Very quickly we find ourselves at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Mark’s Gospel. Mark didn’t take long to lay his groundwork and get into the core of the Message itself, and because there are few long teachings in Mark, this moment is crucial.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee…” (vs. 14)
The word Mark uses for “arrested” here is not technically the word for arrest, but clearly carries that connotation. In fact, Mark and the rest of the New Testament uses this phrasing several times to refer to believers being “handed over” to authorities to be persecuted and put into prison. In Mark 13:9-12, Jesus forewarns his disciples that they will be handed over because of him. In Acts 8:3, the phrase describes the actions of the great early persecutor, and in Acts 12:4 the apostle James is martyred and Peter is handed over to be put into prison. In addition, Jesus uses this concept of himself and his journey to the cross. In Mark 9:31 he says he will be handed over to the rulers to be crucified, and in Mark 15:15, when his final betrayal is described, Mark says Jesus was “handed over.”
John the Baptist does not just prepare the way for Jesus, he foreshadows Jesus’ life and what will become of the disciples as well. In this way, John is the first to show us what it means to be a disciple. Mark’s readers are Christians who are suffering acute persecution, and many have seen their friend and relatives “handed over” to the Roman authorities to be persecuted and killed for their faith. We often wonder why God’s children suffer, and Mark’s readers are surely asking the same difficult and heart-wrenching questions.
Into this very specific moment of injustice, Christ came preaching the good news of the Gospel:
“Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (vs. 14-15)
The word “gospel” here literally translates as “good news.” John has been taken to prison, Mark’s readers suffer under acute persecution, and we often feel bits and pieces of their pain and anguish. And yet, at precisely that moment, Mark tells us Jesus is good news.
Jesus Christ transcends my circumstances. Jesus is good news when life is rich and full of joy, and Jesus is good news when peace is a million miles away. My relationship with Jesus is primary to my circumstances. It is not my current situation that gives meaning to my relationship with Jesus; it is the relationship that gives meaning and hope to my circumstances. The richness and depth in my relationship with Christ does not flow from my state of affairs; it is something that provides grounding and stability in all conditions.
Jesus told me to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and then everything will “be added” to me. Paul told me that the peace Jesus provides “passes all understanding.” And Paul showed me what it meant to say, “I have learned in whatever circumstance to be content.”
May Christ enter your life speaking the good news of God.