Mark: The First Gospel


Here we are at the Sixth Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday, reading Mark 6-12. What I love about Mark and its place as earliest-written Gospel is its rawness. While its author(s) wrote out of a particular context with particular ideas in mind, along with this is still its comparative shortness, its urgency and sparseness. Williamson reminds us, “…according to the earliest traditions Jesus himself never claimed to be Messiah;” it was always other people. In this week’s reading we encounter the sending of the Twelve disciples to heal, preach, and teach. Williamson notes, “early on the disciples fail to understand the teaching of Jesus (4:10-13), although he repeatedly gives them private instructions (4:34, 7:17-19)” (p. 14)

As we read these chapters in Holy Week, I can’t help but skip ahead a little. Patterson notes in Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Life and Death of Jesus, that the story of the events leading to Jesus’ death “comes from writers and theologians a generation removed from the actual events surrounding Jesus’ death. … Told in context, it can become a powerful and moving story. … As a story whose content is supplied by theological reflection [rather than a simple accounting of historical events], it does not turn out to be a very realistic story from a human point of view.” (p. 6) About Jesus’ crucifixion, “It tells us also that he was regarded by his executioners as nothing, a peasant nobody who had the unmitigated temerity to challenge the great Roman Pax. But this nobody could be used. The manner of this death could intimidate others who might be inspired by what he did. He was crucified as a warning to others: this is what happens to people who might be tempted to think as he dared to think.” (p. 9)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but something I’ve noticed is that what is going on in my world feels very big and important to me, but is not impactful on big world situations going on. Nevertheless, the state still doesn’t hesitate to chew and spit out “little people” who break the rules as an example of what happens when one steps out of line. And it is amazing, but in historical context, Jesus was a “little person”! Who wasn’t afraid to stand out, who was obedient to God’s call in his life even unto death. Which is in itself a theological statement about who counts in God’s empire (in juxtaposition to the Roman Empire. As a Christian, his death and resurrection mean plenty to me, but neither of those things would matter had he in his earthly life not been so faithful to God in ways that tangibly benefited all the other “little people” around him, always making it clear that they mattered in God’s Empire.

This week we read Part 2,  “Managing Your Time,” Chapter 17, “How Others May React to Your Time Management” of the T+P+A Big Read 2019, The Lifelong Activist. Rettig states, “Some of the people you say ‘No’ to may call you ‘selfish’ or ‘self-centered.’ You aren’t: you are being ‘self-directed.’ You may never convince them on the point, but make sure you yourself understand it and don’t feel guilty for taking appropriate charge of your time.” The people you need to be around will understand this!

C’mon over to People of the Books, our online book club in which we discuss this book and whatever else is on your mind or heart!


We continue on with our Lenten practice with Compton Heights Christian Church – reading and praying through Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp. This week we read Week Six, “Becoming a Compassionate Presence.” Rupp brings up, “The ultimate question is this: Will you trust that your loving presence and good deeds contribute to the dream of peace and toward the diminishment of travail in our world?” (p. 170)

So that’s her endgame. Will you?


Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.