The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
1:1 - Good news, Greek - εὐαγγελίου - good tidings, good news, gospel.
Mark's introduction of his story as the "beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ..." has political overtones. His is not the only "good news" that the world knows. Good news was a political term associated with Caesar and tidings of the victories of the Roman Legions. The inscription from Priene, circa 9 C.E., (in modern Turkey) connects the term "good news" with Augustus and the empire. Mark is co-opting a term from the empire to introduce a counter narrative about good news. His statement is treasonous.
For modern day disciples - what other "gospels" are present in our lives? What other forms of "good news" do we give power? How does the good news of Jesus Christ continue to hold power and rupture the false narratives of good news that compete for our attention?
1:1 - Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Here we have another political statement from Mark. There was already one in the world who bore the title "son of god." Again we look to Caesar Augustus, and his successors. Caesar held the title son of god. Mark is again rupturing the meta-narrative of the empire by claiming Jesus to be the Son of God.
"The way" is a central theme for our study. As I wrote for the introduction of this website - Hodos is a way of life. It is a metaphor for following Jesus Christ.
1:3 - The "way of the Lord" - (ὁδὸν κυρίου).
Second appearance of hodos (ὁδός). Here "the way" is attached to title Lord> Again we have counter imperial claims. The world knows Caesar as lord. The way of Caesar as lord is the pax romana - the Roman peace. Roman peace (not really peace) is won through military victory. It is peace through violence and submission by the defeated. Mark is associating the life and ministry of Jesus with a new way of life counter to the way of the empire.
For us who live under the power of a modern day empire, how do we live out this counter-cultural way of life? As the story of Jesus unfolds we will the patterns of discipleship that we are to follow "on the way" with Jesus.
1:4 - “baptism of repentance and forgiveness (release) of sins.”
This is a key aspect of John's ministry. Repentance literally means to turn around - a 180 degree shift. It means to part with the old way of life and engage in the new life that Jesus is offering. John prepares the way for Jesus to introduce this new way of life.
What does repentance (to turn around) look like in our context? What do we turn away from as we follow Jesus?
1:12-13 - The tempting in the wilderness.
The concept of Satan (Σατανᾶς - the adversary) comes up a few times in Mark. The idea of satan in the time of Jesus/Mark is very different from our own. We think of the satan figure portrayed in movies and pop culture, but this concept does not exist for Mark. The literal translation of "adversary" is helpful when thinking about this concept.
What is adversarial to the good news of Jesus?
What gets in our way of following Jesus?
What are the adversaries of the Gospel in our lives?
1:14-15 - Jesus proclaiming good news of the Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God has come near in the ministry of Jesus. He is inaugurating a new way of being in the world - a new way of life that is counter-cultural. We will explore how this new kingdom is brought into the world by Jesus in his ministry and how we are invited to follow.
The mission statement of Jesus’ ministry: “repent and believe in the good news.”
We pick up with verse 16 next week as we encounter the call of the first disciples and the beginnings of Jesus' ministry.