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St. Mark’s Gospel

St Mark reminds me of my grandmother, or maybe it is the other way round. Nana was a short, widowed Irish lady of definite opinions who wasted no time. Life speeded up when she came to stay for she did things at a lick. Mealtimes were a hoot: habitually fast in everything Nana would finish her meal well before everyone else at table, get up and immediately wash her plate and cutlery. Now it paid for a young man to be watchful for if you sat momentarily with your fork poised above a nearly empty plate, contemplating maybe a slice of Wonderloaf to mop up the last drop of gravy you were undone, for in a flash it would all be in a bowl of suds with you yet holding your fork while Nana was diving headlong into desert.

And Mark is like this, he is so excited by the story he has to tell that he is impatient to be on to the next thing:

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptised by John in the Jordan”

“And the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.”

In very few words, here on our service sheet, we have it – baptised, tempted and triumphant and in the verses that follow, staying only in Chapter One, Jesus has called the disciples, preached brilliantly in the synagogue, cast out innumerable demons, healed very many people, including Peter’s mother-in-law, cured a leper and become so celebrated that he could not go into a town but travelled the Galilean countryside where the crowds came to him from every quarter.

Mark began his Gospel, however, with an earlier section written in another voice explaining carefully and painstakingly who Jesus was: The first words are: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God”. And then only when he has made sure that we know who Jesus is does he begin his breathless account.

The world is a fallen place; it is now and was then, creation is far from God’s intention and so in John’s famous words: “God so loved the world that he sent his only son.” Mark wants us to immediately see why Jesus has come and what he is to do. Empowered by the Spirit in baptism, with the words of God the Father in his ears, Jesus goes straight away into the wilderness to confront evil. He is not lured there; the power of the Spirit, the love of God for the world drove him there to begin his ministry. Like anyone sent to sort out a big problem Jesus begins at the top, in this case with Satan. Mark does not give the details that we find in Luke and Matthew, Jesus not turning stones into bread, not throwing himself from a high pinnacle, not worshipping the devil in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world.

No Mark presses on, we know who Jesus is we know he triumphs over evil and Mark wants us to see that wherever Jesus is confronted by the imperfection of the world – illness, disability, hunger or even death his response and practice was to heal the illness, deal with the disability, relieve the hunger and to restore life. Mark wants us to know something quickly and certainly:

Jesus the Son of God came to put things right.


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