Friday, September 14, 2012

Mark's Themes 2

continued from Wednesday
... Although we have to remember that Papias himself may have his own agenda in the way he presents this information, it is striking that this statement probably comes within 50 years of Mark's writing.

We get the impression that Mark doesn't necessarily present all the events of Jesus' ministry in order. We wonder if Mark is, in part, a collection of individual stories that were circulating especially in early Christian preaching, including the preaching of Peter. Of course we should also be very careful to let the Gospel of Mark itself have the deciding vote.  If this tradition seems to fit, great.  But if it doesn't, Mark itself should have the upper hand.

However, in my opinion, the above description seems to fit Mark's structure fairly well.  We can discern a basic outline to the book.  There is some structure to some smaller collections of stories. But much of Mark seems to be one story after another. If all we had were Mark, we would probably think that Jesus' ministry took place within the space of about a year, since only one Passover is mentioned. John, of course, gives us the impression it was more like three years.

Despite this somewhat loose structure, we can discern some clear themes that run throughout Mark. One is the sense that Jesus kept his identity as messiah somewhat hidden during his time on earth. The second is that the disciples didn't really get the nature of his mission.  The third is then that Jesus' mission on earth was to suffer and die for the world.

The Hiddenness of Jesus' Identity 
One of the distinctive features of Mark is the extent to which Jesus tries to contain his fame.  For example, in Mark 1:44 Jesus tells a leper he healed not to tell anyone.  It doesn't work, of course.  The leper tells everyone, and Jesus soon can't enter villages publicly because of the crowds. In chapter 2, a crowd is so thick in a house in Capernaum that some people actually dig out a hole in the roof to let a paralytic down for Jesus to heal.

It makes sense that Jesus would try to keep his healing activities under wraps.  After all, we see happen in the Gospels exactly what Jesus was trying to avoid.  He is mobbed and has to spend most of his time out in the countryside. By the way, this is a reminder that Jesus played it by the human rules while he was on earth. He did not use divine omnipotence to get everything he wanted. Indeed, he may not yet have known how much power he actually had...

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