On the Feast of St. Mark, our devotional reading comes from Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26.
2 Timothy 4:5–18
What, then, is the theme of Mark’s Gospel? What is his story about? Consider the features of Mark’s narrative, . . . the characteristics of character and plot and the progress of the story. When we read this Gospel with these features in bold relief, what is it that we see? As many have come to understand, we do see Jesus as the one who walks upon the way of the cross and leads his disciples therein. We see Jesus triumphing through suffering and the cross—saving his life by losing it—and calling his followers to do the same (chapter 8). But that, I would submit, is the penultimate concern of the Gospel of St. Mark. Rather, when one reads this Gospel against what else we know, when we read this Gospel against the foil of depictions from elsewhere—both the kerygma of the early church and the books of the Old and New Testaments, especially the other Synoptic Gospels—then we see a different, a stranger, and a more fascinating picture, a different, strange, and fascinating tale and protagonist indeed. . . .
Simply and succinctly put, in the Second Gospel we see a story hard to follow and a hero difficult to understand. Therefore, we cannot see clearly to believe (cf. 8:22–26). Or as summarized by the Jewish leaders at the cross (15:32): “the Christ, the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross in order that we may see and believe” (ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμεν)! In fact, this is exactly what this Gospel will not give: seeing to believe; clear sight to understand; unambiguous evidence to be sure. In this strange and perplexing Gospel, seeing is not believing; on the contrary, seeing follows from believing, not the other way around.
And what is it, exactly, that is to be believed? It is the Word—the Word of him who comes to bring the eschatological reign and rule of God (1:14), whose mission is to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45), indeed, the Word of him whose promises in this story are true and ever sure. . . . This, then, is what Mark’s Gospel is about: the ambiguity of the evidence, the necessity of believing in the face of such evidence, and the reliability of Jesus’ Word.
For Mark, O Lord, we praise You,
The weak by grace made strong,
Whose labors and whose Gospel
Enrich our triumph song.
May we, in all our weakness,
Reflect Your servant life
And follow in Your footsteps,
Enduring cross and strife.
Devotional reading is from Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26, pages 54–55 © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn text is from Lutheran Service Book 518:15.