Advent 2B 2005 Mark 1:1-8
On first reading, our Gospel passage for today from Saint Mark seems straightforward and simple enough. It begins with what
is likely the title of the Gospel. Then follows a quote from the major prophet, Isaiah. And ends with a thumbnail sketch
of John the Baptist.
Straightforward and simple until we begin to look more closely and begin to unpack what Saint Mark is telling us and how he
is saying it.
Starting with the first verse: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” Mark plunges
us into the deep waters of profound complexity. This opening of the gospel is really the key to what happens at the end of
it, as we shall see as we move through this year of the Gospel of Mark. As we noted last Sunday, this opening verse, the
title of the gospel, is foundational to Christian belief and theology. If only this tile alone were left to us out of all
four of the gospels, it would be enough. Fortunately, we have all four of the canonical gospels – and many which are
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” is a plunge into one of the two major questions
Saint Mark is answering, one of the two major themes or foci throughout his Gospel: Who is this Jesus. Jesus himself turns
the question on its end in this gospel: He asks, “Who do people say that I am.” And, of course, it is at the
end of this Gospel that the disciples find out, when they are faced with the empty tomb of the first Easter morning. And
Mark goes about telling this good news of salvation brought by Jesus Christ by narrating the story of Jesus.
Mark’s opening answer and starting proposition is that this Jesus is the Son of God. Above everything, Mark tells
his community, you must understand this if you are to begin to understand anything about this world historical figure Jesus,
this anointed one who is God walking the earth.
Anointed one, Messiah, Christ. Messiach in Hebrew, Christos in Greek. But much more than that, Jesus is the Son of God.
Notice how Mark begins this sentence. The beginning…. There are echoes of Genesis. In the beginning, God created
the heavens and the earth…. And there are echoes of this in the Fourth Gospel in the passage from John traditionally
read on Christmas morning: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the
beginning with God.
In a very real sense, Mark is writing from the view point of being in the middle of time – looking back to the beginning
of human time when the universe was created, in terms of the Genesis story. And looking forward to the end of time, at the
second coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Who is this Jesus – ‘tis a complex and profound subject indeed, and Saint Mark plunges right into it on both a
human and cosmic scale.
And how does Mark go about telling the story? He immediately declares that it is the good news. The Good News. The Greek
word is euangellion. It comes into English as evangelism and evangelist. Euangellion is derived from the Greek angellion,
messenger, which comes into English as angel.
There is some evidence that corporate America has begun reading this first section of John’s gospel good news. In the
US News & World Report dated 5 December 2005, an interesting article in the business section is headlined “Spreading
the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product.” Some lifts from the article:
“When Google hired Vint “Father of the Internet” Cerf last September, it gave him the ecclesiastical sounding
title of ‘Chief Internet Evangelist.’…Google is only one of many companies, mostly in the technology sector,
designating certain employees as ‘evangelists.’…. Some companies, such as Sun Microsystems, have created
the overarching position of ‘chief evangelist’ who focuses more on trumpeting core values and vision…. But
the job of a corporate evangelist is about way more than preaching the wonders of a company to customers and clients.”
“Evangelism is about selling your dream so that other people believe in it as much as you do”, says Guy Kawasaki,
former chief evangelist for Apple Computer and one of the key people for marketing the Macintosh in 1984. “Those people
then, in turn, get even more people to believe. Just like Jesus was an evangelist who recruited twelve more evangelists.”
“So evangelism is a way of creating word of mouth advertising or marketing, turning your passionate, influential sales
customers into a volunteer sales force…. companies like Southwest Airlines and Build-A-Bear Workshop have used evangelism
to increase sales. Many CEOs see evangelism as a way of getting their corporate message through to an authenticity-craving
public that seems ever more immune to traditional mass advertising….”
I guess it only took business 2,000 years to catch on to the language and terms of evangelism. And so much for separation
of Church and State – I wonder if there will be any ACLU lawsuits brought against corporations over this!
Mark begins to relate this euangellion, the good news, first by his declaration in the opening of the Gospel and its echoes
of the beginning of time in the Creation story. Then he turns to the salvation history of ancient Israel in the words of
the prophet Isaiah:
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
`Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"
This section of Isaiah, known as Second Isaiah because it was written during the Babylonian Captivity, portrays God as a divine
destiny shaping real presence in the midst of human history, sending Cyrus the Great to restore Israel to the Holy Land.
It reflects the belief that all that exists in heaven and on earth belongs to the God who is at their center, and that everything
finds its being and purpose in relation to God. It is a bold declaration of the abiding presence of God, moving and shaking
the events of human history, a faith that this was so drawn from the depths of the constantly renewed covenants between God
and his people.
So, too, for Mark, the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, into the world as a divine destiny shaping real presence in
the midst of human history is moving and shaking earthly events.
John the Baptist had waited long for the appearance of this Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God. As Mark
and his community waited, we, too, wait, until his coming again.
Advent. Time to turn away from the lures and attractions of worldly things and toward the things of God. A time to renew
our spiritual lives and refocus our efforts toward the work we have been given to do. For our task is live as if he were