This month we are reading Mark' Gospel together.
After the Triumphal Entry (Chapter 11) Jesus delivers some of his most striking teaching in the form of arguments with Pharisees and Scribes in Jerusalem and the Temple. Last week's readings closed with the poor Widow's offering. She, like the children we met in previous chapters is held up by Jesus as an example to his disciples.
Do not be like the Pharisees, be like the children and the widows.
Chapter 13 is distinct in the wider scope of Mark's Gospel. It is vivid, end-of-the-world stuff and contrasts brilliantly against the backdrop of healing and deliverance miracles which were so isolated and individual in their nature. Now Jesus is speaking about the whole world, how everything is going to be changed. We have experienced, with the Disciples, the wonders of Jesus' ministry with miracles and liberating teachings yet now he warns his closest friends that the way of child-likeness, of giving the 'widow's offering' of everything they have to God for his Kingdom will give them suffering.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in evey Gospel account, and here in Mark 13 the Spirit is the one who will give the Disciples the ability to speak the Gospel when they are hard pressed and persecuted. In this way it seems a providence that the Disciples should be persecuted, for in persecution the Gospel speads quickly and indeed this is the witness of the Early Church in Acts.
After this Mark recounts several of the details about Jesus' last days and shows him in full awareness of the fact that he would be betrayed and killed. He speaks the Gospel, which is the truth of who he is: That he is the Christ, the son of God (Mark 14:61) and it is his proclamation of this truth which causes his execution. Yet as Jesus taught his Disciples, so he now demonstrates: That the Gospel will be proclaimed when the children of God as persecuted in the world.
Mark's Gospel has two possible endings. There is good evidence that the earliest manuscripts ended at 16:8 but by no means is it conclusive enough to say that at no point was the longer ending a legitimate part of the text. It is interesting to imagine 16:8 as the ending, a pensive and ambiguous invitation to believe the man in the white robe, that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Astonishment and fear are the natural responses to such news and testify to the deep humanity of Disciples, and perhaps the fact that until the Holy Spirit came they had not got a clue what they should do.
The longer ending of Mark adds more details to the resurrection story, tells us about the great commission and gives a few clue about how the Disciples went and fulfilled the ministry he had given them. The point perhaps of the two endings is to demonstrate that the resurrection in itself was not enough to launch the Disciples into this new life. They needed the assurance and power of God in the Holy Spirit. Knowing more information is not, as it turns out, the source of Christian mission. The ascended Jesus who gives power from On High is.
3 Formation Questions
- What part of the Passion narrative did you find most compelling? Was it something Jesus did or something done to Jesus?
- How can you respond to Jesus? Which part in this passion play could you take?
- Who in your life is offended by your faith? Do you see any opportunity for the Gospel to spread through this?