Mark is the earliest gospel we have in our Bibles. Short and to the point, Mark is written in Greek for a gentile audience, as is evidenced by the need to explain Jewish traditions to readers. The writers of Matthew and Luke most likely borrowed heavily from this source.
New Testament scholar and professor Amy-Jill Levine notes that Mark teaches the reader an important lesson about God’s good news. She writes,
“Right after Jesus’ baptism, Jesus goes out to proclaim his message: ‘The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News.’
“I am consistently asking my students, ‘What’s the good news?’ It’s not that Jesus died and came back, because this is only the first chapter. He hasn’t yet mentioned the passion. Nobody knows he’s going to die. The good news has to be something else.
“So the good news has to be what you get from the parables. The good news has to be the Sermon on the Mount. The good news has to be the healings, which show care for people in the community.
“The good news is that everyone is part of the family. It doesn’t matter what your income level is. That’s even true of sinners and tax collectors, people who have removed themselves from the common welfare by working for the occupation government, disrupting the sense of community by stealing, or destroying marriage by committing adultery. Jesus says, ‘You know what? You’ve got a role in this community, too.’
That’s not belief; that’s action. It is reconciliation, and it’s family values in their best form possible.”*
As we teach Mark’s stories to our children, may we remember God’s good news of family and community and how we are all included. These are messages that each of us are greatly in need of hearing, sharing, and holding dear to our hearts.
- Mark 3:20-35 – Keep Your House Together
- Mark 4:25-34 – From Tiny to Great Big God’s realm – it’s like a mustard seed. Learn with the kids just what this strange metaphor is really all about. Maybe Elsa and Anna should be singing, “Let it grow. Let it grow…” (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)
- Mark 4:35-41 – Calming the Storm This week we read of Jesus calming the angry storm and wonder if Jesus can calm our worries and woes, as well.
- Mark 5:21-43 – Who Touched Me? When you’re sick or scared, what do you do? This week’s story is one in which a woman braves all to reach out to Jesus.
- Mark 6:1-13 – Who is This Guy? You just can’t impress the hometown crowd. Even Jesus learned that sorry lesson. Anyone who helped change your diapers or saw you sneaking cookies from the cookie jar knows that deep inside, you’re still just a normal, everyday person. So, can God use us anyway? What can YOU do for God’s people?
- Mark 6:14-29 – Off with His Head! Here’s a nice, gruesome Bible story – FOR OUR CHILDREN! Oh, yeah. Herod beheads John the baptizer. Sweet dreams, kids.Parents, you may need to walk through this one carefully, depending on kids’ understanding of violence and their coping skills. But, as we address reality, we can teach important lessons. There are bad people in the world, who make terrible, evil choices. And sometimes very good people are caught up in the evil.What do we, as the adults in their lives focus on? We teach them basic safety skills. We teach them that we are working to keep them safe. We rejoice over the fact that we live in a part of the world and a time in history that is much safer than some of our Bible “heroes.”
Chances are pretty good that no one will dance for our heads. Just sayin’.
- Mark 6:30-56 – Come Away and Rest
- Mark 7:1-7 – Honor Jesus, For Reals! How do we truly honor Jesus and the children of God? Is it by following lots of rules, as set forth by the many humans who like to create them, in an effort to create order? Or is it in the caring for the people In downright practical ways? And who knew that Jesus dealt with issues just like that?!
- Mark 7:24-37 – A Very Strong Mama Rude Jesus? It’s hard to imagine Jesus being prejudiced or having a bad day, but this story makes us realize that might just have been the case. It also makes us see that when a mother protecting her child stood up to him, he could reevaluate his stance and embrace “the other” with God’s love. Would that we could all do the same.
- Mark 8:27-38 The Hard Job of Following Jesus Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. The words seem clear cut and simple. But to actually do it? Not so simple. And to teach this philosophy to a child? That’s downright scary. The way of sacrifice and death? Forget about it! This week’s lesson must be handled carefully and practically – for children and for adults. Jesus calls us to follow him, to be sure. And Jesus knows what he is truly asking.
- Mark 9:30-37 Being Important Ah, the age old question of who is most important strikes again. In this week’s gospel lesson, the disciples argue over who is the greatest. Jesus answers with more word puzzles. If you want to be first, you must be last. And, if you welcome children, you do even more than just welcome kids into your midst. Oh, Jesus. Why couldn’t you just tell them they were all created in God’s image and worthy and to sit down and quit arguing? Oh, yeah. Because there is always a better way to teach. He made them THINK! May we always do the same for our children.
- Mark 9:38-50 No Stumbling Blocks, Just Peace It’s so easy to sling mud; to find fault with others. We see it everywhere; from school playgrounds to political debates. It is a human flaw that has existed throughout time. So, on the day that the disciples discovered a man doing good works in Jesus’s name, they were appalled. How dare he? He’s not one of us. Why, he’s “the other.” How do we respond when someone behaves in a manner we find upsetting or offensive? Why are we so easily upset and offended? Jesus reminds the disciples of what is important. If you’re not against us, you’re for us. Don’t create stumbling blocks for others. And be at peace.
- Mark 10:13-16 – Come On, Kids — People had very specific expectations of Jesus, yet he had a way of flipping those expectations upside down and backwards. This particular story is a wonderful example of that, as he tells his disciples to gather the children – fairly disrespected, invisible members of society – and bring them to his side for a bit of love and attention. What expectations might Jesus flip upside down and around today? Whom might he draw near? Come on, kids. Let’s figure it out!
- Mark 10:35-45 – BFFs — The friends who disappear when times get rough? Well, fair-weather friends. The friends who only show up when they need something? Users? Posers? So, what do we call James and John, who come to Jesus, asking to be his best buds, to sit at his right and left hand, never once considering the consequences? In this day and age of people claiming to be “Christian,” but seeming to have little understanding of the word, how do we teach our children to truly follow Jesus and be his friend? Let’s start with the basics. If we’re going to eat the bread, drink the cup, be “buried” in the waters of baptism, we are making a BIG promise. Whether sitting at his right, his left, or somewhere on the outskirts of a big circle, we follow his teachings.
- Mark 10: 46-52 – My Teacher, Let Me See Again — In this day and age of “compassion fatigue” and feeling that overwhelming need and despair are evident at every turn, it might be difficult to read these stories with fresh eyes. It’s hard to imagine Jesus giving in to compassion fatigue or turning his back and walking away. When teaching this story to children, one might explore that temptation. Discussing boundaries is also important. Jesus chose to show mercy to Bartimaeus. When should we do the same? Are there ever times when we should not?
- Mark 12:38-44 – How Generous are YOU? — We’ve all probably heard at least one person demand our respect. We’ve also known people we just automatically respected because of the person they were, the life they lived. There is a difference. Children instinctively recognize the difference. But they may not instinctively know how to grow and develop into the different type of person, themselves. This story is a way to teach that. Will they be the kind of person who struts and shows off and demands attention for what they wear and how they pray and what they give? Or will they be the quiet, generous people who do God’s work for God’s people because it needs to be done. Who will we be? How generous are any of us?
- Mark 13:1-8 – Keep Calm and Carry On — We read the words of Jesus regarding the fall of the temple, wars, and earthquakes. We watch the news. We begin to guess. It’s a natural fear, as we see that all of life has an ending. And, we teach children the truths of that. But we need to help them balance their truths. And, in that balancing, we need to help them find the truth in Jesus’s teachings. Did Jesus recognize the realities of war and natural disasters? Yes. Did he know that Rome was an occupying force and had power even over the Jewish religious leaders? Yes. Was Jesus worried about the end of the world? No. He was, in fact, quite knowledgeable about the fact that the ways of this world can and should end. Let’s teach the children about that. And about the creation of a new world of God’s love and justice for all people.
*Excerpted from an interview with Amy-Jill Levine, “A Jewish Take on Jesus,” http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2012/09/jewish-take-jesus-amy-jill-levine-talks-gospels