The Story Begins

Here’s a little guy who is just starting his story and grandpa is trying to influence that story in a particular direction!


 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
(Mark 1:1 NRSV)


This simple sentence which opens the gospel of Mark packs a powerful punch. This is the beginning of a story, and an invitation to become participants in the good news. The gospel story ends with the disciples being sent out to share this good news. 


The idea of “good tidings” is not uncommon in the first century as this language is used by the Emperor when heralding a new and significant event. For Mark, this entire gospel begins the story of a new era, one which will be defined Christologically. Jesus, the man, is the Christ, or the Messiah. This is the One about whom the prophets had spoken long ago. From the very opening sentence we have this affirmation of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. However, the final words are then the climax of the affirmation, because, not only is Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one on whom they have waited, but he is the very Son of God. This is a recognition of Jesus’ royal lineage as God’s son, and therefore, the good news ushers in a new era, that of the kingdom of God. The gospel will be just the beginning, but it will become an open-ended invitation to all those who will participate. 

Mark is believed to have been an assistant to Peter, a man who would have walked and talked with the man on a daily basis. He would have heard Peter’s sermons and have taken notes. Along with Peter, he would have experienced the terrible days in Rome. 

The historian Tacitus, around AD 60 writes, “The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time… . Italy was distressed by disasters unknown before or returning after the lapse of the ages… . Beside the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind there were prodigies in the sky and on the earth, warnings given by thunderbolts, and prophecies of the future, both joyful and gloomy, uncertain and clear.

Christians were held in low regard by society. Because of they refused to participate in the often, sex-filled worship orgies of pagan gods, they were considered immoral and intolerant. Often they were called “haters” by those in society. Their very presence threatened to disrupt the rhythm of society. After the terrible fire in Rome during Nero’s reign, the Christians became a scape-goat for the city’s suffering and were offered as living sacrifices, often for entertainment purposes.

While this may be the context, we must never forget the subject of this entire gospel is Jesus Christ. Mark puts it right there in his first sentence, his thesis statement. Christ is the subject, and should always be the central focus of our story of good news. 

It should also be a challenge for Christ to be the central focus of our lives on a daily basis. Far too often we talk about finding balance in our lives, and somehow that seems to be balancing our Christian life with the rest of our life. Do we get enough of Church on Sunday and a little bible reading throughout the week to balance what I do the rest of the time? That’s not what this is about. This is about Christ permeating everything that we do and the balance we find is in every moment of our lives being touched by the presence of Jesus. 

The story has already been started. We are invited to continue writing the new chapters, bearing in mind that Jesus, the Messiah, is the Son of God. 


Lord, may I be faithful in participating in your gospel. I know this is only possible through your power and grace. Amen. 


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