Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Matthew: How Luke and Mark Differ

In the film Star Wars, the young Luke Skywalker is told that he may become a Jedi warrior like his father, and that he may be the one who had been prophesied to restore balance to the mystical power known as the Force. He will defeat the oppressive Empire and remove evil from the energy that animates the universe.

In a cosmic victory, he will quite literally save the world. He will save everyone.

The choice of the young man’s name Luke for the film cannot have been accidental. The gospel of Luke is the story of the miraculous savior of the whole world generally, and the savior of the downtrodden particularly. He is the one who will fulfill the prophecies; the prophecies were about him.

And in case of the gospel, those prophecies were that he would bring: “the proclamation of the good news to the poor, the recovery of sight for the blind, and the setting free of those who are oppressed.” The poor, hungry and excluded are specifically blessed – even the women, who are also an eminent concern for Luke, (think Leah) and who are frequently with Jesus. The rest of the disciples who follow Jesus are faithful if flawed (Han Solo and Chewie) and not only witness Jesus’ miracles, but are also empowered to go out and work on their own in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is always with them, especially in prayer.

As for the other Gospel, Mark does not name himself as author, anymore than Luke does. Think instead of the one who was marked: marked by secrecy, suffering, and most importantly by God; Mark is the gospel of the one marked by God to be the King, though not in a sense that anyone is ready to understand.

Mark is generally considered by scholars to be the earliest gospel, the one least affected by church tradition, and the one most probably like the historical Jesus as he was first understood. And there is something of reality about it: if nothing else, Jesus’ mission must have felt as urgent for him as the language of the gospel implies, and as the frequency of his works in Mark indicates.

Jesus is marked by irony, by his own awareness of his identity and purpose against the world’s disbelief and ignorance – an irony that Jesus himself perpetuates. The disciples are marked both by Jesus for his ministry and by significant failures and lack of understanding that lead them to abandon Jesus in the end – and the crowds that follow Jesus are marked by their own fickle behavior, praising Jesus and then, too, demanding his execution.

Yet the text for us is clear: the passion of Jesus of Nazareth anoints him as the Son of David, the Son of Man and the Son of God alike.

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