In its foundational purpose, the Bible is a collective commentary about power. It offers warning, instruction, graphic illustration, and ultimately, an alternative understanding regarding the reality and use of power.
Any attentive reading of Mark will note the core theme of authority and power, for Mark approaches power from nearly every conceivable angle. From the oppressive institutional and political powers of Rome and Jerusalem/Temple to the inner dialogical and psychological powers at work within persons. And for those, as Mark makes illustratively clear, with open eyes and ears…it is the formational question of “What power is at work in and through me?” that should remain our daily guide.
Today, while grieving the news of the day, I am reminded of Mark’s inclusion (6:17) of the story about Herod’s beheading of John the Baptist — a definitive reminder of the insanity that contrives from the combination of ego and power. The outcomes of violence, lack of regard for life, the grasping for self-preservation, and the manipulation of reality by naming their own “truth” to serve their own purpose…these are the known outcomes of ego and power. And because these are the known outcomes…we are called to the work of organizing our human systems around a different path of power. Open eyes and ears can see clearly how the past few years of acute attention given to egoic power in our own society has directly emboldened the violence of the present day. That’s how evil power works. Like a raging fire, it both consumes its fuel and exists by the fuel.
In contrast, throughout the New Testament the power of God (dynamis) is named the “Holy Spirit.” Jesus informs his disciples that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit is upon you” (Acts 10:38). It seems it is best to think of the Holy Spirit as the power of God flowing in and through a person (and in all things!). And when embodied, this power is known as Love and Justice. I suppose the remaining chapters in our reading of Mark ought to be read through the simple but insightful lens of “What does the power of Love and Justice empower Jesus to be/do?”
Martin Luther King, Jr. summarized this gospel view so well. He said, “If we want truly to advance a step further, if we want to turn over a new leaf and really set a new [humanity] afoot, we must begin to turn [humankind] away from the long and desolate night of violence. May it not be that the new [human] the world needs is the non-violent [human]? … We must be hammers shaping a new society, rather than anvils molded by the old. This will not only make us new [humanity], but will give us a new kind of power.” … “It will be power infused with love and justice, that will change dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, and lift us from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. A dark, desperate, confused, and sin-sick world waits for this new kind of [human] and this new kind of power.” (King, 1967a, 66.)
Ah, yes! The world still awaits such a gospel movement. And for anyone seeking to follow and learn from the life/way/truth of Jesus, the core discipleship question remains: “What power is at work in, upon, and through me?”
*These reflections on Mark are written as a recap summary on the weekly discipleship discussions of The Gathering Community. The Gathering Community is a group of seekers who are “relinquishing what has failed (which we will likely treasure) and receiving what God will give.” (WB) Currently we are traveling through the book of Mark, receiving good news for our wearied selves and world.