A Retelling of the Beginning of Good News
John the baptist has been preaching in the wilderness. He clothes himself in camel's hair and eats wild locusts, reminding the Jewish people of prophet in older times, the prophet Elijah. Something is in the air. Something is stirring. People from both the city and countryside are coming out to see him, wondering if it's true that God's speaking again through the prophets. The prophets had been silent for several hundred years and now this preacher of God is on the move, making way for the Messiah Jesus to enter.
He didn't consider himself special. He was just carrying out God's work. As far as he saw things, he wasn't even worthy to take off the shoes of Jesus. And there were people both from the city and countryside coming to hear John's message about the Messiah, choosing to listen to John and be baptized in the Jordan River as a sign of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They knew they were unworthy too.
And as John is waist deep in ministry, the Messiah Jesus shows up to the Jordan river, inviting John to baptize him. It was a grand entrance. Jesus could have easily taken over the ministry that John was carrying out, but he doesn't do that. Instead, Jesus joins the people in the water, being baptized by John and when he comes out of the water, God was fully present there that day, The Father, Son, and Spirit three-in-one.
Jesus wasn't just extending an invitation to John by asking John to baptize him, he was extending it to the people there that day when he entered the waters. And by human standards, these people from both the city and countryside were just as unworthy as John if not more so.
For forty days, Jesus would be led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, and when he would emerge, his story was the same. The beginning of the Good News was Jesus extending an invitation to people. To follow him. To walk with him.
Imagine the look on the first disciples faces when Jesus said come and follow me. I'll teach you to fish for people instead of fishing off that boat. Nobody's. People living the hard way. People everyone else had forgotten about, banished to the waters and trying to survive the best the knew how. People that weren't necessarily favored by society.
To these unworthy ones, the invitation was the same. Follow me.
The beginning of the Good News wasn't birthed out of a royal entrance calling the best of the best. It's was birthed by a God who waded into the waters with people, inviting anyone who wanted to follow to walk with him if they wished.
It harkens back to a time when God walked with the people in the very beginning. Jesus was going to make everything new again and it was going to start with people no one paid any attention to.
That's some good news.
For both you and I alike.
- Narrative Lectionary Commentary
- The Messiah Would Be Proceeded By Elijah the Prophet
- Jesus and John the Baptist
- Jesus' Baptism: Matthew
- Elijah Hears From God
Storyline Commentary on Mark 1:1-20
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting John the Baptist, reminiscent of the prophet Elijah, is preaching in the wilderness a message of repentance through baptism for the forgiveness of sins because God's arrival is near. People from both the city and countryside are coming to repent and be baptized by John in the Jordan River. It seems like God's silence has ended and his Kingdom, through Jesus, has drawn near.
- John the Baptist, dressed in camels hair, eating wild locusts and honey, resembling the prophets of old.
- Jesus, who people are drawn to because of the message of John and the good news Jesus is proclaiming himself.
- People from both the city and countryside who are drawn to the message of the good news.
- The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus
- The Father making the declaration that he's well pleased with the Son.
The Tension It seems a new wilderness prophet has arrived speaking on behalf of God but he knows he's unworthy to even take off the sandals of Jesus. The sinful, which is all of us, are unworthy to follow Jesus. Nobody fisherman are unworthy to follow Jesus. And even John the Baptist who is God's very own preacher, knows he's unworthy to follow Jesus.
The Resolution Jesus, in our unworthiness, in our sinfulness, in our lack of any significance in life, still invites us to follow him anyway. Jesus is going to make all things new again and invites us to join him. The good news starts with our messed-up-ness and Jesus deciding to step into it anyway.
The Through Line Unworthy of the Good News but invited anyway.
Reflections on the Beginning of Good News
Why has this story endured? It's the genesis story of Jesus entering the world, and even in our sinfulness and unworthiness, inviting us to join him as he restores the world, making all things new again.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? Jesus kingdom of forgiveness and life is still available to anyone who repents and believes that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus hasn't stopped inviting us.
How does this story help us love God? God chose to come and rescue the world. God didn't give up on us even when throughout history, we continue to give up on one another. Jesus has a bigger plan, a resurrection plan, that's beyond the scope of our human understanding, but one that we can place hope in. Jesus is passionate about us being a part of his kingdom.
How does this story help us love others? When someone has wronged us, or we've seen someone wrong someone else, or even when we've been the one to harm someone else, we're quick to withhold forgiveness and cast judgement. Jesus is the opposite, Jesus is quick to offer forgiveness, quick to invitation, and slow to judgement. We'd do well to follow.