Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen, at Crossmarks.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts on Mark 1:14-20
We begin this passage as Mark clearly breaks from the testimony of John the Baptist and focuses directly on the work of Jesus. Jesus is now the focal point of the Gospel and of Mark's witness.
A second theme emerges directly as Galilee. We are beginning to read Mark more regularly in this year's cycle of Gospel readings. In Mark's Gospel Galilee is the "land of salvation" while it is contrasted throughout the story with Jerusalem; which is the place of rejection. (This was pointed out by such great New Testament scholars as Lohmeyer and Lightfoot; and has been repeated throughout most Markan commentaries.) In Galilee great and miraculous things happen. Healings, exorcisms, teaching, and the growth of the Jesus movement all hallmark Galilee as the place of salvation. Mark as a Gospel author so focuses on this theme that it is the primary and driving force behind his confused geography. For the Gospel author the story and miraculous works are more important than factual place.
In our passage, John is handed over, Jesus comes from Galilee, and he proclaims "good news." I love Mark's Gospel and I have studied it quite a bit. What stood out for me in this reading is Joel Marcus' point that this is "good news" really stood out. In his exegesis of the text (Marcus, Mark, vol 1, 171) Marcus points out that the word "God" and "kingdom of God" were later added and not necessarily part of the early Christian witness to Jesus' ministry. Marcus even reminds us that John's Gospel does not even use the term "euangelion," or Good News. This is Good News! It is not good news +; or good news but. The early Christian testimony preserved in Mark's account is that what we have is Good News.
Then Jesus teaches our response. Our response to the Good News that God is near, that God claims us, that God reinserts himself into the world, that God invites our relationship is to discover that we are in a new age of God; we are now in an age of the kingdom or dominion of God...our response is repentance and belief.
What seems very inspiring here is the notion that this is not a one time event. We are not to repent and believe; but rather we are to live a life of repenting and believing. These words of good news and repenting/believing are words that would have resounded in the ears of the newly baptized Christian. They are words deeply connected with the earliest Christian tradition. We are a people who recognize our relationship with God; we celebrate the grace of God and the goodness of God. We then are constantly responding attempting to glorify God in this world by moving our lives closer and closer to the life of God.
We are a people who are not satisfied with the old age or the past; we are a people who want to come ever closer to God's kingdom. We are a people not satisfied with the world as we experience it for we know that when we try and work and repent and move ever closer God's love and grace transforms us and the world around us. It does this through kindness, charity, and good works. This is the center of living a life virtuously. The virtuous life is one that is constantly trying to remove the old and dead life; letting it fall away. And, consequently attempting to live a life where belief matters and affects how I am going to act in the next moment.
This opening reading from Mark's Gospel would have reminded the first hearers of the first moments when they followed Jesus. (Marcus, 176) As we read it today and think about our words for Sunday morning we must recognize that we have the opportunity to stir up and reinvigorate our discipleship. We have the opportunity to see again for the fist time what it means to turn and follow Jesus.
Good News of our salvation and the unique proclamation of God's kingdom and our invitation to be a part is good news indeed!
A Little Bit for Everyone