The Story Begins…

Today’s scripture: Mark 1:1 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (David Squire):

Today we’re beginning a new segment in Be Still on the Gospel of Mark. Here are a few thoughts as we start out on this new study:

  • Note that the author of Mark states that what he writes is, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…” indicating that the Gospel (Good News) continues beyond the story of Jesus. This text we’ll study over the next couple months is the beginning of the story of which we are a part. How has it continued in your life?
  • I think we often assume the Gospels to be a biography of Jesus, but they’re not. They’re a gospel, with the intent to record and share the good news. The Mark account is really “stripped down” of biographical details. It’s the only gospel without a birth or origin narrative of any kind. There are also no post-resurrection stories in the oldest manuscripts of Mark — the Gospel ends at 16:8 with an empty tomb.

By noting what’s omitted, we can learn about Mark’s focus: the authority and humility of Jesus.

Mark’s Gospel reveals Jesus’ authority throughout the first five chapters: healing, exorcising, forgiving sin, setting aside religious tradition, calming the natural elements, feeding thousands. But the certainty of Jesus’ coming death is also revealed early on, and is followed by three separate Passion predictions. Mark’s Gospel is more Passion Story than either Matthew or Luke.

  • There’s an aspect of Mark that may be significant to LGBTQ people, or anyone else who feels “misplaced”: Jesus has no meaningful, “traditional” family-of-origin ties in this Gospel. Mary, the mother of our Lord, is mentioned only twice, and neither positively. Jesus lives his life, and dies, among the marginalized, whom he identifies as his family and with whom he is in solidarity.
  • I noted as we began our study of John in 2007 that parts of that Gospel seem to be mystical, almost abstract in language. Mark often seems to be just the opposite — it’s the Joe Friday, just-the-facts-ma’am version of the story of Jesus: Jesus went here, Jesus said this and did that. And I think that gives us a unique opportunity.

Many times our understanding of Jesus is filtered by others’ commentary and opinions. Even the gospels (to me) each seem to present their own “spin” on the events described. Perhaps Mark’s “stripped down” story can help us get to the heart of Jesus’ life and work, and we can ask God directly for insight.

Thought for the day: Thank you, God, for this “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Give us insight as we study. Help me to see my place in your Good News.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

Author’s note: I’m indebted to Keith Phillips, who produced a “writer’s guide” to Mark for all of the Be Still authors to use as we produce this devotional. Many of the thoughts presented in this introduction came from that guide. Thank you, Keith!