The Gospel of Mark: A Lutheran Gospel (Part 1 of 8)

A lot of Christians regard Lutherans as being very one-sided or narrow in their theology. The accusation is that we Lutherans shrink the church year together into Good Friday. In other words, Lutherans are often blamed for making every day Good Friday while ignoring the other major themes of the church year. People will often state, "There are 3 articles of the Apostle's Creed, not just the 2nd article!" Consider this one for a moment too, "You Lutherans need to move beyond the cross to the resurrection.” In fact, I recently received the following comment on my blog called, “PM Notes.” The commenter stated, “All too often evangelicals across the board focus exclusively on Christ's death and not near enough (if any) on his resurrection. The power of the gospel is that Christ ROSE from the dead; it's our future hope to rise as well!”

So in transferring these common criticisms to the Gospel of Mark what do we find from this narrative of Jesus? What is Mark’s theology, where does the overarching structure of the book lead us, where do the individual stories direct us and what can we learn about the titles of Jesus? I have heard it stated before that Mark is a Lutheran’s Gospel because at the center of Mark we find the centrality of the cross. In other words, the dramatic narrative structure of Mark takes us to the cross. The increasing conflict of Mark’s Gospel also takes us to the cross. Furthermore, Mark’s use of the term “Son of God” climaxes at the cross. Finally, the controversial ending of Mark’s Gospel, if understood correctly, points us not forward but backwards to the cross.

The purpose of this blog series is to point out the cross-centeredness of Mark’s Gospel as a basis for reading, preaching and teaching the Gospel of Mark. Obviously, the Gospel of Mark does not exclusively belong to the Lutheran camp; however, a cross-centered approach to the Gospel of Mark certainly affirms the Lutheran Theological focus of the cross.

Next Post In This Series: February 26th of 2012


Mark Erickson said…
Thanks for your interesting blog!
My question and comment:
To which "controversial ending" of Mark do you refer?
There are a handful of options. If you are referring to verse 8 as the ending (which I think is, by far and away, the best alternative), I agree with you that the crucifixion is more Mark's focus than is the resurrection. If you are referring to 9-20 (or any of the similar options), then it's a more difficult case.
You might want to specify.
Hey Mark,

It is good to hear from you my friend!

In part 8 of this series I present the case for the ending of Mark at verse 8. I didn't hold to this ending until I wrestled with the evidence from the early fathers. Furthermore, as you state, the ending of Mark at verse 8 actually highlights the cross! Sweet stuff!

Grace and Peace to you my friend as you continue to minister and serve at LBS!
St. Paul certainly does hold up the resurrection of Christ as important, e.g.: "If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14, but when it comes to the power of the Gospel, he points to Christ's death: "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:2-5). This follows Paul's discussion of preaching "the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Cor. 1:18). Why do some insist on the power of the Gospel being in the resurrection? I suggest it might be because of the same old theology of glory vs. theology of the cross that Paul was dealing with. "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18. Our Old Adam resists and resents that idea God's power is demonstrated in weakness. But it is on the cross that Christ made full atonement for our sins. It is there that He redeemed and purchased us. His resurrection proves that He is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), His teaching is true (John 2:19), and that the Father accepted Christ's sacrifice for the reconciliation of the world (Rom. 4:25; 5:10)and that all believers in Christ will rise to eternal life (John 11:25-26; 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:20). I would say it is best to teach Christ's death and resurrection together; that seems to be the pattern of the apostles throughout the book of Acts and in the epistles.
Very well said Pastor Bob. Thank you for your insights!