The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God . . .
Unlike Matthew and Luke, the Gospel of Mark does not give us a birth narrative for Jesus. But he does begin with . . .
The beginning: All of Israel’s past hope is culminating in the arrival of Jesus. In the following verse, the writer quotes an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, linking Jesus to the fulfillment of Israel’s history. Yet Mark makes it clear that this is only the start of a brand-new future. This is a message to every other empire of the world that this Jesus movement may look like a tiny mark on the timeline of global events, but this story is larger than the world itself. And the scope of the human narrative so far has been building up to this. Now we are at the beginning.
Of the good news: To us today, this term is loaded with religious significance, and it should be. But it was not always that way. In the earliest days of Christianity, this was already a familiar phrase in the culture because it was used by the Roman Empire to describe a proclamation from Caesar. “Good news! Caesar reigns and he is bringing peace!” But Mark employs the term in a subversive and provocative way, declaring that the message of Jesus is the true good news for all people and Caesar’s so-called “gospel” is a weak and empty parody of the real thing.
About Jesus the Messiah: Messiah is a title with roots in the Hebrew language, meaning “Anointed One.” Echoing the story of David, the unlikely shepherd boy who was anointed king by the prophet Samuel, the people of Israel were awaiting another anointed King, a Son of David, to come and take his rightful place on the throne of Israel. For Mark to declare Jesus as that King would have been heresy to the Jewish religious establishment and treason to the oppressive Roman government. But the holy cannot be heresy. Truth is not treason.
The Son of God: Not only is Mark naming Jesus as the Son of David, but he takes the radical and scandalous step of calling him the Son of God. Yet again, this moves beyond our religious understanding of the language and has a political edge to it. Forty years before the birth of Jesus, Julius Caesar died. It was said that a comet was seen streaking through the sky at his death, and the legend was sold that this was a sign that Julius Caesar was now a divine figure. That would make his heir and adopted son, Caesar Augustus, the “son of a god.” He demanded not only allegiance as a political leader, but worship as a divine leader. Mark’s opening confession stands in defiant resistance, declaring that Jesus is the only true Son of the only true God.
The true King Jesus has come to establish his true kingdom, once and future, now and forever. And this mustard seed of a movement will go on to infiltrate the mighty Roman Empire, outlasting and outpacing, and reaching further than Augustus could have ever imagined with its revolutionary holy love.
King Jesus, we declare that our allegiance and affections belong to you. Let your unrivaled reign be seen in our lives.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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