Today, in preparation for a baptism preparation class tomorrow, I re-read through the Gospel According to Mark in one sitting.
The first thing that strikes you is the urgency with which Mark presents Jesus to us: his favourite word is ‘immediately’—in addition to which Mark uses several synonyms.
But today I was struck by another motif that recurs almost as often, that of fear. Fear is what Jesus confronts, again and again.
Over again, his followers are afraid, and Jesus must address their fear.
Again and again, we see people in positions of authority or power, afraid of losing face, afraid of losing position, afraid of the crowd. (How easily we forget that those in positions of privilege fear the population they preside over.) We see them take actions they do not want to do, out of fear; and form unlikely alliances because of fear.
We see unclean spirits fear what Jesus will do, for they too have much to lose.
We meet people who come to Jesus in hope of liberation from fear; and even those who are afraid of how Jesus might respond to them.
We see fear motivate people to become enemies of Jesus, and fear cause his followers to desert and deny knowing him.
Through it all, Jesus addresses our fear, saying Do Not Be Afraid.
This is the good news according to Mark, God stepping in to deal with our greatest need. This is what is so very urgent, what necessitates such immediacy.
It seems to me that Mark presents us with a gospel for our times, in which we recognise ourselves.
What do you fear? And who are you afraid of? For that may be the very ground on which you meet Jesus.