Mark 1 – The Gospel According to Sonic the Hedgehog

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Today’s PassageMark 1

Mark hits the ground running. Unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t concern himself at all with Jesus’ birth or childhood. He jumps right into John the Baptist’s ministry as Jesus’ forerunner, and before the reader has a chance to draw a breath, Jesus has gotten baptized, been tempted in the desert, called his first four disciples, and cast out a demon.

Going into today’s chapter, I knew Mark moves fast, but I was still caught off-guard by the slam-bang pace. His signature word “immediately” shows up ten times in the first chapter alone! It occurs to me that it’s the perfect gospel for the modern on-the-go mover/shaker with scarcely a second to spare. In Matthew and Luke, we’ve seen all the events of Mark’s first chapter before, but Mark tackles them with aggressive efficiency, supplying only the most essential skeletal details.

But on this read-through, the rapid-fire series of events opened my eyes to something I might otherwise have missed. First Jesus calls the four fishermen to follow him, then later he performs his first exorcism in the sanctuary at Capernaum. Then, “immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon…[where] Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever” (29-30). Of course Peter wants to bring Jesus back to his house and his sick mother-in-law right after seeing a demoniac miraculously restored to spiritual wholeness! He wants to see what his new master can do for his family: and Jesus can do quite a bit indeed.

I’m also struck by Jesus’ aversion to fame in Mark’s account. No sooner do his miracles of exorcism and healing set off a buzz in Capernaum than he retreats to a solitary place to pray, and when he moves on and heals a leper elsewhere in Galilee, he instructs the man to keep quiet about the miracle (the man doesn’t). Even the first demon exorcised, in leaving the man at the synagogue, says, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (24), and he forbids the other demons that he casts out from speaking, “because they knew who He was” (34). Jesus, unlike other miracle men such as Simon the ex-sorcerer and the seven sons of Sceva, doesn’t court fame or social power through his fantastic feats. As his ministry begins, he deliberately keeps out of the limelight, as if concerned about tipping his hand too early or letting the news get out before the world is ready for it.

But the formerly leprous man, in flagrant disobedience of Jesus’ instructions, has told anyone and everyone, and now crowds are seeking to follow Jesus wherever he goes. The roller coaster has left the station.

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