People should read what scholars say is the very first story ever written about Jesus. It was offered in the gospel of Mark late in the first century.
Every Humanist should at least read the the first chapter to see what all the fuss is about. So here is it, with a fresh rendering in the American idiom:
Chapter One of the Gospel of Mark
The good news has already started about Jesus, who is none other than the liberator, and also God’s only child.
God once said to his only child through the ancient poet Isaiah:
Before leaving with my memorandum
I send herald to declare
Cracked voice in a wasteland
‘Get ready for me there!’
That herald, a man named John, showed up in the very wasteland Isaiah spoke of, and John made people earnestly regret their moral flaws to the point of imploring him to splash them in the Jordan River to indicate their desire to be washed clean of those failings.
People from Jerusalem, and even far outside of Jerusalem, came to hear this preacher John at the river, and afterwards they all felt sincerely remorseful about their failings and they all consented to be splashed with river water by John.
This John (not unlike Elijah of old) was all the while eating insects and uncultivated honey and wearing camel pelts with a rawhide sash.
John kept saying over and over: ‘There is someone who is better at this than I am, and he will turn up very soon. I am not even worthy to bend down to tie the laces of his shoe. I splash you with water. He’ll splash you with God’s holy spittle.’
At that very moment Jesus arrived from up north, having walked all the way from Nazareth in Galilee, and John splashed Jesus in the river.
After the water dripped from his eyes, Jesus saw the sky rip open and God’s holy exhalation was dropping down to him like a plummeting bird. Just then a voice out of the atmosphere said, ‘You are my darling child and I delight in you.’
Without delay God’s holy exhalation forced Jesus further out into the wasteland to be alone for forty days, where fierce creatures would scare him, Satan entice him, and angels tend to him tenderly.
When John was jailed, Jesus returned to Galilee, broadcasting God’s good report with the words, ‘This is it! God is very close! Feel sorry for your failings and accept forgiveness as the good news it is!’
One day, near the banks of Galilee Lake, Jesus saw two young men hurling a fishnet into the water. They were the brothers Simon and Andrew, fishermen both. Jesus cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled at them, ‘Come with me and I’ll teach you how to fish for human beings!’ The brothers dropped their net on the spot and went with Jesus.
A little further along Jesus saw two other brothers, the sons of Zebedee, James and John by name. They were sitting in a boat with their father and they were all tying knots in ripped fishnets. Jesus called the boys over, and they left Zebedee sitting right there in the dinghy along with a few hired hands.Then the five of them, Simon, Andrew, James, John and Jesus, went to the seaside town of Capernaum, and on a Saturday Jesus walked into the synagogue there and started educating the people. The people were all flabbergasted at his teaching ability, because he spoke and gestured with a confident air of authority, which the people were not at all used to in their regular teachers.
Only a moment later, a demon-possessed man who was in the synagogue screamed out, ‘What are you going to do Jesus from Nazareth, annihilate me? I know that you’re the sacred one from God.’
Jesus sharply scolded the demon, saying, ‘Shut up and get out!’ The demon shrieked and violently shook the body of the possessed man, but it left just the same.
The people in the synagogue were shocked all the more and asked, ‘What? Authoritative teaching and the demons obey him?’
And this was the moment Jesus became famous in Galilee.
Right after leaving the synagogue, the five of them went over to Simon’s house where Simon’s mother-in-law was laid out with a fever. Somebody told Jesus this and he clutched her hand and stood her upright and the fever left her right then and there. Then she began to get the boys whatever they needed.
That very evening, the general public started bringing sick and demon-possessed people to Jesus, and the entire citizenry of the town was jam-packed around Simon’s house. Jesus healed many sick people that night and cast out many demons too, though he would not let the demons utter a word that might identify him to the crowd.
In the morning, before even a hint of daylight was in the sky, Jesus left the house and found an isolated place to pray. Simon, Andrew, James, and John hunted Jesus down and said to him, ‘Already the people are looking for you.’
Jesus said, ‘Let’s go to another town, and to another one after that, and then to another. I want to preach in other places too. That is really why I left the house so early.’
So Jesus walked all over Galilee, preaching his message in synagogues and expelling demons.
One time a leper knelt in front of Jesus and begged him to cure him, saying, ‘If you want to, you can heal me.’ Jesus was visibly moved by the request and extended his hand to touch the leper, saying, ‘I do want to. Heal!’ Not a second later the leprosy was gone.
Jesus had stern words for the cured leper: ‘Don’t tell a soul I did this to you. Simply go and show yourself to the priests, and for the priests’ sake, make an offering for your health, like Moses commanded. Don’t tell a soul I did this to you!’
But that cured leper couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He told everybody that Jesus healed him, and the word spread and spread, so much so that Jesus couldn’t walk into a town without being mobbed.
And that’s when Jesus decided to stay out in the countryside most of the time.
But people found him wherever he went.
Featured image ‘St Mark’ by Father Lawrence Lew, O.P. via Flickr