Mark starts his Gospel off, not merely with a bang, but with a theological BOOM. He designates Jesus as the Christ, but even more telling, as “the Son of God“. Both of these terms are theological black powder, igniting worship in the hearts and minds and lives of believers throughout the world, in Mark’s time as well as in our world today. Right out of the gate, boom! “Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God.”
Amen and Hallelujah.
Mark’s evident decision is to play his hand in the opening sentence, serving his readers with a foundation for everything Mark writes. In fact, he starts so big that I am struggling myself with an adequate description of what Mark has done. I hesitate to use the word-picture “foundation”, since the concepts of Jesus as Messiah and as the Son of God are so large. They extend beyond a foundation, providing a towering superstructure to give shape and substance to the entire construction of Mark’s gospel.
Then again, this might be nothing new to you at all. Perhaps you’ve wondered about whether and how much should we contextualize our message. Should we modulate our vocabulary and imagery to avoid stumbling people with deep theology until we walk quite a ways down the road with them?
What I gather from Mark’s opening is, at a minimum, we do not always need to back off, dumb down, or gloss over rich theology early on. Why, Mark hasn’t even taken a second breath and we’ve already seen Messiahship and “Son of God”-ness come into play. While both of these need to be fleshed out in the subsequent text, it doesn’t force Mark to abandon using them in his opening.
Taking this principle in hand, we see now that we are not compelled to always test the waters with a tentative toe in the pool, pulverizing the good news into texture-less messes in order to reach the unchurched masses. No, instead of a fearful foray into the dark land, we can carry the bright torch of our Messiah, our Savior, the Son of God with us, to give light to lost souls living in darkness.