Mark wrote his gospel because people were dying.
Death is not just a problem for individuals, but also for communities.
Because when people die, memories die.
Over time, the important things that happened, the events that shaped, even founded a community, things that made the community come together in the first place, get forgotten.
What matters is that human communities, human life really, is made up of the stories that give us meaning. This is true of all stories – our myths and legends, the stories that we share together which give us a sense of connectedness and shared values – like bravery or compassion.
But the stories that come with our memories are even more important. Because the true stories we tell each other are the way we make sense of the world. They’re the way we find hope.
The Christian community wasn’t founded on an idea or a theology. It was more of a stunned reaction than anything else… a reaction to the true story of Jesus.
Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection, were an event and the Christian community were simply the people who saw this, believed this and changed their minds about who was really in charge of the world and what really mattered in life.
In short, they believed that Jesus was Lord, not Caesar or any other king or system, and the life was meant to be lived in obedience and trust in this Jesus.
But in a couple of decades, enough people who were there at the beginning, people who walked with Jesus, were starting to die and so the stories of the event that really mattered were beginning to fade. The people who saw and touched and experienced the big events could no longer tell those stories. Perhaps even worse, people were changing the stories, and making up stories for their own purposes. Because a lot of the eye witnesses were no longer around, people could tell stories that couldn’t be fact checked. When you erase the memory of a community, you really erase the community. And that’s what was happening in the early Christian communities.
So, it mattered to that early church that people remembered that actual story – not using it as a leverage point for ideology. Which is hard to do, and the church definitely does that sometimes, maybe a lot. But at the beginning, there seemed to be a real commitment to tell the story of Jesus right.
And the first person to do that was a man we don’t know much about. His name was John Mark. And about three to four decades after Jesus went away, he wrote a thing that we call a gospel.
Actually, Mark called it a gospel – it starts with the words ‘the good news’ – euangelion, or ‘gospel’ in the old English. And he wrote it so the community wouldn’t forget what happened.
Mark wrote his gospel because people were forgetting or distorting the real event of Jesus. It’s not filled with good ideas and nice people. It’s about real people and real events, and the astonishing fact that God was walking among them. Among us. Mark just wants us to know what happened when Jesus came to town.