Eyewitness - Jesus through the eyes of Peter (Mark's Gospel chapters 1-6) Free Sample
Positioned for purpose
Reading: Mark 1:1-13
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (verse 1, NIV).
Let’s begin at the beginning . . .
Mark starts his Gospel in quite an abrupt way. In his original rather rough Greek text, his book starts like this: “Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ . . .” He doesn’t even use “The” or “A” as a starting word. In Mark’s mind it looks as though he views this opening passage as a beginning on many levels:
It’s the literary start of his book about Jesus
It’s the prophetic beginning of the good news, grounded in Old Testament expectation
It’s the start of John the Baptist’s ministry as the forerunner of Jesus
It’s the beginning of public response to what was perceived to be a new move of God
It’s the first appearance of Jesus as He starts His public ministry
It’s the start of Jesus’ battle with Satan and the forces of evil
I have outlined in the introduction to this series that there is a common thread across Mark which details ways in which the movement of God re-positions our lives, society and the spiritual realm. Mark wastes no time as he begins his Gospel to portray a whole set of significant re-positionings.
First of all, the prophetic expectation of the people of Israel was that a messenger from God would re-position pathways in the wilderness as the prelude to the coming of the Messiah (verses 2-3). Secondly John the Baptist’s life is radically re-positioned as he fulfils his role as that prophetic forerunner. We know from Luke’s Gospel that John was the son of a priestly family who lived on the outskirts of Jerusalem. To fulfil his prophetic role, John was re-positioned from the city into the wilderness (verse 4). Thirdly, the people who come to John have their lives re-positioned in two ways. They relocated geographically, just as John did, from Jerusalem, the epicentre of anticipated divine activity, to the wilderness. But their hearts are also realigned through confession and repentance (verse 5). And Jesus experiences two very significant re-positionings as He steps into God’s purposes for Him. He relocates from the security and obscurity of His upbringing in rural Nazareth to move south (verse 9). But then He is forcefully catapulted into the far wilderness for a time of testing (verse 12). The Greek verb that Mark uses for the Spirit sending Jesus out is the word ekballō which literally means “to throw out”.
What a lot of re-positioning right at the start of this book! This creates a heightened sense of drama about the new move of God which is coming in the person of Jesus. What principles do we learn from this opening passage about the new ways that God works in our lives?
The God-perspective means our current situation is not the end, just the beginning
New Testament scholar Dick France sees this passage as Mark setting out the behind-the-scenes God-perspective on all that will happen in the rest of the story. Here we see Jesus being declared as the Christ and Son of God (verse 1). Here we see that identity being affirmed with the tearing of the heavens and the audible voice of God (verses 10-11). Here we see close up the spiritual powers who will support Jesus and who will oppose Him, over whom He will demonstrate His authority (verse 13). From verse 14 the action is “set now not in John’s wilderness but in the villages of Galilee where the good news must make its real-life impact, and the Son of God must confront and overthrow the kingdom of Satan.”
Once we get past this introductory passage, into the thick of the action of the Gospel, it will be easy to forget the God-perspective on it all. That can be what happens for us, in the midst of our everyday existence. We lose sight of God’s view and we sometimes feel stuck as if our current situation represents a dead-end. But Mark’s introduction reminds us that there is always a God-perspective over our circumstances which means they do not represent an end, but actually a beginning and it is the new move of God which will re-position us into more hopeful situations. Have you paused to consider the God-perspective over your current circumstances?
A new move of God in our life can be both exciting and unsettling
We see both kinds of re-positioning in the events of Mark’s introduction. I’m sure the people who came to be baptised by John had a positive experience of being cleansed and renewed in the waters of the Jordan. And how could Jesus not be encouraged by the affirming voice of His Father spoken over Him? But His forceful expulsion into the wilderness by the Spirit must have been unsettling. But the very expulsion and the time of testing were all part of God’s purposes for Jesus. Just because you are experiencing an unsettling time of re-positioning doesn’t imply you are off track with God. He may be the very One leading you into this time, so that you may be refined and strengthened. It may feel like the testing period is going on a long time but, as it was for Jesus, it may just be for a limited time.
When God moves in new ways, God’s people get positioned into strategic places for growth and transformation. What sense do you have of the new work God is doing in you at the present time?
Lord Jesus, I praise you that you are the Alpha and the Omega. I praise you that because you are the Alpha, my current circumstances do not represent an end, but are for you the beginning of a new move in my life. Open my eyes that I may see your perspective over my circumstances. I thank you for the many blessings you have brought into my life. When my way seems rough and the journey is unsettling, settle my heart with your peace, straighten my path by your Spirit and help me to see the next step that I should take. Position me, Lord, so that I can better serve your purposes. Amen.
 Mark uses the same verb elsewhere in his Gospel as the word for Jesus casting out evil spirits (e.g. Mark 1:34).
 France RT, The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC, 2002, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, p60