This is my radio devotion for Monday, August 24, 2020, aired on KBBN/KCNI, who graciously airs devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Could you use a little good news today?
Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. Maybe more than some weeks, this week, I’ve felt in my spirit a longing for some truly good news. There’s been enough of the other kind. And so, I’m turning to the Gospel of Mark this week to hear some good news. I’ve also be preaching on Mark for the past few weeks if you want check out BBUMC.org.
Mark begins his gospel with what we might sometime treat like a throw-away line: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son” (Mk 1:1). We read it and then move on to things that seem more important: the actual actions and words of Jesus in the gospel. And often that’s fine, for Jesus is the central figure of the gospel and of our faith as Christians. However, there’s more to this line than meets the eye.
For starters, the phrase that we translate as “good news” is more than just news that is opposite the bad or shocking news we sometimes hear in radio or TV programming. We hear that news most frequently, not because it’s the norm, but because it’s truly newsworthy – it’s shocking, it’s unique, and it’s abnormal. Mark has a different sort of news in mind when he begins his gospel. In the Ancient Near East, and especially in the midst of the Roman Empire, the “good news” was announced like this.
A herald, perhaps sent by the Emperor or some other authority, would race into the middle of the town square, and then begin shouting out his “good news” message. He was the town crier, going from town to town. And his typical announcement was a sort of propaganda that goes something like this: “Hear ye! Hear ye! Emperor So-and-So, son of the god, has just captured neighboring city over there. The Emperor has freed its inhabitants for service to the Empire. Rejoice and be glad!”
Obviously, this was a political kind of message, even if it was also pitched as a message about salvation – that the Emperor had brought more of the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. It was about how the great and powerful leader had done a new thing that should make everyone happy, or worship him, or follow him.
So, when Mark begins his gospel with this phrasing and language, he’s setting the story of Jesus up with a certain tone. He’s calling all who hear his gospel read, and even us today, to hear that Jesus, not Caesar, not the president, not some other leader vying for power, is Lord.
While it may be difficult to hear, Mark’s gospel introduction proclaims that Jesus is a political leader, albeit one unlike any we’ve known before. He’s political because, as he goes throughout Israel, he will reorder cities, one group of people at a time. For example, Jesus, in all of his healings throughout Mark, reorders the cities by essentially emptying the leper colonies that exist outside the city. He proclaims people healed, and so invites them back into the city, into the community, and into their families.
In this, it makes me wonder about our own communities and families. Have we erected, at least figurative, places at which we keep others we don’t like, others we deem suspicious, or others we fear? And if so, how might Jesus, the good news, reorder our cities and our lives in the shape of the city of God?