I can’t really remember what I was looking for on the book shelf when I found this old copy of the gospel of Mark. Perhaps I was in the mood to read something. I opened the gospel and read the opening lines.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)
I was eleven years old.
Since it was Holy Week and I thought to myself that maybe I should just take a few minutes to read the gospel. I don’t think I had planned to read the whole gospel. Like any average eleven year old, my attention span was gravely limited and the gospel of Mark looked like a lot of reading material for someone my age.
For some reason, after the reading the first line, I was drawn almost immediately into the text. I remember it as if it was yesterday. My whole being was absorbed into my inner reading world. My voice in my head narrated the story and my soul just listened deeply and consumed every word that was spoken. It felt like time had stood still for the moment and my attentions span was suspended in a timeless space. As I read about the things Jesus did and said, He became more than a mere personality in a story. He became real being and yet not real as in a real personality in a biographical narrative. I felt His presence in the room. The other players in the stories became irrelevant at that moment. It did not matter what they did or said. Their doubts and faith did not register to me. Only the person of Jesus was alive.
As I kept reading and my sense of His presences in the room became stronger. I won’t say that the gospel was clear to me. I did not understand the parables, I did not understand many things I was reading as I understand them now. However, I remember sensing in my spirit that there were deep and profound things being said. In my soul, there was a growing sense of awe and reverence whenever Jesus responds to the Pharisees. None of those who unjustly accused Jesus invoked any emotional feelings in me. There was no anger or hatred towards them. There was no disappointment when Judas betrayed Jesus or when Peter denied knowing Him. My eyes and hears were focused on the Son of God. Everything in mind was empty except for the person of Jesus.
When I read Jesus’ cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, my whole being was captivated by those words. No Hollywood production could have penetrated by entire being the way I felt when I read those words alone in my room. When Jesus breathed His last breath, the veil of my heart was torn from top to bottom. It was the first time in my eleven years that I felt the helplessness and injustice of His death. I responded in a way only appropriate for an eleven year old, I buried my face in my pillow and cried. I was afraid that some family might walk into the room and see me crying. I locked the door so that I could be free to mourn the death of Jesus.
The gospel spoke to me in a real way that day. No one sat down and explained anything to me. It wasn’t necessary. The person of Jesus had become a real person to me. He had stepped out of the stories that I heard on Sundays and became a living person to me. At that moment, I did not know what to do but I knew I had to do something with my life. Jesus was too real for me to go on living my life as if He was still trapped in the pages of Bible. He is real and life could not be the same after this day for me. It took a few years to do something about it but the fire was ignited on that particular Holy Week.