Monday, July 9, 2007

Christ’s Ministry Begins

At His baptism Jesus Christ was introduced to the world as the beloved Son of God; the One in whom the Father was well pleased. That blessed event was immediately followed by 40-days of temptation at the hands of Satan while in the wilderness. After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, with the wild beasts, all the while receiving the worst that Satan has to offer, the weakened Lord received from the angels much need ministry.

In Mark's gospel, the event which followed the baptism and temptation of Christ was the launch of what A.T. Robertson refers to as the "Great Galilean" ministry. Mark writes in verses 14-15 of chapter one: "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."

From this text it would appear that Jesus walked out of the Wilderness and into Galilee, but that would be an inaccurate timeline. The white space between verses 13 and fourteen is close to a year; what some theologians refer to as the "year of obscurity". The time between Jesus' temptation and the arrest of John the Baptist is not recorded in the synoptics. The little information that is available if provided in the Gospel of John. The "white space" time between Mark 1:14-15 included:

  • Jesus making His first disciples – John 1:35-51 (Andrew, Peter, John, James, Philip, and Nathanael).
  • Turning the water into wine – John 2:1-11 (This first miracle of Christ occurred in Galilee and some of His followers were present, but Christ had neither fully launched His ministry nor officially called the disciples.
  • Brief sojourn in Capernaum – John 2:12
  • First Temple cleansing – John 2:13-22
  • Interview with Nicodemus – John 3:1-21
  • Parallel ministry with the Baptist – John 3:22-36 – This is the time in which some of John's more ignorant disciples made their jealousy of Jesus known to John. His magnificently humble response was "This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (vv. 29b-30)
  • John's arrest & Christ's departure for Galilee – John 4:1-4 – This information is concurrent with Mark 1:14, but what Mark does not record is what occurs in John 4, namely the…
  • Interview with the Samaritan woman – John 4:5-42

After sticking around in Samaria for two days, Jesus departed for Galilee.

There are three aspects of Mark 1:14-15 which need investigation: the moment of Christ's Galilean ministry launch, the method of His Galilean ministry, and the message of His Galilean ministry. As will be seen, the moment was according, as with all moments, to the divine timetable of the Father. The method and the message are the same, not only for Christ's earthly ministry, but for the ministries of His churches in every age and every place.

The Moment of Christ's Ministry

Certainly Christ did not wait to begin His ministry until this moment, but the majority of all four gospels deal with His ministry from this point forward. What was it that was special about this moment?

For starters it is clearly evident that the Son always operated on the Father's timetable. Never was Christ impatient with the Father's plan, nor was He slow to accomplish the plan according to the Father's timeline. Everything thing the Son did; every move, every decision, every action, every word was regulated by the eternal "plan…foreordained before the foundation of the world"
(1 Peter 1:20). And this was always the case; as Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."

Throughout His ministry Christ repeatedly spoke of "His hour". Early on He would be heard saying, "Mine hour [or time] is not yet come" (John 2:4; 7:6). John would explain on two different occasions that "his hour was not yet come" (John 7:30; 8:20). As the time of the cross grew nearer however, one would hear Christ say, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified" (John 12:23; cf. 17:1; Matthew 26:18).

According to the foreordained plan of God, Jesus Christ was to begin His "Great Galilean" ministry once He had learned of John the Baptist's incarceration. Why had the Baptist arrested? John had been hurled into Herod's dungeon because he had fearlessly condemned Herod's moral wickedness. Herod had convinced his sister-in-law Herodias to leave his brother Philip for him. That adultery is wicked enough, but it is compounded by the fact that his new wife happened to also be his niece! Herodias was the daughter of Antipas' brother Aristobulus.

The following is a lengthy but fantastic quote from MacArthur's commentary.

John the Baptist's imprisonment and death, just as his heralding the King of kings, were in God's divine plan and timetable. The end of the Herald's work signaled the beginning of the King's. Herod and Herodias believed they freely controlled their province, and certainly the destiny of the insignificant Jewish preacher who dared condemn them. It is amazing how the proud and arrogant think they act in perfect freedom to accomplish their selfish ends, when in truth their decisions and actions only trigger events that God scheduled before the foundations of the world. (John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7 (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 104.)

The Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 31:15a, "My times are in thy hands".
Kansas was wrong! All we are is not "dust in the wind". Instead, our times are in God's hands. You are not forced to live with the fearful expectation of what "fate" may bring. Do not view life as dust blown in the winds of chance. Don't lay awake at night wondering if you'll wake up in the morning. Your "times", short or long, rich or poor, sad or happy, sick or healthy, are in His hands.

I don't feel that I have all the answers; I don't even know all the questions. Sometimes I wonder: Where is my sanity? Where is my security? Here is the answer: Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Thy hand." My Father knows best.

The time had come for John to decrease and Jesus to increase, and so it was that Jesus "came into Galilee preaching the gospel" right on schedule.

The Method of Christ's Ministry

Mark says that Jesus was "came preaching". The Greek word is "kerusso" which means "to publish, to proclaim openly", and while the word is normally translated "preach" (or some derivative of preach) it is also rendered as publish and proclaim. It is publicly making known a message.

The point to be noted is that to preach is not to argue, reason, dispute, or convince by intellectual proof, against all of which a keen intellect may bring counterargument. We simply state in public or testify to all men the truth which God buds us state. No argument can assail the truth presented in this announcement or testimony. Men either believe the truth, as all sane men should, or refuse to believe, as only fools venture to do. (Lenski as quoted by John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7 (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 108.)

Like John, Jesus came not disputing but preaching, and He preached with authority; which has nothing to do with style and everything to do with source and content. Some knowledgeable fellow addressing a congregation and speaking with emphasis is not preaching, nor is preaching some ignorant fellow ranting about this, that, or some other thing. It is most definitely not a few good stories flavored with a Bible verse, peppered with several jokes, and punctuated with a poem. "Preaching is the proclamation of certainties, not the suggestion of possibilities." (Ibid., 108.)

No preacher is Christ. No preacher has inherent authority. A faithful preacher's authority is delegated to him by the Father as a result of preaching His certain truth under the directive of His divine commission.

It is a serious mistake for God-called ministers to abandon their responsibility to preach the Bible. In the final analysis, God will hold us accountable for making His word plain. On judgment day preachers will not be asked where they went to seminary or whether they earned an advanced degree. They will not need to present membership statistics or submit their annual budgets. It will not matter how popular they were or whether they could make people laugh. Instead they will stand before a holy, heavenly tribunal and will be asked, "Did you preach the Word?" Those who followed their own agenda or even worse, the world's agenda will no doubt hand their heads in shame. But many humble preachers, who were held in little esteem, will on that day shine in the brightness of their Father's glory. For in their proclamation of God's Word they were faithful to the end. They will hear Him say, "Well done faithful servant!" (Darrell W. Sparks, "The Charge to Travis G. Gilbert" preached on October 6, 2003.)

The charge to preach the word extends beyond the office of pastor. This proclamation of Christ is to be made not only from pulpits but across coffee tables, in the break room, at the restaurant, and wherever an opportunity is presented.

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