Week of February 28

Getting the Truth Right

Read: Numbers 10-11; Psalm 27; Mark 1
“And a voice came from heaven,‘You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.’”
Mark 1:11, ESV


“If you do not get anything else right, then make sure you get this right,” are words that seminary professors would utter with urgency when they were trying to teach me and my fellow classmates a central truth. I gave them my full focus because they usually followed that statement with, “This material will be on the final exam!”

Mark provides us with thirteen verses to open his gospel, and he is wanting us to get right the truth about Jesus that he will present. It is essential to passing a disciple’s “life exam.” His words held deep meaning for a church that was under duress and provided them a reminder that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would guide them through every challenge. I don’t know about you, but I needed these words today.

Let's See What the Bible Says

We may take this opening prologue at face value and discover important information about John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and the Savior’s temptation encounter. Verse 1, however, challenges such a simple grasp of the passage. Mark is stating these events in order to make a “Christological” point. John the Baptist wants us to see that Jesus is the one whose coming had been expected in Scripture. The baptism reveals Jesus as God’s beloved Son and the bearer of the Holy Spirit. The temptation in the wilderness also shows Jesus confronting the tempter in the power of the Holy Spirit (BNTC; NAC).

Mark has given us something in these verses that do not appear again in the same way throughout the remaining portion of the gospel (except for ch. 3). It is like he wants us to have a brief primer to hold in our minds that will serve to remind us what holds together all the various events of Jesus’ life and ministry. He has written the gospel so that we may deepen our discipleship! Hmm. So, what are we to hold in our minds that will instruct us as we follow Jesus Christ?

First, when Mark writes about the “gospel” of Jesus Christ he was not speaking of his book but about Jesus’ message (1:1). He uses the Greek word euangelion seven times in his gospel account. He was emphasizing the “freshness and even revolutionary character” of the message. It was intended to offer hope to those who were disenfranchised and oppressed. “Jesus,” means “God saves,” and “Christ” means a person who is commissioned by God for a special task. Mark wants us to get our theology and, more specifically, our Christology right. Our discipleship will bear no fruit if we miss this truth. There is more.

Secondly, John’s message focused on a “way of life” and baptism symbolizes it (1:4, 7-8). There is a further important reason for including Jesus’ baptism (1:9-11). Mark wanted to show his readers/hearers the divine approval of Jesus. The voice from heaven and the tearing open of the heavens serve to communicate God’s revelation (Isaiah 64:1; NAC). Mark wants Christ’s followers to know that God is making himself accessible in ways that were not previously known. It is of vital importance to get right the truth that God speaks his will to us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, Jesus Christ was tempted/tested for a purpose (the word may be translated either way). He had been led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. The end result was understood. He would emerge victorious over all that the adversary would throw his way (1:12-13). There are many questions that scholars have raised about Mark’s intent, but I feel confident that embattled Christ followers would find encouragement in their own trials and temptations. We must get right the fact that there will be many trials in the Christian life, and Jesus Christ will help us to emerge victorious. In Ashlock speak, “All of this is good to know, but how will it help me to grow?” Let’s see!

Let's Deepen Our Walk

In this most recent Texas “snow and ice event,” I reminded myself of a simple plumbing fact: “Lefty loose-y and righty tight-y!” That’s the nuts-and-bolts truth that has saved me many hours of frustration in dark, cramped, and often cold places when I needed to tighten or loosen bolts.

I recall a time when a neighbor was out of town during another snow and ice storm. A valve on the sprinkler system at her house had broken and ice-cold water was spewing into the air. It had created a small pond about 12-18 inches deep by the time that I discovered the problem. I had no other choice but to wade into the icy water to turn off the water supply. The simple plumbing truth that I stated above came in quite handy as I worked quickly to stop the flow through murky water. It was a temporary trial, but I hope that it illustrates the point. Gospel truth is critical to discipleship success.

Let’s consider how Mark’s prologue may aid us with our spiritual formation. Mark teaches us that our initial confession that Jesus is our Lord and Savior is only the beginning of our discipleship. “The rest of the Gospel, like the rest of our lives, is the journey of seeing and hearing, of knowing and sharing more deeply and fully this good news in the world” (LWGB). We need to understand and apply daily the clear truth about Jesus.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Take time to write down specific ways that the three facts/truths about Jesus Christ enable you to live confidently in your own daily Christian life.

2. For families: As you sit around your table, encourage your children to memorize the verse above: “And a voice came from Heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:11). Then have your children help to write a family “Jesus-Follower Life Exam.” Have them offer questions that could be on this test (for example: Who is Jesus? How can we know Jesus and talk with him? If you love Jesus and obey him, how does that truth help you to make every day decisions? Will Jesus help us to conquer hard things that happen to us?). Discuss how this exam can help them to follow Jesus more closely. We pray that God will say of all of us, “Well done. In you I am well pleased.”

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock