“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” – Mark 1.14-15 TNIV … “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” – Mark 1.27-28 TNIV
This week we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. If we were looking at key points along storyline of Mark’s Gospel, we would discover that Jesus’ baptism (Mk 1), the transfiguration (Mk 9), and the empty tomb/ascension (Mk 16) all confirm Jesus’ messianic identity and serve as sending points along Jesus’ mission.
Previously, we took a closer look at Jesus’ identity as the Messiah on the Mountain of Transfiguration. When Jesus came down the mountainside, he set his face toward Jerusalem knowing that he would die there as the priestly sacrifice for the sins of the world. This week we will take a closer look at Jesus’ baptism and the initial start of his prophetic ministry. During the rest of Lent we will be studying key texts in the storyline of Mark’s Gospel that lead us to Easter, the empty tomb. It is at the empty tomb where we discover Jesus’ identity as our Risen Savior and King. So Mark’s Gospel does a good job of helping us to see that Jesus fulfills the role of the Messiah who changes our mind with authority teaching, who forgives our sins through his sacrificial death, and who reigns as King to order our lives according the God’s holy will.
The New Testament begins with little information about Jesus besides: his genealogy (Matt. 1.1-17, Luke 3), birth narrative (Matt. 1.18-25, Luke 1-2), the visit of the Magi that sends him fleeing into Egypt (Matt. 2.1-18) then returning (2.19-23), and one account of his boyhood at the age of 12 (Luke 2.41-52). And, we have very little details about John the Baptist’s ministry outside of his birth narrative (Luke 1), a brief note about his ministry (Matt. 3, Mk. 1.1-9, Luke 3.1-22), the connection between John and Jesus (Matt. 11.2-15, Luke 7.18-35), and a brief story about John’s death (Matt. 14.1-12, Mk. 6.14-29). And, we don’t know much about Jesus’ parents or family relationships with the exception of a brief comment about his mother and brothers looking for him to take him home.
As the Gospel of Mark begins so begins the messianic teaching ministry of Jesus. The storyline opens with John the Baptist established as the forerunner of the Messiah, baptizing lots of people in the wilderness (1.1-8). Even Jesus goes out to be baptized (1.9-11). From the moment of his baptism Jesus is sent out into the desert to establish his spiritual kingdom with a conflict with Satan (1.12-13). After battling three temptations, Jesus establishes his mission and calls a few his disciples to himself (1.14-20). Then he begins his first teaching session in his hometown synagogue, and it is met with amazement from his pupils.
The first ministry event recorded in the Gospel of Mark is this teaching in the Capernaum synagogue on the Sabbath (1.21). Up to this point we don’t hear much about Jesus’ life. If we were to gage his pre-baptism life based on what is missing from the Gospels, the lack of information would suggest he lead a normal, even quiet lifestyle. What we do know is that when Jesus began teaching for the first time after his baptism, his teaching was so dynamic that it amazed the community and news spread about him throughout the region of Galilee (1.28).
It seems that Jesus was an overnight success. His fame spread quickly with just one instance of bringing the Kingdom of God to bear upon the soul of a tortured individual who was out of order in a religious meeting, all of Galilee set out in search for him (1.21-28). It didn’t take long before his family caught wind of his disruptive behavior. They thought maybe he had lost his mind, and they came to take him home (3.21).
In our passage today Jesus has stepped into his hometown synagogue, and delivered his first teaching. In the midst of his teaching session a man with an unclean spirit confronts Jesus about his identity, calling him out as the Son of God, and disrupting the teaching. Jesus silences the disruption, and the teaching interrupted but he has already gained a victory in the minds of the people. They declare amazement at his teaching. For it was not the deliverance of the unclean spirit that had captivated them, it was his teaching.
The Kingdom of God was introduced through the new teachings of the Messianic figure, Jesus. The Kingdom of God was brought near through the teachings of repentance, which literally means to change one’s mind. The Kingdom of God calls forth a response and a complete reorientation of human thought. The Kingdom of God is not about good advice or good principles, but good news! And, the good news is the fulfillment of the messianic promises of God to bring salvation to all people both far and near has come upon the earth. The time of waiting for this good news is over, Jesus is the long-awaited messianic king has come.
We can easily see how important teaching has become in our nation by the diplomas we hang on our walls to show off how educated we are. College has become the way to a decent paying job for many people, even when the college degree is not relevant to the job itself. Public school teachers much continually improve their teaching skills through addition certificates and degrees beyond the basic college bachelors. The medical field demands highly-educated staff, even nursing care that reaches a master-level education. And, pastors are no exception. Seminary programs have grown in their degree program demands as well over the past 10 years to accommodate accrediation. Teaching does seem important in our culture these days, but to what end?
Jesus points to a particular kind of teaching, one with authority to deliver people from unclean spirits, to forgive sins, and raise the dead. As the Messiah Jesus provides the ultimate teaching for all-humanity to hear and be transformed. Jesus’ teaching is very different in purpose than the diploma and degree programs we seek to achieve. As we think about the kind of education Jesus offers us, let us disentangle our minds from the cultural ways of education. Let each one of us seek to put Bible reading ahead of our secular learning programs.
I recently watched a movie entitled Monumental with Kirk Cameron. In the movie he educated himself on the history of our nation in light of various sources from England, Holland, and the USA – from Texas to Washington DC. He searched through documents with an historian and a lawyer to find the truth about the foundation of our nation. Perhaps the most important comment in this movie was Cameron’s statement that he had not learned any of our nation’s Christian history from his childhood schooling.
As we think about our education system today we understand that Judeo-Christian values have been taken out of our children’s curriculum, but what we fail to understand is that other values are taking their place. There has not been a balancing of viewpoints, but a swinging from Christian values to humanism. Our education system is no longer founded on Judeo-Christian morality. Our nation has chosen to raise its children without a Judeo-Christian heritage. Let’s face facts. We have become a society that prefers to be God-less.
You and I as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents must understand that it is our duty before God to ensure that our children have a Judeo-Christian heritage. We must not surrender our moral obligation to raise our children before God into the hands of others. We must stand up for our children’s moral integrity. And, that means a church education is essential for our children as well as ourselves. Christian beliefs and values are no longer taught in the mainstream. It is up to each family to ensure their children are taught. Church education is more important now that it has ever been. Make it your priority to see that our churches have a good biblically based education program for both children and adults. And, become a voice for the importance of a biblically based church education programs in your community.