A long time ago in a gospel far far away

Star Wars and the Gospel of Mark

Posted on October 16, 2019

A long time ago...

So I'm sat there at the cinema. I've made it through the trailers and the annoying adverts. And I suddenly realise... I'm nervous. Whilst outwardly I was sitting comfortably with my bag of minstrels, inside I was on the edge of my seat. I was almost murmuring to myself "don't be rubbish, don't be rubbish, don't be rubbish!" This was a big moment. It could be great! It could be terrible. The screen goes black! 

And then boom! 

The blue writing appears...

long time ago

And for a second my outside and inside unite with a big smile! YES! This is a real Star Wars film!

But then...

It cuts to an opening scene in space... And the movie starts. And I don't know know what to do. What just happened? It's not supposed to do that! There was no opening crawl! There was no yellow writing moving into the distance telling me that it 'is a period of civil war' or something.

They had just told me it's a real star wars film with their blue 'galaxy far away' stunt, and then they immediately do something very un-starwarsy ! They had picked me up and then dropped me. It took me a while to recover. 

I ate a lot of minstrels in that moment!

But I got over it. And now looking back I can say, Rogue One is a great star wars film. I think its the best of the new star wars movies. It felt like a real star wars movie but it had been overlayed with this classic 'war movie' feel. Like you were watching "Bridge over the river Kwai... In space".

They had successfully made something genuinely new that was still faithfully connected to what had gone before. It was unsettling and uncomfortable, and left you with a number of unresolved questions. But it was also exciting and fresh and immensely satisfying to see the big story make a lot more sense. Something new out of old will always do that.

Continuity with discontinuity

The opening of Mark's gospel should have a similar effect as it merges continuity with discontinuity. The author knows full well that what he is describing is a history making, life changing moment in time. After Jesus nothing will ever be the same. But this Jesus story is also the expected culmination of everything that has gone before. It is new and old, all mushed up together.

I always try to imagine a deep dramatic voice when I read the first sentence of marks gospel. It's Maybe the only time when it would be appropriate to have that official Hollywood voiceover guy do the narration. Give it a go now:

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God"

It's clear that Mark, the author, is riffing off Genesis with that "beginning" word. He's using the same word as the opening of Genesis which immediately connects it to the old story. When you begin to read this gospel your mind should be buzzing with all the memories and feelings that come from knowing the old story. Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses... All the prequels come rushing back (These prequels are good unlike Star Wars!) This Good News 'Gospel' is part of that  big story!

But that word 'beginning' is very clever. Because just as it points back, it also points forward. Something new is 'beginning'. Something worth writing about. The story has not just carried on, but there has been a new beginning of some kind. It's uncomfortable to deal with, it leaves you with questions. It's unsettling but don't worry, it's good news!

So in just one word, before he's said anything else, he's pointed out that his readers should connect this book with the old testament, but that they should be looking forward to a new 'beginning'. And to firmly make the point even more, he follows quickly on with a direct quote from the old story. A quote from the old that talked about the expectation of something new.

But that's for another post.