Musings From Mark 1:14

By: Major Joanne Holz, Director, School for Leadership Development

Mark may have been brief, crisp, and quick-paced as he wrote this Gospel but if we are to gain the benefit of the truths contained in this sacred writing, we can’t walk through it that way. Consider the brief, almost parenthetical note regarding John the Baptist: “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee…..” WHOA!!! Slow down. John, the forerunner, way-maker, predecessor of the Son of Man, after all of his teaching and investment in his followers, finds himself thrown into jail! Let’s talk the human language of UNFAIR!!! What were they thinking??? What stirred his opponents’ hornets’ nests!!!??? Mark doesn’t seem to feel the need to explain. In a common phrase of our day “it is what it is.” So Mark moves on.

Was it unimportant to Mark that John the Baptist, the one who heralded the way of Jesus, was treated in such an inhumane manner? Did it not cause Mark one short inhalation that John was suffering without real cause? If we read Mark inaccurately, we could almost surmise that John wasn’t important or, worse, effective in his purpose. I sincerely do not think that is the case. It would seem more reasonable that Mark had a fundamental understanding that John the Baptist’s purpose and work flowed out of his calling. From the beginning, John’s calling was to be a forerunner of Jesus. Listen to Luke’s words: “It is he [John] who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Lu 1:17). John’s purpose or calling was prophesied and involved certain inherent challenges and dangers; not the least of which was to speak and preach the truth that would lead to repentance and changed hearts toward God. Not everyone takes kindly to this purpose!

Pressing in a little more, the writer of the Gospel of John speaks to this very short statement we have been considering by giving us John the Baptist’s personal perspective. In the third chapter, he states that his mission was given him from heaven and that he was not the Christ. Moreover, rather than seeing himself metaphorically as the groom, he postured himself as the best man happy to more and more fade into the background while the Groom took first place.

This short statement: “after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee” is fraught with all kinds of inherent questions for us. Do we balk that we are not in a ‘first command type situation?’ Do we feel ‘unappreciated?’ Are we angry at circumstances that may be tantamount to ‘the restriction of prison?’ Is our name, reputation, work more important than Jesus’ Name, work and mission? Be careful not to say “of course not!” too quickly. I sit with these questions often and trust you will join me in asking the Father to reveal both the blessing of our identity, our calling and our work AND to sift anything that our human nature wants to claim and reclaim for its own glory.

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