The immediacy of the start of Mark’s gospel is striking. Not for him the context-setting of a genealogy, or even the soaring prose of John’s prologue. Immediately he gives us a vivid, action-packed scene, which links the start of Jesus’ ministry to the proclamation of John the Baptist and the prophecy of Isaiah. Like Matthew and Luke with their genealogies, Mark is setting the incarnation in a context. But for him, it is not blood-ties that matter, but the prophetic heritage of which Christ is the fulfillment.
This linking across the generations not by family connections but by faith shared and fulfilled speaks to me. I do not know of anyone to whom I am related by blood who shares my faith. For me there is no genealogical list to place me in a context of faith. But this link which Mark draws, a connection based on shared faith and hope, is one I can relate to. To me, Mark’s emphasis on non-familal links across the generations says that faith is more important than blood, that in Christ we are offered a different kind of belonging, one that depends not on conventional family but on a decision to journey together, to be part of the salvation story, as we follow Jesus. This is underlined by Mark’s emphasis in this passage on baptism rather than birth as a beginning.
I think this links to Maggi’s reflection at the end of this chapter that Mark “anchors his gospel in the ‘big picture'” (Beginnings and Endings page 33). This anchoring of the incarnation in the context of prophecy also anchors it in the greater sweep of the narrative of salvation, which stretches from the very beginning and on to the second coming which we anticipate in Advent. And the call to baptism and repentance which we hear from John the Baptist in this passage anchors each of us in that narrative too. When we hear and respond to that call, we become part of the salvation story.