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What difference does it make?

June 13, 2012

Among the excitement of the Olympics there is also some cynicism, about being to expensive, to exclusive and of no benefit. But the Olympics was established with a clear purpose. After a gap of 1500 years a French man ‘Coubertin’ caught a vision for sport as a way to reach a persons full potential and maintain freedom and peace in humanity, so he reinstated the Olympic games.  For many this was seen to be a return to the original purpose of the games. (see http://www.olympic.org/ancient-olympic-games). And since 1896 the world has celebrated the Olympic games as away of celebrating humanity, peace and freedom.

Just as there was a loss of vision between the ancient and modern Olympic games, so we have a loss of vision between the Old and New Testament. There is a gap of approximately 400 years. The Old Testament has concluded with a message of despair, that the world cannot continue like it is but must wait judgement from its creator but within that message there is also a seed of hope that God will act and put right his creation. Then there was 400 years of waiting, of silence and then Mark writes that he has found the good news – God is judging but God is also restoring and redeeming through Jesus, so read all about it.

Read Mark 1:1-13

Mark begins his evidence, his story by quoting two very different passages from the Old Testament. Malachi 3v1 and Isaiah 40v3. These passages show the two streams of thought of the Old Testament. The stream of judgement – creation is breaking and the creator needs to judge it. This stream of judgement we all scream out when we witness brutality, injustice, inequality and suffering. The second quote reminds us of stream of redemption that there must be an a way forward, a way of hope, a way that humanity can be all that it was created to be. God would not just let his creation fail. Mark intrigues his audience by saying that the good news is that in Jesus both of these streams are fulfilled – read my book, Mark cries, to discover how.

Mark then intrigues his audience further by continuing where the Old Testament ended (see Malachi 4v4-6 – the last verses of the OT). He describes the prophet John who stands in the feet of Elijah calling people to change their lifestyle to turn to God in preparation for God’s coming which is imminent. Mark is saying that the conclusion to the Old Testament story is about to be enactedin Jesus, and you better get yourself ready. People came in droves to respond and be changed and look for God’s transforming fire – the Holy Spirit. So today many testify to a changed lifestyle on encountering the Bible. So as Mark encourages his audience to explore this Jesus through God’s word and changed lifestyle let us be persuaded to read on by those we know who are Christians and their changed lifestyle and let us be challenged to investigate further by the claims and predictions of the Old Testament that are so true to our experience of life and also that are so specifically fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

Finally Mark describes the unique baptism of Jesus, as one that is affirmed by the words of God the Father and anointed by God the Spirit. Jesus is unique and needs investigating. For us today his uniqueness and lasting influence must cause us to want to investigate further and read on as it has been written.

A Solitary life

Nearly two thousand years ago in an obscure village, a child was born of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village where He worked as a carpenter until he was thirty. Then for three years He became an itinerant preacher.

This Man never went to college or seminary. He never wrote a book. He never held a public office. He never had a family nor owned a home. He never put His foot inside a big city nor traveled even 200 miles from His birthplace. And though he never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness, throngs of people followed Him. He had no credentials but Himself.

While He was still young, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His followers ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was sentenced to death on a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth–the simple coat He had worn. His body was laid in a borrowed grave provided by a compassionate friend.

But three days later this Man arose from the dead–living proof that He was, as He had claimed, the Saviour whom God had sent, the Incarnate Son of God.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today the risen Lord Jesus Christ is the central figure of the human race. On our calendars His birth divides history in two eras. One day of every week is set aside in remembrance of Him. And our two most important holidays celebrate His birth and resurrection. On church steeples around the world His cross has become the symbol of victory over sin and death.

This one Man’s life has furnished the theme for more songs, books, poems and paintings than any other person or event in history. Thousands of colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other institutions have been founded in honour of this One who gave His life for us.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned have not changed the course of history as much as this One Solitary Life.

So Mark begins his gospel with reasons to read on by using the voice of the Old Testament, the voice of John the Baptist and the voice of God the Father as his witnesses to encourage you to keep on reading. How about you? Will you hear the voice of the need of judgement and redemption for you and our world, the voices of Christians you know and the voice of the bible and uniqueness of Jesus challenge you to keep on reading.

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