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Sermon December 10, 2023

Advent 2 B 2023 The Beginning of the Good News Sermon

Mark 1:1-8

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This morning you have probably noticed that Mark wastes no time diving into his account of the life of Jesus.  The Gospel of Mark is a very fast-moving book, where everything happens very quickly.  There is no genealogy like the one we find in the Book of Matthew, and no telling of the birth of the Christ Child like there is in the Book of Luke.

Mark’s Gospel begins the story when Jesus is thirty years old.  And this throughout the centuries has turned some people off from the Gospel according to St. Mark.

When compared to the other three Gospels, Mark does not have the philosophy and theology of John, the narrative structure of Matthew, or the many parables and stories of Luke.

Up until the 19th century, Mark’s Gospel received far less attention than the other three Gospels.  And it has only been within the last few hundred years that scholars have discovered how much Mark’s Gospel has to offer.

So why does Mark’s Gospel move so fast?  I think it moves so fast because Mark wrote this Gospel to Christians who were being persecuted during the reign of the evil emperor, Nero.  As you may recall, Nero hated Christians. 

The famous fire of Rome in 64 AD, which was probably started by Nero, was blamed on the Christians by Nero, which resulted in widespread persecution of the Christians.

And so, Mark is writing his account quickly, because he knows that suffering is near for many of the Christians in Rome.  Therefore, Mark begins with the words “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Mark doesn’t hold anything back.  He wants his audience to know who Jesus is.  The word for gospel in this text literally means “Good News.” 

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew form of this word was commonly used to refer to military and political victories and the messenger who brought favorable news from the battlefield was the deliverer of “good news.” 

The Gospel of Mark starts off by immediately telling us that Jesus, the Son of God, is “Good News.”  And like John Madden would describe it during the Thanksgiving NFL football game, BOOM, and the Gospel of Mark is off and running.  

I love it.  I love the Gospel of Mark.  He is so intent on making sure that we know about Jesus that he cannot slow down long enough to give us anything more than just the bare facts.

Mark is not so concerned about all that happened during the birth of Jesus as he is with communicating the main points of Christ’s ministry, and Mark wants us to pay attention to what He has said and done for us.

And so, as we read the First Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark, it becomes clear that we also need to do some soul searching, and that we need to change the way that we live our lives as we prepare to meet the One John is pointing to. 

It is no wonder then that Mark zero’s in on the words recorded in the Book of Isaiah that proclaims that God is sending a messenger who will prepare the way for the Messiah. 

This messenger will be the voice of the one crying out from the wilderness.  He will shout out “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  And “Make straight” a path for God in this world.

John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, away from the wealth and wisdom of this world, and he called people to repent so that their sins might be forgiven.

And what does the word repent mean?  To repent means to change the direction of your life.  To repent means to have a change of heart, and mind.  To repent means to get off the one-way road you are on and go in a different direction.  To repent means to turn back in faith towards God.

And the people responded well to this message.  Using the words of Mark himself, “And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to see him.” 

Yes.  John’s message was well received.  When people heard John the Baptizer speak, they confessed their sins, and then they were baptized. 

Mark’s gospel is exciting.   The Good News of Jesus Christ starts off with a bang.  The people are awakened.  And the light bulbs go on and the people realize that they need to change their ways.

And this man named John, the one clothed in camels’ hair, the one who had a leather belt wrapped around his waist, the one who ate locusts and wild honey, is the one who kickstarts it all with his message to be prepared to meet the One who is more powerful than he will ever be. 

For you see, the Gospel of Mark makes it clear that John the Baptizer, the one chosen to be the messenger, is not the one all of humanity has been waiting for.  In fact, John the Baptizer is not worthy enough to even bend down and untie the strap on of his sandals.

John the Baptizer knows this.  That is why he makes it clear that he only baptizes with water, but the One following him will baptize humanity with the Holy Spirit.  And because of this, our lives will be changed forever.

And that is the Good News Mark wants everyone to know.  And Mark is in a hurry to tell it.  And His Gospel account wastes no time getting to the heart of the story.  He is in a rush to tell the story because of all the terrible things that were/and are happening in this world. 

Mark wanted the Good News of Jesus Christ to be available immediately.  He wanted everyone to read it.  He wanted everyone to be prepared to greet the One whom God promised He would send to guide us through the trials and tribulations of this world and bring us to His world of everlasting joy and peace in God’s Kingdom.

Let us pray: God of all people, your servant John came baptizing and calling for repentance.  Help us to hear his voice of judgement, that we may also rejoice in his word of promise and be found pure and blameless in that glorious day when Christ comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.