Do you remember flip books? I loved them as a kid. I would draw a stick figure on the corner of successive pages of my notebook, and then flip the pages to watch them move. It looked something like this:
The Gospel according to Mark is a flip book of sorts. It’s the shortest of the gospels, and emphasizes Jesus’ fast paced movements and actions more than his words or teachings. Most scenes transition with words like “immediately” and “at once.” Mark does not seem to be describing a continuous story line but rather a collection of discrete units, creating an artistic collage or mosaic of the life of Jesus. He lays out the evidence for Jesus as the son of God and then compels us to follow him!
If we focus on the actions of Jesus throughout this gospel, I think we will sense movement and direction, just like a flip book. A moving picture will emerge that I hope will move us. Let’s flip through Mark’s first two chapters. (Mark 1-2)
1 John baptizing -> Jesus baptized -> Spirit descending ->Father’s voice confirming -> Spirit driving -> Satan tempting -> Angels ministering -> Jesus proclaiming -> Jesus calling -> Disciples following -> Jesus touching, lifting, healing -> Jesus casting out -> Jesus commanding -> Jesus rising, departing, praying -> Jesus preaching ->Leper imploring, kneeling -> Jesus stretching, touching, willing 2 Jesus preaching -> friends carrying -> Jesus seeing faith, forgiving healing -> Jesus calling -> Levi (Matthew) following -> Jesus reclining, eating with sinners -> Jesus dispelling questions
Here’s what I see in this moving picture:
- Jesus submits and moves at the Father and the Spirit’s prompting.
- Jesus proclaims the good news of God.
- Jesus bids ordinary people to follow him.
- Jesus makes time to pray alone.
- Jesus casts out and commands demons that torment people.
- Jesus notices people, listens, asks questions, and responds to faith.
- Jesus touches people.
- Jesus eats and hangs out with sinners in their space.
- Jesus cares about faith more than rules.
As imitators or disciples of Jesus, are we doing these kinds of things? Some only Jesus could do, but Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21) We can submit to baptism and listen for the Spirit’s prompting. We can proclaim the gospel. We can follow. We can make time to pray. We can notice people who are tormented, sick and hurting. We can carry them into the presence of Jesus, who is able to heal. We can touch, eat and recline with them. We can elevate faith over rules. His footprints are laid out for us; let’s follow one step at a time.