By Hollywood standards, Mark’s account of the Passion suffers from understatement. He leaves the gore and the sweat and the agony largely to our imagination.
Movie directors have retold the story in more graphic ways. They have frequently provided long sequences of torture. They have included isolated shots of Mary and Mary Magdalene shattered by the sight of Jesus’ suffering. And they have lingered on closeups of Jesus’ face clenched in holy agony.
Mark offers none of these touches. And he knows exactly what he’s doing.
|Paul Gauguin's "Yellow Christ"|
His refusal to include detailed descriptions of torture and the process of crucifixion has nothing to do with censoring extreme violence. He is not striving to make the story acceptable for younger and more sensitive audiences.
Mark wants simply to tell the truth. And a Hollywood-like emphasis on the physical details of Jesus’ suffering and the cruelty of his tormentors would have been a distraction from that truth.
And here’s the truth Mark wants us to hear. God is doing a mighty work in the most unlikely set of circumstances anyone could possibly have imagined. Mark wants to help us see what God is doing in and through Jesus’ death.
Mark never intended us to look at Jesus’ death in isolation from his life and his resurrection. So, today, as we enter Holy Week, let’s focus on the meaning of Jesus’ death in light of the resurrection.