We have been reading short pieces of Mark’s Gospel. Do you remember how Mark begins telling the story of Jesus? “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Jesus begins his ministry by being baptized. As Mark tells it, the voice speaks only to Jesus. This voice comes from the heavens, which are torn apart. Not simply parted, as we would open the curtains to let in the daylight. They are violently torn apart so the voice can be heard. “You are my son, the Beloved One. I am pleased with you.”
Next, he is driven into the wilderness. As with the use of the word “torn”, the text is strong word here, too. Jesus did not choose to go into the wilderness, he was forcibly sent. One writer suggested, it is as if Alfred Hitchcock wrote this scene. The Holy Spirit bird drops down and flies at Jesus until he escapes into the desert.
Mark’s version of this time is simple. Jesus was in the wilderness, he dwelt with angels and demons, and with wild beasts. Mark doesn’t describe the kinds of testing and temptation Jesus faced.
The third episode in today’s Gospel reading is Jesus beginning his ministry. “The time is fulfilled, and the dominion of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news.” Here the phrase “kingdom of God” has been replaced by “dominion of God.” This word dominion helps us remember that what Jesus brings is not a place but a condition.
The message of the gospels is that the reign of God has come near. Repent of your old ways of believing and behaving, and believe in the good news of God’s reign. Every year in Lent, we get this reminder that we have old ways of believing and behaving. Every year we are reminded that we are mortal, dusty beings. Every year, we are reminded that we need to repent, to change our ways.
But, here is where we need to hear the good news. Here is where we need to hear that our behavior is not a problem for God. Here is where we need to remember that we are baptized and beloved children of God. Here is where we need to remember the good news is that God gives us grace.