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TEXT: Mark 1:1-8

SUBJECT: Mark #1: The Prologue

In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God

And the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through Him,

And without Him nothing was made

That was made.

In Him was Life,

And the Life was the light of men.

And the light shines in the darkness,

And the darkness did not

Comprehend it.

And the Word was made flesh

And dwelt among us,

And we beheld His glory-

The glory of the Only-Begotten

Of the Father,

Full of grace and truth.

These lines, taken from the Prologue of John's Gospel, have got to be the finest poetry we have in the New Testament. John has given us good doctrine, and more than that: he's given it to us with great beauty. He was equal parts theologian and artist.

Mark was an artist, too, but with a very different gift. What he lacks in beauty, he makes up for in brevity. Mark is several chapters shorter than the other Gospels, and when you compare the sayings of Jesus in Mark to the same ones in Matthew or Luke, you'll find Mark almost always says the same thing in fewer words.

I know a pastor whose lack of content is only surpassed by the length of his sermons. He says next to nothing and it takes him ninety minutes to do it! Mark is the other way around. He pours an ocean of thought into a teaspoon of words. Reading Mark, therefore, requires patience and prayer, because without them, we will not spot his references or feel the glory of his Savior and ours.

Speaking of 'references', what comes to mind when reading the opening paragraph of Mark's Gospel? In my reading, four things do, followed by a challenge.

A NEW CREATION

Mark's first reference is in his first word-

Beginning.

Does that ring a bell with you? It ought to because it is also the first word in the Bible. The first thing God tells us about the world is: He made it. Everything is dependent on Him and on the power of His Word. That Word, of course, is what made all things in the first place. God did not use tools or muscles or a crew of men to create the world, because-unlike you and me-He didn't need to. All He needed was His Word. Ten times He spoke in Genesis One, and each time, what He spoke was done-

Let there be light.and there was light.

The world He created was good in every part, and as a whole, it was very good. The Lord rested on the first Sabbath because He had put in a good week's work and everything was just the way He wanted it to be. The Bible nowhere says creation is bad or material things are unworthy of the God who is a Spirit. The world was made good.

But it didn't stay that way for long. When tempted to eat the forbidden fruit, Eve sided with Satan rather than the Lord, and when presented with the same choice himself, Adam preferred dying with his wife than living with God.

The world fell into sin and with sin came sorrow and pain and despair and death and decay and finally, dust-

Dust you are and to dust you shall return.

I'll fight anyone who claims to know less about science than I do, but even I've heard of the second law of thermodynamics, which is a technical way of saying what Yeats did in his great poem, The Second Coming-

Things fall apart,

The center will not hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed in the world.

The Old Creation is wearing out; it's becoming threadbare, and there's nothing we can do to stop it.

Mark is not telling us to do the impossible, because impossible things are only possible to God! With the coming of Christ, God is doing just that.

The beginning of the Gospel of Christ means God is making all things new. This was the hope of Israel. They had started off small, gotten big, and gone into a long and steady decline. The great kings were dead; the nation was cut in half; powerful armies were heading its way, spiritual rot had set in, and Isaiah-seeing things as they really were-could also see things as they were not (then), but would be some day-

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

This was the Promise of the Old Testament, and it was long in coming. Mark says, it has come, in Christ the Promise has been kept.

This New Creation starts in the believer's soul, but it doesn't stay there; New Men gather as churches and become the New People of God, living as foreigners in the fallen world because we are citizens of the new world. At the Second Coming of Christ, the Old falls away completely, leaving only the New-a world without sorrow or pain or sickness or death, a world in which all these things are swallowed up by Life!

With the coming of Christ, God is restoring His Image in man, and making all things new. No wonder the first people to hear the good news answered it without reservation-

Surely I come quickly.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

A NEW EXODUS

The second thing alluded to in the opening of Mark's Gospel is found in the place John the Baptist shows up and what he's doing there. Where is he? He's in the wilderness. What's he doing? He's taking people into and out of a river.

Sound familiar? Can you think of somebody else who led people through bodies of water and in a wilderness? Sure you can: It was Moses who did these things.

By introducing His Gospel in the river and the wilderness, God was signaling to His people: A New Exodus is taking place; and more than 'new', it is the True Exodus.

The Exodus was the central event in the history of Israel and marked by the most important holiday of the year, Passover. At that time, Jewish families met around the table to eat roasted lamb, bitter vegetables, unleavened bread, and to drink red wine. Everyone had a part in the festival, including the children. At the set time, one of them would ask a question, to which they all knew the answer, but wanted to hear it again-

What is the meaning of [this Passover]?

We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers.

Exodus means our slavery is over, and from now on, we serve no king but God whose service is perfect freedom. For generations, every Jew knew what the Exodus was and what part he had in it. To Israel, the Exodus was both history and prophecy-it looked back to the great saving acts of God in the past, and forward, to acts even greater.

With the coming of John the Baptist, the time is fulfilled. Of his great work, a scholar writes-

Every year at Passover-time, they recited the story of the Exodus from Egypt, telling over and over how God had rescued Israel from Pharaoh, bringing them through the Red Sea, and across the wilderness to the promised land. It's the most important story in the Old Testament, and John's hearers would have known it well.

But, instead of merely hearing the words and remembering the story, John was turning it into a drama, a play, and telling his hearers that they were the cast. They were to come through the water and be free; they were to leave the 'Egypt' of sin and rebellion, looking and going in the wrong direction.It was time to stop dreaming and wake up to God's reality.

What the Exodus promised, the Messiah would deliver. John isn't the Savior-and won't let anyone to say he is. But, Christ is coming soon, John says, to complete the saving work God had begun with the Exodus. He's going to free us from a bondage harder than Pharaoh's, supply us with a food better than manna, and take us to a land richer than the one flowing with milk and honey.

John came to a people singing the songs of exile-

How long will you forget me, O Lord, forever?

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord!

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.

But the night of weeping was over; the day was dawning, and soon the people would be trading in their dirges for the song of Moses-

I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!

The Lord is my strength and my son, and He has become my salvation.

You in your mercy have led forth the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them in your strength to your holy habitation.

The Lord shall reign forever and ever.

A NEW KINGDOM

When the Lord brought His people into their homes, He did not appoint a king; it's not that He was against this form of government, but the people were not ready for it. They must wait on the Lord till He puts His chosen man on the throne.

Of course they wouldn't wait. Fearing the nations ruled by kings, they demanded one of their own-a human king who would lead them into battle (as though a Divine king wouldn't do). God was not happy with their request, but gave it to them anyway. The sort of king they wanted was found and put into power-Saul, the tallest and best-looking man in Israel. After a good start, he became a nightmare to himself and to the people who looked to him for leadership and security. His reign ended in madness and suicide.

Then, in great love, the Lord gave His people the king they needed, David, a man after His own heart. While not without his sins and weaknesses, David was loyal to the Lord, and he led Israel well for forty years. Then he died, leaving the kingdom to his son, Solomon, who should have been the greatest king who ever lived-and for a few years he was.

Till power and riches and a thousand wives went to his head, and he turned to foreign gods, a sin his people never quite got over. After Solomon's death most of the kings were wicked men, and before long, the kingdom fell to the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now, to the Romans. The Kingdom of God was dead in the world and hope for its resurrection was lost.

But Mark has an announcement to make: It's the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The word, 'Gospel' means 'Good news'. 'Good news' of what? The Romans often applied it to the inauguration of a new Caesar. A few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of people came to Washington to celebrate a new president. The Romans did the same thing, and they called the announcement, 'Gospel'.

Mark is using it in this way. The Kingdom of God will be restored because its King has arrived at last. This is what v.1 means when it calls Jesus-

The Son of God.

When we hear the term, we think, The Second Person of the Trinity, and what we think is true and taught in the Bible. But not here: when Jews heard, 'Son of God' they thought The King.

Back in II Samuel 7, David wants to build God a house, by which he means, a Temple. The Lord comes to him in a dream and thanks him for the offer, but He doesn't want David to build Him a house, but prefers to build David a house, in other words, a royal family. Promising him a long line of heirs, the Lord says of them-

I will be his Father and he shall be my son.

Psalm 2 picks up on this, commanding pagan kings to submit to God and His king-

Kiss the son, lest he be angry with you, when his anger is kindled but a little.

Kings did not travel third-class; new roads were built for them and messengers ran ahead of them to make sure everything was ready for their arrival. This is what John is-a herald of the King-

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight'.

THE NEW AGE

One more thing Mark wants us to know about the coming of Christ. It brings in a New Age, the Age of the Spirit. Because of his great power and holiness, many mistook John for the King, but he set them straight-

I indeed baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The Age of the Spirit was spoken of in the Old Testament, and looked forward to by everyone who loved the Lord and longed for holiness. The Holy Spirit would cause people to know God in a way they never had before; He would make them hate their sins from the heart; He would empower them for service, and fill them with love for one another. The Age of the Spirit would bring about the prophecies-

The Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field.My people will dwell in peaceful habitations.They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.

What the prophets could only dream, the King delivered. One cannot give what he does not have. I might be generous enough to give you a million dollars, but since I haven't got that kind of money, I cannot give it to you. But the Lord? He received the Spirit without measure. And, on the Day of Pentecost, He poured out His Spirit on all flesh.

The Age of the Spirit-Jeremiah tells us-is a time of forgiveness (we have been forgiven and forgive others); it is a time of witness (the Gospel breaking out of its Jewish ghetto and going into all the world); it's a day of obedience, for the Law once written on tables of stone are now written on our hearts.

A NEW CHALLENGE

The coming of Christ is Gospel-good news, the best news of all. It is a New Creation, a New Exodus, a New Kingdom, and a New Age. We cannot be thankful enough for it and we must not allow the troubles of life make us forget what God has done in Christ-and done for us, in particular-

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

As important as this is, however, Mark does not leave it here-'thank God for what He has done in Jesus'. No, the new situation He has brought in brings with it a new challenge. It is summed up in a word-

Repent.

This means 'turn away from our old lives-the lives people live who don't know God, lives of selfishness and bitterness and materialism and prejudice and meanness. Such lives are unworthy of the New World Jesus Christ has brought down to the old world, the world John speaks of as-

Passing away, with the lusts thereof; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

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