Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double Commands in Mark's Gospel

Six times in Mark’s Gospel, there are double commands: do this and this. I would like to organize these in a chiastic structure, folding the first in relation to the last, the second with the fifth, and the third with the fourth.
A 1:15 - Repent and believe the Gospel
B 1:25 - Be quiet and come out of him
C 2:9 - Get up, pick up your pallet, and walk
C’ 10:21 - Go and sell, and come, follow me
B’ 11:23 - Be taken up and cast into the sea
A’ 14:38 - Watch and pray
Let’s start from the middle and work out. As you can see, these are not merely double commands, but triple. They are both instances of Jesus speaking to individuals in the midst of conflict. In the first conflict, there is outside resistance to Jesus' authority to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” So instead, he says, “Get up!” In either case, it is obvious that Jesus is able to reach into this person’s life and make a directional different. On the other hand, in C’, Jesus’ words to the rich, young ruler expose an internal conflict that remains unresolved since he is unwilling/unable to deny himself in obedience to Jesus’ command(s).
Our B and B’ references highlight a larger, supernatural conflict. Jesus opposes an evil force in 1:25, and wins. Jesus instructs his disciples in 11:23 that they have access to a power through faith that is more than natural. This theme of beyond-human-ability power is key in Jesus’ ministry, and in the early church. One wonders what has happened to it.
Finally, our A and A’ references are evangelistic and discipleship instructions. If “repent and believe” are essential instructions for the lost, then “watch and pray” are just as essential for the conduct of the saved. In both cases, an epochal change is occurring, and the wise hearer will respond to both commands. Christians who adopt a lifestyle which is not characterized by “watch and pray” behaviors are just simply not preparing themselves for the inevitable conflicts that they will face as followers of Christ in this world (cf the C and C’ references), and will not avail themselves of the power needed for spiritual ministry (as illustrated in the B and B’ references).

No comments: