If there was a gospel that could both inspire a believer to great heights and scare the pants off them, Mark could be the one! Whether you stop with the shorter ending at verse eight, where the women who went early in the morning to anoint Jesus’s body, end up fleeing the scene terrified and tell no one. This ending leaves you thinking discipleship is fear based, mysterious, and you're better off to run. OR you go with the longer ending in which Jesus, after he was raised from the tomb, met his disciples where they were hiding in fear for their lives, and told them, “those who believe will cast out demons, speak in new tongues, handle snakes, lay hands on and heal the sick, and not be harmed if they were to drink any deadly thing!” (16:17-18)
Either way, there is a powerful force at work and if you align your understanding of discipleship more with Mark, then that powerful force is how you experience the Spirit of God and influences how you interact with the world around you. In fact, according to Morris, that is the first main characteristic of Marken disciples - they are continually seeking the power and presence of the Spirit of God in their everyday life; in their coming and going of their work, church, and encounters with others.
A second characteristic found in Markan disciples is they are “wildly inclusive” (Morris 29). Markans know how to make space for everyone - not necessarily by building one on one relationships but rather by making sure “there is space at the table for everyone” (29). They are inclusive of people the rest of the church may not see. The third characteristic of Markan disciples is what Morris calls their “short attention span” (30). Not because they can’t focus or remain focussed, but because if a Markan believes the Spirit of God shifts, they too will shift their focus.
That leads to the final two characteristics of Markans: they feel the presence of God in an active, physical, tangible way, which allows them to almost always be open to the miraculous and they actively seek the presence of God and look for God in all things and moments. These are the poets, artists, and musicians. Markan disciples use their creativity to express prayer, worship, and theology. By doing so, they open space within themselves for the Holy Spirit to pour its energy into them that they in turn, pour that energy into the world around them.
The words of Jesus as recorded at the end of the gospel of Mark are not intended to alarm or frighten the followers of Jesus, but rather to energize and inspire them knowing that they have access to and are empowered by the very presence of God’s Holy Spirit. They are words to encourage and remind believers that it is the Holy Spirit that does the moving and transforming and that all humanity is the vessel through which God can transform lives and in fact change the world.
What does all this mean? What does it look like in the church and world? Perhaps mirroring the style of the great evangelist, Jeff Foxworthy can help:
If the final words of Jesus as recorded by the author of Mark energize and inspire you to immediate action, you may be a Markan disciple.
If you believe the church too often puts people and God in a box, and that box is too small, you might be a Markan disciple.
If new ideas, ministries, and projects are exciting to you, you might be a Markan disciple.
If you look for, expect, and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in profound and ordinary ways, you might be a Markan disciple.
If you believe everyone has a place you might be a Markan disciple.
If you believe boundaries and rules can limit the work of the Spirit you might be a Markan disciple.
AND based on the mysterious and powerful words of Mark 16:17-18
If you speak in tongues, which I believe can mean you speak in a way that those who have been pushed aside, ignored, or otherwise made to feel like outsiders to the church, you might be a Markan disciple.
If you have the courage to handle the snakes of our time; the bullies, the arrogant, and those who misuse the power given them, you might be a Markan disciple.
If you have been exposed to the poison of lies, cynicism, and double standards poured out in our world and did NOT cave or compromise, you might be a Markan disciple.
If your encouraging words, consistent actions, faithful presence, helping hand, or clear minded council provided healing, support, and wisdom for a hurting soul, you might be a Markan disciple.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine