Meeting God in Mark by Rowan Williams
(SPCK, 2014, 86 pages)
Mark is the most concise of the four Gospels. In this respect, the brevity of Rowan Williams’ reflections on the book are particularly appropriate. Meeting God in Mark was originally delivered as a series of Holy Week talks at Canterbury Cathedral in 2010, and they have an appropriately devotional quality to them. As Williams states it, the goal of the book is “simply to offer suggestions for a slow reading of what notoriously feels like a rushed and packed text” (vii). This is not a full commentary, but rather, a brief reading of the major themes of the Gospel.
Williams discusses the historical claims regarding Mark’s authorship, the relational nature of Jesus’ recorded miracles, and the abrupt ending of the author’s account of the Resurrection. Williams emphasizes the fact that the miracles recorded in the book are not a simple display of power or a way for Jesus to prove a point. Instead, they are expressions of his compassion towards people in need. Another major theme, and one that has characterized much of Williams’ work, is the difficulty of speaking in a meaningful way about divinity, especially the incarnate divinity to which Mark claims to bear witness.
As with everything that he writes, Williams combines concern for historical and scholarly accuracy with spiritual wisdom and sensitivity. He manages to provide a reading of Mark that is a product both of genuine scholarship and of pastoral concern. Meeting God in Mark is an excellent resource for those interested in the themes of Mark’s portrait of Christ and in the unique place it holds among the other Gospel narratives.