- Bible Readings: Mark 1:1-20; Mark 1:21-45; Mark 2:1-22
- Free Resource: Calling the Disciples Game (Dec. 29th & Jan. 5th ) & I Am Welcome (Jan. 12th) (Kids- 3rd-6th )
- Unit Theme (December 29—January 19): God’s Kingdom Announced
- The Point (Dec. 29th & Jan. 5th): Jesus begins his work, bringing the kingdom of God to everyone.
- The Point (Jan. 12th): Jesus welcomes everyone into God’s kingdom.
The busyness of Advent and Christmas is behind us (or soon to be, when I’m writing this). Now we can look forward to the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. We are beginning our look at the Gospel of Mark, having delved a bit into Luke to get some pre-nativity land nativity narrative. Here in Mark, there is no slow lead-up, we start out at a sprint. The good news of God’s kingdom is announced.
Mark 1:1-20: What Is the Good News?
The good news (Gk. euangelion) is clearly important to Mark since this is the third word in the Gospel (first being “beginning” and second “(of) the” if you’re curious like I was). Identifying his writing using this word is significant. It’s significant in two different ways. First, connected to Mark’s quote of Isaiah in the next two verses, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) uses euangelion in Isaiah 52:7, in which these “good tidings” are summed up as “Your God reigns!” These were words spoken to a people in exile, trapped in an empire where others reigned.
Second, the Greek word was primarily used in reference to the descriptions of the deified Roman emperors. That good news was the news of the birth and ascension to the throne of the men who would be gods, who are declared lord and savior of the empire. So, Mark is making a spiritual and political claim: the emperor is not lord and savior, our God is, specifically in the person of Jesus the Messiah. This is a treasonous claim.
Mark 1:1-45: Who Is Jesus?
Mark’s primary purpose for writing this Gospel is to answer the question of who Jesus is. Right away Mark tells us that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 1:1). John declares that he is more powerful and worthy than himself (verse 7). God proclaims Jesus to be the beloved Son of God (verse 11).
Starting in verse 14, Jesus becomes the active one, proclaiming the good news of the inbreaking of God’s own kingdom (not the emperor’s). Then, Jesus is identified as one who calls, the rabbi that selects fishermen to be his first disciples.
It is fascinating to me that one of the clearest declarations of Jesus’s identity in the beginning of Mark, beyond God’s announcement at Jesus’ baptism, is from the mouth of an unclean spirit. Jesus is the Holy One of God (verse 24). Jesus is known to these unclean spirits and feared (verse 34).
Through the rest of Mark 1, we learn that Jesus is a healer, a liberator of those oppressed by demons, and one who is willing to cross the line and heal the outcasts of society, in this case, a man with leprosy.
Mark 2:1-22: What Is the Kingdom of God?
This all is the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the king. But what is a king without a kingdom? If Jesus supplants the Roman emperor, what are the borders of Jesus’ kingdom? Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom is the power of God at work. This power turns society upside down. God’s power is sent into this world to the outsiders, those who are suffering in some way. Jesus does not dine with the power brokers of this world, but the outcasts: tax collectors and sinners. The kingdom is defined by inclusion, forgiveness, and healing. To me, this is definitely the good news that my heart longs for.
This is Mark’s argument, his goal for writing this narrative. He wants to tell us about the true ruler of the world, this Jesus who was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Bible. This Messiah exercises his rule through healing, liberating, forgiving, and including. This is what the Gospel is about.
Since I am covering multiple weeks in this post (so I don’t have to write during Christmas break), I have two different activities, both from our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th) product. The first, related to Mark 1 (Dec. 29th and Jan. 5th) is a fun game of “Jesus Calls the Disciples.”
The second, on Mark 2 (Jan. 12th) focuses on the radical welcome and inclusion seen in the calling of and dinner with Levi and his friends, entitled “I Am Welcome.”
May you encounter God in amazing ways this Christmas and Epiphany!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
If you would like to know more about our perspectives on faith formation and cross+gen ministry, you can check out the following links:
- Faith Formation: Frequently Asked Questions and relevant blog posts and the What Is Faith Formation? series.
- Cross+Gen Ministry: Frequently Asked Questions and relevant blog posts and the What Is Cross+Gen Ministry? series.
- Narrative Lectionary: Frequently Asked Questions
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!