Saturday, November 24, 2012

Immediately (part 4 of 4)

As Mark’s Gospel narrative has Jesus working His way towards His death and Resurrection, He makes His way to Jerusalem.  Preceding what has become known as His “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, “Jesus sent two of His disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.  Untie it and bring it’.” (Mark 11:1b-2)  This probably elicited a strange look from those receiving this directive, so Jesus quickly follows up and says, “If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will bring it back here immediately’.” (11:3)  Here, Jesus’ commands are filled with the language of immediacy.  This cannot have gone un-noticed by His disciples.  Most certainly, it should not go un-noticed by us. 

We don’t find the word used again until we reach the fourteenth chapter, and we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, having finished His sorrowful prayer.  Jesus is speaking to sleepy disciples “And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (14:43).  Judas had given this group a signal, informing them that the One that he would greet with a kiss was the man that was to be arrested.  “And when he came, he went up to Him at once (euthus=immediately) and said, ‘Rabbi!’  And he kissed Him” (14:45).  Once again, even in the area of the activities in and of the darkness, Mark earnestly drives the story-line forward, always pressing, always wanting his readers to experience the drama of the events that are unfolding.  The author wants us to experience the intensity, the significance, and the un-paralleled importance of what is at hand, not only as he outlines the entirety of Jesus’ ministry, but especially now, as he is leading us to its climactic conclusion. 

With his language of “immediately,” Mark has created an aura of expectancy.  Just imagine yourself in the first century, and that you are reading this story for the first time.  Remember, the story has not been divided into chapters and verses, but is one, continuous narrative, and it is likely being told (or dramatically performed) in a single sitting.  There is no “New Testament.”  There are no Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John.  Perhaps you have heard of this man, Jesus, but you do not know the details of His life.  As you read this story, you are not going to read it in bits and pieces.  If you are listening to the story, it is not going to be left as a cliff-hanger.  Most likely, you are going to keep going until you reach the end.  The language that is used makes doing anything else virtually impossible.  There are no interludes, no grand elaborations, and no moments of rest.  With Mark, the story of Jesus is a race to the finish, and the sooner, the more immediately that the reader finds Jesus being captured, unjustly crucified, buried, and raised from the dead, the sooner the reader can understand that this Jesus is Lord.

Returning to the text, we come to the end of the fourteenth chapter and the infamous incident of Peter’s denial of his association with this Man that will soon be on the path to crucifixion as a false, blasphemous Messiah and insurrectionist against Rome.  Jesus had informed Peter, contrary to his insistence against such a thing, that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.  Peter, for a third time, swears “I do not know this man of whom you speak” (14:71b), “And immediately the rooster crowed” (14:72a).  For those that have joined up with His covenant movement, Jesus wastes no time in bringing His words to remembrance.  Such is the power of our Lord.    

As we turn to the final usage of the Greek word “euthus”, we do so while bearing in mind that the underlying reason for the urgency being communicated to the reader by the extensive use of “immediately,” is the content and message of Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark’s Gospel.  Those words were “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (1:15).  The Gospel, the “evangelion,” or the “good news” in those days, were messages concerning Caesar, concerning the King.  That was well understood.  Jesus first words, as presented by Mark, were declarative of the kingdom of God and the need to believe in God’s King.  Why make mention of that here and now?  Because in the first verse of the fifteenth chapter of Mark we read “as soon as it was morning…they bound Jesus and led Him away and delivered Him over to Pilate” (15:1).  We could also read that as “And immediately when it was morning…” 

Here, the One about Whom the Gospel was to be believed---with all immediacy and urgency as is well-communicated by Mark---was taken before the representative of the man then considered to be the ruler of the world, the provider of salvation, and the one who brought peace.  There, Jesus would be asked “Are You the King of the Jews?” (15:2a).  With full understanding of what that implied, as Israel’s Messiah King, the One Who would rule over God’s covenant people, and by extension, because of God’s promises to His people and His faithfulness to His promises, would be the ruler of all creation and the true source of absolute salvation and peace (as opposed to what was then said about Caesar), Jesus replied “You have said so” (15:2b), which was a way of saying “Yes, indeed.”  “Pilate was amazed” (15:5b) at this reply, and rightly so, but almost immediately, Pilate sentences Jesus to be crucified.  That was how Pilate immediately responded to Jesus’ Gospel.  What is our response? 

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