Mark Part One Deep Dive
AN IMPULSION OF IMMEDIACY | RYAN KERRISON
German-born theologian Martin Kähler famously described Mark’s gospel as a ‘passion narrative with an extended introduction’. After further analysis of John-Mark’s literary style, this statement proves true, particularly through the frequent usage of the word ‘eutheos’, variously rendered as ‘immediately’ or ‘straightaway’. As you read this gospel account, you’ll see this word no less than forty times! Along with eutheos, we have another frequently appearing word, the humble Greek word ‘kai’; this word functions as a device for action. This Deep Dive will explore some of the reasons behind the author’s literary techniques and arrangement choices.
Before we dive in, it’s important to remember that John Mark–hereafter Mark–arranged his gospel account in the form of ancient biography. These biography formats were often used by Greco-Roman scribes and authors to simultaneously inspire listeners and emphasise virtuous elements of the subject’s life. Mark does deviate somewhat from the typical format in favour of highlighting the portrait of servanthood. He references Zechariah’s prophetic announcement regarding the ‘Servant Branch’ in Zechariah 3 and carries this motif through his account. Mark works to create a dynamic and fast-paced narrative, leaving many to ask why this author was in such an apparent rush to recount the story of Christ.
One fun theory is that of the author’s age, some postulate that he was no more than nineteen, and that his youth may have impacted his vocabulary choice when constructing the account. Another, that Mark’s motive was to show the close link between obedient human-action, and God’s faithfulness to direct one’s steps with Him.
The chief theory regarding Mark’s word selection is that of a servant-master relationship paradigm between the Son and the Father.
Note: This is not to suggest any kind of subordinationism within the Godhead–simply put, this means a hierarchy of substance & being between the Spirit, Son & Father–however, in conjunction with other NT passages (John 5:19, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:27-28), the role of the Son and those who are loyal to Him is seen as one of servanthood.
Mark chooses to display Jesus’ servitude with both urgency and efficacy. He is willing and able to do as He sees the Father doing. This theory corresponds neatly with the overarching agenda of Mark, portraying the glory of the Son as the servant of the Father as seen in Mark 10:45.
M 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
This passage, as well as a closer look at Mark’s schema will be the subject of the next Deep Dive. But for now, back to the contributing factors of Mark’s apparent immediacy.
Alongside the grammatical techniques outlined above, various scholars regard Mark’s account as a finalised literary form of Peter’s final evangelistic call; a gospel of action. That action, intrinsically involving suffering and death, as Peter and the disciples discovered on multiple occasions. Like many of Paul’s letters and Jesus’ own rhetoric show us, the concept of servanthood unto a Lord was extremely common. Not surprisingly, when considering a servant, the nature of one’s service becomes a primary consideration. When Mark 10:45 is drawn into the crosshairs, the intended target becomes clear. Mark seeks to portray Jesus’ own perfectly intentional actions and laser-focused mission as an example worthy of following. As the Messiah who had been promised by the prophets, through a royal line, the audience would have been expecting a saviour who was worthy of being served in the same sense as slaves served their masters during the time. Mark specifically focuses on Jesus’ actions rather than His pedigree, simply because the Greco-Roman world care for little other than one’s ability to produce tangible, measurable results–over and against mere words. Jesus’ works and deeds were more powerful, in this context, than His claim to royal lineage, however legitimate. Mark constructs an appeal to his audience to see the entire life of Christ, His actions and the Spirit with which He accomplished such things, so that through them they might see the Kingdom of God. And not only this, but to call His followers to serve the vision of God immediately and with great action, in anticipation of His return.