Today we start the book of Mark. For me, one of the hard things about journaling through the gospels is that they contain many of the same stories. I like having fresh material to write about so this becomes a challenge to me. I KNOW God has much more in each story than what is on the surface so I am challenged to “dig deeper” to find the new thing. Actually, I am not the finder of the “new thing”, He is! I have to trust that He will bring out just what I (or we) need in each retelling of the stories. Like one line in my ‘Story Time Poem’ “WOW! I never saw that before!” I look forward to hearing the familiar stories and finding that new perspective or missed piece.
I did a little research on our author today before diving in. In all the years I have been reading my bible, I never really looked at some of its authors. I missed out by not doing this. Today I checked out Mark the Apostle using Google, of course. There is a LOT of sites with information about him. Many of these are related to the Catholic Church and talk about “St. Mark.” I’m not Catholic so I was wondering if this was the same Mark that wrote our current book. Some sites say that his mother followed Jesus around and took him with her when he was a teen. Some refer to him as a servant at the marriage supper in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, and also as the one who fled the garden naked after the soldiers seized the linen sheet he was wearing. He is believed to be John Mark, the young man who accompanied Paul and Barnabas during their travels and taken under Peter’s wing later on. Many believe that his telling of the gospel stories is his telling of the stories Peter shared with him from Peter’s own eye witness accounts. Mark’s gospel is also believed by most to be the first written account of Jesus’ life. There were several conflicting accounts in my search, so I decided to go to my favorite source, Got Answers.org for my final information. Feel free to check Google on this question yourself and also go to my favorite site for insight on our writer.
Mark is believed to have been written for the Gentile audience and jumps right into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. So let’s go there too.
Mark introduces us to John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner. Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 are quoted by Mark to describe John’s mission and message. John is to get the people of Israel’s hearts ready to receive their Messiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord” (verse 3).
John’s location is pretty symbolic in itself. John came in from the wilderness and was baptizing anyone who came bearing fruits of repentance in the Jordan River. Israel came out of the wilderness, after 40 years of wandering and purification and crosses the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The exact relationship to Israel’s crossing site and John’s baptismal sites is not stated or known, but the symbolism in intriguing.
I wonder if the Israelites wore clothing similar to what John was wearing when they came into the land. We know they had a better diet. They had manna from Heaven where as John ate wild locust and honey.
John didn’t just decide to go into the wilderness one day. He was groomed for that job since before his birth. Mark doesn’t share the account of John’s birth with us, or of his being filled by God’s Spirit while in his mother’s womb but Luke does. Luke also reports that His parents were given strict instructions regarding his upbringing and even his name. God had been directing his life since before his conception with one purpose in mind; to bring the people to the place where they could receive His promise, Jesus Christ.
This man is very important in God’s plan, but he knows his part is not the main part in that plan. John takes his part very seriously. He doesn’t blindly accept anyone who comes to him asking for baptism. He is reported to demand fruits of repentance, especially from the religious leaders, before performing the ritual of baptism. I don’t know if he demanded as much from the common man, but as he was a hellfire and damnation preacher, I imagine he did.
John was very quick to point to the next part in God’s plan. “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (verse 7-8). I believe he stated this throughout his entire ministry and to everyone he baptized. He made SURE he was not confused with the coming Messiah.
I wonder how many people came to John. Did any of them try to convince him to increase his ministry? How many came and then left shaking their heads? We know from the other gospel writer’s accounts that John touched hearts and minds from all walks of life, even into the very seats of power. Did Herod ever repent of his treatment of John and later Jesus?
Father God, thank You for Your careful preparations. You knew just the right time to bring Jesus into man’s personal history. You kept us all anticipating His arrival with Your words through so many of Your prophets. I don’t understand how the links were made through the prophets and Jesus’ acts. Jesus specifically made some of the links Himself, but the others were probably made after His death and resurrection. I’m CERTAIN the Holy Spirit is directly responsible for connecting the dots for us. I still look back today and get lost. I trust the links You placed in the chain. I know I never could have found them on my own. I’m no historian or bible scholar. Just one of Your children, hungry for and intrigued by Your words. Keep me searching, even the familiar stories, for treasures You have buried there.
Thank You for using ordinary people extraordinarily. John’s parents were two such people. I won’t put John in that category because of Your hand on him from the beginning. But his parents trusted You with the life of their child. He was an answer to their prayer, but they got more than they bargained for too. Imagine, raising the child with the spirit of Elijah. Talk about an “old soul!” I would like to meet them in Heaven and talk about the John they knew. The little boy who surely played with toys. Did he study the scriptures all his life? How did he know it was time to head out into the wilderness? Did he expect to come home from his work at some point? Did he know he would die for the cause of Christ?
My price has been miniscule. I have had few occasions where I faced anything remotely like persecution. How would I have held up under the real thing? Thank You for protecting me. I know I won’t ever have the impact John did on the world, but thank You again for the little impact You have allowed me to have. Please keep me from messing it up. Help me be like John, as he constantly and consistently pointed to the true source of salvation; Jesus Christ.