No doubt you have heard that Mark’s gospel is in a hurry. Everything is immediately this and immediately that. The scenes jump from time to time and place to place with no hint of transition. Time and distance are tightly compressed in Mark’s narrative.
It took many years for me to figure out that more fully appreciating what Mark had to offer required a certain contemplative discipline making it possible to decompress the gospel, allowing time and distance to give room for me to enter into it, and for the Spirit to speak between the words.
When Jesus emerges from John’s baptism to immediately be driven into the wilderness for forty days, and, within a few brief words, to be back on the trail again, we need to slow down and take the time to walk with him from the Jordan into the wilderness, there to contemplate with him what it is to be a member of the body of Christ, to confront our own doubts without fear, to allow the time necessary for God’s consolations to wash over us, and to once more get on with life. It takes time.
When Jesus calls his new disciples and they immediately follow him, we need to relax and listen to the conversation unfold between them, allowing the time needed for a decision to be made. We need to be patient enough to tune into the ongoing conversation as they stroll up the shore, stopping here and there along the way. And so it goes throughout Mark. Making room for his tight narrative to decompress suddenly, yes suddenly, allows room for us to enter into the story as if we were there. It allows us to participate in the conversations, posing questions of our own to Christ as we walk along, and questioning the new disciples too. We can visit with Peter’s mother-in-law and follow the cured leper to see where he or she goes. It can be a wonderful adventure. Lent is the perfect time for it.