“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1.14-15
Ever been in “start and stop” traffic? It’s rush hour, and you are in a line of cars a mile long. Every few seconds you are finding yourself starting and then stopping again. Over and over this happens until after an extended period of time you are free to start up again, drive the speed limit, and get to your destination.
When I think about John and Jesus, I think of the starting and the stopping. Now more gospels give additional information about John and his arrest, but just as John was starting, he was stopping. John came on the scene to announce Jesus as Messiah, and just as he did so and was calling people to repentance, he was stopped and arrested.
Now Jesus had essentially been hiding out for thirty years. Seems a little long and excessive. I’m sure some people new his abilities, especially his mother because at his first miracle in Cana of Galilee. She told the servants, “do whatever he tells you.” His power had never been publicly displayed. But privately….who knows?
So Jesus comes on the scene not as a teenager but a full grown and mature adult. And one who had apparently skipped over the Jewish schools to training boys. Or if he had received years of official training, he was holding back. He was also stopped until his starting. So John goes to prison and Jesus begins to preach a proclamation of the good news saying,” The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Starting and stopping. We do it every day spiritually. I consider it the battle between the spirit person and the flesh. Paul puts it best in Romans 7.19-21, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
We begin to live for God, to obey, to get disciplined and just as we gain momentum, we find ourselves sinning again. We desire to live in the Spirit but we tend to give in to the desires of the flesh. Even though Paul says in Galatians 5.16, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” we don’t always follow this advice.
Starting and stopping happens to all of us. God knows this which is why he gave us an Advocate, a Helper, the Holy Spirit to empower us, fill us, live inside of us to be the people he has called us to be. Each day is a new day. If you failed yesterday, begin again today. If you are battling sins of the flesh, lean in to the Spirit and ask God regularly for help and strength.
But it’s not all about us — Jesus’ start resulted in his gospel preaching. Will ours?
“O Lord God, to be disciplined and to obey the Spirit rather than my own desires is so hard for me. I conquer the “big” sins and find that the “little” sins keep creeping up. Give me the mind of Christ! Transform me by your love. Save me by your grace. Sanctify me so that I might know, love and obey your Word. Come now, Holy Spirit, help me as I seek your grace. Even though it is the start that stops most people, help this not be true of us. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen