Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Open Your Bible
Mark 1:1-45, Nahum 1:15, Malachi 3:1
Text: Mark 1, Nahum 1:15, Malachi 3:1
I sometimes study best with a pen in hand.
There’s probably some scientific reason to explain the powerful connection between our hands and head as they interact with the same thing—or maybe I just made that up. Either way, it totally works for me. When I really want to learn something, I use a pen to help me make a visual map of the text I’m reading. The book of Mark calls for pen-in-hand reading; there’s a lot going on and it all happens very quickly.
The apostle Luke spends the first two chapters of his Gospel beautifully telling the story of the expectation and arrival of the baby Jesus. Matthew walks us through one long (and super important!) genealogy of Christ before any real narrative begins. And John takes time to establish Jesus as the Word who was with God and is God. All wonderful stuff, critical to the canon.
Mark, on the other hand, hits the ground running. And really, he never stops. Heavy on directional language and light on details, the first chapter alone includes at least ten significant plot points, all connected with words like “immediately” and “right away,” as we whiplash into yet another important scene. (You know I marked every one of them with my trusty pen. Pun intended.)
Now, I’m not accusing Mark of writing like he’s running out of time, but there is an efficiency to his message that tells me there’s no time to spare. The gospel is urgent, and there is much Mark wants his readers to know about the Christ he loves and follows.
Still, amid the rapid-fire storyline of the first chapter of Mark, the moments of stillness have a way of standing out. (And yes, I marked these too.) Juxtaposing all the noisy action on the page, Jesus retreats to the wilderness (v. 12), silences an unclean spirit (v. 25), does not permit the demons to speak (v. 34), goes away to a deserted place to pray (v. 35), tells the healed man to keep quiet (v. 43), and ultimately begins preaching in deserted places (v. 45). This many instances of quiet become too loud to ignore on a page with so much activity.
Mark doesn’t waste any extra words saying what he wants us to know. From the very first line, he gets straight to the point: Jesus is “the Son of God” (v. 1). Later, God Himself addresses Jesus as His “beloved Son” (v. 11), and even the unclean spirit says to Jesus, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (v. 24). According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ divinity is non-negotiable.
You can see why the book of Mark appeals to me as a student of the Word. But that doesn’t keep it from being tender to my heart as well. “This is why I have come,” Jesus tells His disciples (v. 38). Not to be flashy, not to draw big crowds, but to preach the gospel with a contagious holiness that could drive out demons and heal the unclean. Yes, there is a lot of action, but the message is simple, spoken from the lips of Christ Himself: “Repent and believe in the good news!” (v.15).
As we embark on this journey into another exciting book of the Bible, let’s take out our pens, connecting our hands to our heads. Let’s pay attention to the inspired, intentional way this very unique book was written. But let’s not forget to also lay our pens down and engage our hearts, remembering Christ’s simple call to “repent and believe” that the gospel is true—that it is good news, and it is for all of us.