It has bothered me for a while that, within the Gospel according to Mark, the writer states that '... all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and we being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins (Mark 1:5).' I am particularly focusing on the use of the word 'all' within the text. I cannot imagine the city of Jerusalem being totally vacant, as well as the area of Judea. Obviously they did not all come out at the same time. But was it really even all?
To be honest, I did not like his exaggeration. (In literary terms, this is called a hyperbole.) If he exaggerates with this, with what else is he going to exaggerate?
That turned out to be a very good question. How else does the writer use the word 'all' within the text?
This verse has the very first uses of the word 'all' within this gospel account. They point to the great successes of John the Baptist. He simply shows up. There is no account of his birth. There is an Old Testament verse, and then he appears. He comes on the scene in a big way, and this is shown in the responses of the people. ALL of them went out.
The entrance of Jesus is different ... and yet the same. He shows up to get baptized. Again, as with John, there is no account of his birth. The results of his baptism are HUGE. How many times have the heavens ripped open like they were at his baptism? The focus of the text quickly and appropriately shifts to Jesus.
Things with Jesus begin to build quite quickly. In verse 32 ALL who were sick were brought to him. (It's interesting that, following this, the text says that MANY were healed--and not all.) But the next time the word 'all' is used is when Jesus went away to pray the next morning, and Peter says to him, 'Everyone is looking for you (v. 37).' In other words, ALL are looking for you. That is the next use of the word.
It seems that Jesus does not like that exaggeration. The implication of Peter seems to be that, if everyone is looking for Jesus, he should go to them. But Jesus does not do what they want. He does what HE wants. And he wants to go to the next towns. He says that is why he 'came out'.
He ends up preaching around in Galilee and getting the attention of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Then he ends up going there and getting killed.
I actually like that exaggeration that all are looking for Jesus. I like that exaggeration, especially in light of the way that this gospel account ends. In Mark 16:8, it says that the women fled from the tomb, 'for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.'
Now THAT is an exaggeration that I have NEVER really liked. And, again, I think I can see a literary purpose within it, especially in light of the situation of the earliest Christians. They were getting killed for the faith. Peter and Paul were both killed at about the same time, and I could imagine this 'double-whammy' being a very difficult thing for those early Christians to handle. 'What is our future?' they were asking.
It is comforting to know that the word 'astonishment' in the reaction of the women is also found in the reaction of the people who saw Jesus resurrect a child in Mark 5:42. (These are the only two occurrences in Mark; literally the word is 'ecstasy'.) The dictionary (BDAG), interestingly enough, defines this as 'a state of consternation or profound emotional experience to the point of being beside oneself.' Now THAT is a long definition. But it also takes a while to get your mind around the death and resurrection of Jesus--as well as our own death and resurrection.
You exaggerate when it is a life and death issue. PLEASE exaggerate when it is a life and death issue. BY ALL MEANS exaggerate when it is an ETERNAL life and death issue.