Grace and Peace to you from Jesus Christ,
As I announced at the end of last week, we are embarking on an immersion into the Gospel of Mark. This journey is entitled “The Beginning of the Good News.” We will be reading the entire Gospel, sixteen (16) chapters in thirteen (13) weeks. This means we will be reading one to one-and-a-half chapters each week. The first six weeks will be the first six chapters. On weeks seven through twelve we will read one-and-a-half chapters (or a little more). Then on the last week we will read Mark 16:1-8 (perhaps the original ending of Mark) along with the shorter ending of Mark (unnumbered) and the longer ending, verses 9 to 20.
The traditional designations for certain Sundays may be irrelevant to our readings. This Sunday is “Baptism of the Lord Sunday” and it happens that Mark 1 contains the baptism of Jesus. February 15 is designated at “Transfiguration Sunday” but we will not read about the transfiguration until two week later, on March 1. “Palm Sunday” is scheduled for March 29 but we will be reading about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem two weeks earlier, on March 15. Finally, Easter is scheduled for April 5 and that is the day we will be reading about the empty tomb in Mark 16. Confused yet?
Through these thirteen weeks I will continue to email the Revised Common Lectionary readings for each week and I encourage you to read the appointed lessons along with our selection from the Gospel of Mark.
Our Reading for this week:
Mark 1 – “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (BTW, in Greek “gospel” means “good news”.) And so begins the Gospel of Mark. Mark then quotes Isaiah and introduces us to John the Baptist who called the people to repentance. With three verses we read about Jesus’ baptism and with two verses we read about his temptation. John gets arrested and Jesus starts his ministry in Galilee.
When traveling and preaching by the Sea of Galilee (it’s really just a lake, Lake Gennesaret) Jesus calls his first four disciples Simon, Andrew, James, and John. We then read about the healing of a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue in Capernaum and the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law that same day. Word gets around about this amazing healer and many of the town’s people bring their relatives for Jesus to heal. Early the next morning Jesus goes off to pray and be refreshed. When S, A, J, and J find him so that he could heal more people Jesus declares his intent to go to all the towns and villages with his message.
We then read about a leper that is healed. My translation, the New Revised Standard Version, says that Jesus is moved with “pity” when the leper comes to him. It also contains a note about that word “pity” saying that other ancient writings have “anger”. This is what I love about the Gospel of Mark, it is raw in depicting the emotions of Jesus. Why would Jesus be angry? He can’t be angry with a disease, can he? Perhaps he is angry with the way society has treated the man who has to beg for food and clothing yet cannot approach anyone because of his disfiguring disease. Anyway, Jesus heals the man and instructs him to tell no one, but the man cannot contain his joy and shouts the news to everyone.
Three lessons to think about. First, do we, like Jesus, take some time to pray and be refreshed? Second, the message cannot be contained in one town, one church, or one gathering. It must be taken to other people, other towns, other places. Third, how can we not tell others about what Jesus has done for us? We should be like the healed leper who tells everyone!
Genesis 1:1-5 – “In the beginning when God created . . . .” God saw that the light was good.
Psalm 29 – Ascribe glory to the Lord for his voice is over the waters, powerful, full of majesty, breaks cedars, flashes like flames, shakes the wilderness, causes oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare.
Acts 19:1-7 – Paul finds some disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus. He asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit but they had only been baptized for repentance. Paul instructs them about the Holy Spirit and lays his hands on them so they could receive it.
Mark 1:4-11 – John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. Coming out of the water Jesus sees the “heavens torn apart”, the Spirit descends upon him “like a dove”, and the voice from heaven declares Jesus to be “my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased”. Again, I love the dramatic nature of Mark when Jesus sees the “heavens torn apart”. Compare that with Matthew 3:16 “suddenly the heavens were opened to him” and Luke 3:21 “and he was praying, the heaven was opened.”
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor