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Why was it important for his community? My sense is that the answers to these questions should direct the course for contemporary preaching. Although it is not a particularly avant-garde position, I understand the Gospel of Mark to be a historical document not, one should note, history. The intent of its author and his circumstances set limits on how the text should be interpreted in our own day.

The Forehead of a Whore

Mark's intent in preserving a story circumscribes to some extent its appropriate interpretation. Finally, in this book I am not proposing an overarching theory about Mark's Gospel.

Nor do I write to take issue with the scholars and commentators who do develop synthetic readings of Mark. My aim is far more modest: it is to provide preachers and teachers of Mark's Gospel with information to help them appropriately interpret and proclaim it. Excerpt from Chapter 1 The Prologue: Introduction Most commentators note that, although it is not poetic like the Gospel of John, Mark's Gospel is similar to John's in that it also has a prologue.

The length of Mark's prologue is debated. Three possibilities are suggested. First, some scholars suggest is the prologue, making it essentially the title and the ministry of John the Baptist. Others think that , the ministry of the Baptist and the temptation of Jesus are the prologue. The third possibility is that the prologue includes vv. In this regard, I am a maximalist and read vv. My decision is based on what appears to me to be the structure of the passage.

Verse 1 begins and v. Within these brackets, material about Jesus and John alternates Jesus, v. Verses are included as the summary of Jesus' teaching and preaching, to which Mark frequently alludes in the early scenes of the Gospel.

Practicing Liberation in the Black Church

When teaching is mentioned but not reported, we are to remember vv. What Mark does at the outset is to provide all the hearer or reader needs to understand Jesus and the Gospel. We begin with information that no character in the story has. We are told that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, facts that characters in the narrative must discover as it unfolds. Morna Hooker notes that the information at the outset of Mark 1 "is primarily christological. The baptism introduces the Trinity and provides divine confirmation of the identity of Jesus given in v.

The temptation of Jesus depicts him as one who overcomes Satan. And finally, vv. The identity of Jesus and the extent of his ministry are summarized in these fifteen verses. For Further Reading R. Mark Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, By Bonnie Bowman Thurston. This short commentary aims to help preachers move from text to sermon. There is also a brief introduction to the Gospel, dealing with typical issues of date, authorship, and audience.

Thurston's commentary is audience-focused, a good choice for a sermon-starting book. She frequently asks how a story would have sounded to the hearers, whom she takes to have been lower-class persons delighted to hear about Jesus' problems with the elite of his world.

She also notes points where stories would have appealed to persecuted Roman Christians: the wild beasts of the temptation, the darkness and terror of the storm of chapter 6, and the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Professor Thurston's homiletical insights are very helpful.

Best Advice For Preaching

Commenting on , she notes that is important "in an overworked, stressed-out, and consequently burned-out world and church! She goes on to compare followers of Christ to the bread and fish broken and given to feed the masses: "precisely then we become the body of Christ, as in our brokenness, we are blest and given to others" Her interpretive line often, like Mark, puts the spotlight on the nameless, powerless characters; of the Syrophoenician woman, she writes, "This 'uppity woman' is an example of faith; she exhibits the courage of those who have little to lose and can act on behalf of others for the sake of wholeness and liberation" In pursuit of the theme of liberation, the author treats the purity laws as burdens from which to be freed rather than as important cultural identity markers.

Of the women with the issues, Thurston writes "it separates her from the community because it makes her and anyone she comes in contact with 'unclean' and 'defiled. Actually, the story proves the opposite. They seem to be saying This is what we have learned and this is what we do when they preach. Some are prone to more traditional, tried and true methods; others are less structured and experimental. There are ample quotes in each chapter and the conversational tone of the book makes it easy to read.


  1. Plurality of Worlds: The Extraterrestrial Life Debate from Democritus to Kant?
  2. Preaching Mark?
  3. Book Reviews – Preaching Peace;

Another plus for the book is that each chapter is edited by a well known homiletician. These chapter editors not only choose the quotes from the responders, they also add their own valuable comments to the discussion. One or two chapters could be discussed at each gathering. The material is open-ended, and so it leaves room and even encourages other preachers to reflect and value their own preaching experience—and maybe to be willing to share that experience with other concerned and listening preachers.

About James H. Harris

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