Mark 1:4-8Amplified Bible
4 [a]John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [that is, requiring a change of one’s old way of thinking, turning away from sin and seeking God and His righteousness]. 5 And all the country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem were continually going out to him; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a [wide] leather [b]band around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, saying, “After me comes He who is mightier [more powerful, more noble] than I, and I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the straps of His sandals [even as His slave]. 8 As for me, I baptized you [who came to me] with water [only]; but He will baptize you [who truly repent] [c]with the Holy Spirit.”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Where did the Gospel actually begin?
Where did God’s Good News originate?
Narrators Matthew and Luke began their accounts of Jesus’ life with the stories surrounding his Genealogy an his birth.
Narrator John began his narrative before the creation of the world where the Son of God was not only present, but he also did the creating.
Mark, with his focus on Good News, chose to begin in a different place.
If folks are going to be open to the Good News of God, then someone is going to have to be a servant and prepare the way for Jesus to come and for his word to be heard. In many respects, the Good News always begins in this way.
The real question is whether we are willing to be used as servants like John the Baptist — who is introduced in verse four — and immediately, if not sooner, to begin to prepare the way for Savior Jesus’ Good News to be heard by our friends.
The next question for the reader of Mark’s narrative then becomes …. where do you immediately begin, when you do not know where to immediately begin?
A very valid question to ask when an immediate response to change is required.
At work, your supervisor suddenly hands you an outline for major project with major financial implications for your company which has never been attempted before – and the supervisors instructions are: I need this ASAP, as in 7 days!
With that kind of pressure and responsibility on your shoulders, ever sat and stared at a blank piece of paper or computer screen, wondering where to begin?
Any sort of task or project always has a beginning, and sometimes starting can prove a challenge especially when there is no previous effort to be inspired by.
You can further complicate this situation by being the first person to do it.
That is what Mark faced.
His written story of Jesus will be the first ever!
Perhaps his narrative will serve as a model, inspiration for any future writers.
Mark 1:1-3Amplified Bible
The Preaching of John the Baptist
1 The beginning of the [facts regarding the] good news of [a]Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written and forever remains in the [writings of the] prophet Isaiah 40:1-4 and Malachi 3:1-3:
“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way—
A voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
[b]Make His paths straight!’”
So far, Mark has hit us with a big (seemingly logical) opening sentence,
“The Beginning of the [facts regarding the] Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Then used an Old Testament quote from the writings of God’s Prophet, Isaiah.
The Old Testament quote, while making sense to Bible scholars, may or may not be the one to immediately grab your or your supervisors undivided attention.
I noodled over Mark’s choice of those first verses because I believe there is no superfluous material anywhere in the Biblical Canon.
All the words are there because God’s intention is that every word speak to his children – every word of every verse, however obscure it (they )may be – is the source of an important life lesson for someone, somewhere and at some point.
2 Timothy 3:16-17Amplified Bible
16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; 17 so that the [a]man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In the process I reached a “Holy Spirit inspired” conclusion.
The divinely inspired conclusion: Mark wants to make sure we understand that Jesus coming to planet earth is huge AND has always been a part of God’s plan.
Later Narrators, such as Matthew and Luke, will accomplish this drawing on Jesus’ birth and lineage. Mark made the same point with much fewer words.
Now Mark, in his typical “get to the point” style starts with Jesus’ ministry—and Jesus’ ministry begins with his baptism by a fella named John the Baptist.
As I read and continually re-read verses 4-8, and know John the Baptist’s story, I’m again getting that one feeling that it is easy for me to rush past these verses.
– because God put it there for His own very specific reasons. (Isaiah 55:10-13)
John the Baptist’s current modus operandi is that of an Old Testament prophet.
He wants to make sure the people of his day understand what is happening.
We would also be well advised to give our immediate, if not sooner, attention to first engage God in prayer, then come to the divinely inspired understanding;
Amid a world where things are wrong:
- God is definitely coming (immediately, if not sooner) to put things right.
- People, even (or especially) religious people, need to therefore get themselves fully turned around to the ONLY “right way around”. They need to repent.
John the Baptist notes differences between himself and Jesus.
First, that he is not worthy to untie the strap of Jesus’ sandal.
Second, that his baptism is with water while Jesus’ will be with the Holy Spirit.
He is immediately saying, “Don’t look at me (a mere man), look at Jesus!”
Look at Jesus Christ – “THE SON OF GOD!”
I began this reflection with,
“Wondering where to begin when you do not know where to begin?”
I noted Mark immediately began with the FACTS and TRUTH of Jesus’ ministry.
Yet, you might say that he started his Gospel about Jesus, with us in mind.
With you and with me!
Truth is: and a whole lot of other people the future writers of Hebrews noted:
Hebrews 12:1-2Amplified Bible
Jesus, the Example
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [a]witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, 2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].
YES! And with very single generation of believers who have gone before us and every single generation of believers who will come after us – (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Narrator Mark wants to make sure that we more than merely understand the immediacy of his message of connecting and relating to what is happening in our world, and God’s plan for it all—but that this message penetrates and changes us.
We will in the coming days of Jesus’ ministry see some people as onlookers.
Mark suggests they will be immediately impressed by Jesus, but they will also immediately recoil at his new teachings, stay an arm-lengths distance away.
The question for us:
Will we be mere onlookers, standing aside, pondering curious points of the text, googling different versions, and even allowing ourselves to be distracted by curious characters, such as John the Baptist – as critically important as he is?
(It is so easy to do when we engage the whole length and breadth of Scripture.)
Or will we let God’s Word penetrate our hearts?
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
The Choice is always are to make ….
The immediate question is – when we aren’t sure if it is the right place to begin;
Search first for the TRUTH of God – is it YOURS or is it a divinely inspired one?
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Creator God in this your exact time and in this your exact season
dangling, suspended between all of our hopes and your fulfillment,
let we never come any moment, to forget what you have done.
May we be immediately overwhelmed by your great mercy,
which flows in tsunami after tsunami from your Truth alone.
May we be decisively honest about the darkness of sin within us,
and immediately perceptive of the light of Salvation around us.
May we begin, to prepare to make straight the path for the Lord,
that together we may immediately see God’s glory revealed.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.