I love Harry Potter. Love the series…loved most of the books…the movies too. And although it was a while back I still remember going to the theater to see the last few movies, but especially the Order of the Phoenix. I love how it jumped right into the action with no explanation, somewhat discombobulating yet exciting. Talk about hooking an audience! Even folks who have not read the book and don’t know what all is going on were in. The story was dark and shifty, brilliantly put together for the movie, and just an all around good story and good series.
Many of you know this – my favorite gospel is Mark. It is short, sweet, and to the point. He is selective, yet colorful and persuasive. Mark is a great writer. Mark tells a good story!
Our journey through Luke ended yesterday, and we begin the gospel of Mark. What does Mark begin with? What is important to him? Certainly not the birth narrative, for there isn’t one.
Mark jumps right into the action, like that Harry Potter movie. Mark knows how to hook a reader. Mark begins with “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ….” And that beginning is John the Baptist proclamation of Isaiah’s prophecy that a messenger is being sent ahead to prepare the way of the Lord.
Then, after colorfully painting John the Baptist with camel’s hair, a leather belt, eating locusts and honey, we immediately segue to the baptism of Jesus. It is brief. It is without incident. Then we move to the temptation in the wilderness.
I am curious about the brevity and the fact that two of the four gospels don’t even find it important enough to mention the birth narrative. What does that mean? For Mark, I suspect he means to emphasize that God is on the move. By not beginning with “A long time ago, in a place far, far away…,” he is giving urgency to the story.
Mark also understands that you may have already heard some stories about this Jesus. He doesn’t go into background information of who he is, his Jewishness, or such. There is an assumption you already know who the players are, and if you don’t there is no time to explain.
This sets the tone for what I believe Mark’s true message is: “What’s next?”
Just as his gospel ends, he leaves us hanging, wondering what happens next. We are called, in Mark’s gospel, to the mystery of the gospel, the partial details. We are called to embrace the confusion. Mark is articulating that he is OK with the confusion, and so should we. He brilliantly creates a page turner!
Just like Harry Potter’s The Order of the Phoenix, I suspect Mark was telling a story that he felt was in process. It too is discombobulating and dark. It ain’t all fun and games. And at story’s end we are left wondering what is next. More specifically in the gospel of Mark, we are left wondering, “What is so ‘good’ about this news, and how do we fit in with this story? How does this impact me?”
And that is the story for all of us to answer. For every Christian. To really digest the gospel and answer, “What is God’s good news for me? Here. Now.”
The answer to that question impacts your “today.” It impacts every moment of the rest of your life.
P.S. Did you know the Phoenix was used as an ancient Christian symbol? That mythical bird that dies in old age and rises out of its own ashes after three days…sound familiar? Friends, if you are a Christian, you too have joined the Order of the Phoenix. It’s a secret society that carries some pretty powerful news. 😉