Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Immediately (part 1 of 4)

And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. – Mark 1:18  (ESV)

The Gospel of Mark presents a fast-paced story.  At sixteen chapters, it is the shortest of the four Gospels.  Mark is concerned with presenting the facts and the acts of the life of Jesus, and does not allow itself to get slowed down in the least.  In the first chapter we read, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel’.” (1:14-15)  From the first, this was Jesus’ message.  Mark gets to it quickly.  Where Matthew and Luke don’t have Jesus speaking until the third chapter of their writing, Mark spends very little time building a foundation for Jesus’ ministry.  There is a sense of urgency to Mark.  We see that urgency in the verses we just quoted, as we read things like “The time is fulfilled,” “the kingdom of God is at hand,” and “repent and believe.”  Mark calls this the Gospel of God and Jesus says that it is to be believed.  This Gospel, of course, is that Jesus is Lord. 

As we contemplate that sense of urgency in Mark, we’ll notice a word that is used on a regular basis.  Though it is used in the other Gospels (five times in Matthew, once in Luke, and three times in John), the stunning frequency of its usage is peculiar to Mark.  That word, in the Greek, is “euthus,” and it is best translated as “immediately.”  Placed alongside and in the context of the message that Mark says Jesus came preaching ,which is that of the Gospel of the time of the kingdom of God being at hand, what this message implies for God’s covenant people Israel, and the need for repentance and belief (getting on the side of the mission of the Creator God via a loyalty to Jesus and the way of His mission), this word should take on an even greater significance than that which it already possesses. 

The first time that we see this word used is in the tenth verse of chapter one, in the context of Jesus’ baptism by John.  We read “And when He came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove” (1:10).  Following this, “The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness” (1:12). 

The third time we see it in Mark is in the text with which we began.  Jesus saw Simon and Andrew and said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (1:17).  As an aside, we’ll notice that Jesus puts the onus on Himself to make them become fishers of men, rather than telling them that they should become fishers of men.  He promises to be involved.  He is not going to be a distant monarch.  The response of these two men is that “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (1:18).  A little further on, Jesus sees John and James, and “immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him” (1:20).  There, the immediacy is not placed on the following (though it is also immediate), but on the call, as Mark gives us an insight into how Jesus felt about the urgency of His message.  We read that “immediately, He called them.”

Moving along, we find that “they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching” (1:21).  Jesus wastes no time.  He taught “as One Who had authority” (1:22b), which we would expect, considering the nature of His message, which was the Gospel of the kingdom of God, presumably with Himself as its King.  With that authority on display, “immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit” (1:23a).  As we can see, the powers of darkness understood the urgency as well.  As Lord, Jesus rebukes this unclean spirit, and “at once,” which is kind of like “immediately” (euthus) “His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee” (1:28). 

In the twenty-ninth verse of the first chapter, we read “And immediately He left the synagogue” (1:29a).  We are told that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick.  What happens?  “Immediately they told Him about her” (1:30b).  As we go forward, we find a leper coming to Jesus, kneeling before Him and begging to cleansed.  Jesus touches the leper, “and immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (1:42).  After his healing, Jesus “sent him away at once” (1:43b).  Eleven times in the first chapter of this fast-moving Gospel of Mark alone, we find him using the word “euthus.”  If we take the Gospel stories as a guide to our own kingdom activity, this fact should gain our attention.   

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