Sleeping with both eyes open
This week, on 25 April, the Church celebrates St Mark, writer of Mark's gospel.
John Mark was a Jew and, according to Paul's letter to the Colossians, was cousin to Barnabas. He accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. Afterwards, he went to Cyprus with Barnabas and to Rome with first Paul and then Peter. Mark's gospel is generally regarded as the earliest and was most likely written whilst he was in Rome. It was probably based as much on Peter's preaching of the good news as on Mark's own memory.
By tradition Mark is credited with writing the Gospel bearing his name, and is first considered to be mentioned in the New Testament as the young man who followed Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had been arrested and was being taken to the house of Annas for questioning. Mark was held by the soldiers, but slipped out of his garment and escaped naked into the night.
Mark's gospel has a sharpness and an immediacy about it and he does not spare the apostles in noting their weaknesses and lack of understanding that Jesus the Christ would suffer for the world's redemption. Sharing in the glory of the resurrection means sharing in the giving of self, both in body and spirit, even to death; sharing the gospel was, for all, in essence both excessively generous and ultimately sacrificial.
Mark starts his gospel with a clear statement: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Of all the gospel writers Mark is the most plain and direct. His gospel also feels to be the most active: Mark links the events of Jesus’ ministry with phrases such as ‘immediately’, ‘as soon as’ and ‘without delay’. It is an exciting read, and is the gospel to recommend to someone who has not read the life of Jesus before.
In Christian tradition, Mark is symbolized by a lion. The lion is also associated with Jesus' resurrection, as lions were once believed to sleep with open eyes, thus a comparison with Christ in the tomb, and Christ as king.