Sunday, February 26, 2006

After Six Days

Anyone who's read even a little bit of Mark's gospel knows that in this gospel everything happens "immediately." Well, almost everything.... In the gospel reading from this Sunday, while expecting Mark's typical announcement of immediacy, I was jarred a bit by the opening words: "After six days..." (REB)

I have a theory about Mark's gospel. In Mark 1:3, we read Mark's quotation of Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" The word translated "straight" here is the Greek word "euthus." It appears 60 times in the New Testament, 41 of those times in Mark. Guess how it's usually translated -- "immediately"!

So this is my theory. This quotation from Isaiah serves as Mark's keynote speech. From then on, whenever Mark uses the word "euthus" ("immediately"), he is pointing to an example of how the paths of the Lord are being made straight. In current theological jargon, we'd call these instances of the kingdom of God breaking in -- the "already" of the Gospel.

But the Gospel, we are told, also contains a measure of "not yet." And this is where the "six days" in Mark 9:2 comes in. Perhaps "six days" represents God's work of creation before the day of rest (not yet into an eighth day theology?), but, in any event, it's not immediately, not yet. It's more than a little bit ironic, because the Transfiguration is obviously the most visible example of the kingdom "breaking in" in the Gospel. But it's just a hint -- a foretaste of the feast to come.

Already, we experience the kingdom of God. We see God's liberation being worked in the world. The blind see, the lame walk and the poor have good news preached to them. But this is just the first fruits. The Transfiguration gives us a peek at the fullness of the harvest.


LutheranChik said...

I just spent the weekend listening to Wally Taylor from Trinity Sem talking about the Gospels of Mark and Matthew...great stuff. Interesting idea about the relative time references.

Lutheran Zephyr said...

I love the insight into immediately/making the paths straight. This gives me a new insight into reading Mark . . . immediately.

Thank you.