The Second Sunday of Advent
Pastor George Pejakovich
Mark 1:1-8

THE GOSPEL OF MARK BEGINS IN A MANNER DIFFERENT FROM ALL THE OTHER GOSPEL ACCOUNTS; IN FACT, WHAT WE THINK OF AS THE FIRST LINE OF MARK’S GOSPEL IS ACTUALLY THE TITLE OF HIS BOOK. A PROPER TRANSLATION FROM THE GREEK WOULD READ, “THE BEGINNING OF THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS THE ANNOINTED SON OF GOD.” THERE IS NO EXTENSIVE GENEOLOGY OR TENDER CHRISTMAS STORY IN MARK, AS HE DIVES RIGHT IN TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF WHAT THE GOOD NEWS IS ALL ABOUT. THE GOOD NEWS, THE EUANGELLION, WHICH WE CALL THE GOSPEL, IS THE WORD IN GREEK WHICH REFERS TO THE MESSAGE OF THE HERALD WHO BRINGS THE WORD OF VICTORY FROM THE BATTLE FIELD. MARK IS WRITING TO THE CHRISTIANS IN ROME WHO ARE UNDER THE OPPRESSIVE REIGN OF CAESAR, WHO CALLED HIMSELF THE SON OF GOD. IN THE TITLE OF HIS GOOD NEWS, MARK ESTABLISHES THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE FALSE “SON” OF GOD OF THIS WORLD AND THE TRUE SON ANNOINTED BY GOD, AND HOW GOD HAS BEEN WORKING OUT HIS SALVATION IN THE COURSE OF HISTORY, AND, NOW, HAS BEGUN THAT WHICH HAD BEEN LONG EXPECTED.

BEGINNINGS ARE IMPORTANT, AND MARK BEGINS HIS GOOD NEWS WITH THE HERALD OF GOD, JOHN THE BAPTIST. IT HAD BEEN FOUR HUNDRED YEARS SINCE THE APPEARANCE OF A PROPHET IN THE LAND, AND JOHN COMES OUT OF THE WILDERNESS WITH ALL THE TRAPPINGS OF A PROPHET OF OLD. HE IS DRESSED IN ROUGH CAMEL’S HAIR, WITH A LEATHER BELT, AND LIVES OFF THE LAND EATING GRASSHOPPERS AND WILD HONEY; A SYMBOL THAT HE NEEDS ONLY THAT WHICH GOD WILL PROVIDE. HE LIVES IN A CAVE BESIDE THE JORDAN RIVER, AND PROCLAIMS A NEED FOR THE PEOPLE TO REPENT. HIS MESSAGE IS INTENSE AND IMMEDIATE, WHICH IS WHY HE SEEMS TO BE IMPATIENT AND ABRUPT, BECAUSE HE KNOWS THE TIME IS SHORT BEFORE THE ONE WHO IS TO COME WILL BE HERE. HE DOES NOT KNOW WHO THAT ONE WILL BE, BUT HE FEELS THE PRESSURE OF THE AGES BUILDING TO THE POINT WHERE THE ANNOINTED OF GOD WILL BURST UPON THE WORLD. IN THE FACE OF HE WHO IS TO COME, JOHN IS NOT WORTHY TO BEND DOWN AND UNTIE HIS SANDALS. JOHN CALLS THE PEOPLE TO REPENT IN THE WATERS OF BAPTISM; BUT HE WHO IS TO COME WILL BRING THE FIRE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. THUS, THE GOOD NEWS BEGINS.

FOR MARK, THE STORY OF THE LIFE, DEATH, AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE GOOD NEWS, BECAUSE THE GOOD NEWS DOES NOT END WITH THE FINAL WORDS OF HIS GOSPEL; IT CONTINUES IN THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD TO WHOM HE WRITES. JUST AS JOHN COMES TO RECOGNIZE THE LORD WHEN HE COMES FACE TO FACE WITH HIM IN THE WATERS OF THE JORDAN, AND WILL POINT HIM OUT TO OTHERS AS THE LAMB OF GOD, SO MARK CALLS THE PEOPLE OF GOD TO RECOGNIZE AND POINT TO JESUS AS THE ONLY SON OF GOD. HE WHO WAS, AND IS WITH US NOW, AND IS TO COME IS THE ONE ANNOINTED BY GOD TO BRING SALVATION TO HIS PEOPLE, WHICH IS WHY THIS GOSPEL IS JUST THE START OF THE STORY; IT CONTINUES IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH AND THE LIVES OF GOD’S PEOPLE DOWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES.

IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK, THE GOD NEWS DOES NOT COME IN JERUSALEM, IN THE RESTRICTIVE PRECINCTS OF THE HOLY TEMPLE, BUT COMES IN THE WILDERNESS; IN THE WILD AND UNTAMED WORLD IN WHICH PEOPLE LIVE. THE PEOPLE OF JUDEA AND JERUSALEM POURED OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS TO HEAR THE GOOD NEWS PROCLAIMED BY JOHN, AND THE MESSAGE OF THE GOOD NEWS IS WHAT GOD HAS BEEN DOING ALL ALONG. IN THE EIGHT SHORT VERSES OF THE BEGINNING OF MARK’S GOSPEL, WE HEAR THE SALVATION THAT GOD HAS BEEN WORKING OUT FROM THE BEGINNING IN THE FULFILLMENT OF ONE PROMISE AFTER ANOTHER, AND NOW HAS GIVEN HIS PEOPLE A NEW BEGINNING; AND THAT NEW BEGINNING IS THE ASTOUNDING PROCLAMATION OF, “HERE IS YOUR GOD!” WE HEAR THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH OF OLD IN A NEW WAY FOR A NEW DAY IN THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH WILL COME WITH HE WHO IS TO COME.

THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS THE ANNOINTED SON OF GOD, BECAUSE THIS BEGINNING OPENS US UP TO THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN CHRIST IN OUR LIVES, CENTERED IN THE PAST OF THE PROMISES OF GOD, GROUNDED IN THE REALITIY OF GOD WITH US NOW, THE EXCITING GOD FILLED FUTURE TO WHICH OUR LORD WILL LEAD US IN THIS LIFE, AND THE JOYFUL ANTICIPATION OF HIS COMING AGAIN IN POWER AND GLORY. ABOVE ALL IS THE ASTOUNDING ASSERTION THAT OUR GOD COMES TO MEET US WHERE WE ARE IN THIS WILDERNESS, AND WITH HIM COMES HIS SALVATION NOW AND OUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.

THIS IS THE SOMBER JOY OF ADVENT; THE GOOD NEWS BEGINS IN THE CALL OF JOHN TO CONTINUAL REPENTANCE AND SO OPEN THE WAY OF OUR HEARTS TO THE COMING OF OUR GOD, AND THE REVELATION OF THE WONDER AND MYSTERY THAT OUR GOD IS WITH US EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES IN THE GIFT OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT. LIKE JOHN, WE ARE TO POINT TO JESUS IN ALL THAT WE ARE AND ALL THAT WE DO, SO THAT WE CAN SAY TO ALL OTHERS, “HERE IS YOUR GOD!” AS THE ADVENT LIGHT GROWS BRIGHTER ANTICIPATING THE COMING OF OUR LORD, SO LET ALL OUR HEARTS GLOW BRIGHTER WITH THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, LIVING THE LIFE OUR LORD CALLS US TO LIVE; A LIFE OF MERCY, JUSTICE, FORGIVENESS, GRACE, AND COMPASSION FOR ALL. IN SO DOING, WE WILL BE PROCLAIMING TO ALL THAT HE WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME IS INDEED THE ANNOINTED SON OF GOD AND THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD. AMEN.