Today is the feast day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. His was the first Gospel written, around 65-75 A.D., to Christians who were under persecution for their faith.
Mark's is the shortest gospel -- only sixteen chapters -- but they are power-packed, action-packed chapters. Mark's gospel begins abruptly and ends abruptly. There is no birth narrative. Mark gets right down to the business of addressing his audience with the first verse: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The endings of Mark's gospel can be perplexing. Did the women tell anyone that Jesus was raised from the dead? Did they not tell? The answer is probably yes to both questions.
There are some identifying traits in Mark's gospel that I especially like. One is the story of Jesus being in the wilderness for forty days. Mark says that Jesus was with the wild beasts. I like to think that the wild beasts enjoyed the company of the One who created them. Another trait of Mark's gospel is its use of the word "immediately." This helps move the action along and shows Jesus' life to the Roman audience. It also makes the story easier to read aloud. In the early days of the Church, it is probable that this Gospel would have been read aloud in its entirety at one session. This takes about two hours.
Mark's name shows up in scripture in more places than the Gospels. Mark had to bear St. Paul's disappointment with him when Mark turned back from a missionary journey. By the end of Paul's life, Mark was back in Paul's good graces. Mark was also a friend of St. Peter, from whom it is believed that Mark received much information for the Gospel that bears his name.
Tradition has it that Mark was the first bishop of the Church in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died a martyr's death. We give thanks on this day for his faithful witness.
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek