Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Preparing the way Mark 1:1-8

This week we read the start of Mark's Gospel. These words are really the preface to Jesus' story. John Wesley said,

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - The evangelist speaks with strict propriety: for the beginning of the Gospel is in the account of John the Baptist, contained in the first paragraph; the Gospel itself in the rest of the book. www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.i.iii.ii.html
This is Mark's nativity story. No shepherds or angels are in this story like Matthew and Luke tell about. Instead Mark starts with Jesus is ready for ministry at the Jordan River. He came out to the river to meet John, the preacher of baptism and repentance.

Will you know it when Jesus comes?
Jesus coming into view as God incarnate doesn't seem shocking in Mark. The subtle way he arrives is key to this story. Mark is knows that we look for God to arrive in a BIG WAY. And he responds to our expectation, not by spinning a tale that shocks and surprises us, rather he lures us in with story full of unfinished details.
  • Isaiah had told of John and Jesus coming generations before. We are left to wonder if the crowds knew that John was making the way ready for Jesus.
  • Jesus comes to meet John. We are left wondering why Jesus had to meet John.
  • John preached like he knew Messiah was coming and we are left to wonder how John knew he was coming.
  • Jesus comes out of the water and a voice is heard from heaven. We are left to wonder who heard the voice.
Mark's story of Jesus coming starts with the very ordinary circumstances of a baptism at the river side and the words of a preacher. Mark is a story teller's Gospel. We readers and hearers of this Gospel are introduced, through the story, to Jesus. We meet him not in our time and space; rather Mark invites his hearer and readers into a different space, ancient Palestine, and time, the height of Roman Power. We meet him and still have plenty of questions to ask.

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