Raw Beginnings in the Gospel of Mark
The Raw Beginnings in the Gospel of Mark
Though I’ve read through the Gospel of Mark at least 40 times (and in three languages), this time reading the first two chapters struck me in a new way, with its rawness, its almost-violent use of language.
There are no angels singing and people adoring at a nativity. Mark starts out in a wilderness, with a herald living on a siege diet of what’s at hand, not going to the people but straight-talking to them as they come in droves from their comfortable cities to see him.
Don’t get too relaxed, he tells them. Change up your minds (meta—as in metamorphosis –of your thinking processes.) In exchange, you get washed clean of the past – but this is not about the past, but rather the future. Someone is coming, and He outclasses me. I’m ready to pass the good-news baton to the anchor runner who’ll finish this race.
When that “He” arrives for His baptism by the wild man in camel coat, all of Creation spasms. The heavens, fixed since day two of Genesis, are torn open (the same Greek word is used for the ripping of the Temple veil at His death.) This is no gentle peek into heaven. The invisible Holy Spirit becomes visible. God speaks for the first time in centuries. But the trouble for Jesus is just beginning.
That same Spirit chases Him – the same word used for casting out of the camp a leper or a scapegoat – even further into the desolation. His only companions are slinking wild animals. Satan is given free rein for 40 days, giving his best shots at a continually-weakening mortal. At the end, only supernatural help keeps Him alive as the deacon angels try to repair the damage.
John’s reward for his service is a prison cave with no coming rescue. Jesus tells everybody that time is up and they have to change their minds and believe in some good news that no one knows yet.
He calls people to drop everything and follow Him. His first miracle is when he wins a shouting match with a demon. Shut up and get out, He says, and the demon leaves after putting his unwilling former host into convulsions. A leper comes to Him and Jesus breaks the rules by touching him. This time the convulsion is in the guts of Jesus (the verb for “to have compassion” literally means that His organs seize up with emotion.) Jesus heals and preaches; and His reward for his service is so much notoriety that He ends up, again, out in the desert.
Mark, as he writes his good news, begins it with putting everyone on notice. This is no sweet message.
If the cost was this high for the best of us, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Thank God Mark didn’t stop there.
Copyright, Latayne C. Scott