Devotions for Mark 1:1-20
December 21-27, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
They did things different in Jesus’ day. Books (or scrolls) didn’t have their title printed on the outside cover and on an inside title page. The second gospel was never entitled “The Gospel According to Mark.” In fact, most Biblical scholars don’t believe that Mark wrote this gospel. Book titles were usually included in the first line of writing. If this is the case, then the title of this gospel should be, “The Beginning of the Good News, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” From the writer’s perspective the sixteen chapters contained in this gospel are only the start. More chapters are to be written.
Jumping to the “end of the beginning,” the writer leaves us with a cliffhanger in 16:8. The first chapter ends with an empty tomb and the women fleeing in terror and amazement. The writer of Mark doesn’t know what will happen in the next chapter. That chapter was being written by the early church. Over two millennia, several chapters have been written. We are currently writing the latest chapter.
Imagine! The good news of Jesus Christ didn’t stop with the empty tomb. Nor did it stop on the Jesus’ ascension, or on the Day of Pentecost. The good news of Jesus Christ continues today. The Spirit that empowered John the Baptist and Jesus empowers us. The ministry of Jesus—healing the sick, casting out demons, seeking justice and equity and teaching that God is a God of love—is our ministry today. Today we will add a few paragraphs or pages in the continuing saga of “The Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
God of Action, use us as your pens to write the gospel of Jesus in today’s headlines and tomorrow’s history. Amen.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
“As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you” (Mark 1:2).
The good news of Jesus Christ begins with John the Baptist. John’s ministry is the prologue to the first chapter that begins with Jesus’ baptism. Like any good prologue, John’s activity sets the stage for what is to come. John appeared in the wilderness preaching a different message than what the people were hearing at that time. He didn’t encourage the people to practice more of the religious traditions and rituals. John didn’t tell the people who the needed to adhere to the law more closely. The message that John preached encourage people to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. John called on the people to stop their rebellion and to live in a relationship with God. The hearts and lives of the people were opened and they were able to hear the teaching of Jesus because of John’s work of preparation.
The chapter that we are writing now is not the last chapter. We don’t know when that one will be written. Like John our ministry is one of preparation, also. Through our words and actions we share God’s love and grace. Following Jesus’ teaching we stand with the oppressed and marginalized and seek justice. In the middle of a world in conflict we strive for peace. Our service and sacrifice are stark contrasts to the selfishness of the world. We prepare our world for the coming of God’s kingdom by living like God’s kingdom has already come. We give the people around us a taste of the future.
Lord, God, you have called us to play and important role in preparing the world for your coming. Enable us to carry out our calling with diligence and with joy. Amen.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
“’I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’” (Mark 1:8).
When John left the home of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Biblical scholars believe that he became a part of a religious community called The Essenes. For the Essenes baptism was a ritual cleansing that they performed on a daily basis. John called on the crowds to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The water indicated their renewed relationship with God and the cleansing from their sins.
Jesus baptizes, but he doesn’t use water. Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. We often talk about the Spirit empowering us for ministry. It was the Spirit flowing through Jesus that healed the sick and cast out demons. It was the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That same Spirit flows through us and uses our talents, abilities, words and actions to touch the lives of other people with the love and grace of God. This is not all that the Holy Spirit does, though.
The Holy Spirit also cleanses us. It is a process we call sanctification. The Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. Little by little we are shaped to more closely resemble our Lord. Old habits, desires and perspectives are replaced with new ones. Lives that were at one time lived in rebellion against God are now equipped to live in fellowship with God. Even though the Spirit hasn’t completed God’s work in us, we step into a new life since we are sent into the world to change the world through our love and service.
“Spirit of God, descend upon our hearts. Wean them from earth through all their pulses move. Stoop to our weakness mighty as you are and make us love you as we ought to love.” Amen.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:11).
Mary came to her mother and quietly told her that she was pregnant. Mary’s mother was shocked. She could not believe that her thirteen year-old daughter had sexual intercourse. Mary claimed that she was still a virgin and that the child she carried was from God. As much as Mary’s mother loved Mary, she was still skeptical of Mary’s claim. Joseph denied that the child was his. By rights Mary should have been executed, but Joseph intervened and said that he would still marry her.
Jesus was born a bastard. Everyone in his hometown of Nazareth knew that he was born out-of-wedlock and that Joseph really wasn’t his father. No one had stepped forward and claimed that Jesus was his son. Wherever Jesus went the circumstances of his birth followed him. Things changed when Jesus was baptized. After his baptism the heavens were torn apart, the Holy Spirit descended upon him and God, in a voice as loud as thunder, declared that Jesus was God’s son and that God was pleased with him. Jesus had been claimed and his identity confirmed.
We might know our lineage, but there are still times when we feel very much alone. Our family is distant and most of our friends may have deserted us. We question who we are and our worth. We wonder what our purpose is; why we were born. At our baptism our separation is ended and our questions are answered. God comes to us, sweeps us up into God’s loving embrace, declares that we are children of God, adopts us into God’s family and fills us with the Holy Spirit the presence of God. Though we may feel guilty and ashamed, God whispers to us that God is pleased with us. With this knowledge we step forward into life.
Loving Father, we thank you that you have made us yours. Empower us so that we are able to share this truth with the people around us and they are able to live in that truth. Amen.
Friday, December 25, 2015
“He [Jesus] was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him” (Mark 1:13).
Lamar Jones stepped off the school bus and headed toward the building. He wasn’t looking forward to another day at school. He didn’t mind the academics as Lamar was a smart kid. What he wasn’t looking forward to was all of the other stuff; the taunting and bullying, the drugs and gangs, the push to conform and the shove to rebel. Lamar felt alone and vulnerable. Marcia Reynolds stepped out of her car and walked to her office. It was another day at work and another day of office politics, pressure to massage the numbers so that the boss would look good, team members that didn’t pull their weight and the annoying, subtle sexual harassment from a couple of guys in sales. Everything was so “down low” that she couldn’t really complain about it and if she did, Marcia didn’t know to whom she would complain. With no one in whom to confide Marcia felt stranded and exposed.
Jesus went into the wilderness in order to confront the forces of evil and be tempted. His body was ravaged with hunger and thirst and Jesus was constantly stalked by wild animals. Alone and vulnerable Jesus would not have survived had the Lord not sent angels to minister to him.
We all have our own wildernesses or jungles. They are places where we feel alone, threatened and vulnerable. As disciples of Jesus we enter such areas knowing that God is with us and that nothing can separate us from God’s love. God’s Spirit moves within us to give us the strength and stamina that we need to face the wild beasts. Sometimes the Lord provides others to join us in the fight, or the Lord may provide us with a means of escape. Our situations may be difficult or even dire, but we can take comfort and be encouraged that we are in God’s hands.
Almighty Lord, we are scared of the struggles that we face and of what might happen. May your Spirit empower us to be bold when we face the forces of evil, temptation and wild beasts in our lives.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
“’The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news’” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ message is slightly different from that of John the Baptist. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus didn’t baptize (at least we have no record of him doing so) but he proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come. Jesus called on those who listened to him to change the course of their lives and believe in the good news that God’s kingdom had come. Jesus declared the arrival of God’s kingdom even though the Romans still occupied Israel and Caesar still identified himself as the King of kings, Lord of lords and savior of the world.
Disciples of Jesus have dual citizenship. We are citizens of a country—usually the one in which we live. We are also citizens of God’s kingdom. Though we reside in a country, we can live like we are in God’s kingdom. For example, we can reject the mantra that force makes peace and live by the truth that loves brings peace. Instead of accepting as true that it’s a dog eat dog world out there, we can be true to our calling to serve our neighbor and care for their needs. We don’t need to proclaim that, “we are the captain of our ship and the masters of our fate.” In humbleness we can acknowledge that we children of God who are saved by grace. The kingdom of God has come and Jesus invites us to live in God’s kingdom—now.
Oh King of kings, wherever you are there is your kingdom. You are in our world and you are in our lives. Help us to live in this truth in our daily lives. Amen.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people’” (Mark 1:17).
Jesus never did things the way he was supposed to do them. It was natural for rabbis to have disciples and Jesus was a rabbi. Jesus, though went about gathering his disciples in a different way. Usually rabbis would wait for possible students to approach them and ask if they could follow the rabbi. The rabbi would then quiz the student to determine if he was worthy of following the rabbi. Jesus didn’t wait for students to come to him. Instead, Jesus went out and called the students to follow him. Jesus didn’t seem interested in their academic credentials either. Jesus called fishermen, a tax collector and a political activist along with the others. Following Jesus wasn’t just for the upper echelon. Following Jesus was and is for everyone.
Jesus doesn’t wait for us to decide to follow him. Jesus comes to us, knocks on the doors of our hearts and calls us to follow him. Jesus isn’t impressed with our resumes or diplomas. Jesus isn’t persuaded to call us because of our vast experience, talents, or intelligence. Jesus calls us to follow him because he loves us. Jesus wants to have a relationship with us and for us to enjoy having a relationship with him. Jesus wants us to have the very best in life and that only comes as we answer his call, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.
Oh Great Rabbi, thank you for calling us to follow you and to learn from you. Give us open minds and teachable hearts so that we may be like you. Amen.