A Special Holy Week message from Dr. Kent Olney, The Gospel of Mark: Come and Go

Kent Olney headshot

Dr. Kent Olney

March 27, 2024 Campus Life, Spiritual Life

Easter Sunday

The Gospel of Mark: Come and GoKent Olney full length headshot

Adapted From Sixty-Six: A Sociologist Reflects on Scripture, Its Themes, and Their Relevance

by Dr. Kent Olney

The Gospel of Mark is unique. First, the term Gospel, meaning “good news,” introduces the book and communicates that what follows isoptimistic, encouraging and ought not be missed. Second, Mark alone opens his Gospel account with a title: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This descriptive statement reveals much, emphasizing the duration of the Gospel (this is only “the beginning”), the person responsible (“Jesus Christ”) and the relationship that person has with God (“the Son of God”). Third, Mark’s writing style is straightforward, succinct and fast-moving. His 16 chapters take us from one event to another in the life of Jesus, as if the writer cannot get his message out quickly enough. This good news is too exciting and important to delay its proclamation.

To convey this message, Mark uses two words: come and go. The first chapter emphasizes coming. The final chapter shines a spotlight on going. Together, these dual themes define the good news.

Four significant uses of come appear in the opening chapter of Mark. First, the Savior has come. Mark begins by pointing to “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). Using this extended name for Jesus establishes His identity as the Savior (“Jesus”), the long-anticipated Messiah (“Christ”) and God Himself in human flesh (“the Son of God”). The Savior God’s people had long been waiting for had arrived.

Second, the time has come. Mark tells us that Jesus came “proclaiming the good news of God. ’The time has come,’ he said” (1:14–15). The wait was over. The opportune moment was at hand. Out of an apparent disaster — the imprisonment of John — came the seed for inaugurating the spread of the Gospel. What the enemy intended for evil, God used to launch His greatest work. God’s timing is always perfect, and that is good news.

Third, the Kingdom has come. Jesus went on to declare, “The kingdom of God is near” (1:15). As Matthew notes, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, brought the Kingdom to earth. Those who “repent and believe the good news” (1:15) have access to that new Kingdom right now; they become citizens of that Kingdom, and life takes on new meaning and bursts forth with good news.

Fourth, we can now come. The Savior, the time and the Kingdom all point to this singular fact: People are now personally invited to embrace the Gospel. The invitation to Peter and Andrew — “’Come, follow me’” (1:17) — has been repeated countless times to others since then. The Gospel, by nature, extends an invitation; it always draws people. There is a yearning in the human soul for good news.

No wonder Mark’s first words are about the Gospel, or good news! No wonder he cannot move beyond his opening paragraphs without describing the excitement exploding in his chest: The Savior has come! The time has come! The Kingdom has come! Therefore, we, too, ought to come! The Gospel is life-giving and life-changing. It is good news to anyone who will receive it.

As one moves through the book of Mark, however, the emphasis changes from come to go. The Gospel is good news not only because of what has come but because of what goes when a person encounters Jesus Christ, the Savior.

First, our past can go. Jesus told the woman who “had been subject to bleeding for twelve years” (5:25) to “’Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’” (5:34). The Gospel sets people free from bondage to past suffering. Throughout Mark, and down through history, the Gospel has liberated scores of individuals from their past.

Second, our sin can go. Jesus told another woman, one caught in the act of adultery: “’Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 8:11). The implication was that the adulteress no longer needed to be defined by her sin. She could let go of the sin and chart a new course. Only the power of the Gospel can do that.

Third, our guilt can go. On resurrection morning, an angel spoke to a small group of alarmed and distraught women with these words: “[G]o, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (16:7). Peter was a disciple; he would have already been included in the command to the women. So why was he singled out? Could it be that the compassionate Christ knew the guilt Peter would be carrying after his denial? Lest Peter succumb to that guilt and risk missing the good news of the resurrection, Jesus made a special point of arranging to meet his friend in Galilee. Perhaps no story in all Scripture better reflects the good news of the Gospel.

Fourth, we can go. No, we must go. Mark concludes with these well-known words from Jesus: “’Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (16:15). Is there any other option for one who has been the recipient of such good news? The Gospel is not to be kept a secret but is to be shared enthusiastically and hopefully with others.

Come, hear and receive the Gospel. Then go, live and declare the Gospel. That is the Easter message in a nutshell.

Kent Olney headshot

Dr. Kent Olney

Kent R. Olney, Ph.D., has served as the dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Olivet since 2021, following 26 years as a professor of sociology. Dr. Olney graduated from Asbury College in 1977, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts from Gallaudet University, and completed a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. Dr. Olney and his wife of 46 years, Beth, are the parents of Kyle and Luke ’10/’12 M.O.L., parents-in-law to Amber (McKean) ’08/’13 M.O.L. and Amber (Leffel) ’14, and the proud grandparents to five grandchildren. His latest book, Sixty-Six: A Sociologist Reflects on Scripture, Its Themes, and Their Relevance is now available.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

Where Your Future Begins

We Believe. You Belong Here. Discover why Olivet is a place where faith meets calling. Take the first step today.

Plan a Visit Start my Application