Week One – Ash Wednesday
A New Spiritual Journey
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-45
Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Mark 1:14-15 – “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”
The gospel story begins and ends with the deity of Jesus Christ. Who was he? How was Jesus distinctly different from other Jewish rabbis of the first century? Mark’s Gospel begins with the critical assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah promised by the ancient prophets, and his nature was unique. He was the Son of God. This is the primary point and foundation of the gospel story. Mark supports the deity of Jesus with multiple accounts of Jesus’ miraculous deeds. Forty-seven percent of the first nine chapters—i.e. nearly half of this gospel, prior to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to die—reports miracles which were impossible for a human rabbi to perform, but not impossible for the Son of God. Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Christ! This is the good news.
The ancient Greek historians, Thucidides and Herodotus, chronicle the crucial battle between the Greeks and Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C., which marks a turning point in western civilization. The outnumbered Greeks startled the enemy with a radical new battle strategy. They charged the Persian’s orderly phalanxes, similar to the manner of the Scots in the legendary battle led by William Wallace, a.k.a. Braveheart, in their stunning victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314. To the Persians, at first it appeared to be an act of reckless, military suicide. The Greek courage and ferocity, however, created a chaotic panic among the Persians, which resulted in a major military slaughter, i.e. 6,400 Persians died while the Greeks suffered only 192 casualties that day. The “good news of victory” was carried by a fleet-footed messenger back to Athens, more than 26 miles away.
The origin of the Marathon race serves to illustrate the meaning of “the gospel or good news.” Mark, the author of the first gospel, is like the Marathon messenger who runs to tell the “good news.” Literally, the Greek word “gospel” means “a good messenger” or “one who brings good news.” The message is delivered and received with excitement. The message? God has won the victory over sin and death! The reader of Mark’s gospel becomes aware of this literary excitement, as the author quickly moves the reader to the final week in Jesus’ life, beginning with his entry into Jerusalem in chapter 11. That means Mark covers the balance of Jesus’ life in the first ten chapters, and the final Passion Week is expanded to six chapters. Mark wants the reader to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who accomplished a victory on the cross which is unique in all human history.
Therefore the gospel message passionately calls us to believe God’s good news, to repent of our sins, and to begin a fresh spiritual journey with Jesus, as our teacher and friend. Repentance implies a change of direction, an about face. Whereas before we may have turned our back upon God, we now want to know him. In the past we may have had our priorities in an upside down order; we now want to learn how to please God. Ultimately, we want to hear God say to us in the day of eternal judgment, “Well done.”
Heavenly Father, have mercy upon me;
For I have transgressed your law in word, thought and deed.
I beg for your divine mercy and forgiveness.
Please help me as I begin this spiritual journey
To know Jesus, your Son, as the Lord and Master of my life.