The gospel of Mark is one of those books with which I have a complicated relationship. On the one hand it’s about Jesus, and contains some of my favorite passages. On the other hand it can be a stressful read. The transition words between the scenes create a frenetic pace with no good resting place. So as you read through the gospel you find yourself drawn into a ride similar to that of the bus on the movie Speed. The story feels as though it is going faster and faster with an ever escalating sense of dread.

It’s as if you meet Jesus, and just as you’re getting to know Him, you realize He’s running to the cross. All the love that’s grown inside for Jesus makes you want to yell, “No, look out! It’s a trap!” Suddenly, you become aware of the fact that you have begun to run with Him and you find yourself yelling again, “What am I doing? I know how this ends!” But you can’t stop because if you do you know you’ll lose Jesus and He’s the best thing that ever happened. So you keep running until He’s dead, raised, ascended, and gone. It’s over.

After sitting and reflecting on the experience you know it’s not over, you have to keep running. Only this time, you don’t know how it ends because your life isn’t explicitly in the bible. The pace of the gospel of Mark bleeds into your own until it’s all then-and, then-and, suddenly, immediately. It becomes an attitude of next-now for everything.

Where’s the rest? Isn’t this the same Jesus who said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30 NKJV) How can we reconcile this with the running Jesus? Or with the driving sense of next?

I mean, the gospel of John makes the life of Jesus a journey with a resounding message of love. In John there’s time to grow, time to change and accept the love of Christ. This message definitely jives with the word on rest from Matthew. After reading the gospel of John I just want to forget Mark ever happened and linger at the feet of Jesus forever.

So I set out to replicate the sojourning pace of John in my life. I have time, I can rest. Next will happen when it happens. Except the urgency of Mark whispers in the back of my mind. My pace quickens little by little until I’m running again, driven by next-now.

More often than not I feel like I’m living a gospel of John faith with a gospel of Mark pace. The American in me can’t put down the hustle, can’t turn away from the grind. Until I ask myself, why was Jesus running?

I don’t think He was running just to run and be the best. He was running to the cross because of what was on the other side of the cross: us.

Look at what Jesus says right before His invitation to rest in Matthew, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one whom the Son wills to reveal to Him.” (Matt. 11:27 NKJV) Jesus reveals us to the Father. I believe it is through the death and resurrection and our redemption by His blood that He is able to reveal us.

Jesus ran to death on a cross so He could pluck us from the grip of death and bring us back to the Father. That we might be reconciled to Him and brought back into union with His love, just as it was in the garden of Eden before the separation of sin. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2 NKJV)

Jesus ran to us, and we’re meant to be running too. Not running out of driven-ness, but like Jesus, towards someone. We’re running to Jesus, and we’re throwing off the weight of sin so we can get there faster. What happens when we get there, when we reach Jesus? We find ourselves reunited with the Father through Jesus, and in that unity we find rest.

Let’s look at that passage from Matthew again, in a different translation, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt. 11:28-30 MSG)

The unspoken message of next-now I picked up from Mark wasn’t really from Mark. It was from religion. The urgent hustle isn’t from Mark. It is from the culture I live in. I just read those into every suddenly I found in Mark. When I look at Jesus I can let those go. Next-now and hustle are ill-fitting and heavy, and Jesus is yelling over to me as we run, “Let go, you don’t need those anymore.”

Mark may be very different in tone from the other gospels, but it’s only showing another side of Jesus. John shows walking, Mark shows running, they’re both right. While it may have looked like Jesus was walking with His feet, His heart was running with an undivided purpose and unwavering determination towards the joy of finding the lost and taking them home.

-Etta Woods

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