Updated: Jan 12
Each of the Gospels gives us a picture of the life and mission of Jesus. They have been passed down to us as evidence of the veracity of the claims to his divinity and Lordship. The Gospel of Mark gives a straight forward picture of Jesus, reporting simply on many of the episodes of his public life. It is the shortest of the Gospels, but it is no less valuable than the others. Particularly, it offers vivid descriptions of Jesus’s life with his disciples.
Mark does not spend time on the infancy or childhood of Jesus, but starts by asserting the most important information about him: his divinity. “Mark opens in 1:1 with 'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, [the Son of God]' and then proceeds to identify that beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist” (Camp 9). This claim of divinity is then tied to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah, fulfilling God’s plan of salvation history. Thus, Mark begins with John in the wilderness awaiting the fulfillment of the promise, just as Israel wandered the wilderness before entering the promised land (Camp 10).
As amazing and important as this is, there is one particular aspect of this Gospel that sticks out to me. In all three of the synoptic Gospels, a conversation is recorded between a man and Jesus. The man begins by calling Jesus good. Jesus challenges him by reminding him that only God is good. Though perhaps a subtle prompt, Jesus is inviting this man to acknowledge the divinity and goodness that He truly has. This man wants to know what he must do to have eternal life to which Jesus replies that he must keep all of the commandments. The man replies that he has done all of these things. Jesus then tells him that to be perfect he should sell all he has, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Then the man goes away sad because he has many things.
Largely this story is the same in all three synoptic Gospels. Luke says the man is a Ruler, Matthew records that the man is young and asks Jesus what else he may lack. However, there is one very small detail that is present in Mark, but neither Luke nor Matthew, which I did not notice for many years. In Mark, when Jesus looked at the man, the gospel says that He loved him (Mark10:21). Mark makes clear that love motivates Jesus when he tells this man that he should sell all that he has, give it to the poor, and come follow him.
This is not love as the world proclaims it. This is not sentiment or good feelings. This is true love which wills the good and well-being of the beloved. This is not the “don’t judge me” love of a world drowning in sensation but starving for authentic love. Jesus knows that this man, like many of us, is too attached to this world which can never satisfy. He invites him to detach from his wealth, love his neighbor, and come follow the true source of all happiness and fulfillment. Yet, the man is filled with sadness “for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
The Gospel of Mark reminds me that I must be ever so careful to remember that my possessions have no lasting value. Jesus explains that the only things that truly matter are relationships, love of God and love of neighbor. We must be every vigilant to love persons, and not things. When we love things and use persons, we are far removed from the God who loved us into existence. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle then for such a man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Camp, Ashby. The Gospel According to Mark.Self-published, 2018