Our Genesis, Psalm, and Acts passages affirm our gospel passage. In Genesis we start ‘at the beginning’ in the same way the gospel of Mark begins – ‘at a beginning’. There is also the commonality of voice, particularly the power of voice. Voice, especially the voice of God, is powerful, it can create, destroy, build up, tear down, voice can encourage, comfort, console, voice confronts, challenges, and often times creates fear. It is not just a volume power, it is a very definite and intentional voice that is used purposely.
The Psalmist is calling us to understand the glory of God as we see the majesty of his creation (not to worship the creation but to allow it to further reveal God). To hear in the rain, thunder, wind, fire, and allow it to paint us a better picture of the voice of God. If you lived through a spring in Oklahoma you are accustomed to an Oklahoma spring storm. Picture yourself standing on flat land where you can see far to the horizon. As you look it is obvious that a storm is moving in. The colors are beautiful, the blues take on a new hue, and it is a hope rises that much needed rain will fall. That hope that is accompanied by a cooler temperature and even begins to smell hopeful. As the storm gets closer, you see the lightening and hear the thunder, they are beautiful as well….until they get even closer. Soon the lightening, the thunder, the wind, the ominous colors, and even the rain, reveals their power. It is then that it becomes frightening but the hope is still there, at least a bit. We listen for tornado sirens, we invite the neighbors to our storm shelters, and we hope, and, we cower. The Psalmist is calling us to let that reveal to us the glory of God. Hopeful and frightening, refreshing and terrifying, replenishing and destructive all at the same time.
Apollos is an intriguing character in the development of the NT church. Chapter 18 describes him as, ‘an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,’ but then the description becomes messy ‘he knew only the baptism of John.’ Honestly, it is difficult to understand how he had ‘taught accurately the things concerning Jesus’ without having moved beyond the baptism of John – John’s entire mission was to point to Jesus, to move those following him to follow Jesus. After believers Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos speak they stuck around and eventually pulled him aside to ‘explained the Way of God to him more accurately.’ After which we see him more boldly, and more accurately, share the good news, becoming a leader in the NT church.
In chapter 19 the apostle Paul meets a group of followers that, much like Apollos, only knew of the baptism of John. Like Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos, Paul did the same for this group of believers. He filled in the huge gap of their knowledge, understanding, and the ‘who’ of their belief. John had directed them to look for Jesus, however, they did not move forward. John pointed to Jesus, Jesus pointed to God – the Father, Son, and Spirit. Now they knew. They had known theoretically about Jesus, now they knew God personally.
This week we begin our journey in the gospel of Mark – we will campout in this gospel through lent/Easter (except for a handful of Sundays). Mark’s gospel begins with an emotional introduction, ‘The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!’ (I added the exclamation point, but I think Mark would have been good with that) This initial greeting is then followed by a prophetic necessity, affirming Jesus and providing credence by linking John the baptizer to the ‘messenger’ prophesy in Isaiah 40.
The time span from Malachi (the last prophet of the Old Testament) to the birth of Jesus is roughly 400 years, a time period often described as ‘When God was silent’. It was a time when there were no prophets speaking, or really anything else. So the arrival of John was very significant to the people.
The gospel of Mark is thought to be the first gospel written – probably around 70 years after the birth of Jesus. This time of writing correlates to the time just before the Jewish rebellion which brought on the invasion/oppression by the Romans and the destruction of the second Temple.
Mark begins the story with the ministry of John the Baptizer beginning with details about John’s clothing, diet, and chosen location to preach… and then Jesus show up and John points.