Another month, another instance of me not even trying to post regularly. During summer, I actually have less regular access to the internet. I have been doing things, however: home repair, hanging out with my fiance, visiting friends, going on vacation to western New York and seeing Niagra Falls, that sort of thing.
I’ve also been rereading the Gospel of Mark, and I’ve gotten into an excellent commentary: Mark for Everyone, by N. T. Wright.
The Gospel of Mark, like all books of the Bible, is both straightforward and deep. One can read it only once without commentary and learn directly who Jesus was and what he did. One can read it many times, with endless commentary, and continue to pick up more and more facts, connections, and ideas.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is constantly doing things. He moves fast. He runs around Palestine, across the Sea of Galilee, down the coast to the country of the Gerasenes. In this summer’s biggest blockbuster, The Avengers, Captain America is a superhero who never backs down from a fight and is always willing to help the helpless. Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is like that. He is Captain Israel. Whenever there’s a young girl who’s recently died, Jesus hurries to the scene and performs a resurrection. If there’s a demoniac living among the tombs, Jesus rushes in and casts the demons out. When there’s a hungry multitude, Jesus gets there and feeds them.
Mark’s Gospel is also loaded with detail. He gives specific names, locations, and physical descriptions. He tells us what physical actions the characters take. His dialogue captures the ebb and flow of real human conversation. All of this serves as evidence that Mark’s Gospel is real, eyewitness testimony of the life of Jesus. As I mentioned before in my post about Simon of Cyrene, historians of the ancient world treat such details as indicators of real historical writing.
And Mark’s Gospel is highly theological. Some skeptics will try to make hay out of the fact that in this Gospel, Jesus never directly declares himself to be either the Messiah or God. In fact, for those who read it carefully, the text is packed with instances of Jesus claiming exactly those things. When Jesus declared that He could forgive sins, that was both a messianic and a godly claim. When Jesus healed people on the Sabbath and gave His followers permission to work on the Sabbath, that was both a godly and a messianic claim. N. T. Wright’s book is particularly good and explaining the symbolic significance of these and other key events in the Gospel.