Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lenten Reading Feb 26 Mark 1: 1-20

One of my goals for the congregation is for us to read the bible together. And those who stumble upon this humble blog are invited to join in. I'll be providing daily commentaries on what we're reading to help us better understand Mark's message of Jesus.

Here's today's offering:

One thing you’ll notice about Mark’s gospel is that no one ever sits still. I see Mark as the ADHD gospel, no one concentrates on anything for more a minute.

Right out of the gate, we’re in the middle of the action. No narrative set up, no introduction of characters, no mood or environment. Just “Bang!” “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Just a short sentence fragment of a thesis statement and we’re hearing about John the Baptist as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

But before we get ahead of ourselves we need to back up a bit an unpack the first sentence, specifically, the word “gospel” or “good news.” The Greek word gospel is euangelion, which had deep political resonances. As New Testament theologian NT Wright says,

“[The idea of gospel] had two principle meanings for first century Jews. First, with roots in Isaiah, it meant the news of [God’s] long-awaited victory over evil and rescue of his people. Second it was used in the Roman world for the ascension or birthday of the emperor. Since for Jesus and Paul the announcement of God’s inbreaking kingdom was both the fulfillment of prophecy and a challenge to the world’s present rulers, ‘gospel’ became an important shorthand for both the message of Jesus himself and the [message of the apostles] about him...the four ‘gospels’ tell the story of Jesus in such a way as to bring out both these aspects” (NT Wright, Mark for Everyone p.231)

In the first 20 verses of Mark we have no less than five important events occurring: The introduction of John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ temptation in the desert, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the calling of the first disciples. Mark packs a lot into a short space!

These 20 verses make up the beginning of what Mark is trying to do with his gospel, namely, set up the idea that someone new has happened/is happening in Jesus.

John announced the arrival of the Messiah, but the world did not end.

John called the world to repentance, but Jesus is our repentance.

Jesus was tempted by the powers of this world but resisted and overcame the world’s temptation.

Jesus began to preach the new world that had arrived in him and began to recruit people into that new world.

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