I’ve learned a trick from Sci-Fi guru Orson Scott Card, when I’m at the bookstore, looking for a novel, I always read the first 13 lines of the book. If the author doesn’t nail it in the first half a page, the book isn’t likely to be worth it. Mark’s gospel is a good read. He begins with ordinary folk flocking out into the wilderness to hear a prophet. What would make them do that? They have a need to know that life will turn out Okay. Some of them have lost children to malnutrition. Others are struggling through failed marriages. Everyone is caught in the cross-fire between the zealot terrorists and the oppressive Roman government, with their congress of Sadducee stooges. The people need to hear a good word. We share that need with them.
We read on about Jesus because our life involves suffering. A famous painting by the 17th century Catholic artist, Salvator Rosa, shows an infant, on his mother’s lap, writing on a scroll. He writes his first words, miraculously as a babe in arms, “Conception is sinful, life is suffering, death inevitable.” This is the voice of the honest world. It reminds me of the four noble truths that the Buddha discovered, or the wisdom of Scott Peck concerning how life is painful and that mental illness rooted in avoiding that pain. We go out into wilderness, hoping to hear something different.
Psalm 85 says, “Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts (v8).”
This is the thing that needs to be nailed in the preaching this week:
+ Life is painful
+ Dishonest people will tell you it ain’t so
+ Only God can give us a real word of comfort and peace.
With this message comes a great responsibility; week by week in the year ahead, we must show the Jesus of Mark’s gospel to be the good news that is promised.