Reading from Mark 1:1-20
Mark doesn’t provide us with a birth narrative. Mark isn’t interested in being wordy, or with titles, or sentimentality. Mark is a busy and active Gospel. One of the most common words we’ll hear in the Gospel is “immediately.” It’s a Gospel what makes it seem like Jesus’ whole ministry happens in the span of just a couple of weeks. It can leave us breathless with its speed and action. In fact, you can read the entirety of the 16 chapters is about two hours.
The very first line of the Gospel tells us everything we need to know about the letter – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It’s the beginning, not the whole story. And this connects well with the more reliable ending of Mark’s Gospel in Mark 16:8 – “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
This is not a satisfying ending. Where’s the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection? Where is proclamation that Jesus will be with the faithful? Where is the commission to go and baptize and make disciples? Where is Jesus offering forgiveness for those that abandoned and denied him? None of that is given in Mark’s reliable ending. Which is why this Gospel is only the beginning of the good news and not the whole story.
In Mark’s Gospel, we have an adult John the Baptist who wastes no time pointing to Jesus and then getting out of the way. And we have an adult Jesus who is baptized, and a voice from heaven declares authoritatively who Jesus is. And then look out – Jesus gets to work. Why? Because as Mark tells us in verse 14 and 15 – “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying. ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”
Mark presents us with a Jesus who has a mission and knows his time is short. The Gospel itself was written around the time, and likely before, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The 60’s were a time of uncertainty and revolt. There would be a major Jewish uprising that ended with the slaughter of many and the destruction of the Temple. It was a time of action. And in many ways, Mark’s Gospel is an attempt to recruit people – not as violent revolutionaries trying to militarily fight against the empire, but rather as proclaimers of a radical message (the Good News) which declared that there is another way – not Rome’s way, or the way of violent revolution, but a revolution of love that changes lives, communities and even the world. A way that would be uncertain. A way that didn’t dismiss the fear and terror, but recognized them as a reality in the world, but that fear, and terror don’t get the last say. Remember – this is just “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Questions for Reflection:
Reflect on Mark’s opening – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It’s not the whole story. You and I are part of the story too. Where is the good news of Jesus continuing with us today? And how?
Mark is a Gospel of action and not just words. How does God call us to an active faith in our own context?