Today we begin our look at the Gospel of Mark. The narrative lectionary list of readings that we use for preaching texts takes us through the Old Testament up Christmas to point us toward the coming savior, the Christ. Then following Christmas we jump into one of the gospels as we think and reflect on the life and ministry of the Christ. This year we jump into the Gospel of Mark and ponder what Mark has to tell us about Jesus.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/337206-where-is-the-good-news.mp3]
One of the striking things about the four Gospels is that each of them seems to think of the “gospel-genre” a little bit differently. Or perhaps better, each of the Gospels uses the word gospel – meaning good news – differently, and that difference matters when we’re trying to figure out what a Bible reading is saying.
So when it comes to the Gospels first things first, John doesn’t use the word at all. So there’s that. This doesn’t mean, of course, that John’s Gospel isn’t interested in the good news; quite the contrary, John’s approach to the good news is just markedly different than those of the other three Gospels that we call the Synoptic Gospels.
In Matthew, “gospel” is what Jesus comes preaching. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Matt 4:23). For Matthew the gospel, the good news, is at least in part the content of Jesus’ preaching and teaching.
In Luke, “gospel” is what the angel Gabriel brings, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:19). For Luke, the gospel is first and foremost the announcement of the birth of the Messiah. You may have heard something along those lines in the past week or so.
In Mark, “gospel” is a summary of the whole of the book. Mark begins with a summary statement, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1). For Mark, the gospel is the whole of Jesus’ story, the whole of what he does, what he says, what he is.
None of this is to say that the distinctive ways in which each of the Gospels uses (or doesn’t use) the word “gospel,” is exclusive. It just makes the point that they’re all different but pointing at the same thing. They all point to the good news that comes to us in Jesus Christ.
Okay, so we know the Gospel of John is its own thing entirely. Matthew and Luke were written based on Mark. So Mark is kind of the go-to gospel text and Mark does not mince too many words being the shortest of the 4 gospels. He tells it like it is. Even the intro to Mark’s gospel gives us that idea: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
The beginning of what?
The beginning of the Good News. Of Jesus Christ. The Son of God.
What does that mean? Let me ask you a question. What does Good News mean to you? If you had to write down a definition would you have to think a bit or do you have it ready to go?
Let me ask another question. What does bad news mean to you? Is it easier to come up with examples of bad news or good news? We seem to live in a culture that is in tune with bad news much more than good news. Look at any news program or feed. No really, go ahead. (PHONE) What’s in your newsfeed? If you don’t have a phone handy what was the last time you looked at news and what did you see?
Is it always bad news that leads?
I think part of the problem is that we have more practice with thinking and talking about bad news. And why not? With a 24/7 news cycle playing over and over and over and with smartphones and social media it is easy to fall into the trap.
And what happens to our mindsets and outlook when all we see and hear is bad news? Puts a pretty negative spin on our outlook. The ironic part of that is that the world so far this century is a much safer place to live than last century.
I got to wondering about this a while back. We pray for peace every week right? Does it ever seem like that prayer is answered? Certainly not if you are watching the news. Murder and mayhem about and are the standard for most places. The reality is the world is a better place than we give God credit for. Most stats from places like the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization indicate that worldwide casualties of war and terrorism are down as of late. As are poverty rates and malnutrition rates. That doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do in any of these areas. We do. If there is one child that goes to bed hungry then we’re not done.
My point is simply this. It may seem like the world is the worst place in the universe if we base our opinion on what we get in our respective newsfeeds. But the reality is the world isn’t as bad as we are led to believe by a media focused on profit.
We need more practice with good news, I suspect. When was the last time you went looking for some good news? To be honest, I’m not even sure where one goes to hear actual good news. We come to church and we read the Bible and that’s good news but when it comes to contemporary stories of good news, they can be hard to find. KLOVE radio stations have it I guess but I’m not so sure about other places. Do you know of any?
This week do some practice with good news. Think about what you know about Jesus and the things we pray about. And then consider what the world really looks like rather than the gloom and doom picture we’re all led to believe in. Remember what God has done in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.