7 December 2014

Mark 1:1-18

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 85 


The first verse, 'The beginning of the good news…' reminds us immediately of Genesis chapter 1. In verses 2 and 3 we then have quotes from Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 40:3 and some scholars say Exodus 23:20. This is then embodied in the man John the Baptist who, in describing his clothing and diet, Mark's Gospel intends that we are reminded of Elijah as described in 2 Kings 1:8.

The image of Elijah and these verses can be described as apocalyptic. This means that the old creation is ending, but also something new is beginning with the idea of heaven and God being revealed and the coming of a Messiah. There was such a moment at Jesus' Baptism when the heavens were "torn apart" in verse 10 and a voice came from heaven in verse 11 describing Jesus as the "beloved son"; which reminds us of the messianic Psalm 2 and verse 7 in particular.

Jesus is was then driven into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted, after which Mark's Gospel notes John's arrest and the beginning of Jesus' ministry with a summary of his message (verse 15). Given what we have said about apocalyptic, we note that Jesus speaks of the time being fulfilled and that the kingdom of God is at hand. This is a moment, an ending and a new beginning.

For the fishermen, it was a very down to earth ending in which they leave their normal day to day life and make a new beginning. They were called to be fishers of men (the NRSV uses the phrase "fish for people" (v. 17)), something that is traditionally associated with saving souls. But it is an Old Testament image found in Ezekiel 29:4 and Amos 4:2 in which it is used to speak about judgement against oppressive Egypt and the oppressive rich. All of this reminds us that Elijah opposed King Ahab (eg 1 Kings 18) and John the Baptist opposed King Herod and paid with his life. Suddenly these stories remind us of the political nature of the opening of Mark's Gospel.

To Ponder

  • Jesus came proclaiming his message of the kingdom. How should we proclaim that today?
  • The disciples left everything and immediately followed him. Elisha had a few things to do before he followed Elijah (eg 1 Kings 19). What would you like to do before you follow Jesus today and how do you think he feels about these things?
  • Elijah challenged the power of Ahab, John the Baptist challenged the power of Herod and Jesus called his disciples to be fishers of men. Who should we be challenging today? 


Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..