One of my bible professors used to have a saying. At times he would say,
“Class, today we are going to water ski.”
This implied that our teacher would be giving us a high-level presentation with many facts but little depth. We would learn the basics, but avoid going into tedious details on every subject. We would just skim the surface of his topic, hence the term water skiing. At other times, he would arrive in class and boldly announce,
“Class, today we are going to scuba dive.”
This implied that we were diving deep into his material, and we would be required to know a great deal about this particular subject. We would need to learn far more than the basic facts on the scuba diving subjects.
This analogy is helpful when thinking about how we’ve been reading Mark.
We have read a chapter of Mark each week, attending to a few details, but mostly looking at the overall movements of Jesus and how they fit into the context of his whole ministry. Jesus went here, did that, and accomplished that. We’ve rarely stayed in one place for long, but instead have followed Jesus movements at breakneck pace. This reading structure was intentional on my part; for I believe it was intentional on Mark’s part.
Mark conveys urgency in his writing; he wants you to know how amazing Jesus is immediately.
This is especially true in these first 10 chapters.
To provide some perspective, these last ten chapters have covered roughly three years of Jesus ministry.
In those three years, Jesus has traveled to at least 24 cities, healed at least 41 people, and taught in over half of those cities if not more. A lot of time has elapsed during these first ten chapters.
We have been water skiing.
In chapter 11, Mark suddenly stops highlighting the overall aspects of Jesus’ ministry and focuses in on the last week of Jesus life.
His. very. last. week. alive. on. the. earth.
10 chapters to explain three years.
6 chapters to explain one week.
This last week is critical to understanding Mark’s gospel as it comprises over one third of his gospel account.
Mark has had us water skiing, but now we will begin to scuba dive.
Jesus has told his disciples now three times that he will die in Jerusalem. Each time he dialogues with the disciples, Jesus provides a little more detail about what will happen to him. The first time Jesus says,
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31).
The last time, Jesus gives many more details about how he will be killed:
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34).
So as we begin Chapter 11, it is important to know that Jesus is heading into Jerusalem, and he clearly knows he is going to die. Mark will closely follow the day-to-day details, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute details of Jesus life for the next seven days. We will take time to review old testament prophecies and how they fit into this week of Jesus life. (which is very different from how we’ve read so far.) We will not ask, Who is Jesus? but instead we will ask, What makes Jesus the Christ, the promised Messiah and savior of Israel?
So I invite you to slow down in these chapters. Think of our reading in the context of 24 hour days. There is so much that happens in this last week of his life.
Get ready to scuba dive.