During advent and Christmas we focus our attention on the fulfillment of the promises of a coming king, Jesus of Nazareth, born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. We are reminded that he is not like any other king, that he breaks with all expectations, even among the greatest bible scholars and most faithful believers of that day. Only a very few people had any idea who Jesus was and how he would fulfill their hopes.
The Gospel of Mark is unique in several ways, one of which is that it does not give us any birth narratives like Matthew and Luke, nor a philosophical explanation like John. Mark jumps right into the ministry of Jesus with the simple statement, ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Mark is not only saying, “This is the beginning of my story.” It is the beginning of THE story. And chapter 1 can be seen as a summary of Mark’s message of Good news regarding Jesus. The focus of Mark’s gospel is found in verse 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus’ arrival on the scene transforms the world by ushering in God’s kingdom and reign. This is and will be a fact of history. The invitation and challenge from John and then Jesus is for the listener to get ready, to allow heart, mind, and life to be transformed in the process so that each person can fully participate in what God is going to do. Then Mark proceeds to show us what the kingdom is all about in a series of very quick encounters.
Mark’s gospel can be summed up in this:
The anticipated kingdom of God is here
brought by Jesus of Nazareth
in the power of the Holy Spirit
for the restoration of the world.
Brief background on Mark’s gospel:
Tradition from the second century says that this gospel was written by a man named mark who was an associate of both Peter and Paul. It was written in Rome, sometime between 65-75 ce. Some have suggested that this is the same John Mark who was a traveling companion of Peter and Paul as mentioned in Acts. This Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (COL4), and it was his mother Mary who opened her home in Jerusalem for the disciples of Jesus to gather (Acts 12:12). Further, this may be the same house where the upper room was located, where the last supper was held, and where the apostles met after the crucifixion, and even after the ascension. This would have given Mark a front row seat in observing the beginnings of the Christian faith, and access to hearing the stories told after Pentecost as the church took shape. He was writing during the persecutions under Nero.