Mark’s Gospel is wonderfully crafted, with every aspect of it employed in conveying its message, even the way it is structured.
The first of our passages is the tiny prologue to Mark’s Gospel, in which he
“sets out his stall”, declaring his purpose in writing the Gospel and announcing the spiritual identity of Jesus.
The next three passages form the framework around which Mark builds his
Gospel. Three times a voice declares that Jesus is the Son of God: at his baptism at the beginning of the Gospel, at the transfiguration at the apex of the Gospel, and at the end when Jesus dies on the cross. The first two voices are the voice of God; the third is the voice of the Roman soldier, showing that the message has gone out to all the world.
Each of the three occasions is described as a glimpse into heaven – at Jesus’
baptism we read of heaven being “torn open”, at his transfiguration we see the light of heaven and the presence of great men of God from beyond the grave, and at his crucifixion the Temple veil, which hid the Holy of Holies from the ordinary people, was torn in two.
The structure of Mark’s Gospel is like a sandwich – a piece of bread then the
filling then the second piece of bread. The first slice is taken up with stories detailing the signs and wonders that demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God – again and again Mark reports that people were amazed at his teaching and miraculous power over nature and demons. The other slice of bread is the story of his suffering and death. The filling is the teaching section that connects the two and helps us see how the sorrow and suffering belong together with the signs and wonders.
Why did Jesus come to John to be baptized – surely he didn’t need to? Perhaps this was a sign of: identifying himself with all people; his ministry commencing; leaving his parents and community of origin to claim God as his Father and the faith community as his people; his self-dedication to God; or that he is going before us through the waters of the Jordan, leading us to the freedom of new life.
What do you think?
• It was seeing how Jesus died that made the centurion say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” How about you? What made you put your faith in Jesus and choose him as your Lord?
• In what ways do you feel it changes things, to accept Jesus as your Lord? On a day-to-day basis, what difference does it make to your life?
O God of our salvation, whose love and humility were made manifest to us in your Son, Jesus, may the revelation of his grace and power illuminate our hearts and minds, until by his Spirit we are transformed into his likeness. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.