The Gospel of St. Mark
23 September 1912, Basel
It has been repeatedly pointed out in the course of these lectures how, as time goes on, the relationship of mankind to the Gospels will be fundamentally changed through the recognition of their profoundly artistic character, and the artistry of their composition. The occult background and the world-historical impulses pictured in the Gospels will be seen in the right light only when their artistic composition is taken into account. During the entire course of the historical evolution of mankind, the art and literature of the Gospels are linked together in the same way, as we have been able to point out on a few occasions in the course of these lectures.
We have pointed to those lonely figures in the Hellenic world who experienced in their souls the gradual disappearance and dying out of the old clairvoyant vision, for which they had to exchange the consciousness of the present time, its abstract concepts and abstract ideas, out of which the ego of man has to work. We can also point to something else which, precisely in Greek culture, from a certain point of view represents a kind of concluding phase of the culture of mankind. It is as if this culture had attained a certain peak, and had to be enkindled again from another point of view. I am referring to Greek art. How did it happen that people at the time of the Renaissance in Europe sought in their souls the land of the Greeks, that is to say the land of Beauty, and saw an ideal of human development in the wonderful way in which the Greeks shaped the human form? But this did not only occur in the time of the Renaissance. In the modern classical epoch spirits like Goethe sought in the same way within their souls this land of the Greeks, the land of beautiful form. The reason for this is that in actual fact it was in Greece that beauty, which speaks out of external form directly to human sight, came to a kind of end, an end that indeed represented a certain high point of achievement.
In Greek beauty and Greek art everything confronts us enclosed in form. The composition of Greek works of art reveals to our sight exactly what is intended by the composition. It is there in sense existence, fully apparent to the eye. The greatness of Greek art consists in the fact that it has come forth so fully into outward appearance. We may say that the art of the Gospels also represents a new beginning, but one that to this day has scarcely been understood at all. There is above all in the Gospels an inner composition and an inner interweaving of artistic threads, which are also at the same time occult threads. As we emphasized yesterday the important thing is everywhere to look for the real point, as it is drawn to our attention in every description and every story.
It is particularly shown in the Mark Gospel, not so much in the wording but in the general tone of the presentation, that Christ is to be seen as a cosmic being, an earthly and supra-earthly manifestation, while the Mystery of Golgotha is shown as an earthly and supra-earthly fact. But something else is also emphasized, and here we are faced with the fine artistic element, especially toward the end of the Gospel. It is emphasized that a cosmic element is shining into the concerns of earth. It truly shines in; and it was the task of earth beings, of earthly human beings to bring their understanding to this impulse. Perhaps nowhere else is it indicated so well as in the Mark Gospel how fundamentally the whole of earth evolution will be necessary to enable us to understand what shone here out of the cosmos into earth existence, and how at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha such understanding was altogether impossible. And even today this understanding is still absent. The truth that at that time there was only an initial impetus toward an understanding that can come into being only with the further development of mankind is shown in a quite wonderful way in the artistic composition of the Gospel. We can discern something of this artistic composition if we enquire into the form of understanding that could have been possible and brought to bear on the Mystery of Golgotha at the time it took place.
Essentially three kinds of understanding were possible, and they could arise at three different levels. Firstly, understanding could have been found in those who were nearest to Christ Jesus, His chosen disciples. They are presented to us everywhere in the Gospels as those whom the Lord Himself had chosen, to whom He confided many things to help them toward a higher understanding of existence. From them, therefore, we have a right to expect the greatest understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. What kind of understanding may we expect from them? As we approach the end of the Mark Gospel this is ever more delicately interwoven into its composition. It is pointed out to us very clearly that these chosen disciples could have had a higher understanding than the leaders of the Old Testament people. But we must everywhere look for the point to which we are referring.
In Mark chapter 12, verses 18 to 27 you will find a conversation between Christ Jesus and the Sadducees, a conversation that is primarily concerned with the immortality of the soul. If the Gospels are read superficially it will not occur to anybody to ask why this conversation appears precisely here, a conversation about immortality followed by the curious question posed by the Sadducees, who spoke as follows, “It could happen that one of seven brothers married a woman but he dies, and the same woman marries the second. After the death of the second she also marries the third, and likewise with the others. She herself dies only after the death of the seventh brother.” The Sadducees could not understand how, if there is indeed immortality, these seven men should behave toward the one woman in the spiritual world. This is a well-known Sadducean objection which, as some of you may know, was not made only at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha but is even to be found in some modern books as an objection to immortality, which proves that in the circles where such books are written there is still no complete understanding of the matter. But why was this conversation recorded? If we consider the matter, we shall see that the answer given by Christ Jesus tells us clearly that souls become heavenly after death, that there is no marrying among beings of the supra-earthly world. In the case cited by the Sadducees the facts are totally irrelevant, since they are concerned with a relationship that is essentially earthly and has no meaning beyond the earth. In other words Christ Jesus is here speaking of circumstances prevailing in the extraterrestrial worlds which He wishes to bring in here solely for the contribution they can make to the understanding of life beyond the earth.
But as you approach the end of the Mark Gospel you will find still another conversation when Christ Jesus is asked about marriage (Mark 10:1-12). This was a conversation between Christ Jesus and the Jewish scribes. How is it possible, He was asked, to dismiss a wife with a letter of divorce as permitted by the law of Moses? What was the reason for the answer given by Christ Jesus, “Yes, Moses gave you this law because your hearts are hard and you need an arrangement like this?” The reason is that He is now speaking about something entirely different. He is now speaking about how men and women were together before human evolution had been exposed to temptation through the Luciferic powers. That is to say, He is talking about something cosmic, something supra-earthly; He raised the subject to the supra-earthly plane. The reason for His answer is that He was leading the conversation beyond what refers simply to earthly life, beyond experience of the senses, beyond ordinary earth evolution. And this is already a significant example of how by appearing on earth He brings down to it supra-earthly, cosmic matters, and talks about such cosmic matters with the beings of earth.
By whom might we hope, or even go as far as to demand, that such discourses of Christ concerning these cosmic matters will be best understood? By those whom He had first chosen as His disciples. So the first form of understanding could be characterized in this way. The chosen disciples of Christ Jesus could have understood the Mystery of Golgotha in such a way that they could have interpreted the supra-earthly, cosmic aspect of this world-historical fact. This might have been expected from those disciples whom He had chosen.
A second kind of understanding could have been expected to be found among the leaders of the ancient Hebrew people, from the high priests, the chief justices, from those who knew the Scriptures and knew the historical evolution of the Old Testament people. What could have been asked of them? The Gospel shows clearly that they were not called upon to understand the realities of Christ Jesus, but they were expected to understand the fact that Christ Jesus came to the ancient Hebrew people, that with His individuality He was born into the blood of the people, that He was a Son of the House of David, inwardly linked to the essence of what came through David into the Jewish people. This is the second and lesser kind of understanding. That Christ Jesus had a mission that marked the high point of the mission of the whole Jewish people is indicated in a wonderful way toward the end of the Mark Gospel when it is shown ever more clearly — see in what a delicately artistic way this is indicated — that here we have to do with the Son of David. Thus, while the disciples were called upon to have an understanding of the mission of the cosmic hero, those who considered themselves as belonging to the Jewish people were called upon to understand the truth that the time had come for the completion of the mission of David. That is the second kind of understanding. The Jewish people should have known that the end of their old mission had come and that there could come a new flaming up of their own particular mission.
And the third kind of comprehension — where should this have been found? Again something lesser is demanded, and it is remarkable with what delicacy the artistic composition of the Mark Gospel indicates it. Something lesser is demanded and this lesser element was required of the Romans. Read what happens toward the end of this Gospel when Christ Jesus is delivered over to the Romans by the high priests — I am referring only to this Mark Gospel. The high priests ask Christ Jesus if He wishes to speak of the Christ and acknowledge Himself as the Christ, at which they would take offense, because He would then be speaking of His cosmic mission; or if He wishes to speak of the fact that He is a scion of the House of David. But why does Pilate, the Roman, take offense? Simply because Christ was supposed to have claimed He was the “king of the Jews” (Mark 15:1-15). The Jews were expected to understand that He represented the culminating point in their own development. The Romans were expected to understand that He signified something in the development of the Jewish people — not a climax of this development but something that was to play a leading part in it. If the Romans had understood this what would have been the result? Nothing much different from what came about in any case; only they failed to understand it. We know that Judaism spread indirectly over the whole Western world by way of Alexandria. The Romans could have had some understanding for the fact that the moment in world history had arrived for the spread of Jewish culture. Such an understanding was again less than what the scribes ought to have understood. The Romans were called upon to understand simply the significance of the Jews as a part of the world. That they did not understand this, which would have been a task of that age, is shown through the fact that Pilate did not understand why Christ Jesus was looked upon as the king of the Jews, and regarded it, indeed, as a harmless matter that He should have been presented as a king of the Jews.
Thus a threefold understanding of the mission of Christ Jesus might have been expected: first, that the chosen disciples could have had an understanding of Christ as a cosmic being, secondly, the understanding that the Jews were supposed to have for what was burgeoning in the Jewish people itself, and thirdly the understanding that the Romans ought to have had of the Jewish people, how they were ceasing to expand only over Palestine, but were beginning to spread over the greater part of the earth.
This secret is concealed in the artistic composition especially of the Mark Gospel; and in it answers are given, and with great clarity, to all three questions.
The first question must be: Are the apostles, the chosen disciples equal to the task of comprehension imposed on them? Did they recognize Christ as a cosmic spirit? Did they recognize that there in their midst was one who was not only what He signified to them as man, but who was enveloped in an aura through which cosmic forces and cosmic laws were transmitted to the earth? Did they understand this?
That Christ Jesus demanded such an understanding from them is clearly indicated in the Gospel. For when the two disciples, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him and asked that one of them might sit on His right hand and the other on His left, He said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Can you drink from the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38.)
It is clearly indicated here that Christ Jesus required this of them, and at first they solemnly pledge themselves to it. What might then have happened? There were two possibilities. One would have been that the chosen disciples would really have passed in company with Christ through all that is known as the Mystery of Golgotha, and that the bond between Christ and the disciples would have been preserved until the Mystery of Golgotha. That was one of the two things that could have happened. But it is made very clear, especially in the Mark Gospel, that exactly the opposite occurred. When Christ Jesus was taken prisoner, everyone fled, and Peter who had promised solemnly that he would take offense at nothing, denied him three times before the cock crowed twice. That is the picture presented from the point of view of the apostles. But how is it shown that, from the point of view of the Christ, it was not at all like this?
Let us place ourselves with all humility — as we must — within the soul of Christ Jesus, who to the end tries to maintain the woven bond linking Him with the souls of the disciples. Let us place ourselves as far as we may within the soul of Christ Jesus during the events that followed. This soul might well put to itself the world-historical question, “Is it possible for me to cause the souls of at least the most select of the disciples to rise to the height of experiencing with me everything that is to happen until the Mystery of Golgotha?” The soul of Christ itself is faced with this question at the crucial moment when Peter, James and John are led out to the Mount of Olives, and Christ Jesus wants to find out from within Himself whether He will be able to keep those whom He had chosen. On the way He becomes anguished. Yes, my friends, does anyone believe, can anyone believe that Christ became anguished in face of death, of the Mystery of Golgotha, and that He sweated blood because of the approaching event of Golgotha? Anyone who could believe that would show he had little understanding for the Mystery of Golgotha; it may be in accord with theology, but it shows no insight. Why does the Christ become distressed? He does not tremble before the cross. That goes without saying. He is distressed above all in face of this question, “Will those whom I have with me here stand the test of this moment when it will be decided whether they want to accompany me in their souls, whether they want to experience everything with me until the cross?” It had to be decided if their consciousness could remain sufficiently awake so that they could experience everything with Him until the cross. This was the “cup” that was coming near to Him. So He leaves them alone to see if they can stay “awake,” that is in a state of consciousness in which they can experience with Him what He is to experience. Then He goes aside and prays, “Father, let this cup pass from me, but let it be done according to your will, not mine.” In other words, “Let it not be my experience to stand quite alone as the Son of Man, but may the others be permitted to go with me.”
He comes back, and they are asleep; they could not maintain their state of wakeful consciousness. Again He makes the attempt, and again they could not maintain it. So it becomes clear to Him that He is to stand alone, and that they will not participate in the path to the cross. The cup had not passed away from Him. He was destined to accomplish the deed in loneliness, a loneliness that was also of the soul. Certainly the world had the Mystery of Golgotha, but at the time it happened it had as yet no understanding of this event; and the most select and chosen disciples could not stay awake to that point. This therefore is the first kind of understanding; and it comes to expression with the most consummate artistry if we can only understand how to feel the actual occult background that lies concealed behind the words of the Gospels.
Let us now enquire into the second kind of understanding, and ask how the Jewish leaders understood the one who was to come forth from the lineage of David as the flower of the old Hebrew development. We find in the tenth chapter of the Mark Gospel one of the first passages in which it is pointed out to us what understanding the ancient Hebrew people showed toward the one who arose from the lineage of David. This is the decisive passage when Christ Jesus is approaching Jerusalem, and should have been recognized by the old Hebrew people as the successor of David.
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a considerable crowd, a blind man, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road, begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to call, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” And many scolded him, telling him to be silent. But he called all the more loudly, “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” (Mark 10:46-48.)
It is explicitly stated that the call of the blind man was expressed in the words “Thou Son of David,” showing that he could reach the understanding only of “the Son of David.”
And Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man and said to him, “Be of good cheer, arise, he is calling you.”
So he threw off his mantle, jumped up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man said to him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”
And Jesus said to him. “Cheer up! 1Although this is not the meaning usually given in the biblical translations, the Greek word used here (hypage) ordinarily has the meaning given here and I prefer it to the not particularly meaningful “Go” or “Go thy way” or “go along” customarily used. Ed. Your faith has rescued you.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on his way.
It was therefore only faith that was required of him. Is it not worthwhile giving consideration to why, among the other stories, the healing of a blind man is referred to? Why does the story stand there all by itself? We should learn something from the way the Gospel is composed. It is not the cure itself that is at issue, but that only one man among them all, and he a blind man, should call with all his strength, “Jesus, thou Son of David!” Those who had sight did not recognize Him, but the blind man, who does not see Him physically at all, does recognize Him. So what has to be shown here is how blind the others are, and that this man had to be blind in order to see Him. In this passage what is important is the blindness, not the healing; and it shows at the same time how little Christ was understood.
As we proceed further we find how He speaks everywhere of how the cosmic lives in the individual human being. Indeed, He speaks of the cosmic when He speaks of immortality, and it is noteworthy how He speaks of this just in connection with His appearance as the Son of David. He proclaims that God is a God of the living and not of the dead, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Mark 12:26-27), because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live on in their successors in different forms, in that God lives in their individualities. This is pointed out still more strongly when Christ refers to what slumbers within man and must be awakened. Here it is said that it was not a question of a merely physical son of David, for David himself speaks of the “Lord” and not of a physical son (Mark 12:35-37). As the influence of the cosmic Christ is waning, everywhere reference is made to the “Lord” that lives within the individuality of man, and how this is to spring from the lineage of David.
We wish to draw attention to one particular passage that you will find near the end of the Mark Gospel. It is a passage that can easily be overlooked if it is not understood, though it is indeed a soul-shattering passage. It occurs where it is reported that Christ has now been delivered over to the worldly powers, that He is to be condemned, and excuses are sought for condeming Him. Just before this passage what He did in the Temple was described, how He drove out the money-changers and overturned their tables, and how He preached most remarkable words which were heard in the souls of those present. Yet nothing happened to Him because of this. Christ explicitly draws attention to this when He says, “You have heard all this. Yet now, when I am standing before you, you are looking for false charges against me. You have taken me prisoner by the customary method of employing a traitor, as if you were arresting someone who has committed a serious crime whereas you did nothing while I stood among you in the Temple.”
This is indeed a shattering passage, for we are given to understand that essentially, wherever Christ is active, nothing can be done against Him. Is it not permissible to ask why? Indeed, He is working so actively that He points with the utmost clarity to the fact that a turning point in cosmic evolution has been reached, as He indicates with the words, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Mark 9:35.) Such teachings that He hurls at them must have seemed terrifying by comparison with the teachings of the Old Testament and the way they understood them. Yet nothing happens. Afterwards He is captured under cover of darkness and night by the agency of a traitor; and we even have the impression that there was something like a struggle when He was captured. The passage is truly shattering:
But the traitor had given them a sign and said, “The one whom I will kiss, it is he; seize and secure him.”
And when he came he went directly to Him and said “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed him. And they laid hands on Him and seized Him.
But one of those who were standing by drew his sword and struck at a servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
And Jesus spoke to them, “You have come out with swords and sticks to take me prisoner as you would a murderer. I was daily in the Temple teaching, and you did not seize me; but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:44-49.)
What was it that really happened that they did not at first capture Him, and then sought reasons to capture Him like a murderer? It is only possible to understand what happened if we look at it in the light of occult truths. I have already pointed out how the Mark Gospel clearly describes occult and spiritual facts intermingled at random with purely physical facts. And we shall show how Christ clearly does not limit His activity to the deeds of the single personality, Jesus of Nazareth. He worked upon His disciples when He came to them by the lake in an external form but outside His physical body. So while His physical body might be in one place or another, He could while outside it inspire into the souls of His disciples all that He did, and all that radiated from Him as spiritual impulse. And we shall point out that the Mark Gospel makes it abundantly clear how human beings hear what He preaches and teaches while He appears to them in an external form outside His physical body. What He says lives in their souls; though they do not understand it, it comes to life within their souls. In the individuality of Christ and in the crowd it is both earthly and supra-earthly at the same time.
The Christ is everywhere connected with a widely extended, actively working aura. This aura was present and active because He was linked with the souls of those whom He had chosen, and it remained present as long as He was linked to them. The cup had not passed away from Him; the chosen human beings had shown no comprehension. So this aura gradually withdrew from the man Jesus of Nazareth; Christ became ever more estranged from the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Toward the end of His life Jesus of Nazareth was more and more alone, and the Christ became ever more loosely connected with Him.
Although the cosmic element was there until the moment pictured as that of the sweating of blood in Gethsemane, and Christ up to this moment was fully united with Jesus of Nazareth, now through the failure of human beings to understand this connection the link was loosened. And whereas earlier the cosmic Christ was active in the temple and drove out the money-changers, expounding mighty teachings, and nothing happened to Him, now, when Jesus of Nazareth was only loosely connected with the Christ the posse could come near Him. However, we can still see the cosmic element present, but less and less connected with the Son of Man. This is what makes the whole episode so soul-shattering! Because the threefold understanding could not be forthcoming, what did the men finally have in their hands? What could they seize, what could they condemn, what could they nail to the cross? The Son of Man! And the more they did all this, the more did the cosmic element withdraw that had entered the life of earth as a youthful impulse. It escaped them. For those who sentenced Him and carried out the judgment there remained only the Son of Man, around whom only hovered what was to come down to earth as a youthful cosmic element.
No Gospel other than that of St. Mark tells how only the Son of Man remained, and that the cosmic element only hovered around Him. Thus in no other Gospel do we perceive the cosmic fact in relation to the Christ event expressed with such clarity, the fact that at the very moment when men who failed to understand laid their violent human hands upon the Son of Man, the cosmic element escaped them. The youthful cosmic element which from that turning point of time entered earth evolution as an impulse, escaped. All that was left was the Son of Man; and this is clearly emphasized in the Mark Gospel. Let us read the passage and find out if the Mark Gospel does indeed emphasize how, just at this moment in the unfolding of events, the cosmic acts in relation to the human.
And Jesus spoke to them, “You have set out with swords and sticks to take me prisoner, as if I were a murderer. I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
And they all forsook him and fled. (Mark 14:48-50.)
He stands alone. But what has become of the youthful, cosmic element?
Think of the loneliness of this man, permeated as He was by the cosmic
Christ, who now confronts the posse like a murderer. And those who
should have understood Him flee! “And they all forsook Him and
fled,” it says in the 50th verse. Then in verses 51 and 52:
And there was a youth among his followers, 2The Greek says “who was following him closely.” Ed. who wore a fine linen garment over his bare body, and they seized him. But he let go of the linen garment and fled naked.
Who is this youth? Who was it who escaped here? Who is it who appears here, next to Christ Jesus, nearly unclothed, and then slips away unclothed? This is the youthful cosmic impulse, it is the Christ who slips away, who now has only a loose connection with the Son of Man. Much is contained in these 51st and 52nd verses. The new impulse retains nothing of what former times were able to wrap around man. It is the entirely naked, new cosmic impulse of earth evolution. It remains with Jesus of Nazareth, and we find it again at the beginning of the sixteenth chapter.
And when the Sabbath was over Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices and went there to anoint him. And early in the morning on the first day of the week they came to the tomb as the sun was rising.
And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” And when they looked up they saw that the stone was rolled away, for it was really very large.
And as they entered the tomb they saw a youth sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white robe; and they were startled.
But he said to them, “Do not be frightened. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one. He has risen!” (Mark 16:1-6.)
This is the same youth. In the whole artistic composition of the Gospels nowhere else does this youth confront us, the youth who slips away from the people at the moment when they condemn the Son of Man, who is there again when the three days are over, and who from now onward is active as the cosmic principle of the earth. Nowhere else in the Gospels — you should compare the others — except in these two passages does this youth confront us, and in such a grandiose manner. Here we have all we need in order to understand the profound meaning of just this Gospel of St. Mark, which is telling us that we have to do with a cosmic event, with a cosmic Christ. Only now do we understand why the remainder of the Mark Gospel had to be artistically composed as it was.
It is indeed remarkable that, after this significant appearance of the youth has come twice before us, the Gospel quickly comes to an end, and all that remains are a few striking sentences. For it is scarcely possible to imagine that anything that came later could have still yielded any further enhancement. Perhaps the sublime and marvelous element could have been enhanced, but not what is soul-shattering and of significance for earth evolution. Consider again this composition of the Mark Gospel: the monologue of God; the cosmic conversation on the mountain above the earth to which the three disciples were called but did not understand; then Gethsemane, the scene on the Mount of Olives when Christ had to acknowledge that those who had been chosen could not attain to an understanding of what was about to happen; how He had to tread this path alone, how the Son of Man would suffer and be crucified. Then the world-historical loneliness of the Son of Man who is abandoned, abandoned by those He had chosen and then abandoned gradually by the cosmic principle. Thus, after we have understood the mission and significance of the youth who slips away from the eyes and hands of men, we come to understand in an especially profound manner the words, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34.) Then the reappearance of the youth, whereupon it is briefly shown how the youth is a spiritual, super-sensible being, who becomes sense-perceptible only through special circumstances, when He first shows himself to Mary Magdalene. Then afterward, “He revealed Himself in another form to two of them as they went for a walk into the countryside.” (Mark 16:12.) The physical could not have showed itself “in another form.”
Then the Gospel quickly comes to an end, having indicated that what could not be understood at that time had to be left to the future. Humanity, which had then arrived at the deepest point of its descent, could only be directed toward the future, and it is in the way in which mankind is referred to the future that we can best appreciate the artistic composition of the Gospel. How may we suppose that such a reference to the future would emanate from one who had experienced this threefold failure to understand as He faced the fulfillment of the Mystery of Golgotha? We can imagine that He would point to the fact that the more we go forward into the future, the more men will have to gain an understanding of what happened at that time.
We shall only achieve the right understanding if we pay attention to what we can experience through the Mark Gospel which speaks to us in a remarkable way. If therefore we say to ourselves that every age has to bring more and more understanding to what happened at that time, and to what the Mystery of Golgotha really was — then we believe that with what we call here our anthroposophical movement we are in fact fulfilling for the first time something that is indicated here in this Gospel. We are bringing a new understanding to what the Christ wanted to come about in the world. This new comprehension is difficult. The possibility is always present that we may misunderstand the being of Christ; and this was already clearly indicated by Christ Himself:
“And then if one says to you, ‘See, here is Christ,’ or, ‘See, he is there,’ don't believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will show signs and wonders to lead astray even the chosen ones if that should be possible.
But you see to it! Behold, I have fortold everything to you.” (Mark 13:21-23.)
At all times since the event of Golgotha there has been ample opportunity to let such words be a warning to us. Whoever has ears to hear may also hear today how the word resounds over to us from Golgotha, “If someone says to you ‘See, here is Christ,’ or ‘see, he is there,’ don't believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders such as to lead astray if possible even the chosen ones.”
How may we face up to the Mystery of Golgotha? Among the few striking sentences contained in the Mark Gospel after it has spoken to us in such a soul-shattering way is to be found also the very last sentence, in which it is related how the disciples, who had earlier shown so little comprehension, after they had received a new impulse through the youth, the cosmic Christ, “went forth and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, confirming the word through the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20.)
The Lord worked with them! This we recognize as in accord with the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha. Not that “the Lord” could be incarnated anywhere in the physical body, but where He is understood, if work is performed in His name, then He works with us; and He is spiritually among those who in truth understand His name — without presenting Him, out of vanity, in a physical form. Rightly understood the Gospel of St. Mark tells us about the Mystery of Golgotha itself in such a way that, when we rightly understand it, we may also find the possibility of fulfilling the Mystery of Golgotha in the right manner. Precisely in what is contained only in this Mark Gospel, in this remarkable story of the youth who at a decisive moment broke away, so to speak, from Christ Jesus, do we discover the indication as to how this Gospel must be understood. Because the chosen ones fled and they did not truly participate in everything that happened afterward. This is also told in the Gospel. In truly artistic fashion a passage is inserted in the midst of the composition. A passage of the utmost clarity is here inserted; yet none of the disciples were present, not one of them was an eye-witness! And yet the whole story is told! So the question is still presented to us, and we shall try, in answering this question, to penetrate still further into the matter, and at the same time to throw light upon the remainder.
Where does this remainder originate that the disciples have not seen? Jewish traditions relate the story quite differently from the way it appears here in the Gospels. Where does it come from? What then is the real truth about the Mystery of Golgotha since those who give an account of it were not themselves present? What is the source of their knowledge of something that none of those who have preached Christianity can have seen?
This question will lead us still more deeply into the matter.