited culture tries to draw big crowds and sees popularity as a sign that ministry is being carried out.

In Mark, Jesus routinely warns people not to tell anyone about him. This has caused me to reflect on why I was taught to talk about Jesus as much as possible.

In Mark, disciples who want to be great in the kingdom become servants. This has focused my mind on all the ways my inherited culture encourages leaders to seek prominence and prestige.

I could go on, but this is just to say that I have come to see clearly the great distance between my life and Mark’s portrait of the life of a disciple. And I have come to see the great distance between my inherited culture and what Jesus says we are to do.

This has shaken me profoundly.

I do not write critical observations about my inherited culture as one who has it figured out and is condemning from on high.

I write as one who is troubled by the thought that, according to Mark, I have little claim to be a disciple of Jesus. I have taken some small steps to close that gap, and I feel that talking and writing about it will open up for me further options for continuing to do so.

3 thoughts on “I Write As I Do Because of Mark’s Gospel

  1. bshpalan

    Tim, it was within the first two hundred years that the church abandoned the practice of the way that Jesus taught us in service to itself. Over my lifetime, I have stood by and watched as the population of this country went from 10% not religious to 51%. The reason I believe, is a church that has promoted itself instead of the good news I read in the gospel of Mark and has promoted a perverted gospel that few can now accept. There are many of us out here, living just inside of the outer edge of the church because we are too embarrassed to be identified any longer as Christians and in search of the way that has been lost. Some of us identify as the”followers of Jesus”, who never once invited us to worship him, but continually invited us to follow him. Alan

  2. Bob MacDonald

    Good – let us all be troubled and do something about it. The current crisis highlights the problems for the church.

    I am always amused by my reflection on the earliest translation of Qohelet that I did in the style of Dr. Seuss.
    Keep your footing as you are walking to the house of God, and approach more to hear than to give an offering among the dullards,
    for they haven’t a clue that what they do is evil.
    כִּֽי־אֵינָ֥ם יוֹדְעִ֖ים לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת רָֽע

  3. bshpalan

    A friend, who belongs to the Roman Church, recently commented that they were in need and were praying for revival. However, as C.S. Lewis once noted, there are things that can no longer be fixed by simply turning left or right on the path. Sometimes you must return to the beginning…the place where you took the original wrong turn and take the right one, which. The church is at that place in history, I believe. We don’t need to revive what is sick, nor another reformation. We tried that and got a revolution that we are still paying for. The dead need resurrection. I have to believe that resurrection is coming. Death never has the final say. However, to state the obvious, suffering and death are the absolutely necessary prelude to resurrection. What we now have…must first die, including I suspect, my own generation.

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