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The Gospel of Mark (Part 1) - Inside or Outside

We find ourselves predominantly using the Gospel of Mark during the Year B Cycle of the Sunday Lectionary. For some people, this may be exciting because Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels and it is usually the quickest to the message of Jesus. This may also be less than exciting for folks who realize that Mark presents a group of disciples that just never seem to get it right. My hope here is to provide you with a bit of context to help you understand the Gospel of Mark a little bit more as you hear it throughout the year.

Inside or Outside
As we make our way through the Gospel of Mark, it doesn't take long for us to realize that there is a group on the inside and a group on the outside. The group on the inside are Jesus' chosen disciples. Having the gift to read hearts, Jesus separates the people who truly want to follow Him and listen to His words with an open heart from those who come to Him with their own personal agendas. Because of this, Mark makes it very clear to whom Jesus is speaking. Let me highlight this point a bit more:

In Mark 4:26, it says, "Jesus said to the crowds..." Jesus proceeds to speak to the crowds in parables. And towards the end of the pericope, in Mark 4:33-34 it clearly states that Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables so that they "were able to understand." These are the people on the outside. Jesus realizes that their agendas prevent themselves from hearing Him speak plainly. Their hearts prevent themselves from understanding anything except teachings through stories (parables). Mark 4:34 states that Jesus then turns to His disciples after this episode and "explained everything in private." He spoke to them plainly because they were those on the inside who had no personal agendas except to learn from Him.

When we listen to the Gospel of Mark at Mass, pay close attention to who Jesus is addressing because it will help us understand if He is about to use a parable or if He is speaking plainly. We have the benefit today of knowing the end of the story, which hopefully helps us fair better than the Disciples did as they are presented in the Gospel of Mark.