I’m so glad you are here. I wish we were all together in one place so that I could see your faces. Maybe, someday.
(If you are here to engage in scholarly, academic Bible study this is not the right place. I am not a Bible scholar. I love the Word of God, but my perusal and interpretation of it is far from academic. These thoughts are not meant to be not a systematic theological treatise on the Gospel of Mark. But let’s see what the Holy Spirit unfolds for us over the next few weeks.)
The Good News begins here—not because Mark says so, but because God announced that the good news would come long before He arrived. God proclaimed the reality through Isaiah and Malachi (and too many other places to account for here). Our God is always ahead, always far out in front. He announces the arrival of his plan, foretells and foreshadows. He speaks it long before the bud of fruition even appears. God counts the tomatoes on the vine before the blooms even open. He orchestrates everything so that the circumstances ripen into the fullness of time. He lines up the courses of human history so that ALL things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.What then is this good news? Oh, surely Friends, we need some. With unceasing and increasing graphicness the news and social media networks display frightening images and report horrific stories.
On a daily, perhaps hourly, basis we struggle to make sense of it all. And if that wasn’t enough, personally we battle simply to survive, to stay afloat, to stay one paycheck ahead, to … you fill in the blank.
All the while we are dying. Our spirits are devoured and emaciated—rail thin. There’s no meat on our spiritual bones.
Mark knew. And from the beginning he proclaims that the good news of Jesus Christ is coming. Salvation and redemption are on the way.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus issues an open, inclusive, and RSVP invitation: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened.
We are all wearied, worn-out from the monotonous work, from the cultural demands, from dysfunctional family relationships, and undoable religious expectations. We all carry some burden—a weight pushing hard between our shoulder blades or sitting on our chests like the proverbial elephant.
Jesus declares the good news. Speaks it plainly and offers it to everyone.
I will give you rest.
Oh, to rest! Don’t we all want rest? Not just sleep, though to sleep in or longer would be bliss. Not just a vacation as lovely as that sounds. And not just a change in the intensity of our schedules even though that's worth a shout of amen. No, the good news is this: Jesus came to offer an invitation into rest. He came to give, not sell, trade, barter, or borrow. He came to give rest, and his rest leads to a decrease and cessation of religious striving, turmoil, pain, isolation, and conflict.
What is this good news of Jesus that Mark proclaims in the very first sentence? Jesus came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, to be the Savior for a world gone awry. He came to unshackle the chains and fetters of sin and to turn hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. He came to make us holy and to make us in the image of his Father.
In the course of Mark, we are going to watch Jesus offer rest in diverse situations. To madmen and lepers and fevered women. To tax collectors and paraplegics. In every case Jesus knew the kind of rest each person needed. In the people he touched, we see us. In them, we see our own issues, fears, and circumstances.
He is offering the same rest to us.
And this is good news!
Father God, we thank you for being far ahead of us. Thank you for plans made not on the spur of the moment, but back at the foundations of the world. We praise you. We need the rest your Son offers. We need our conflicts resolved. We need our turmoil settled. Oh, Father, we so want for the I-do-what-I-don’t-want-to-do pattern to cease. And we long for this religious striving to dissipate. Only in you can we find this rest. Only in you do we enter into this Good News. Father, we accept your invitation. Show us how to come to you. Enable us to come to you in our weariness and lay our burdens into your care so we will find rest for our souls. In the name of Jesus. Amen.