Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Message from the Gospel of Mark

It can be challenging for a preacher to come up with something new to say about the Christmas story year after year after year, especially when you're preaching to the same church year after year after year! One way that I seek to keep that fresh is by cycling through the four New Testament books that tell the story of the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. 

That's a great idea until you come to the gospel of Mark and discover that Mark is in a bit of a hurry and therefore doesn't say a word about the birth of Jesus. Because of this fact I almost skipped over Mark this year, but something told me, "Don't do that. Be patient. Pray. Preach about the birth of Jesus from a book that doesn't tell the story of his birth." 

It didn't take long for me to see that by going to Mark this year, I could focus on the "why" of Jesus' birth rather than the "what." So that's what I did. It was a real blessing for me, and I hope it was for others, too. I've decided to copy the introduction to the message below. You can listen to it here as soon as my good friend Brett Springfield puts it on-line, probably some time within the next 24 hours or so. 

I pray that the Lord will draw near to you this year as you seek to understand why he was born, and what that has to do with you! 

“Come Let Us Adore Him:
Repent and Believe the Good News of Jesus Christ
Mark 1:1-45
December 23, 2012

Introduction (1:1)
As I explained during the Advent devotional, these first words of the gospel of Mark, “the beginning,” are very important and pregnant. They signal a period of time in which something really big breaks into the world and establishes itself. They signal a new era, a new Kingdom, and in this case a new King who will come to rule and reign forever and ever.

And to be more specific, the thing that’s beginning here is the gospel or the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This word “gospel” which means “good news” was used throughout the Greek world in the days of Jesus to refer to the announcement of something very important. It referred to big news not small news. So it was not used to refer to events like the building of a new structure downtown, or to some taking place at a Greek or Jewish Community Center or whatever. Rather, it was used to refer to something big like the birth of the son of Caesar, the King of Rome, or the beginning of the service of a new High Priest of Israel. When you hear the word “gospel” you should think two things: “really big news” and “very good news.”

And again, this particular really big and very good news centers on Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This phrase “Son of God” does not mean that he was created by God, although at an earthly level he was the Son of God in the sense that he was born of the virgin Mary who was made to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit. But this phrase doesn’t mainly refer to that, rather, as we saw in our study of Hebrews chapter 1, it more importantly refers to the position that Jesus Christ holds in the universe. He’s not merely the son of some great earthly king and the heir to his throne. He’s not merely the son of some great high priest and the heir to that position in Israel. Rather, Jesus is the Son of the Most High God and he is therefore the heir to the Throne above all thrones. He is therefore the rightful inheritor of that High Priesthood that will endure forever.

Mark is announcing the inauguration of a new era, a new Kingdom, and a new King who will reign forever because he sits on the very Throne of God. This is great big news, this is very good news, this is life-shaping news, this is earth-shaking news. This is “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

And as I said earlier, this “beginning” began at least 1,300 years before Jesus Christ was born, and truth be told it was even earlier than that. From the very moment sin entered this world, God began to point toward the day when his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come to take away our sins. But Mark is content to draw upon Exodus 23:20 and Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 in order to get our attention and let us know that God had been planning the inauguration of the reign of Jesus for a very long time.

Jesus didn’t come out of nowhere. His life and ministry and death and resurrection were not Plan B. No, the Lord God Almighty had been planning this infiltration into the world for a very long time, in fact the Bible teaches us elsewhere that planned it from before the foundation of the world. “In the beginning was the Word, Jesus Christ, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And when the time was full, Jesus took on flesh and came to pursue and refine his people for the glory of his name and the blessing of the nations. This is “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

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