GiftsEden On The Bay

All are welcome ~ Come as you are

Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Markan Themes Repent Believe Follow - 01/21/2018

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that the Gospel of Mark is my favorite.

All four of the gospels give us different angles and themes in telling us the story of Jesus, and while some have argued that we shouldn't have these four different accounts of the bible, I do not agree. I love the diversity the gospels embody when you consider all of them.

The gospel of Matthew is very much about the Jewish law and fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Luke focuses on the city of Jerusalem itself and also on the human tendency to gather around food and tables. In seminary we used to call it the “gospel of food.”

John offers us the sweeping and cosmic image of Christ, who is part of all that has been, is now and will be. John's story is crafted to bring people to belief, come and see for yourself it beckons. It is my second favorite gospel.

Mark is the oldest of our gospels. Scholars used to write it off and not really spend too much time with it because it was long thought to be the most primitively written story – kind of like a first draft for all the others. It gives us a grittier, down to earth, very human picture of Jesus and his walk on the planet.

This is a gospel that was told in one sitting, probably memorized by a couple of people in the community and down passed down to children and grandchildren. It would often be told while everyone was sitting around the fire at night and it would be told over and over again.

The language is very spare, and it gets right to the point. No time to waste, people need to know this stuff and know it now. It reminds us that the very early followers of Jesus thought he was coming back right away.

To help build that sense of urgency, the gospel writer uses the word “immediately,” all the time. If you ever hear a scripture verse in your day-to-day life and it used the word “immediately,” chances are its from the Gospel of Mark. In just Chapter 1 alone, for instance we have:

  • And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (1:12)
  • And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (1:18)
  • Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (1:20)
  • Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (1:42)

All this language of urgency moves us along in the story itself too. The gospel of Mark speeds along in its story of Jesus' ministry and then slows down to a crawl when Jesus and the disciples get to Jerusalem that last time; when the earthly part of Jesus' ministry comes to an abrupt and appalling end on the cross, only to introduce a new age in which God's people live freed from their sin. A new life in which we find ourselves gathered around baptismal fonts and communion feasts all over creation, where we all are equal, marked as a child of God and follower of Jesus forever and nourished on the food of eternal life.

And, of course there is the odd and surprising way this gospel ends – where the women disciples, the only ones who stayed with Jesus until the very end, even if it was from afar, meet a messenger of God who tells them Jesus is not there. He is raised from the dead, just as he said and waits back in Galilee.  So they run away in fear and don't tell anyone a thing about what has happened.

It's a brilliant end to a riveting story that compels us hearers throughout the ages to pick up where the disciples could not – to continue telling the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection and our salvation.

Those are just a few of the reasons I think Mark is so special. And so at this point in the new church year, as we begin to really settle into Mark's version of the story of Jesus, I wanted to us to think about some of these broad overarching themes and literary devises so they catch our ears a little more purposefully over the months to come … so we can spot them weaving their way through this greatest story of all time – much like those first people did when they heard it all in one telling as they grew relaxed and sleepy around the fire, or came together in the tiny little house churches that came before cathedrals and church doctrine.

And I want to point out two more overarching themes as we begin our journey into Mark this year. They are key to Mark and they make their first appearance in our gospel reading today:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (1.15)

This statement is the centerpiece of Jesus' ministry in the Gospel of Mark. He boldly and confidently proclaims to us that the words of the prophets have come to pass in God's time and wisdom. The kingdom of God has come right here into our lives in the person of Jesus and so there is no time like the present to confess our sins to God and live our lives in a manner that lets this Good News shine through us too.

This proclamation .. this first sermon from Jesus in Mark … will be brought to life in the stories to come in the weeks ahead. First Jesus preaches it and next he show us what it looks like. So, right away next week in very next part of Mark chapter one, we will get glimpse into what it really means that the kingdom of God has come near in the story of a man with an unclean spirit who is liberated by Jesus at Capernum. And we will see more about what Jesus means by this in other stories this year – the transfiguration, the cleansing of the temple, the parable of the mustard seed, the healing of the hemorrhaging woman and the 12-year-old daughter of the synagogue leader, the feeding of 5,000 people, the healing of blind Bartimaeus.

At the heart of all these events and experiences are Jesus' first words in Mark: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (1.15)

Immediately after saying that, as Jesus is passing along the Sea of Galilee, we get the second thing Jesus says in this gospel: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” This is another very important theme in this gospel, this invitation from Jesus to follow; to consider what it is that holds us back from jumping into this new reality with all and everything we have; to throw down our nets, whatever they may be, and follow Jesus through through this brilliant and inspiring account from Mark and then continue to follow him when we exit the story in that scene of the empty tomb where we realize the words of the messenger are really meant for us: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go... (go back Galilee, go back to the beginning), tell his disciples and (tell everyone)... just as he told you.’ (The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.)(16.6-7, 1:15)


Pastor Ann Gonyea

Home | Home Worship | Facebook | Newsletters | Prayer Requests | Calendar | Education| Guest Book | Sermons

Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

Website designed and maintained by Superior Book Productions