Tonight we’re going to wrap up Mark’s gospel at our study group. We finished going through the text last week and this week we want to draw out some of the big ideas so that they stick in the minds of those in the group for future readings of Mark. It’s a fascinating ride starting as Mark develops a picture of the Messiah king in the chapters leading up to 8:29 and Peter’s great confession. Then he turns the narrative a bit to show us a second identity to which Jesus claims fulfillment – that of the Suffering Servant. Leading up to the cross and including the cross narrative the text is absolutely littered with references to Isaiah and not only to the traditional ‘servant songs’ but also to numerous passages dealing with both judgment of Israel and the restoration of Israel which also marks the occasion when the gentiles will come streaming in. Its a masterful narrative that in one sense is fairly simple to understand, so much so that some have often summarized Mark’s gospel to teach ‘who Jesus is and what he came to do’. Yet it also has so much depth and will keep you wondering for days as to why Mark chose to arrange the material the way he did. Its a gospel that calls for deep reflection and life evaluation.
As a Christian reader of Mark’s gospel, as one who has acknowledged the atonement to which the narrative points I was really overwhelmed by one giant challenge that Mark throws at those who would follow Christ – the call to die to self, to take up ones cross daily (8:34-36). If there is one application the Christian community needs to grab hold of it is that – we, as those having been cleansed by the atonement, are called by God himself to die to our own wants, needs, desires, motives, attitudes and passions and live for the wants, needs, desires, motives, attitudes and passions of Christ, which means crucifixion every single day. It’s a hard call and without the atonement it would be an impossible call to even attempt to respond to. However, in light of God’s mercy we must respond – we must die.