An End and the Beginning

By Not Known

Have you ever been in a plane during a hard landing? It’s uncomfortable and even frightening. The end of a journey can be a time of fear and uncertainty as the era of the familiar yields to a new unknown.

It was like that when Jesus came. Each Gospel makes that point rather forcibly in the introductory section. The coming of Jesus was a decisive end to the era of earthly temple, priests and sacrifices ― shadows fled before reality and God’s promises became fulfilment. The wilderness years of the old covenant were over and change was upon the world.

Mark begins with some important Old Testament references (Mrk 1:2-3). The selection of passages is explosive as the coming of Jesus is linked to the three great ‘movements’ of the exodus from Egypt (Ex 23:20), the return from exile in Babylon (Is 40:3) and the coming day of the Lord (Mal 3:1). It’s as though Mark is saying ‘the former things have passed away and the new is here and now’. This is integral to the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mrk 1:1).

Endings and beginnings may be resisted. The keepers of the old order in Jesus’ day resisted the new era of God’s dealings and adopted defensive behaviours. Many of Jesus’ initial followers were confused about his message and eventually sank back to ‘business as usual’. Others were angry and vented their wrath on the one sent to be God’s Christ. However, the end had come. The beginning of the era of the new covenant was irresistible, for God’s will is done.

As we read on through Mark we see the nature of that new era as love and mercy filled the space once occupied by religious formalism; as mercy and forgiveness replaced the grim accounting of human merit; and as a new familial ease with God replaced distant fearfulness. Only those with vested interests were the losers in this end and new beginning. For those with ears to hear it was the best news they could ever hear. And so the crowds flocked to hear the message (Mrk 1:5).

In all this the mysterious ways of God were much on view. However painful the end of the old, the beginning was sweet indeed. As William Cowper puts it:

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Let’s hear Mark as he announces an end and the beginning. Let’s follow him as he points us to Jesus as God’s Christ and Son.

David Burke