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Sunday, December 2, 2018

“The One Who is Coming”

Mark 1:1-8

Mark is probably the first gospel written.  In some sense Mark defines the whole idea of a gospel narrative.  Each of the four gospels have their own special perspective on the story of Jesus.

John Mark as we know from other New Testament accounts worked with both Peter and Paul.  When Peter was brought out of jail he went to the home of John Mark’s mother.  Paul refers to him on several occasions (Acts 12:12; II Tim. 3:11).  According to the second century Christian writer, Iraneus, Mark wrote his gospel after the deaths of Peter and Paul.

This was a crucial moment in the history of the church.  The original Christian leaders mostly had died.  Nero was the emperor.  Like all the emperors he claimed the title, “Son of God.”  Christians were a despised minority.  The Roman historian Tacitus called Christianity “a most mischievous superstition.”  Christians were blamed for the devastating fire in the year 64 A.D.  For this they were persecuted brutally.

It is in this context that Mark writes his gospel.  Subsequent editors left their hand on his work.  Fearing that his ending was too stark and almost too forceful additional endings were added to his account (see the ending of Mark in our Bible).

Yet there is good reason for how Mark wrote his gospel.  Much of his knowledge of the life of Jesus came from his relationship with Peter.  Mark’s goal is to present the gospel positively to the people in Rome that were being told that Christians hated all humanity.  Mark’s audience knew practically nothing of the Old Testament.  They had probably never heard of Abraham or Moses.  Mark has to explain Jewish customs to them (Mark 7:3-4).

Mark is writing a truthful account.  However, as recent scholarship has noted, Mark structured his gospel around the literature that essentially all Romans knew.  He draws on the writings of Homer and Vergil, especially on The Odyssey.  His ending echoes the conclusion of Vergil’s The Aeneid.

Mark’s gospel is a declaration, but a declaration made in terms that his audience could readily understand.  His is the only gospel that states from the very opening that Jesus is “Son of God” (the Romans didn’t use the article “the” in their speaking of son of God).  Mark shows that he knew the Greek and Roman stories.  This fact gave his gospel authenticity.  Mark begins the story of John the Baptist testifying to one who is coming who is “more powerful.”

Have we heard the stories of those around us?  Can we share the truth of the gospel in ways that the people in our world, who know little about the Bible, can understand?  Mark both challenges and encourages us.

Eternal and loving Lord, give me the ability to hear the stories of those around me.  Give me the openings to share the truth of Jesus Christ.  I p