The Bible is a long, living narrative – a story of God’s love which you and I are the present continuation of. Some books in the Bible do not have a good narrative “flow” and are so very difficult to read! But certain books truly read like a storybook. (Some books are actually more like a soap opera. Oh, the drama in the Old Testament!)
The Gospel of Mark is one of those books that flows really well. It was originally told and shared as narrative, and is a great example of how oral tradition was passed down in the early Christian church. You can find, of course, a ton of information on the internet about this Gospel. I found this particular article to be a concise, easy to read and informative summary.
It is a rare opportunity to hear the entire Gospel of Mark read aloud – better yet, performed. It is typically read in small sections. We recently had the opportunity to watch the Gospel of Mark performed by a single actor from memory.
First, I could not fathom memorizing that much narrative. I remember being “forced” to memorize sections of Luther’s Small Catechism during confirmation in middle school. That was a challenge. But an entire book in the Bible? Impossible!!
But, he did it – and it was very, very good. To hear a story told and interpreted visually is so much more captivating than simply reading it quietly. Seeing it also makes it easier to see patterns in the narrative.
In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus told a parable, or performed a miracle, or conveyed wisdom, you will see a common reaction from the disciples…
Mark 4:10,13 When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”
Mark 6:51b-52 They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Mark 8:17 Aware of their discussions, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?”
Mark 9:10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Mark 9:32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
The disciples were actually with Jesus. They witnessed his acts, heard the parables in person and often received a personal explanation after the fact! Yet the disciples could not figure it out! Jesus repeated his message over and over again, and I can picture the twelve staring back, blinking in bewilderment.
I’ve seen this stare before – from certain coworkers, from people I’ve tutored, and most recently, from my kids. It can be absolutely infuriating to say the same thing over and over again and be met with a complete lack of understanding!
What I must remember when I consider the reactions from the disciples is that I have the benefit of hindsight. Take a look at Mark 9 in particular. The disciples continually express confusion as Jesus begins to explain that he will be betrayed, killed and will rise after three days. Well, of course this was confusing. How would you react if someone told you this? To us, it makes sense. But we know how the rest of the story plays out!
This leads me to wonder – is the same thing happening right now with me and God? Like a parent to a child, is God trying to explain something or provide a life purpose for me which I am completely oblivious too?? Will I watch this on playback someday in the future and wonder how I could be so dense to not understand what God was trying to tell me!?!
But over time, the disciples did figure it out – and they served God and fulfilled their purpose in the early church. I have hope that the same will happen for me – with time, patience and my willingness to actually step aside from my own plans and listen to what God is saying to me.
So, I’ll end with a plea for continued prayers that I lose the bewildered stare; may I leave behind the focus on my own personal agenda, and open my eyes to God’s call for me!