Posted by: jevcat | February 29, 2012

Marking Lent

In the daily lectionary for Lent, we have just started the Gospel of Mark.  Mark’s is the breathless, minimalist Gospel, told in a reportorial rush – the headline news, details at 11:00.  No infancy narratives here.  Mark plunges, headlong and eager, into the story he can’t wait to tell.  It may be my favorite Gospel — and who could resist Mark’s symbol:  a winged lion?

Lion of St. Mark from San Marco Square clock, Venice

The Gospel of Mark starts and ends, according to a commentary I once read, with incomplete sentences in the original koine Greek, something smoothed over in most translations.  Along with the absence of a resurrection story (well, there is one, but it’s sort of tacked on and appears to be by another hand) has led some to believe that, given the way books of that time were sometimes bound, early on a manuscript on which all others depend must have lost its outside page, and with it the original beginning and end of Mark.  I prefer to think that Mark was so excited about what he had to tell that he just spilled it out as fast as he could, with this energetic, almost choppy “just-the-facts-ma’am” result.

John, the latest of the Gospels, gives us a mystical Jesus of long-winded, esoteric speeches that leave everyone – his disciples and us – scratching our heads and asking each other, “Did you follow that?”  Mark gives us a Nike (don’t forget, that’s the Greek word for “victory” – one Jesus would have known) Jesus, one whose attitude is “Just do it.”  Time is short, get the work done, they’ll figure it out later.  He doesn’t give incomprehensible, convoluted explanations.  Mark’s Jesus trusts us to do our own thinking.  I like this guy.  He feels like one of us, even with the miracles.


  1. ” Mark’s Jesus trusts us to do our own thinking. ” My, my, my. But the churches and denominations and theologians don’t think us smart enough. They deny us our personal Jesus with their text book Jesus. I think all you need are those red letters in such editions.

    • I actually think my own, Episcopal, church does a really good job not only of not telling folks what to think but of encouraging us to think for ourselves, but even within the wider Episcopal Church — and definitely within the wider Anglican Communion — there are exceptions. I think mostly it stems from fear, despite the fact that we are meant to know that “perfect love casts out fear” (something I struggle with in different contexts). Or maybe it’s just a testament to how imperfect our love is.

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