Count the Cost. Authority, Roman culture and gospel persuasion.
As we know, Mark is writing his gospel (“good news”) of Jesus, the Son of God to a Roman audience. The Romans
were known for their dominance, power, force and brutality. So, if Mark is to present Jesus as the Savior, he’ll
have to do something pretty special to convince the average Roman that the criminal that Rome crucified is in fact
God and is deserving of their faith and allegiance. That’s a tough sell. Especially when that shift in allegiance
meant that they would not be worshipping Caesar as Lord and God any longer. That would create some social
But wait, it gets worse.
Choosing to believe Jesus also meant that you gave up any chance at professional advancement. Why? Because
vocations in the Roman culture were all based on the guild system, which is like a combination of a fraternity and
a labor union. They worked together and they partied together (in great sexual excess – every month). It was a
complicated vocational culture where each guild was dedicated to a particular Roman god (most of Roman gods
guided the worshiper towards immorality). And each vocation was tied to another Roman god. And the typical
Roman family served yet a different Roman god. And, of course, every Roman citizen was expected to worship the
Emperor as Lord and God. Thus, idolatry was part and parcel of the daily experience in the Roman world.
So, in their culture, to say yes to Jesus, the criminal on the Roman cross, was to end all professional opportunity, risk
social ostracism and incur the wrath of the government. Yikes! That’s why the book ends the way it does in 16:8:
“And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said
nothing to anyone, for they were afraid “(16:8). The implications of believing Jesus in a Roman world are
staggering! Costly! Fear inducing!
Think about that the next time you are “persecuted” when someone looks at
you funny for praying for your Spicy Deluxe sandwich at Chic-fil-a.
So, a Roman reader would be repulsed by the crucifixion, but they would be intrigued by the authority that Jesus
demonstrated. And, they would be very interested in the willing manner in which Jesus died and the fact that he
laid down his life for others. In fact, they might be so intrigued that they would be willing to overlook the manner
in which Jesus died – and that is Mark’s goal.
Many in our world pay a high price for their belief in Jesus as God’s Son. Some of us do not, but we might want to
gear up for that should our culture change.
Stay close to the Savior today.