The Good News about Jesus Christ

Today’s reading is Mark 1:1-15Open Link in New Window

Here is today’s reflection by Gaby

Let’s go back to the start.

If you have a bible you might find it helpful to have it open because I power through this passage quite quickly and it might help you to see the verses in front of you.

William Barclay

“God is characteristically a God who is working his purposes out. History is not a random kaleidoscope of disconnected events; it is a process directed by the God who sees the end in the beginning.”

As we begin a new gospel the shortest gospel in fact we’re probably all reading things that we know already that we read before. It’s not a brand new gospel it’s not a brand-new concept these are the well worn words of a friend and companion.

Mark was probably written quite early scholars think because it relies on eyewitness accounts around 66-74 AD they think. There is quite a discussion on which of the synoptic gospels eg. Matthew Mark and Luke came first. We’re not quite sure who Mark was but that doesn’t seem to matter. Mark is not a character named in the book and it’s possible it could have been written using Peters teaching. Mark possibly wanted to expand and explain Peter’s teaching. He could have been Mark cousin of Barnabas.

As a gospel, Mark has been seen as of lower importance than the other gospels partly because early church father Augustine said that Mark only followed and was an abbreviation of Matthew so therefore the church took Matthew as the favourite gospel and paid less attention to Mark.

Mark’s gospel has been seen as an evangelists gospel but critics dispute that because the task of the evangelist is to present the gospel clearly and compellingly not necessarily fully or in an exact order that it may have happened which Mark certainly didn’t do. His aim seems to have been to give a simple account of what happened.

There are a few themes, The names of Jesus, discipleship, Jesus’ humanity as well as divinity to name a few. What Mark wanted us to know from this first chunk 1:1-15 that this is the gospel of Jesus and most importantly is summed up in 1:15:

Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news”.

So with these words ringing in our mind, let’s look at this glorious introduction to Mark.

Right from the beginning Mark doesn’t waste any words, he jumps right in. Mark leads us back to old friends, the books of Malachi and Isaiah which many of the first readers would be very familiar with; which we too are very familiar with.

The quote starts Malachi where it is actually used as a threat I will send my messenger before you and he will prepare the way.

It’s a bit like the old, “If you kids don’t behave up there I’m coming up“. Mark gets the exciting task of telling us that the Old Testament prophecies are coming true before our eyes. Isaiah spoke those words about 770 years before Mark wrote this and Malachi only about 400 years. He can barely contain himself, that was spoken so long ago has now come true.

Mark makes it clear that Isaiah was speaking about John the Baptist as the pre Messiah messenger. Even though John is this foretold messenger from centuries before, Mark only uses seven or eight verses to summarise the whole of John’s Ministry, focussing very much on the star of the show, the Lord, Jesus.

So we see in Mark’s mind John the Baptist is vital but only a passing part of the story. However his message is shared, he appears in the world and is preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Although for us, John was certainly not to be ignored at, he clearly had stage presence… what with his dramatic costume, demeanour and diet… the only person whom we know what he lived on…

John lived his life as a protest. He lived in the desert a place where he could hear God away from the trappings of the world, he wore prophetic clothes, again very simple but also the same as Elijah. He ate a simple diet, one that he got for free…

This in itself is a challenge to us.

John is telling us that he is the servant he is the servant of the person that is to come because you would only have the person who is the lowest of the low tying your sandals and that was John compared to Jesus but we also hear that he is baptising with water.

John was the one that connected us to God… a bit like when you phone a large company and you get the reception desk and they put you through to the person you want to speak to then they fade away.

That was John! He is the compare of this dramatic story that Mark is presenting to us. And this is all done in under ten verses. We are told what we need to know but no more.

Someone called Mark a breathless gospel, because he uses the words “immediately” a lot… We get a sense of pace, Mark doesn’t want to waste time. Like a child telling a story when they are upset, “and then this happened and then this happened, and then she did this and Immediately I did this.”

It feels like this sermon today is a bit like this. And then this happened and then this… life mimicking art…

As I have spoken about before about this passage verses 9-11; They are some of the only verses in the whole Bible where we see the Trinity all in one place, Father, speaking affirmations over Jesus, Son, Jesus in person being baptised and Holy Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove. It’s a very beautiful picture of unity and this again in glossed over in just a few words… this life changing, earth shattering moment in human history and Mark moves on to the next bit of the story.

Let’s rest for a moment on Jesus’ baptism, my title today was about going back to the start and this is one of the start moments for Jesus, his baptism. He is showing that he is ready to step forward, his time has come, in verse 15 Jesus says “The time is fulfilled”. Baptism for him is the start of his Ministry journey. We don’t often talk about the importance of baptism but it is vital as a sign of our repentance and readiness to receive Christ. Jesus was baptised even though he had nothing to repent for but we see from this passage it was more than just symbolic, it was a meeting of him and his father and spirit. Have you had that moment ever? Have you gone before God and surrendered yourself to him in that way, prepared to receive more of him? It’s something to keep in your mind and to think over if you are challenged by it.

A man called David Pawson wrote a big book called “The Normal Christian Birth.” In his book he suggested that Christians need four things to start their Christian life, belief in Jesus, repentance for their sin, baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit. He suggested that in order to have a good start you needed to make sure you had these things. I found this really helpful in thinking about discipling people. In fact all of these point are in the first 15 verses of Mark.

Repentance for the forgiveness of sins vs 4, repent and believe vs 15, baptism in water vs 4,8,9, baptism in the Holy Spirit vs 8 and 10.

How was your Christian birth? Have you ticked off all four? Most of us believe but have we repented of our past lives and selves, have we been baptised in water and the Spirit? What is God calling us to start today? We will have a chance to do at least three of the four in a bit.

Repent, believe and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

This is the start, this is where our Christian life begins, a moment of faith when we believe, a time of repentance for all that has gone before, baptism to bury our old life firmly in the bottom of the sea and then a super charge to live our lives with God in receiving the Holy Spirit.

Let’s go back to the start. How did you become a Christian? How did you learn of God’s favour and love to you? Who helped you get to know Jesus? What has this Christian life meant to you?

Let’s remember if we can the love of God that we experience when we first got to know Jesus? How would you do things differently then to how you might do it now? What have you forgotten that you need to remember? What have you left behind that you should’ve brought with you?

Have you let the love that you had for Jesus grow cold as he tried to serve him he tried to follow his ways but he somehow got lost on the path. Mark encourages us that this is a time to remember whom it is that we worship that has brought us to this place.

There is a catchy little phrase used at Christmas… Jesus is the reason for the season. But he is also the point of all this church going… if we don’t remember him then surely we are poor. If not for Jesus then why are we here? It would be a very weird social club to be part of, all these people of different ages and stages getting together to sing, to chant, to listen to a talk then drink coffee together and go home… sure it fills a couple of hours but it’s not the point…

Jesus tells us what the point is in verses 15:

“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news”.

This is the good news that Jesus who is God came to earth to connect us with God. He lived a perfect life but was killed by senseless men who didn’t know what they were doing, destroying an innocent and miraculous man… but that wasn’t the end… he came back from the dead, the resurrection of Jesus a total miracle, no one has ever raised themselves before…His life raised for eternity means that we too will be raised for eternity.

I have a friend who as I write this is in their last days on earth. He is a faithful man in his 50s. He will be going to glory through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Will we be joining him? Do we know for a fact where we are going? Are we clear about our salvation and who will be meeting us when we die and what they will say?

Today is a day to go back to the start. Let’s restart our Christian lives or perhaps for some today is a day to start their Christian life. The God who loved his son who was pleased with his son also loves you and is pleased with you…

Do you believe in Jesus? Let’s declare this together and banish away the cobwebs of unbelief that lurk around our minds.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

And now we have declared our beliefs let’s confess our sins together, let’s repent of the paths when we turned away from God and walked on our own, let’s repent of everything in our lives that was not built on God’s love and grace:

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen

May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord.
Amen

Now we are free and fresh and clean. I can’t baptise you right now but please do ask if you want to be baptised. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill us, to rest on us the way He rested on Jesus.

Come Holy Spirit.

There will be a video version of the service.

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