A classic example

Students and lovers of classical symphonies will know that composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert built up their works on a simple theme of a few notes and then developed it in four movements. Who can forget the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which resounded through occupied Europe in the last war? This theme can be heard throughout the rest of the work by the observant listener although hidden in different variations.

It seems to me that Mark’s Gospel can be seen in this way. It begins with an announcement, ‘the kingdom of God is here’ and then if we look carefully we can see how it was worked out in the lives of people and events. For example, we are told how a man was cured of insanity because Jesus removed the unclean spirit which was troubling him, deaf and dumb folk were cured and lepers were cleansed. Jealous teachers of a burdensome law were corrected and a more simple law replaced it.

At times the music of the kingdom reaches a crescendo when the great event of the Transfiguration happens or great numbers of people are fed. The Gospel of Mark seems written to be read out loud. As one scholar, Martin Hengel, has said, each event is meant to be seen as an evangel or good news. It is certainly not meant to be read like an ordinary book.

Each text is meant to have a special meaning for us, a subject for meditation, and just as we can find something new by listening to the variations in a great symphony so we should be listening to what every word of Mark’s Gospel is telling us. Think of it as a mighty symphony sending health-giving messages to those who wrestle with the problems of daily life.