Mark’s Gospel: Invitation to Discipleship

A chapter in: The New Testament: Introducing the Way of Discipleship, edited by Sharon Ringe and Wes Howard Brook. Orbis Books. 19 pp.

The great Hebrew prophet Isaiah envisioned a day in which Israel’s God would “destroy on this mountain the net that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations” (Is 25:7). According to the evangelist Mark, that day dawned in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark believed that the story of Jesus was so extraordinary that he needed to invent a new literary genre. He called this “gospel” (Mk 1:1,15), a term he wrested from Roman imperial propaganda (news of a Roman military victory in the provinces or of the ascent of a new Caesar was
carried abroad as “euangelion”). But Mark is a decidedly anti-imperial story of liberation.

This gospel was written almost two millennia ago to help imperial subjects learn the hard truth about their world and themselves. Mark does not pretend to represent the word of God dispassionately or impartially, as if it was universally innocuous in its appeal to rich and poor alike. This story is by, about, and for those committed to God’s work of justice, compassion, and liberation in the world. To the religious, Mark offers no “signs from heaven” (8:llf.). To scholars or politicians who refuse to commit themselves, he offers no answer (11:30-33). But to those willing to risk the wrath of empire, Mark offers the way of discipleship (8:34ff).

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