After Jesus’ baptism, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan. Following his temptation, Jesus began his ministry by preaching “the good news of God” (1:14). Mark provides a succinct summary of that good news: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you probably know someone who has. You get a new job and are excited about what lies ahead. You sense that God is in the process of your job transition and you’re thankful for his gracious guidance. But, almost from the start, things in your new situation don’t go as you had hoped. Perhaps you run into conflict with colleagues or a lack of support from your boss. Or, maybe there is a huge gap between what you thought your job would be and reality. Quickly, your sense of excitement disappears and you begin to feel confused. Discouragement and despair aren’t far away. You wonder where God is, whether you completely missed his guidance, and whether he will rescue you from the quicksand that seems to be swallowing you up.
The fact that we are God’s beloved children can make a difference in our work. In times of discouragement, we can be reassured by the fact that God cares for us. When we face opposition or injustice, we can be strengthened by the knowledge of who we are. When we feel lonely or isolated, we can remember that God is with us and will never let us go. In everything we do, we can seek to give joy to our Heavenly Father, knowing that he delights in us.
The Gospel of Mark begins similarly, with a voice crying out, “Prepare the way for the Lord” (1:3). This voice is identified in verse 4 as John the Baptist. He was raised up by God in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. He was the one who cries out to Israel to get ready for the coming of the Lord. By calling the Jews to repent and by baptizing them as a sign of their repentance, John set the stage for the coming of Jesus and his announcement of God’s kingdom. Moreover, he pointed directly to the advent of one who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (1:8).
I want to reflect further on the opening verse of Mark. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I focused on the meaning of “good news” in the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1). Today I want to draw our attention to the specific content of that good news as he opens his Gospel.
As we begin our Life for Leaders study in the Gospel of Mark, I thought it might be helpful to provide a bit of background to the book we’ll be examining. We know surprisingly little for sure about the writing of the Gospel of Mark.
Today, we begin a new Life for Leaders series based on the Gospel of Mark. For the next several months, we will walk slowly through this Gospel, allowing it to deepen our faith and enlarge our vision of what it means to follow Jesus in every part of life.
We know very little about the centurion who appears in Mark 15. He is first mentioned in verse 39, “Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’” A few verses later, when Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the dead body of Jesus, Pilate summoned the centurion to find out for sure whether Jesus had died (15:44). When the centurion confirmed Jesus’ demise, Pilate let Joseph have the body (15:45). That’s all the gospels tell us about this particular centurion.
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