In the Gospel of Mark there is no time to waste in hearing the message Jesus has to share about present possibilities intersecting with future realities of God’s kingdom.

There is no time to waste in hearing the message about God calling Jesus from the comfort of his hometown of Nazareth to be baptized by John the Baptist in the water of the Jordan River where he would hear God claim him as “God’s Son, the Beloved.”

There is no time to waste in hearing the message about Jesus being tested for forty days by Satan in a wilderness Mark describes as being by inhabited by both wild beasts and angels.

In the Gospel of Mark there is no time to waste after John is arrested and Jesus comes to Galilee saying, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”

Today is the first Sunday of the Christian season of Lent when followers of Jesus remember there is no time to waste as present possibilities of our world intersect with future realities of God’s kingdom. The assigned lectionary reading for the first Sunday of Lent focuses on Jesus’ being tempted for forty days in the wilderness following his baptism by John the Baptist.

To appreciate fully today’s message about Jesus’ wilderness testing in the Gospel According to Mark, it is important to note that the word Mark uses to describe the Spirit driving Jesus out into the wilderness is the same word that Mark uses when describing Jesus driving out demons. In the Gospel According to Mark, there is no time to waste as Jesus is driven beyond the comforts of his hometown and the assuring claim of God upon him in his baptism into being prepared for the message about the kingdom of God being near as Jesus’ identity as “God’s Son, the Beloved” is confirmed in the wilderness.

Mathew and Luke describe Jesus’ testing in the wilderness through his interaction with the tempter as the devil tells Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. If you are the Son of God, bow down and worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world. If you are the Son of God, throw yourself from the temple.” There are only two verses in Mark that describe Jesus’ time of testing in two verses as Jesus is faithful to his identity that calls him from Nazareth to the Jordan River to the wilderness, to Galilee and ultimately to the cross of Calvary. On this first Sunday in Lent, we join Jesus in the immediacy of the wilderness so we may proclaim the realities of God’s kingdom in the future possibilities of the present.

Rev. Scott Hoezee writes that Jesus could not say the kingdom was near until he had been to the front lines, until he had engaged the evil of this world head on in the wilderness. Because then when he spoke words of hope and promise, everyone could know that these were not the sunny predictions of some starry-eyed but finally unrealistic optimist. No, this was someone who had engaged the jagged edges of real life in a fallen world and had even so emerged victorious. The features to this world that make us need the coming of God’s kingdom will not thwart the advent of that same kingdom. The post-wilderness Jesus was living proof.

“He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” That’s all Mark says in his typically spare way of writing. It’s maybe all he needs to say, too. Because here is an early indication in the gospels that where Jesus will go, somehow shalom will follow. Jesus will touch the unclean but not become unclean himself but will instead leave cleanness in his wake. He’ll touch the dead and they’ll come back to life. He’ll speak to the blind and leave them seeing, to the deaf and leave them hearing. He’ll enter situations of despair and isolation and leave behind him a cornucopia of hope and community.

Lent begins in the wilderness, in the worst parts of life in a fallen, broken world. It begins there as a reminder that Jesus is transforming this world by his very presence. Lent begins in the wilderness so that by the time we see Jesus enter into nothing short of hell and death itself near the end of it all, we will have more than a firm sense that somehow, some way–by a grace and a power we can scarcely imagine–Jesus will leave even those places changed. He’ll pass through the hell of death and somehow leave Life in his wake.

The Gospel of Mark does not waste any time in sharing Jesus’ message of present possibilities intersecting with future realities of God’s kingdom. It is a message the world still needs to hear from Jesus’ followers.

Because Vance is an African American living in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood, he stands out. But what really sets Vance apart is that he is a servant-hearted father who cares not only for his own kids, but also for the many other kids who play in the streets by his building.

One night at 9 p.m., there was a knock at Vance’s door. The 16-year-old boy who lives a few doors down needed help tying his tie. He had a big presentation at school the next day, and he had no father to help him get ready. After Vance had finished tying the tie, the boy sheepishly asked, “Do you have a pair of black dress shoes I could borrow?”

Immediately, the Spirit brought to Vance’s mind the $60 pair of shoes in his closet that he hadn’t even taken out of the box yet. He was certain God was telling him to give the boy those shoes. Vance cringed inside. He told the boy to wait at the door as he headed into the apartment to look for any pair of shoes but the expensive pair. Before he went to the closet, though, he told his wife what he sensed the Spirit was saying to him. She agreed that it sounded like God had given him a great idea. So Vance got out his new shoes and brought them to the boy. His last hope was that they wouldn’t fit. After all, how many 16-year-olds have size-12 feet? They fit perfectly.

Just a few weeks after Vance gave away his new shoes, he and his wife sensed God telling them to start a Bible study for the kids in their building. After much prayer, they decided to invite the kids to their apartment for a Sunday evening study. They ordered four Bibles in case any kids came. That Sunday, seven kids showed up at Vance’s apartment—led by the 16-year-old owner of a new pair of shoes. The following week they ordered more Bibles, and 14 kids showed up!

Who would have thought the kingdom of God would come to the kids of that apartment complex just because one man chose to give away a new pair of shoes?

Get the Message?

by Pastor Marc Brown
February 18, 2024

Accompanying Scriptures: Mark 1:9-15

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for February 18, 2024

Scripture Lesson  Mark 1:9-15

The Good News      “Get the Message?”

Music                          “Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service” Hymn #581



Closing Music      “I Need Thee Every Hour” arr. Robert W. Thygerson

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