In this series of posts I want to work myway through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s son that Mark wrote. Mark himself calls his book the good news of Jesus the Christ, Son of God. The series is called ‘Close Encounters of the Jesus Kind. The tile comes from the 1977 blockbuster film ‘close encounters of the third kind ‘. A Stephen Spielberg movie about making contact with beings from another world, a close encounter of the third kind is a face-to-face meeting. In the movie it was a meeting that transforms the life of the main character played by Richard Dreyfuss. My hope is that as we look again at Jesus and his life and death we will have fresh close encounters of the Jesus Kind we will meet Jesus in new ways that will transform our lives.
I chose the gospel of Jesus Christ that Mark wrote for several reasons. Firstly out of all four gospels it seems to be the one that we know the least, most of What Mark tells us is repeated in the material that Matthew and Luke uses and we are used to hearing Jesus words as recorded by Matthew in particular and Luke or the unique approach of John. Hopefully as we look at Jesus in this book it will allow us to get some fresh insights.
Secondly, Mark focuses more on what Jesus did and peoples encounters with Jesus. It’s why I hope that as we read and work our way through these encounters it will lead us to encounter Jesus a fresh for ourselves.
The third reason that I want to use Mark is that apart from the strong affirmation of who Jesus is in the preface here in Chapter 1:1-13 people who encounter Jesus are left rather dazed and confused as to who Jesus is. I love mystery novels and Mark is like a mystery novel. People have referred to the ‘Messianic Secret’ in Mark: That apart from here, where we are let in on the secret from the beginning people are left wondering “who is this Jesus”. Even when Peter as spokesman for his disciples makes his great affirmation ‘You are the Messiah’ in chapter 9:29 Jesus tells them not to tell anyone and then after he talks of the messiah having to suffer and die he has to tell Peter to get behind me Satan because Peter’s understanding of the Messiah doesn’t line up with his. ‘Who is this Jesus’ is a question that will lead us to fresh insight.
Mark chooses to start his Good News of Jesus Christ Son of God, not with an introduction to Jesus himself, but to two witnesses to Jesus, firstly the scriptures. He quotes from the prophets. While he is writing to a predominantly gentile audience Mark starts with the fact that to understand who Jesus is we need to have the God Frame that the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) provides. You get the idea that there is both continuity and something new, and as the Old Testament affirms, before God does a new thing he declares it to his people.
We are then introduced to a second witness the rather enigmatic person John the Baptist. The way John is described his clothes, his habitat in the wilderness and his diet are meant to paint the picture for us of an Old Testament prophet in the vein of Elijah. The Jews have from a long time back believed that Elijah would be the one who was sent as a forerunner for God’s salvation of his people. At their Passover feasts they leave a seat vacant and an extra place setting for Elijah.
John's message was two fold he calls people to repent and turn back to God and proclaims the one who will come after him. One who is greater than he is. Luke fills this out for us by saying that the one who comes after John is greater because he has come before him, he has been pre-existent but Mark leaves us with the idea that the one who comes after him is so much greater that John wouldn’t even be worthy to untie his sandals, the most menial act of the lowliest servant. This is a veiled reference to Jesus divinity. He goes on to say that while John baptises with water the one who would come after him would baptise with the Holy Spirit’. Here John is telling his listeners that this one would do what only God is able to do fill people with God’s own spirit. For his Jewish listeners there was the expectation that the messiah would bring in the kingdom of God, which would be a time when God would pour out his spirit on all who believed. It looks forward to what Luke would write about in Acts Chapter 2.
As I read this passage what Jumps out at me is ‘prepare ye the way of the LORD’ it raises the question ‘Are we prepared to encounter Jesus Christ? I want to share six thoughts on how we can be ready to encounter Jesus.
I want to say right here at the start of this journey through this gospel by reiterating what Mark says first about Jesus: that Jesus is good news. Jesus is good news for all of us. In Jesus there is Hope for those without hope, Light for our darkness, purpose for life, new beginnings, forgiveness and wholeness, healing for body and soul, strength for the future, challenge and the power to be transformed and bring transformation, and eternal friendship with God. This is truly good news "Prepare ye the way of the LORD."