2nd Sun Advent B
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel while seeming to be a fairly straightforward piece of writing is actually extraordinarily dense. In this short space I can only touch on a few of the features of this distinctively Marken piece of writing.
To begin, the first verse can be read as the title of Mark’s book. Mark effectively invented the Gospel genre. His use of the term “Good News” draws on the prophet Isaiah’s oracles of hope to the people in the Babylonian exile and the Greco-Roman word for the announcement of the coming of a divine emperor. Mark presumed that his readers already believed that Jesus was “Messiah” and “Son of God” and this book was to help his readers understand even more deeply what those terms meant. They are only used in their true meaning at significant points in the Gospel. The rest of the time Jesus is correcting wrong understandings of his role, both from the demons and from the people.
The quotes from the Prophets that follow the title are like the quotes that authors sometimes put at the beginning of their books: they set the tone. In these two quotes Mark mixes texts from right across Jewish history - from Exodus, Isaiah and Malachi with a dash of latter day experience of the Jewish diaspora thrown in – to prepare us for what is to come. As people have always longed for salvation so too do we.
John the Baptist comes preaching about repentance and sin and Mark says that all the people of both Judea and Jerusalem responded with baptism and confession of their sin. The description of John’s clothing reminds the reader of Elijah that fiery prophet who confronted evil and, instead of dying, was taken to heaven in a chariot.
In the final section, an important image of Jesus is introduced that will be significant for this Gospel. Jesus is the one ‘stronger’ that John. He will be the Strong One who will be able to take on all the forces of evil, especially in his death and resurrection, and overcome them. As weak and broken humanity align themselves with him, they enter into a salvation beyond the dreams and hopes of Isaiah and the Jewish forbears.