Note: Most of this reflection was included during Lent. You may wish to skip it or, read the text again and do your own reflection. It is a crucial verse for Mark’s purpose, hence I’ve chosen to repeat it in this continued journey with Mark as guide.
Prepare to Listen. Be silent for as long as you need. Pray: Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
Read Mark 1:1
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The story begins, not with a description of the main character, but with an abrupt one-liner that sounds more like a book title than an introduction to a story. Mark’s brief opening is intended to shock his readers, enticing them to read on. And yet this one-liner is loaded with important information that prepares us to read this Gospel in ways to experience Jesus for ourselves.
First, the good news is a person with a name, Jesus, not an impersonal creed or principle. Mark boldly identifies him with two titles, Christ (Greek for Messiah), meaning ‘anointed one,’ and Son of God. To Mark’s original readers, this was an outrageous claim, suggesting a new ruler was in town, a new ‘regime’ was taking over the old. Of course, they would expect Mark to prove it. Those of us who grew up in the Christian church no longer read these words with astonishment. They don’t shock us. We’re familiar with them and rarely pause to wonder about them being together here in Mark’s first verse. However, there are only two other places in the New Testament when these two titles, Messiah and Son of God, are used together, in one sentence, to identify Jesus (John 20:31 and 2 Corinthians 1:9; not even again in Mark). Therefore, we should be surprised, even shocked and join the chorus demanding proof.
Second, the term, good news, is one that was commonly used by both Jews and Romans. It was most often associated with the victorious defeat in battle of the enemy and the return of the conquering hero king and his army. In other words, the stage has been set to read about a king who will be victorious over an oppressive and powerful enemy. Once again, we’ll be shocked as we read Mark to its conclusion. Jesus will not triumph over the enemy (Rome) but instead will appear to be defeated by it. Nevertheless, Mark again hints that, in Jesus, we can expect a ‘regime change’ (see R. Williams, Meeting God in Mark, 2014, p. 7). In Jesus, God’s kingdom has been inaugurated (see Mark 1:14-15). Of course, we know Jesus was victorious through his death, but Mark will force us to rethink our image of Jesus and the kind of victory he won and the kind of power and authority he wields. We’ll discover it’s the very opposite of what we often think and practice.
Third, the word beginning is a hint to go back to the very first words of the Bible that introduce the story of creation, “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). We’re meant to think about creation as we read about redemption in Jesus. The good news that Mark tells connects redemption with creation because it’s a story about a new creation in Jesus Christ, when all creation (not merely a few individuals) will be restored to its original goodness and purpose. This is the good news, the gospel.
Mark begins in this brief and somewhat vague manner enticing readers to turn the page and then the next page to discover what the good news is about and how Jesus is good news. He has whet our appetite, created a desire to read on and discover more. Keep turning the page. Read Mark with your mind and heart open to see how the writer chooses to prove his claim about Jesus and in what ways the Good News changes the state of affairs in the world, even today.
Make a list of what you think the good news in Jesus is about. Then, tear it up. Begin with a blank page and an open mind and heart to discover what Mark teaches about Jesus. Keep adding to your list as you read and learn about Jesus and how he is the good news.
Respond to Jesus in Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, I think I know what the good news is, but I’m going to give that up and be led by your servant Mark into a deeper and more authentic knowing. Keep me open to learn new and even difficult truths about your gospel. Amen.
Go and live in Obedience to Christ committing to learning new truths about Jesus and his Way.