The Irony of this Jesus

Jesus carrying cross Bosch

everything in Mark’s Gospel is upside down:

What does it mean to be the Messiah of Israel?   We expect a King David who will live forever. Mark’s Gospel shows us Jesus, a preacher from the Galilee who winds up dead

What does it mean to be the messiah of the world?   We cry out for a Caesar, a strong leader to bang the drums of war and protect us from blown-up fears that may not even be real. Mark’s Gospel shows us Jesus, who tells us there’s no way around the cross

What does it mean to be a disciple? We want heroes, people to look up to with pride and self-confidence, a goal and plan that are measurable, achievable and possible. Mark shows us Peter and James and John, who failed Jesus miserably and then ran away

What does it mean to suffer?   We hope to avoid suffering or if we have to, get through it with medicine and drugs and escapes. Mark shows us a Jesus without relief, who cries out in pain “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

You know that friend of yours who says things you have to think about twice? That’s the Gospel of Mark. Mark is an ironic Gospel. Nothing – Jesus, the disciples, us – are what they first seem.

The Gospel of Mark that we hear this Good Friday asks us:

what does it mean to be afraid? Unsure? Cowardly? Ignorant? Lost?

What does it mean to die?

Mark doesn’t give any easy answers. But he says this:

There is more going on than we realize.

Just when we think there is no hope, there will be.

God can make something of nothing,

When we follow Jesus, through the pain, through the suffering, through the death, through the confusion, there WILL come, when we least expect it, a day of resurrection.

It will be a difficult walk. But we walk with Jesus.

Let us begin.


  1. Irony, to me, always suggests a distance. This story, this figure suggests an intimacy, an uncomfortable intimacy with suffering and fear. The deeper through-iine of the narrative is so subtle. Peter famously missed that line, but his suffering brought him home. There’s hope for all of us.

    1. Yes Larry, you make a good point. But I think the irony is a distance between Mark and the inner circle of disciples perhaps, or between Mark and that thing in each of us that thinks we know what to expect next from God.

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