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Reflections On “As A Ransom For Many” — 1

Updated: May 17, 2020

Daniel Tan

Mark 1:1-13

Is Jesus the son of God? It's a simple question with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Or is it?

In Matthew 16:15-19, Jesus praised Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Messiah as a form of divine revelation. If the answer to the question is ‘yes’, I believe that there is something divine at work that perhaps we were and still are not privy to. If the answer to the question is ‘no’, do not fret. It was revealed to Peter as divine inspiration. Should God want you to find the answer, you will find it regardless of your preference. At that time, it is rather a question of whether you have accepted it. And if you have not, then we need to go no further with this. No matter how much you try to justify that God is or is not ‘real’ and say that evidence speaks louder than faith, remember this: the Christian faith was founded not upon wishy-washy belief. That broke apart when Jesus was arrested to be crucified and the disciples all fled from Jesus' side. No, the Christianity we know now lasted because those same disciples saw that Jesus returned from the dead and were willing to give their lives to share the good news.

The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. The Gospel of Mark is one of the four gospels. In the times of ancient Rome, the gospel was a message to herald the coming of a king and his kingdom. Caesar would have had his own gospel preached and lauded throughout all the nations that Rome went to conquer, to speak of the good that Rome would bring and why they should submit to that new kingdom.

In the same way, the gospels of the Bible are a message for the coming of a King, about how great the coming Kingdom is and why we should accept and submit to it. The Kingdom far exceeds our current living and while there are sacrifices to be made, it will be worth it in the end. In the same vein, we as Christians are called to evangelise, to spread the word to all nations and make disciples out of them. Coincidentally, the word evangelism comes from the Greek root euanggelion, which happens to be translated as gospel. Just as Mark, Matthew, Luke and John had their individual gospels and so did Paul (Romans 2:16, Romans 16:25), we are called to have our own gospel based on what we have come to know about the kingdom of God, as heralds of the divine King who has been, is and is yet to come.

But we are called not merely to spread word. We are also given the task of making paths straight for Him. Mark 1 calls us to “prepare the way and make straight the paths a highway for our God”, taking from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.

The King comes to us, riding on His colt, graceful and gracious. He comes wanting our attention and to get to the root of things. Yet there exist many things in our lives that can become obstacles in the path of our King. Should you invite the leader of a government in today’s setting, are not even the doors opened beforehand? Do you allow any hindrances to befall the ruler? In the same vein, we are to clear a path for God. Not just to other people and to the world but to our own hearts. The journey is not for us to take to Him. No, He will come to us and bestow His mercy. The Kingdom will come to us if we only wait; our role is to see to it that there is a straight path for the King to traverse.

Temptations and struggles will continue to plague us through and through. Satan and God fight over our souls. One wishes to drag us to eternal damnation. The other seeks to reconcile despite all the wrong that we've done. It seems obvious whom we should follow, yet the flames of damnation taste oh so sweet when we go about day by day. Sin after all, satisfies the carnal urges and desires of the beast within. But we were not created simply out of clay. We were brought to life by the breath of God. Within us is a force, a spirit that works. The Greek word pneuma is translated to ‘spirit’ and is used to refer to the Holy Spirit, but it also means ‘breath’. We are made alive by the Spirit that comes from God Himself. It allows us a fighting chance against the wickedness within. But it is still a war within us, every day, every minute.

Eremos, eremois, desert, wilderness, solitary/lonely places. The words share a common root meaning — desolate and abandoned. Christ was brought to these places to be tested but also to find solace. On our journey in faith, we will be tested by many things in our lives. These times may seem hard and pressurising. But in the same way that Christ was able to find not only hardship but solace in those places, perhaps we should seek them not merely for a chance to be refined through difficulty but a chance to hear the whispers of the Lord. Elijah, the great prophet, had to go into the desert and withstand fires and earthquakes and howling winds before God came as a whisper. Perhaps in the same places that we find our greatest suffering, we shall hear the whisper of God the clearest.

Finally, John the Baptist's attitude towards Jesus. John had built up a reputation for himself over the years. In fact, there is some talk that John was the unconventional rabbi of Jesus in the ways of the Essenes, a group of individuals so dedicated to scriptures and so resentful of the corrupt priesthood that they journeyed into the desert (eremos) to be away from the corruption and to be away from Rome. Instead, they dedicated themselves to the scriptures and it is likely because of them that we have the Bible as it is today; their meticulous process of transcribing scriptures letter by letter created an accuracy that we rely upon to date.

John however, did not see himself as great. Rather, he heralded the coming of someone who was so much greater than him that he was not fit to touch the sandals of. John made Jesus the center of attention by announcements and by exclaimed declarations. There is something to be learned about how John pointed people to the realisation of the Messiah, as we continue to spread our own gospel. To point out the hand of God in the lives of others, that they might see for themselves what the King is capable of.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections.

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