Gospel: Mark 1:9-15
Epistle: James 1:12-18
Lesson: Genesis 22:1-18
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-10
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Rev Dale Hanson
(originally published in 2012)
As we enter the Lenten season; recognize that you have the great privilege of proclaiming the amazing good news of the Gospel.
Mark does a wonderful job of presenting Jesus as the Suffering Servant who dies for our sins. The cross is at the center of Mark’s understanding of Jesus and also needs to be the center of our preaching. Mark stated (Mark 10:45) that Jesus did not come to serve but to give his life as a ransom for many. A ransom is a price paid for the release of captives. Jesus taught that we humans are in captivity (especially to sin, guilt and judgment) and that we cannot save ourselves. So he would give himself as a ransom. The cross would be the means of our liberation. Only because he died in our place can we be set free. All this is part of Jesus Christ’s understanding of the cross, according to Mark. After Jesus spoke of his death, he went on to say, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Jesus portrayed Christian discipleship in terms of self-denial and even death. Christian discipleship is much more radical than a mere combination of beliefs, good works, or religious practices and disciplines. No imagery can do it justice but death and resurrection. For when we lose ourselves we find ourselves, and when we die we live (Mark 8:35). There is no authentic Christian faith or life unless the cross is at the center.
Note that immediately after his baptism Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. Satan attacked him for forty days. The first Adam fell when tempted but our second Adam, Jesus, did not fail; he was victorious over Satan. That successful struggle in the wilderness prefigures his final victory at the cross over our ancient foe. From the days of Adam and Eve, we have continuously fallen into Satan’s traps but Jesus triumphed over the evil foe’s temptations. At the cross, Jesus gained an even greater victory. Finally his resurrection proves that Satan cannot prevail over us. Jesus has broken Satan’s power once and for all. Jesus is our Substitute, our Redeemer, our gracious Savior; in him we are saved and safe.
Interesting that Mark points out that the wild animals were with him in the wilderness; is this to remind us that in God’s kingdom the lion will lie down with the lamb; peace in the animal kingdom pictures the peace Jesus came to bring to our world.
Notice how Jesus preached – “repent and believe in the gospel.” The Church’s message today should have that same combination. There should be a focus on the age-old problem of sin and human failure. Do you talk about sin? There should also be a focus on the gospel; declaring, delivering the good news of forgiveness and hope of eternal life in Christ. Do you regularly declare the Gospel to your people?
Remember, your people need to hear the Word of God, both Law and Gospel, proclaimed each Sunday. Their very lives depend on it.
Grace and peace – Dale Hanson
References used: The Lutheran Study Bible and John Stott’s book, The Incomparable Christ.
I would also strongly suggest that you consider reading or re-reading another book by John Stott, The Cross of Christ, as part of your Lenten preparations for preaching this season of the church year.