by Dick Foth on December 27, 2022
The new year, 2023, is upon us!
I don’t know about you, but my tendency in a time of great global uncertainty and stress is to focus THERE. I focus on places or situations on which, often, I can have the least impact.
However, the place I can have the most impact at any time — let alone beginning of a new year — is how I think about things. And the Gospel of Mark challenges my thinking at every turn.
Throughout 2023 at Timberline, we will be exploring the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel is generally considered the earliest of the Gospels and, to some degree, a basis for the others.
It is certainly the shortest and the most action-oriented. Mark is direct and quick. One of his favorite words is “immediately.” If you’re a King James Version fan, that word is “straightaway!”
So, in approaching New Year’s weekend, we shouldn’t be surprised by Mark’s opening line: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God..!” He tells us where he is headed in the first sentence. It is, quite simply, in your face.
I love the way N. T. Wright, a wonderful scholar and former Bishop of Durham, says it in his work MARK For Everyone:
“You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream world, shouts, ‘Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!’ And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life.
That’s what the opening of Mark’s Gospel is like.”
Mark leads with four points: “beginning”…”good news”….”Jesus the Messiah”….”Son of God.” That’s a lot to chew on.
In the very next verses, Mark introduces the “beginning” in the person of John the Baptist. Second cousin to Jesus. About six months older. A bit of a wild man, to say the least.
Israel has not seen a prophet in 400 years, and there he is! A wild bearded guy decked out in animal skins and eating a crazy diet storming out of the Judean desert calling the entire nation to repent from their sins!
He had been predicted by the prophet Malachi as the person who would be the herald for Jesus —that person on the staff of “royals” going ahead of the entourage to shout “Get ready, the king is coming! Get the potholes in road repaired”…and so forth and so on.
So that’s how the Good News starts!
In chatting with a friend, who spent 30+ years in the U.S. Navy, he said “In the navy we call that approach BLUF!” I said, “What’s BLUF?” He said, “Bottom Line Up Front!”
If Mark were a football player today, he’d be playing OFFENSE, not defense. In my view, he’s a traditional fullback running the ball full-tilt north/south straight into the line.
Just the way he begins his story of Jesus tells us what he wants us to know and, I believe, where he wants us to go. Before the story is over (in 16 short chapters in our Bibles), Mark will nail the purpose of Jesus’ earthly life together in one quote:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
So, when Mark writes, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus, the Messiah…,” he clearly means there is an end in mind. That end is the redemption of us all.
When Jesus comes, He deals with our past, gives life to our present, and calls us to an eternal future with Him. In my book, that is GOOD NEWS in capital letters!
What a deal!!