Recently, I’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark. I had decided I wanted to re-visit the words of Christ and not just the works of Christ. If there ever seems to be a time where we need more than a historical account of Jesus’ deeds and really need to hear the voice of the Spirit of God in our lives in a real and personal way, it seems to be now. I chose Mark’s version of the Gospel for no other reason than historically it’s considered the first written Gospel of the four books. Mark’s writings are interesting to me because he was the cousin of Barnabas, had traveled with Paul (actually was rejected by Paul as a ‘too immature’ missionary) and Luke, but more importantly, he was a true servant of Peter. Matthew begins with a genealogical expression of Christ and speaks uniquely to the Jewish community. Luke methodically moves through the Gospel just as you would expect a physician to move through it- practically and slowly diagnosing the life of Christ. John brings the theological argument for Jesus’ authority and mingles the types and shadows of the Promise to the Chosen people of Genesis forward. Mark, for his part, jumps right into the adult Christ, presenting Jesus in a way that confronts us with having to decide quickly who this man is. (Kind of a ‘CliffsNotes’ version.) I thought it might be interesting to review what the companion of Simon Peter wrote about the Christ. Peter’s view of Jesus was a mixture of a disciple’s passion and man’s weakness. Mark’s writing is as close to the Gospel of Peter as we can get: mouthy, sweaty, thick-headedness, denials and all. Peter was also the disciple that the risen Christ comforted immediately by telling those present to be sure to go tell Peter of His resurrection.
Most of my motivation to reconnect with a Gospel text is because of what Jane and I are currently experiencing every day of our lives. Without even going into this past year’s medical crisis, let’s just say that what we’ve experienced in our family and our friends’ and acquaintances’ lives have left us almost ‘speechless.’ There’re many situations where words are just not going to be enough, or at least our words are not going to be enough. The only words that are adequate and that can make a big difference are Christ’s words! Jane’s medical crisis, her sister’s health seriousness, my brother’s death, some of our dearest friends’ loved one’s failures or needs and what we hear from listeners just takes our breath away. The visual trauma and heart wrenching events during Jane’s recent health damage and her restoration were and are mingled with great inspiration as well. Those stories have been balanced with a strong reality of the Presence of God in Jane’s and my daily lives. While we physically ache for other people’s disappointments and broken moments, at the same time we’ve found Comfort from that Presence. The intimacy of crisis is not comparable to any other life experiences. Let me slow that down a bit. The intimacy of knowing the Love of God during crisis, the illuminations and manifestations of the things we’ve hoped for and prayed for years, can be discovered even during the most stressful events in our lives. When we need Him the most He is there the most. I’ve mentioned before, I’m not glorifying sickness or broken-heartedness. It is not God’s desire that we should or would suffer those things. His plan was the plan found in Eden, not the one Adam visited upon Eden and all generations since. But, with Adam’s lack of Wisdom came a Remedy and a Comforting that provides and prepares us for those horrible experiences. In the ‘times of Adam’ I’ll call them, it’s possible for our eyes to see deeply into our heart and soul. Many times we find not only what has been built, but find the very foundation our lives are built on. It’s critically important for each of us that we know our own hearts and not just what we think we are in our hearts. To go forward, to progress in Faith, we need to see the roadmap of our hearts, where are we really at about our Faith in Christ in the situation we find ourselves in. We have an old saying around our house, ‘you’ll find out what you have on the inside when your cup gets bumped.’
In Genesis, God was a companion. Today His desire is to be our companion and He’s provided a new Genesis in Christ Jesus. He is the only companion that can make the kind of difference that we all need in a time of trouble. All our conversations with each other can be drowned out by one quiet whisper of His Spirit. It’s amazing how we can’t seem to help ourselves even when the obvious things threaten us. How many times have we had logical, caring, reasonable conversations with those closest to us, only to have the thing we ‘most feared come upon us’. We are such a strange creature. We can define good and evil, know what we should do, but can’t seem to do it. Like Paul, we turn around and do the very thing we should not. That naturally creates all kinds of stress in us and those around us. It’s an old story, of course. In Genesis, there was a great darkness on the earth. God created a great light to shine on the darkness and darkness could no longer exist in the Light. There’s a great Darkness on the earth still. God created a Great Light to shine into the darkness and dispel that Darkness: Jesus. That Darkness blinds and is powerful enough to deceive. Strangely enough, the creature loves that Darkness. In our rebellion, our spirit Narcissism, we substitute our thinking and knowledge for His Wisdom, thinking we are our own light, we know the way to go, the thing to do. Surprise, surprise! there really is a way that seems right but leads to calamity. We end up simply just being too ashamed to Trust in His Love. Faithfully and thankfully, though blind, God has sent us Christ Jesus to give us sight, be a Lamp to us and show us the Way. Just as Nicodemus, we all come by way of Darkness to find the Son. In His still small voice we can hear and know His Presence. ‘No-thing’ can separate us from the Love of God and in great Joy and in crisis His words can flip the switch in our hearts.
Mark’s writings are so precise. In his telling of the first sermon of Jesus it takes Mark all of 17 words to ‘get’er out’! Mark just puts it out there and lets people do with the facts what they will. No frills! He was kind of a ‘cut to the chase’ kind of writer. Mark above all the other Gospel writers uses an economy of words to share the inherent power of Jesus’ words and actions. He did not embellish them; Mark simply boils the Message down: ‘it is time…the kingdom of God has come, you need to respond to that…repent! (Mark 1:15) Sermon over!