The Gospel text for this Sunday starts us on a relatively slow, deliberate journey with the Gospel according Mark. But a slow journey is hardly possible with this gospel account. The writer’s pace is unbelievable at times, especially when you take into account all the times the word ‘immediately’ appears.
I call it a slow journey because we will stay in this account until the third Sunday in Lent. And the Gospel texts for the next few weeks are as follows: 1:14-20, 1:21-28, and 1:29-39; and, if Easter were later (it happens to be April Fool’s Day this year!), there could be up to three weeks of texts which immediately follow after those.
During Epiphany we do not want to get too far into the Gospel according to Mark since, at the very beginning of chapter 3, Jesus’ enemies are already planning to destroy him. In a way, Lent is right around the corner.
Epiphany gives us a little time to enjoy a revelation or two about Jesus. How Jesus reveals himself in this account is certainly unique, and you do not have to go too far into the text to see that.
Mark 1:14-15 go this way (according to the ESV): “After John was arrested, 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.’” It is extremely interesting—and I checked this to be sure—that this is, according to some manuscripts, the first mention of 'God' in the text. And he is certainly mentioned more than once!
Some manuscripts do not have Jesus called ‘Son of God’ at the end of first sentence of this account, and even if it is NOT there, that he is eventually called that in the text is an amazing thing. And even if it IS there, the frequent mention (and allusion) to God in this text is noticeable.
In verses 14 and 15 there is the phrase ‘the gospel of God’; Jesus talks about ‘the kingdom of God’, and when he says that ‘the time is fulfilled’, the implication is that this special time is determined by God (cf. BDAG, p. 498). The emphasis on God is undeniable. And it all started after the mention of an arrest (literally, a ‘giving over’ or, perhaps, a ‘passing on’).
The emphasis continues to be one of power. People are used to talking about power. People like to have power. In the same way (as it has always been), people like to be like God—someone with power.
This God of the text has a gospel. This God has a timeline. And this God has a kingdom. Perhaps you can imagine God sitting on his throne in heaven. He decides (given his timeline) to send a messenger to give some important news (and this is the definition of ‘gospel’ in the Old Testament).
God has always had a kingdom. God has always had some good news. That he decides to share it with us is incredible. The WAY in which he did it is BEYOND incredible. That he decided to share it with the harassed, belittled, outnumbered Christians in Rome is also incredible. And sometimes we can feel the same way as they did. That those early Christians were able to pass it along is even more incredible.
As Mark 1:1 reminds us, this is only the beginning of the good news.