I love the way Mark chose to begin his Gospel: ‘The beginning…of the good news of Jesus Christ’. It’s simple. It’s direct and to the point. It doesn’t beat around the bush but hints of something so incredibly “new” in the world…that Mark can’t wait to start putting pen to paper, or should I say ‘parchment’. Maybe that’s why Mark’s Gospel is known for its incredibly fast-paced tempo. If Mark’s Gospel could be set to music, it would be our teenagers who would be listening and tapping their toes to a very fast Rap beat. Which again, puts Mark in a rather unique category when it comes to being one of the writers of the Four Gospels. Most likely, he was a young man in his 20’s…who rubbed shoulders with the likes of both Peter and Paul…along with Jesus and all of the 12 disciples. That is why today, I thought it would be a good idea to invite Mark to be our guest. I am pleased to say that he has graciously accepted the invitation…along with a list of questions that I sent to him in advance. So please…put on your imagination caps and join me in welcoming Saint Mark.
“Are you surprised to see someone so young? I know, I know…for some of you you’re going to have to really stretch your imaginations. Nevertheless…I am glad to be here with you on this…the Lord’s Day. That sounds rather strange to me, because we never used to call it that…but hey, times change! The world changes…but the Word never does. From the very first moment I wrote the Gospel down…I knew it would never change. But wait a minute…I’m getting ahead of myself. In fact the very first question on this list, the one your Pastor sent to me, asks…‘What was it that caused you to write your Gospel in the first place?’
Well, to begin with, it wasn’t a “what”. It was a “who”. Peter would not let me have a moment’s peace until I wrote something down. He kept saying that none of us were getting any younger and that sooner or later people would begin to forget. Forget the words. Forget the miracles. Forget the truth of what really took place here. And that’s why it was so important that somebody should write something down. And I guess you could say…that someone for Peter…was me.
Question #2: ‘Do you remember much about those early days in Jerusalem?’
‘Yes…to some degree. I was just a kid at the time, but I do remember a visitor who used to come to our home on occasion. In fact, I remember there was one night they all came with him…all twelve of his friends…and they used a part of our house for Passover. I remember…because of the look on everyone’s face. My mother had tears in her eyes, and yet she wouldn’t tell me why. But I knew that something was wrong. At one point during the meal, one of the twelve left the house in a big hurry. He nearly ran me over as he raced through the house, lunged for the door, and suddenly…he was gone. And just like that…almost overnight, everything seemed to change.
I suppose you want to know what I thought about Jesus? I’m glad you asked!
From the beginning, even I knew that there was something different about Him. The “hick from Galilee” some used to call him. His accent gave him away every time…but you know what? When you were with him, it didn’t seem to matter. There was something about Him that made you feel “secure”…like He was in charge. That’s what you noticed about Him…and you came away believing that it was so. (pausing to reflect…) Time for another question.
Question #3: ‘What about the Apostle Paul…what was it like working with him?’
‘Terrible! There is no other word to describe Paul! He was an impossible person to get along with! The most demanding “son-of-a-…gun” you’d ever want to meet and believe me, that’s saying a lot! I remember when I became homesick in Pergia on one of our trips and wanted to go home…just for a while. Paul was livid. He told my Uncle Barnabas that they should never have included me in the first place…that I was too young and too undependable for such an important job. There we were…500 miles away from home…and me saying “enough is enough”! No wonder Paul was mad. Let’s face it…my timing was pretty lousy in those days. He didn’t need the aggravation…and I deserved to be sent home.
People have often asked me why I didn’t just quit and walk away after that. I had my whole life in front of me to do with what I wanted. But as it turns out, that wasn’t exactly the case. The truth is, there were two reasons why I stayed.
First of all…there was Peter. Where Paul lacked sympathy and understanding…Peter more than made up for it in patience. I suppose you could say there was a special bond between the two of us. For hours we would sit and just talk about what it was like when he heard Jesus’ first call his name…to the very day Jesus drew his last breath. Even then, there were moments when he had to stop and collect his emotions. And yet, he always finished what he started. That was a valuable lesson I learned from Peter. You see, I knew that Peter was depending on me to finish the job. But he wasn’t the only one. I said there were two reasons, didn’t I? (pause…)
I hung in there for the very reason you and countless others have. I hung in there for the same reason that it is even possible for me come back here, and meet with you some 2000 years after I wrote my gospel. It’s all because of Him. Jesus touched my life and suddenly…everything was like a brand new beginning. That’s why I wrote what I did: The beginning…of the good news of Jesus Christ. Of all people, Peter understood…and in his own way, I’m sure that Paul did too. Every single one of us longs for a new beginning in this life. And I’m here to tell you, that everything begins…with Him. Now, that is what I call Good News! Even if I do say so myself. Amen.