Sudden fiction is another term for flash fiction, but the two aren’t simply synonymous, at least not to my ear. Don’t read too much into the title of this post. I’m not making some argument that the Gospel of Mark ought to be thought of as fiction or non-fiction by modern definitions. I’m talking about effect. Where does the writer mean to take us, and why? How do we know?
The Gospel of Mark is short, but it’s also very sudden. Replete with “immediatelys,” the narrative is constantly moving. Like a good short story, it feels meant to be read in one sitting.
I’ve just finished a sudden read in this manner. My sudden thoughts follow.
In Mark, Jesus is concerned with telling anyone who will hear that the kingdom of God is at hand, the kingdom of God is here, and that this news is good.
Often, his message gains traction through healing and exorcisms (these may or may not be the same). He is clearly opposed to entrenched religious systems and values, but not to the teachings of Israel’s prophets. His je ne sais quoi has precisely to do with his vision of God and God’s kingdom in the context of Rome’s empire, Herod’s puppet vassal, the Sanhedrin’s religious hegemony, the temple-merchants’ guild and the common-place fiefdom of first-century mores, beliefs, and expectations often beguiling his disciples or other parts of the general public. Often, those outside his immediate circle understand him best. He is arrested, tried, and crucified quickly. He even dies quickly. His tomb is found empty, and his followers are instructed by a heavenly presence to meet him, the Risen, in Galilee. No big deal. Biggest deal ever.
We shouldn’t be surprised.