The National Catholic Review
Mark’s progression of stories shows Jesus carrying out the obedience he understood to be owed to Him who said, "You are My Son, My Beloved; on you My favor rests". The stories are in the main stories of miracles, but the stories often carry other affirmations about Jesus beyond the expression of his power. Slowly Mark includes Jesus’ wisdom in his narrative; particularly is this visible in the way in which Jesus (and his disciples) live the law of Moses regarding the sanctity of the Sabbath. Into this mix Mark further adds, this time about the murderous intentions of those who believe Jesus, in his teaching, to be the enemy of Israel. Almost as a clipped response to these enemies is the ’summary’ Mark now offers. It is a summary or summation of various moments, of various episodes. Jesus’ healings go on, so as to draw great crowds even from lands outside Israel – all looking for cures. So great were the crowds that he had a boat ready so as to avoid trouble coming from people trying to touch him. It was often the case in ancient religions that to touch a healer was enough to enjoy a healing; so here, people have come in trust that this Jesus of Nazareth has the powers to cure all diseases, and they hasten to him. That cures were not very plentiful in Mark’s time (70 AD) seems true; all the more then do people like Mark depend on the reports of earlier witnesses: he does have the power of the Divine! That it is not too much to identify this power as divine is revealed by the way the demon world responded to Jesus. They would fall down before him, and they would confess him to be Son of God. Their knowledge, unaccompanied by love, shows that the world beyond humans knows who Jesus is, and their falling before him shows their reverence for him in their presence. Human beings may be guessing who Jesus is, but the superior demon world, like God himself, knows exactly who Jesus is. Yes, Jesus commands the demons not to say who he is, because the truth about Jesus should come from faith in his identity, an identity revealed fully only through death and resurrection; after these events, let everyone say, Messiah and Son of God! The mountain is unnamed; what is useful to know about it is its symbolic meaning. As in the OT so here, one ’ascends the mountain’ for revelation from God. Important to think about are the Marcan phrases: ’he summoned those whom he wanted’ and ’he appointed twelve’. Not all disciples were summoned, not all were in this wise wanted, and the appointments were only twelve. They were to preach and drive out demons; in this they were faithful continuators of the mission of Jesus, his extensions, or the extensions of his obedience to his Father. Given the formation of mind of these people, twelve can only be somehow the re-statement of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, founded by the Twelve sons of Jacob. It seems that Jesus’ choice of the Twelve was not capricious; in some way, unexplained by Mark (but supposed by Paul twenty years earlier) the people of God’s choice, the people of faith in Jesus – Jew and Gentile alike – will be guided by the Twelve. We heard in Mark the calls of only five of the Twelve; these were to underline the total response of the one called by the Master. But by Mark’s time, the Twelve was an accepted tradition among Christians; it was to these that Jesus commits his own mission with the intention of continuing that mission beyond his departure from this world. Many, then, are the disciples (’those taught’) of Jesus; many even are those ’sent’, i.e. apostles. But clearly there are the Twelve chosen to symbolize the people of God, chosen to carry on the preaching and healing mission of Jesus, whose end is near. John Kilgallen, SJ