“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
So opens Mark’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, presented to us as a sentence in verse 1. But it’s not a sentence, not itself the beginning of the story. It’s an assertion about the story; a title.
One way to understand that title is as referring only to the opening verses about John the Baptist’s ministry. Read another (my preferred) way, it refers to the whole book, identifying the entire gospel as simply the beginning of this particular good news-the good news of Jesus, which doesn’t even actually begin with Jesus himself but with the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming the salvation of God in ages past. For Mark, this good news is a continuation of that good news, part of the story of the God of Israel, of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and King David. Jesus did not come out of nowhere. His story begins in that story-it is one story.
The second voice we hear in Mark’s gospel is still not Jesus but John the baptizer, reaching into the past while pointing to the future. John enters the story via the authority of the prophets but calls on those who encounter him to turn toward the one who is still to come-he who baptizes not with water but with the Holy Spirit. John is the embodiment of the continuity of the story from the prophets through to Jesus-and by virtue of our baptism, we are the embodiment of the continuity of the story from Mark into our futures.
For this story is not-and never has been-simply words on a page. This story is alive. It is written in our daily actions and conversations and decisions. It is written in our worship and our justice-seeking. It is written in our relationships, both intimate and structural. This living story demands to be lived.
So how will you continue the story? How will you point beyond yourself and this world to the kingdom of heaven? How will you make Christ’s liberating love manifest? What do you hear the living Word saying to a world hungry for renewal and salvation? And how will you share what you hear?
Like Mark, we know the story we write does not belong to us. We didn’t start it and we will not finish it. But for the time being, it is ours: The continuing good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. May we write it boldly.
The Rev. Rhonda Water is associate priest of Christ Church Cathedral, diocese of Montreal.