“1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You,
who will prepare Your way.
3 A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!”
4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were flocking to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.
6 John wore a camel- hair garment with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He was preaching: “Someone more powerful than I will come after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of His sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.””
Mark 1:1-8 HCSB
Mark opens us up into a scene where the action is already taking place. There is no lag, no waiting for Jesus to grow and mature, the other Gospel writers handle that, and so Mark skips ahead to a camel-clad John preaching loudly in the wilderness, the place of Israel’s disobedience. He also makes no qualms about describing Jesus’ nature by calling Him “The Son of God” right away in his opening sentence.
There’s a boldness and an urgency here that we cannot miss or afford to mistake. Mark legitimizes Jesus by calling to the prophets and their proclamation of a forerunner, an announcer, John the Baptist. John’s own birth circumstances were miraculous, being born to an older, barren couple. And John, a Nazarite from birth, comes with a bold message that cannot be mistaken. This message is not about himself for even a moment, but he is actively pointing toward someone else, and that someone is the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Anointed One, Jesus.
And so what do we take from this? What do I learn from an introduction?
I see that there is an urgency and an excitement that is too often lacking in my own life. I tend to get bogged down in details rather than focusing on the main thing. I get sidetracked by things that look legitimate, but really could stand to wait until a better time, or maybe even be pushed aside in favor of something better. We all make use of our time, we don’t have a choice in that matter. We cannot push a pause button, or step outside of time, we must do something with it, but what we do with it is what matters most. Do we get hung up in the day-to-day, or do we tell ourselves that there is a more urgent work to be done? Do we start each day recognizing that our time is precious, and the time to get started on the work of God is –>now<–, or do we pretend like it can wait, like people can wait? People who are still dead in their sins, who need to be resurrected, resuscitated and brought back to life, do we tell them to wait? Do we dare tell them that they don't need to know quite yet because we think we have the time later to tell the, the best news they will ever hear? Why do we delay? Why do we make other things a priority? The time is now, it has already begun. The work of the Gospel starts with us, today, now, and the ones who need to hear cannot afford for us to wait. Urgency compels us to go stand in the wilderness, to GoLove them as Jesus would. Nothing else takes priority over that…
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
And really, this basic truth remains unchanged and stands as the foundational identifier for those who truly are followers of Christ.
Jesus said that many people would cry, ‘Lord, Lord!’ but stands apart from fellowship with Him in reality. He also said that people would know that we belonged to Him by the love that we share with one another.
Love stands as the foundation of the Law. God has desire for His children’s good. He works, in His perfect plan, for for the good of those who love Him. These plans are to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans based in His love for our hope and future. It is because He so loved us that He gave us His one and only Son, so that believing in Him, we wouldn’t die in our sins, but find eternal life in Him.
It’s not a placating love. It’s not a patronizing love. It’s not a show-off-y love. It’s not a love with a false-front. It’s not a love at a distance, a love just for looks.
This love dies to self. This love serves. This love disciples. This love equips others. This love teaches. This love humbles. This love obeys. This love respects. This love is sacred.
There are -so many- other qualifiers that define this unconditional love, but the root of it is in God. It mirrors His heart. It mirrors His will and mission. The Law of the Old Testament, the mission and message of the prophets, the work of Christ and His Church all work and move within this love. And for all those who claim God, this love stands as our defining characteristic. If this love for others, based in God’s love for us, isn’t present, then we are not abiding in love and we are misled as to the nature of what has been given to us in grace.
For those who claim to be Christians, but spew vitriol and hate, who ridicule and demean, who discourage and abuse…their claims are as thinly veiled as their motives.
All Christians are called to the same love. This is the love of Christ that we minister within, teach truth within, and again, abide within. Everything, as Jesus said, hangs on it.
This love keeps us from compromising the truth of the message we have been given. It draws us into the Scriptures to seek it daily. It is echoed all throughout God’s interactions with His children and His world. And as we examine this love, we are compelled to share in its fullness with anyone and everyone we meet. It is a love that must be communicated or it isn’t fully shared. This isn’t a halfway love or a love that allows us to hold grudges. This love is life. It is the love that compels us to ‘go’ and spread it everywhere.
So, as always, GoLove with your whole life by sharing it with others. This love that is larger than our lives or our efforts at description compels us forward. Go.
(unmarked journal entry – presumably luke 1)
for so long, the israelites waited for their savior. they followed God in a sad cycle of on again, off again returns and worshiping of pagan gods. throughout it all, God continued to offer them ways back to Him, and messengers to help them back into His fold. But, just like today, they weren’t always ready to listen. by the time the old testament wraps up, you can feel the depth of their desire for the messiah.
things are just too much anymore, and the timing was definitely right.
so, after 400 years of silence and struggle, the pump had been primed for God’s redemptive down-stroke. and the plan is still as marvelous today as when it was first revealed. we would still expect an adult, a strong political/military leader to come in and fix their human situations. but the beauty of a baby, born to ‘nobodies’ still continues to amaze us.
it’s reassuring to know that God really is willing to use anyone and everyone to accomplish His will and purpose. this is part of the great reversal, that those of us who are not in the world’s limelight, that those of us who do not stand out, are still afforded an equally important role as the guy/lady that everyone sees and knows. we can’t expect to all be called to speak at conferences, or to pray for televised, presidential events. that would create a ridiculous scenario.
but each and every one of us has been given the responsibility of sharing what we know about God to everyone we meet. it has nothing to do with our social standing, our titles at work or how many degrees we have. if a completely un-famous carpenter and his quiet, teenage wife can be given the responsibility of caring for the Son of God, then the possibilities are endless.
to say, “God can’t/won’t use me because i’m ____________________.” is absolutely ridiculous. God can and will use all who make themselves available to be used. God loves using people no one expects to accomplish great things. because then, it’s obvious that He is at work, and then He gets the glory he deserves in a very unfiltered way. if He only used the high and mighty, someone might get too much of an ego trip, and block out the real message.
so, step forward in confidence knowing that God can and will use you, no matter what you think of yourself, or what you think others think about you. just make yourself available, be willing to take that first step out of your perception of control, and see what He can do through you…
(unmarked journal entry – presumably matthew 26)
it’s easy to read the chapters at the end of the Gospel narratives and think that ‘things have been set in motion now. there’s no turning back.’ and that would seem true. but really, there was never any turning back from the get-go. these events that we see in the NT weren’t just being set in motion. they had been moving that way since the prophets had spoken the words concerning Him, and even before that… you know that if you look back to the garden of eden, you can see this coming, and that God begins speaking of it then.
we need to be mindful of God’s work when it comes to each and every aspect of our own lives. you may not feel like a prophet has laid out the course of your life for all to see, but really it has been. Jesus spoke very clearly and directly about how we were to live in order to follow Him. the apostles and other disciples that wrote later also made a declaration on how we would live, how we should live and what needed to happen for us to live that God-honoring life.
it has been set in motion. so we must ask if we are praying, alongside Jesus, ‘not my will, Father, but Yours be done.’
of course we have every possibility of steering off of this path that has been laid out before us. but with Jesus as our example, we see that He made a point of doing things so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (think John the Baptist & “let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.“) Jesus knew what Scripture said He would do, so He made a point of doing just that…we know what Scripture says we should do, so we should make a point of doing just that, as we saw from Jesus Christ.
i am not a proponent of a robotic, predestination theology. but i do believe that when we come across the choices that life presents us, we have been given a prescribed response that glorifies God. it is up to us to follow through with those actions, and either honor God or draw attention to ourselves. it’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book. we come to a crossroads, and we must choose from two or three options. each one will lead us in a different direction, but not all of them will work out toward the ‘happy ending.’
we know what we are supposed to do. the question is, is being faithful to God for the sake of being faithful and giving Him glory enough for us? or do we seek our own prideful ends? the answers to every question have been laid out for us, and we simply need to seek first God’s will, His kingdom plan and watch how things that were set in motion so long ago play out.
life is choice.
choices have consequences.