There were moments, as I was stuck in Chicago traffic, when I wondered if I had made the right decision in buying a ticket for Mark’s Gospel, a one-man theatrical presentation of the NIV text by Max McLean. There were also moments before the show when I wished I had been able to catch McLean’s previous production The Screwtape Letters. I’m a victim of too many Bible productions gone wrong, and I began to wonder – with miles to go and only minutes to spare – if it was going to be worth it.
It was. The first thing to appreciate is the sheer beauty of hearing Mark aurally from start to finish. There really are parts that I’ve missed and connections I haven’t made because I’ve tended to read it in smaller chunks. And hearing the text is much different than reading it, especially when it is spoken with skill.
That brings me to McLean. A two-hour, one-man production is not easy, but McLean made it look easy. Well, he almost did. I once memorized the book of Philippians (4 chapters), but that’s not quite the same as memorizing the book of Mark (16 chapters) and putting it on stage. McLean takes on the character of Mark and recounts his gospel. He acts but doesn’t overact. His voices, expressions, and use of the stage were effective in telling this amazing story. I’ve put him here as the second thing to appreciate, and that’s significant: he doesn’t get in the way of the first, the gospel itself.
Simple maps, projected behind McLean, helped the audience follow where things happened as the story moves to its climax in Jerusalem.
By the end of the production I felt confronted with a gospel account like I haven’t been in a long time. Mark doesn’t leave us much room to wiggle. The pieces start to fit together, and the radical nature of his account leave you a bit stunned. If you have grown stale in who you understand Jesus to be, and the gospels seem a little familiar to you, Mark’s Gospel helps you see with fresh and amazed eyes.
The biggest compliment I can pay McLean is that he led me to worship.
McLean used to teach a class in the D.Min. track I took on reading Scripture – sadly, before my time. I even tried to bring him in to Toronto one time before I choked on the price, which would probably seem like a bargain now. I’ve really enjoyed his recordings of Scripture and other classics. But there is nothing like seeing him on stage.
The Chicago production has been extended to June 28. If you get a chance to go, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.