You ever notice how the gospels describe the 12 disciples in less than glamorous terms? Mark is especially hard on these guys. Let’s take a look.
- Jesus rebukes them repeatedly. The 12 spend aN awful lot of time with Jesus, and yet they never quite get it. All the gospels regularly describe them as “fearful,” “confused,” and “unbelieving. But Mark even adds editorial comments at the end of certain stories, saying regularly, “but the disciples did not understand what this meant.”
- Here’s a good example. There are actually two stories in Mark about Jesus feeding large groups of people (no metaphysical rabbit trails this week on the meaning of 5,000). But even the second time around, the disciples wonder how Jesus is going to do it. They obviously don’t remember that last week at the revival up the road he did the same thing. Even Jesus grows impatient (“Do you have eyes, and fail to see?” Mark 8:17).
- In another episode the disciples tried unsuccessfully to heal a boy. Jesus, clearly exasperated, asks, “How long shall I stay with you and put up with you?”
- And they continue to bicker as the crucifixion approaches. Jesus gets pretty clear when he talks about the crucifixion (“Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men”). No symbolic parable there. But after one of these revelations, the disciples decide that it was a great time to talk about which of them is the greatest. And James and John even use the opportunity to ask if they could have the two prime seats when Jesus comes again. Geeez. What were they thinking?
- Finally, even at the end, they can’t stay awake while Jesus is praying. They all fled when Jesus gets arrested — one of them in the nude when he slips the grips of a guard by stripping off his cloak (Mark 14:50-52). And even Peter “The Rock” denies that he ever knew him. That’s pretty much the end of the 12 disciples in Mark. The original Mark ends when three women go to the tomb and find Jesus missing (as a reminder, the appearances of Jesus after the crucifixion in the last chapter of Mark were added in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, possibly to bring them into alignment with Matthew, Luke, and John).
Question of the week. We’re gonna go all conspiracy theory here. In light of the description of the disciples, and the emphasis that three women discovered the empty tomb, is it possible that a woman wrote the gospel of Mark?