A Key to the Gospel of Mark
In reviewing the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, I made a rediscovery that seems one key to the Gospel of Mark. Undoubtedly you have noticed in reading the Gospel the sense of urgency that seems to emerge very early on. In the first chapter alone the word immediately is used 9 times.
The key may lie within the second verse of Mark, which is not repeated in either Matthew's or Luke's Gospel. The second verse:
"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;"
Well, this portion of it is not written in Isaiah but in Malachi (the remainder of the quotation, however, does come from Isaiah). Malachi 3:1a (a refers to the first part of the verse:
"Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts." (RSV)
This verse seems to set the tone for Mark. We read that "the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple." Like a lightning stroke from blue sky, the Lord will come and be revealed.
Mark follows his quotes from Malachi and Isaiah with
"John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. " (Mark 1:4 - RSV)
Is it any wonder that many thought he was the one predicted? He came as Malachi said--he "appeared" in the desert after how many years of prayer and service to God, he suddenly shows up at the Jordan announcing that the time had come and everything was to change. No wonder his first recorded words included that admonition that he is not the one predicted.
And then along comes Jesus, indistinguishable in any ordinary way from the crowd--one of the multitude but oh, His baptism told a tale:
"And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; " (Mark 1:10 - RSV)
I suspect there were very few other Galileans for whom this happened. In fact, I suspect there were no others. So, Jesus suddenly appears--God revealed--in His temple, which is every place and every time because He is Lord of Eternity, of time and space.
Thus Mark is pressing upon us the necessity of Jesus and the urgency of His revelation to the world. He appears suddenly to fulfill the prophecy of the third chapter of Malachi, which in its entirety reads:
1 "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. 6 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
"He will sit as refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD."
Would that it would be true in my case and in the case of so many Christians around me. I would be refined by God, I would present Him all that He deserves. And all that He deserves is nothing less than all of me all of the time--my complete service to Him and to His people. This was the reason for the baptism of repentance--the days of trial and fire were coming, and have come since, and remain with us. Each of us must be tested in fire and the fire will be one of God's choosing, not everyone requires the same refinement, the same purification. He will use the fire that will burn out the sin and turn dross into silver, electrum, and gold, each to his capacity as God himself has seen and refined it.
Is it any wonder that Mark speaks with urgency? Isn't this what we all desire? Isn't this the promise of ages? To become a new person, to be fulfilled not in ourselves but in our place in the body of Christ, is the promise of salvation. We can assume our place in the throne-room rather than presuming it. We may enter as the wedding guests called in off the streets--and like the wedding guests we should pay some honor in our dress and refinement.
What starts as a certain puzzlement at the pace of the gospel resolves into the vision of the promise of God. God is with Us now and forever, we have seen His face unveiled and know the truth of His revelation. This is what the gospel reveals to us and this is what God promises us.
To Him all praise and glory.