By Don Ruhl
Are you a servant? Mark shows Jesus as a servant. If Jesus was a servant, surely we should be.
Mark began his account of Jesus in classic epic form, jumping right in the middle of the action. Mark does not show the birth of Jesus (as Matthew and Luke do) or that He existed before His earthly sojourn (as John does), but when we begin reading the Gospel According to Mark, we immediately enter the public ministry of Jesus, going from one event to another with little commentary.
Jesus in Public
If you peruse chapter 1, you will see Mark covering several different actions of Jesus, but never dwelling on any of them long.
Suddenly, by chapter 3, His enemies already want to kill Him, “Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3.6).
Also, in chapter 3, you will find an expression that Abraham Lincoln used, knowing fully that the people to whom he spoke were aware of the context, “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3.25). On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. Lincoln began,
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention. If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.
You know what happened eventually.
These are narratives within narratives. In Mark 5.21–24, Mark narrates Jesus going to the home of a synagogue ruler to heal his daughter. However, on the way, another incident happens and Mark narrates that (vv. 25–34). After showing us how Jesus dealt with a woman who touched Him, Mark then takes us back to Jesus dealing with the daughter of the synagogue ruler. This seems to be part of Mark’s method of giving us much information in a short time.
Heading for the Crucifixion
In Mark’s narration, he takes us through events quickly, all of it building toward the crucifixion. Even one of the disciples of Christ objected to His prophesying of the crucifixion. So, Jesus had to rebuke that disciple, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mark 8.31–33).
Again, Jesus revealed what was coming, “Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.’ But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9.30–32).
By chapter 11, Mark already has us in the final week of Jesus.
In chapter 15, Mark revealed, in Jewish time, these times surrounding the crucifixion, “Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him…Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (Mark 15.25, 33, 34).
In John 19, John used Roman time and said, “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’” (John 19:14). Interestingly, putting Mark’s times and John’s times together, they make the shape of the cross on the clock.
Josephus called crucifixion “the most wretched of deaths.” The Roman Seneca thought that suicide was better. Alexander the Great and his generals introduced crucifixion to the Mediterranean world, having brought it from the Persians, but the Romans perfected it. The Romans would even crucify people for the sake of entertainment.
Countee Cullen wrote a poem about Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15.21), who carried the cross for Jesus when He was no longer able to carry it or was not doing it fast enough for the Romans,
Simon the Cyrenian Speaks
He never spoke a word to me,
And yet He called my name;
He never gave a sign to me,
And yet I knew and came.
At first I said, “I will not bear
His cross upon my back;
He only seeks to place it there
Because my skin is black.”
But He was dying for a dream,
And He was very meek,
And in His eyes there shone a gleam
Men journey far to seek.
It was Himself my pity bought;
I did for Christ alone
What all of Rome could not have wrought
With bruise of lash or stone.
Ernest Hemingway assumed biblical literacy on the part of his readers when he wrote, The Old Man and the Sea. The fish has been used to symbolize Jesus.
The Bible and Its Influence says,
The Old Man’s bleeding hands recall the nails in Jesus’ hands. The way the Old Man holds the line across his back is reminiscent of Jesus carrying the cross. The Old Man collapses carrying the mast and boom (shaped like a cross) in much the same way that Jesus fell on his way to crucifixion. The Old Man lies on his bed with his hat cutting into his head. That suggests the crown of thorns. The Old Man’s name, Santiago, is Spanish for Saint James—an apostle and a fisherman. And finally, the fish itself ends up a mangled and hideous sight (page 225).