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The theme of the Stauros Notebook is "Reflections on the Mystery of Suffering." Over the p

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Introduction

The theme of the Stauros Notebook is "Reflections on the Mystery of Suffering." Over the past several months we have examined suffering as it is related to the violence of our times. In this issue we will consider suffering from a different angle. We will examine the Gospel of Mark and how it relates to suffering. It is particularly appropriate that we do this now, since this is the year in which we are reading the Gospel of Mark each Sunday. Mark's gospel is a gospel of suffering Messiahship and suffering discipleship--we can perhaps relate to both. We know Jesus as the suffering Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Crucified. In Mark's gospel, Jesus is moving directly, quickly, steadfastly, to Calvary. It is a gospel of suffering discipleship--the apostles do not look good in Mark's Gospel because they do not understand this. Jesus reprimands them many times. After the storm at sea Jesus says, "Why are you so terrified? Why are you lacking in faith ?"(4:40). After he walked on the water the gospel tells us that they had not understood about the bread which he had miraculously multiplied. Their minds were closed to the meaning of the events, and Jesus says, "Do you still not understand?" Again, after the cure of the possessed boy, the gospel tells us that they failed to understand his words. And then, in the end, in Gethsemane, they all deserted him and fled. ...read more.

Middle

In Mark's gospel discipleship is closely bound up with the cross. The disciples do not understand suffering. In the end, they flee because they cannot come to terms with that suffering. They cannot see that suffering is a part of discipleship from which emerges a pathway of suffering. Mark emphasizes Jesus' desire to go the way of the cross. His point is that Jesus' followers cannot expect a fate different from that of their crucified Lord. Ivan Havener suggests that the reason for this emphasis is "that Christian discipleship is intimately bound up with the meaning of this event . . . Christ's followers must expect persecution; they must take up their cross and follow him (8:34)."3 The real point is what it means to follow Jesus. Mark's own community is experiencing suffering, and Mark wants them to know that suffering is a part of discipleship. We, too, need to know that suffering is a part of discipleship. We need to realize that, just as the cross was the way for Jesus, the cross must be the way for the disciple. The confirmation of suffering as part of life is a source of strength for us. There is little doubt but that Mark sees the disciples not simply as historical figures from the past but as representative of Christians of his own time. The instructions Jesus gives his followers, the difficulty they have in understanding him, and Jesus' bonds with them despite their failures, are all meant as challenge and consolation to the Christians who read the gospel. ...read more.

Conclusion

or sorrowful (3:5).5 This depiction of Jesus as a very human person can give support to persons who suffer, persons who experience deep emotions and feelings, persons who need to express anger, frustration, sadness, and feel comfortable in doing so. Mark's Jesus is inviting to such persons, lets them know that feelings and emotions are good, and can be compassionate toward them. Mark's gospel was written for a particular community in the first century, a community facing persecution and death, a community facing a crisis of faith, but it is just as much a gospel for today. Ours is a society that negates the value of suffering, a society that is almost addicted to "feeling good." Ours is a society that needs to see that suffering is a part of Christian discipleship, needs to see the appropriate function of conflict, needs to realize the value of a community which includes both those outside and inside, and needs to appreciate the appeal of Jesus' humanness. Mark's gospel is particularly appropriate for us today. Footnotes: 1. Donald Senior, C.P.,The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, The Passion Series (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1987), 15. 2. Martin K�hler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ (trans. & ed., C. Braaten; Philadelphia, Fortress, 1964) 80. 3. Ivan Havener, "Taking up One's Cross: Mark's Gospel of Discipleship," The Bible Today 26 (January, 1988) 43. 4. Senior, Passion of Jesus in Mark, 8. 5. Sean Freyne and Henry Wansbrough, Mark and Matthew, Scripture Discussion Commentary 7 (Chicago: ACTA Foundation, 1971) 5. ...read more.

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