Wednesday, September 27, 2006
When I was in high school I was inspired by a movie I saw one Saturday afternoon. The setting of the movie was a maximum security prison, but the story was an unfolding drama of one man’s passion for running. To spare you all the details, he dedicated all of his time to pursuing one seemingly impossible dream, to run, to compete, and to set the world record for the fastest mile. Before long the inmates aptly nicknamed him nicety-split. I’m sure you can imagine how the movie ended… He trained endless hours with lots of sweat, and then got the unthinkable opportunity to leave the prison yard to compete in the big meet. Did I mention he won? As someone who was striving to break a few records in the mile myself, I sat on the edge of my seat, watching the dedication of nicety-split, taking mental notes of everything he did, and if I’m honest, fanaticizing myself blazing past the opponents at the all-state championships. I was immediately inspired by his dedication, determination and discipline. I wanted to be fast, faster than anybody else.When we think of Jesus, we don’t typically think of exercise, much less running. Yet, have you ever wondered if Jesus ever got up early, laced His Nike-sandals and simply went out for a jog? How do you imagine He did in the foot races that boys typically partake in on their way home from school? Was He fast? I’m not sure about Jesus’ aptitude for running, much less, at the speed by which He was able to sprint down the dusty streets of Nazareth. Nonetheless, for Mark, it’s a different story. He wants us to see Jesus in the light of a Man who is on the move, and moving fast at that. Integrated into the opening scene of Mark’s Gospel, is the fact that Jesus is a Man of intense motion. “The Gospel of Mark moves at a breathless pace as though in a hurry to get the whole story out.” (Sounds like some teaching-pastors I know.) There is the frequent use of words such as ‘And,’ And then,’ ‘Immediately,’ and ‘As soon as.’ Mark uses these words to describe the unfolding events and interactions of his account. He repeatedly uses the adverb “immediately” or as some translations have it “straightway, suddenly, forthwith, directly, presently, quickly, speedily.” One can’t even casually read through Mark’s Gospel without taking a mental note of the frequent usage of this word. Bible translators have been so perplexed by the amount of usage this word receives that they typically begin using other English phrases to prevent repetitiveness, however in doing so, many of us miss the point of what Mark was trying to communicate by using the same word over and over in the first place. It’s the word euthus and it translated several different ways in Scripture. Mark uses this word more than any other New Testament writer. In fact, in the New American Standard Bible, (which by many scholars is considered to be one of the more accurate translations) the word euthus is used 60 times in the New Testament, 42 of those times are in the Gospel of Mark. It is this frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense, that denotes to the reader the continuous action, and serves to move the narrative along at a rapid pace. The only exception, of course, is where he pauses, which then as a result carries it’s own power for emphasizing various dynamics at work within the greater narrative. (For the Matrix junkies or the old Saturday Night KungFu lovers, Mark uses the speed-pause technique like the multi-layered fight scenes with the super-human jumping and fighting abilities that are always at super-human speeds, yet the camera slows down the frames during the execution of the fifteen-foot back flip over four ninjas, or the super-limbo-contest-winning back bend as the bullet goes flying by. Jesus becomes before our very eyes the Master of the Art of Living.)We will look at but one chapter to sample Mark’s emphatic use of this word to describe Jesus, His service, and the events surrounding His ministry. We’ll look at chapter one, and keep in mind that master writers like Mark, always insert key elements within the context of the opening paragraphs that serve to set the stage of the whole of their literary work.At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark Jesus is baptized and “immediately coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending” (1:10). Then after the Heavenly voice speaks, He is “immediately drove by the Spirit into the wilderness” (1:12). As Jesus walked “by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea.” Jesus calls them to follow Him and Mark records that they “immediately left their nets and followed Him” (1:16-17). Walking a little farther along the Sea he spots James and John and “immediately He called them” (1:20). The scene quickly shifts to them entering into Capernaum and “immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught,” not to mention the casting out of a demonic spirit (1:21-27). What was the result of all this? Mark inserts a bit of commentary before He takes us straight to the next scene by saying, “immediately This fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee” (1:28). But, as stated, this is only commentary spoken by the stories narrator. Mark quickly takes us back to the synagogue, which Jesus is now departing. “And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her immediately. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them” (1:29-31). The next day a man afflicted by leprosy came to Jesus imploring Him to heal him and “as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him.” And Jesus “sent him away immediately” (1:40-42). These examples are not isolated to the first chapter alone, rather it is a thread that runs through the whole of Mark’s Gospel, and his Gospel alone. Furthermore, when this thread is weaved together with the other peculiar expressions, such as “in the way,” “in the house,” “as He sat at,” or “as He walked in the temple,” we get “a glimpse of what is meant by ‘instant in season and out of season,’ and what is fitting of one who is called to be the Lord’s servant.”
Portraits of Jesus Reflect on how Mark uses particular words and phrases to describe Jesus, His responses and the events happening around Him. How do they influence the image of Jesus presented?Mark paints Jesus as one who is always accessible, be it early in the morning, after a long and exhausting day, while He’s taking a nap, or even during the midst of a sermon being given to a packed house and the only way in is to break through the roof. For Mark, Jesus is never not accessible to the needs of the common people, for Jesus is the ultimate Servant.
Have you ever felt as if Jesus didn’t have enough time to take a break from engaging the world to attend to you, who you are, and your need? How does the Gospel of Mark challenge this presupposition?
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.If your greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. (Author Unknown)