Reflections on Mark 1:9-13 Part 1

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"In those days Jesus came" (Mark 1:1)



In the days of the hustle and bustle of John the Baptist drawing the crowds to prepare for the coming of Christ something momentous was about to happen, something momentous yet also extraordinarily simple. It was nothing spectacular as we well might have expected from the long term preparations. We have already seen that the arrival of Jesus had been predicted centuries ago and now that moment has arrived. Jesus, Yahweh who saves, is here, for those people at the time of John the Baptist and also for you and I, here and now. Something of universal significance is about to happen yet the human scenario is so simple, humble and unspectacular.

In those days Jesus came

God had ordered the whole history of Israel towards this moment, “those days”, bringing people, things and events together, encouraging and leading people and interacting with them in such a way as to make this crucial moment for mankind possible. Everything has come together in preparation for this moment.

Also persons and events in the personal life of Jesus himself concurred with national events over the centuries to bring about this moment. Among these were the angel who announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be God’s channel of grace 1; yet another angel allayed the social and personal concerns of Joseph 2; the thwarting of Herod’s plan to put an end to the arrival of the Messiah 3; his presentation in the temple with the confirmation of the child’s true identity on the part of Simeon 4; his growing in wisdom 5 and his teaching in the temple as a child 6. The preaching of John drawing the crowds was the last stage, the last link in the whole chain of events in this plan of God for mankind. Now everything is ready. This was no smooth idyllic journey. It was fraught with anxiety, trials, sacrifice and patient waiting yet also of joyous expectation. Everything came together to lead up to “those days”, this unique moment ordained by the Father for the salvation of mankind. It is staggering to notice just how much had been going on behind the scenes in preparation for it. It is also staggering to note how well this event had been protected from the onslaught of evil. Hell broke loose at the birth of Christ but to no avail and as for Christ so also for each of us:
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. (Psalm 138:7)
Although Job, like us, was not always aware of it he enjoyed the protective fence of God that no force could penetrate without God’s permission:
Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? (Job 1:10)7
This ordering of events, culminating in the arrival and public revelation of Christ, reassures each one of us of the truth of the words
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Does this not give us confidence for the future and strength in times of trial?

John’s mission was drawing to a close. His move from Judea to the wilderness is indicative of the danger he must have felt at this crucial point in time for it was not long afterwards that he was arrested by Herod and beheaded.   8 The time was now ripe for the arrival of Jesus and public revelation of his human and divine identity. Everything was ready, his way had been fully prepared and the attention of the crowds that John had brought together was now firmly focused on Jesus.

The Holy Spirit has led everyone and everything towards “those days”, towards that precise period of history willed by the Father for the salvation of man and so it is also in our lives. Through all events, both good and bad, through moments of joy and sadness, through moments of serenity and concern, moments of wholeness and brokenness, through events and people, through all the ups and downs of life the Father has brought each one of us to that crucial moment in which the Son of God reveals himself and invites us to make a choice for life and enter into the waters of baptism with Christ, to go down with him and also to rise with him to newness of life and mission.

There is a moment of Christ’s coming for each of us here and now. If you who are reading these words have not yet focused your gaze on the one who is coming, if you want to benefit from that protective fence of God, then be still in the presence of the Lord and let him penetrate to the depths of your being in simple sincere trust and you too will experience that fullness of life emerging from within. Now is the time to hear the Good News, now is the time to listen to it, now is the time to act on it, now is the time to decide to change the direction of our lives and accept the one and only way, Jesus Christ, the way out of death, the way into life.

1 For an account of the annunciation see Luke 1:26-38.
2 Matthew 1:18-25.
3 For the massacre of the innocents see Matthew 2:16–18.
4 For the presentation of Jesus in the temple see Luke 2:22–38.
5 Luke 2:40, 52.
6 Luke 2:46, 47.
7 See Job 1:10. The translation has ‘fence’, ‘hedge’, ‘wall’. The idea is that the righteous enjoy the protection of God.
8 Mark 6:14-29.

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