1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2 happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:
Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
3 a voice shouting in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”
4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins.
6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Good stories grab you with a snappy beginning, and great stories often cleverly begin in a way that prefigures their ending. What a way to begin a Gospel – a story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Here in Mark’s Gospel there is no manger or star. Instead, the Gospel of Mark begins with a raving lunatic in the desert. A powerful one comes after me. Someone who will bring God’s Spirit upon us arrives soon. Repent, confess your sins, and be ready! John the Baptist’s message rings out through the centuries for all people of faith.
John reminds us of the places and the situations in our lives that need straightening and repentance. Each of us must – in our own way – prepare ourselves to receive Christ. And just as John represents an unusual and unlikely candidate for divine mercy, our lives and desert places wait to be touched and blessed by the power of God.
Prayer Prompt… Loving God, prepare me for your good news. As I begin this new year my life could use some straightening, especially when it comes to…
9 About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
Jesus first appears in Mark as a powerful man submitting to baptism. Mark does not linger over this event, but points to the spiritual power available to Jesus in his relationship with God. You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased. Here we get a glimpse of the very heart of God. Here we get a taste of the costly love that risks a beloved son.
Prayer Prompt …Powerful God, I want to please you. Send your Spirit into my life and teach me. Grant me your power to…
12 At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
Jesus is barely dried off from baptism before God’s Spirit forces him into the desert - a place of temptation and formation. Before Jesus preaches a single sermon or performs a single miracle God provides a harsh environment that allows him to grow and lean upon the grace of God (note that the angels wait upon him!)
Prayer Prompt…Providing God, I don’t like desert places. Teach me to lean upon your grace and be with me in…
1 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”
16 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 19 After going a little farther, he saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment he called them. They followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.
21 Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. 22 The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. 23 Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”
25 “Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out.
27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee.
Here the ministry of Jesus begins. We watch the first disciples get called, we hear of Jesus teaching, and we see the first exorcism performed. Jesus describes this by saying the kingdom of God has come near. The Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus proclaiming that the reign of God has begun. The power of that reign amazes and attracts – then as today.
Prayer Prompt…Reigning God, I love that you break into my world again and again. Give me the ability to turn to you and…
29 After leaving the synagogue, Jesus, James, and John went home with Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. 31 He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.
32 That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered near the door. 34 He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.
35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. 36 Simon and those with him tracked him down. 37 When they found him, they told him, “Everyone’s looking for you!”
38 He replied, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 39 He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and throwing out demons.
Word of Jesus spreads quickly throughout Galilee. Soon Jesus is being followed and sought after by crowds of needy people. Jesus deals with the stress and strain as we should. He gets up early to be alone and to pray. The day and the disciples catch up with him, but Jesus knows his purpose and his strength.
Prayer Prompt…Gracious God, help me to center myself in you by…