Mark’s good news
Commitment to Jesus includes a commitment to do justice. | Read: Mark 1:14–20; 10:17–31, 46–5
What does faithful evangelism look like? A good place to find out is at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. The opening sentence of Mark announces the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Next we see Jesus being baptized by John and sent out into the wilderness. Then Jesus begins his evangelistic mission as he announces the good news of God’s kingdom: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:15, Common English Bible).
As soon as Jesus makes this announcement, he begins to call disciples, saying, “Come, follow me.” This following comes with a commission: “and I’ll show you how to fish for people” (Mark 1:16–17, CEB).
There is an integral connection between the announcement of God’s kingdom and the call to follow Jesus. The disciples are called to follow in the way of the realm of God. In Mark, Jesus demonstrates and teaches about the kingdom throughout. We learn that practicing justice is central to God’s realm.
Perhaps the most striking story that integrates the call to follow with the call to do justice is that of the rich man who comes to Jesus in Mark 10:17–31. When the man asks Jesus how to obtain eternal life, Jesus tells him to sell what he has and to give to the poor. After that, Jesus says, the man can “come, follow me.” The implication is clear: when we follow Jesus, we are called to follow him with our whole lives. We are to live lives marked by a commitment to the spiritual and the physical, to do justice, to serve the poor.
The rich man walks away sad because he has “many possessions,” but shortly thereafter, the blind beggar Bartimaeus throws aside everything that he has and follows Jesus (Mark 10:46–52). While the rich man cannot answer the call to justice, the blind beggar readily becomes a disciple. Ironically, we don’t even know the name of the socially prominent rich man, but the name of Bartimaeus has been known in the church for centuries.
We usually read the story of the rich man in isolation, letting it end with the disciples wondering how someone could possibly give up everything to follow Jesus. But if we keep reading, Bartimaeus shows us how. In Mark’s Gospel, a manual on discipleship, Bartimaeus is the model disciple.
The rich man walked away sad when he wasn’t able to live with what Jesus asked of him. Bartimaeus leaped up and ran to Jesus, giving up his vital earthly possessions, throwing aside his cloak, to follow Jesus. His commitment was radical and total. Jesus doesn’t care how much we own or what we start with. What matters is how we respond to the invitation to follow him.
In spreading the good news and calling others to follow, we proclaim the arrival of a new community into which we are being formed. This new community, the kingdom of God, is characterized by the practice of justice.
Pray: Psalm 2
The words “You are my son” quoted in Mark 1:11 come from Psalm 2. Use Psalm 2 as a prayer. You may want to sing “Why Are Nations Raging,” which is based on Psalm 2 (hymn 159 in The Presbyterian Hymnal).
Study: Kingdom discipleship
The term kingdom of God appears 15 times in the book of Mark. Notice how the phrase is used in Mark 10:13–27 and in the parables in Mark 4:1–34. How do these passages help flesh out the meaning of Jesus’ call to follow him?
Remember: Mark 1:15 (CEB)
“Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” As you memorize this verse, give thanks for the gift of hearing and receiving the good news.
Live: Examine your call
Just as the disciples were called in the first chapter of Mark and sent out in chapter 6 (vv. 6b–13), so we who are called by God are also sent out to proclaim the good news. How might you call others to follow Jesus Christ? What kind of life are you being called to live as a follower of Jesus?
Charles Wiley is coordinator of the PC(USA) office of Theology and Worship. This article is part of the Invitation to the Word initiative, encouraging Presbyterians to read, pray, study, remember and live Scripture