It’s a Wonderful Life Gospel of Mark

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Mark and the Movies


It’s a Wonderful Life

Gospel of Mark


George Bailey



Peter Bailey (Pa)

John the Baptist

blood relative precursor

Mrs. Bailey (Ma) and Harry Bailey

Jesus’ mother and siblings

family of the hero

Henry J. Potter

Jewish leaders

primary antagonist, who want(s) to maintain and increase power, keeping people subject to his/their authority

Childhood friends: Mary Hatch (future spouse), Mr. Gower (druggist/employer), Violet Bick (flirtatious girl from school), Ernie Bishop (taxi driver), Bert (police officer), Sam Wainwright (school chum)and Uncle Billy


lifelong friends and supporters, well-meaning but sometimes clueless

The townspeople who make a run on the Savings & Loan


characters who despite the hero’s extraordinary deeds cannot bring themselves to trust him

Mr. Martini (restaurant owner)

Jairus and the woman who touched Jesus’ garment (5:21-43), the Syrophoenician woman (7:24-30), father of the boy possessed (9:14-29), Bartimaeus (10:46-52)

characters who trust the hero, and are rewarded for their faith

Clarence Oddbody


divine intervener who “resurrects” the hero

Corresponding Situations and Scenes

  1. In both dramas, a theophany introduces the hero and confirms God’s special feeling toward him (Mark 1:10-11).

  2. Early in the stories, a precursor—who is a blood relative—foreshadows and announces the hero’s career, and shortly thereafter suffers an untimely death which removes him from the picture, making room for the hero (Mark 1:1-9; 6:14-29).

  3. At the outset of both, lifelong friends are introduced (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-15; 3:13-19).

  4. The primary antagonist enters the stories early on, and conflict with the hero is anticipated (Mark 2:1-7, 16, 18, 23-24; esp. 3:1-6).

  5. In the first several scenes, the hero’s extraordinary qualities are exhibited (George saves his brother’s life and keeps the druggist, Mr. Gower, from accidentally poisoning a sick child (thus saving the child’s life, too) (Mark 1:23-26, 29-31, 32-34).

  6. Both heroes face temptations (Mark 1:12-13).

  7. As the dramas unfold, disappointments that at first appear minor are recognized as dark clouds gathering on the hero’s horizon. The storm worsens as more serious setbacks cause the hero increasing frustration over his lack of success (Mark 2:1-3:35 [see esp. 3:6]; 6:1-6; 7:1-13; 8:11-13; 10:2-9; 11:15-1; 12:12-17 [see esp. 12:12], 38-40).

  8. The climactic sequence begins as the hero is beset by a major reversal for which he is blameless. His adversary seizes upon this to be rid of the interloper and the changes the hero has sought to bring about by having him arrested (Mark 14:1-2, 10-11, 32-34, 37-38, 40-41. 55-60).

  9. Facing imminent apprehension and trial, and realizing that he has no one to support him, the hero turns to God in prayer, but God’s presence is not apparent and the hero’s feelings of loneliness and abandonment become palpable (Mark 14:32-36, 39).

  10. Finally, both heroes experience death—alone and seemingly total failures—but divinity intercedes. This intervention conquers death and leads to new life for the heroes (Mark 15:21-39, 42-47; 16:8).


It may be helpful, therefore, to liken Mark’s Gospel to the literary product of an effective screenwriter who is able to adapt the work of another medium into a compelling, dramatic interpretation of the original subject. Viewed through this lens, Mark can be applauded as an artistically crafted narrative—a well told story—in which traditional materials have been fashioned into a striking interpretation of the Christ event. The keys to reading such a narrative are (1) to take seriously its story world, (2) to be attentive to how generic tools are applied to fashion a unified drama, and (3) to engage the material in a way that is imaginative but not manipulative.

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