Reading Mark 1:1-8 for last Sunday’s sermon [Advent 2] reminded me that despite Mark’s deficiencies relative to Matthew, Luke and John - no Beatitudes, Good Samaritan, Road to Emmaus, Exposition on the Bread of Life, etc - Mark is nevertheless a great gospel and worthy of much praise.
Mark takes us almost straightaway to the action of Jesus. No wasting time and papyrus with a genealogy, story of conception, pregnancy, birth and infancy. No Herod or Quirinius, census, shepherds, or wise men. No songs. Eight verses acknowledging the forecast of ancient prophets and the announcements of a contemporary prophet and then, 1:9, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth ...” Preaching, forming a band of disciples, and healings soon follow.
Among Mark’s achievements with his gospel is the confrontation of the reader with the power and provocation of Jesus. Mark’s Jesus changes his world - people and power structures are either transformed or challenged. As a reader, what is my response to Mark’s Jesus? Mark does not allow me to be neutral about Jesus.
In Mark 1:1 we read that we are reading a “gospel” - a good news story or great announcement of importance for the world - and Mark’s urgency in communicating this story to us lies in the word “beginning”.
The beginning of the gospel for Mark is not Matthew’s Abrahamic genealogy or Luke’s Zechariah on duty in the temple or even John’s “before the beginning of history.” The beginning is the coming of Jesus himself as a full fledged, adult agent of God’s dramatic plan for the healing (salvation) of the world.
So there is (Christological, missiological) energy in Mark’s Gospel and he does a remarkable job of conveying that energy to his readers and sweeping us along through his breathless narrative.
This is the Gospel of Christ.
Praise to Christ the Word!