Before Jesus has even uttered a word, Mark’s story has situated him historically and culturally in the wilderness with the wild, camel-hair-wearing John the baptizer as his predecessor. In a few short paragraphs, Jesus denies Satan’s offer of imperial power, calls working class fisherman as his disciples, includes the unwanted man of Capernaum and outcasts throughout Galilee, practices contemplative morning prayer, and joyfully wraps his healing arms around a leper. I haven’t even turned the page yet.
When the second chapter begins on the next page, Jesus welcomes a paralytic man into wholeness, calls a tax swindler to give up his senseless ways, and subverts the popular orthodoxy around Sabbath teachings by acting out in love.
Now we’re just on the third page of the Gospel attributed to Mark, and Jesus has already turned his religion, his culture, and the political atmosphere upside down.
I wonder what it means to have this kind of Jesus-imagination in today’s world. I wonder how American politics might change if Americans read the stories of Jesus. I wonder why Christians haven’t given more credit to alternative economic systems, ones that work for the very same blue-collar fisherman Jesus called as his disciples. I wonder why Jesus was famous for healing the sick, but many of today’s vocal Christians are anti-free-health care. I wonder what happened to the Jesus so easily found on just the first two pages of Mark’s gospel—dare we turn the page even further?