“What is this?” “Who is this man?” Such are the reactions to Jesus’ miracles, his healings and (more confounding, it seems!) his forgiving of sins in the Gospel of Mark. Sometimes we—with our middle-class, modern sensibilities—tend to domesticate Jesus, so that there is nothing particularly strange or discomforting about him. (Note the popular hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”…what could be more comfortable than a good friend?) But we are reminded in Mark—and elsewhere in the gospels—of the Jesus who is strange, revolutionary, and utterly confounding. That is the Jesus that we encounter in Lent.
As part of our Lenten theme this year we will journey together through this strange and wonderful story of Jesus as is depicted in the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel begins with many tales of Jesus’ power and authority. Midway through the story, however, this powerful man Jesus begins to venture in a different direction. Hailed as messiah and would-be king by those closest to him, he begins a stunning journey to Jerusalem, where his enthronement is not upon a throne but rather upon a cross. And so it is appropriate in this season of Lent, which is moving us closer and closer to that cross, that we experience the movement and fullness of this story.
For the several weeks in Lent we will be reading through Mark’s gospel, starting on Sunday, March 5th, and thereafter on succeeding Wednesdays and Sundays (see the outline provided.) This will constitute a departure from our regular, appointed texts. But it is an opportunity for us to engage—on a deeper level—the whole story of Jesus and his message, which is sharp and edgy, and sometimes not so neat and tidy as we would like to make it. It is the story of God’s return to his exiled people, the climatic moment in the story of Israel, the story of which we—as God’s people—are now a part.
I invite you to take this opportunity to dive into the scriptures as we journey in this story together. If you attend every service in Lent—both Sundays and Wednesdays—you will encounter the totality of the story in Mark. The reading plan is provided for you so that you may keep up with our community’s reading on those days that you may not be present with us in worship. We will be using Today’s English Version (a.k.a. The Good News Bible or Good News for Modern Man) which is an easy-to-read and widely available translation. We have many copies of these, and they will be made available at all services.
I also invite you to read this story prayerfully; to let yourselves be perplexed by its strangeness, confronted by its sharpness. It is an opportunity to dig beneath the surface and to discover who is this Jesus that we are bid to follow, and so to follow him.