Mark: Summary and Tentative Conclusions
I call this a tentative conclusions because with the Gospel and the Spirit there are always new insights, perspectives and leadings. One can never say the definitive word about the life of Jesus or the message he preached.
This Gospel has a noticeable lack of higher Christology and profound theological implications about the identity of Jesus that takes a major hold of the other Gospels. It seems a simple story, on of conflict but also of peace.
Jesus came preaching a message: repent, the kingdom of God is near. I take this to mean turn away from the direction you are walking which was trespassing on others and walk with Jesus towards the Kingdom of God. Although the Kingdom of God is not defined, the manner of walking is. The “walk” means to serve other in word and action. Jesus main teaching and life example was one of service: healing, exorcism, parables and teachings. It all spoke of how God desires us to serve others. This teaching was in conflict with the religion of the day and the power structure within that religion. The Jewish Law dictated all aspects of life leaving little room for compassion or even service to others. And the religious leaders controlled how the Law was interpreted and instituted in daily life. They controlled the people through their religion. The people were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Religion squeezed them on one side and the Romans on the other side. They cried out for a Messiah who would set the religion right and run the Romans out of town. This Messiah would establish peace where the people would be free from oppression. But the Messiah who came did not come to overthrow but rather to preach peace. True peace can only come from the heart, a heart set free through transformation.
The people turned to Jesus in faith. His message and his actions demonstrated God’s compassion on the people and a possible reform of the religion. But held as a king, he might also mean the end of Roman control. Many flocked to Jesus in expectation. But this Gospel account does not address those expectations in any terms of fulfillment. Jesus’ message is on of humble servant-hood. Even his disciples, the closest of his followers, do not fully understand that message. A truly free heart is one that is bent on service towards others through compassion.
Power structures cannot stand those who do not play by the rules. Jesus should have turned his crowds and followers into a rebel army, that would have made sense to the leaders, both religious and secular. But he did not. And that confounded them. Jesus’ teaching took the wind out of their sails and was incomprehensible to the power structure. But it rang with truth to the crowds. Religion will not save you; it will only oppress you. The state will not save you; it will only oppress you. Salvation, that is freedom to live, can only come through service to others. If everyone lived by this code, this way of life, there would be no need for religion or for secular government. And that would strip them of all their power. In light of this, the religious leaders knew that Jesus had to die. So they framed him and forced the secular government to murder Jesus, an innocent man, to maintain their power. But Jesus knew the outcome of his teachings. Death was not to be feared.
Although the Gospel ends with Jesus’ death and a surprise ending, an empty tomb, the story continues in Galilee where Jesus had instructed the Disciples to meet him. What happens next? This Gospel does not say. We are left wondering with questions. The implication is if we all follow the teachings of Jesus then we might all go to the cross for fear of the power structure losing its power. But that would be the Kingdom of God. A message still very relevant today because it is still much needed today.