15.10.07

Without deviation or delay!

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (Mk 1:1-3)


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. (Mk 1:10)

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (Mk 1:12)

Where the Gospel of Matthew has a characteristic use of the word behold (idou) for emphasis and to stress importance, it seems that Mark has a word of his own which he uses in an equally characteristic way. It is the word immediately. This is the Greek adjective euthus. It is used twelve times in the first chapter alone.

What is not apparent in our English translations, however, is that this self same word is used in the opening Scripture that Mark uses to introduce and set the context for his Gospel. You see the word euthus does not just have a temporal application - meaning immediately, without delay, it also has a spacial application meaning straight, without deviation.

So when Mark quotes Isaiah, saying that all the paths of the Lord are to be made straight, it is the same word that he then goes on to use time and time again to describe the ministry of Jesus.

Some say that this was just a linguistic quirk of the Gospel writer. But to me it seems laden with significance. Mark is highlighting that Jesus is the Lord prophesied by Isaiah, and that all his ways are straight. They are without deviation or delay.

It also I think adds an extra dimension to the ministry of Elijah, John the Baptist, the Church - the way we are to prepare the way of the Lord is not just by making his paths straight... it is by making his paths straight away!

7 comments:

Richard Bentall said...

Chris

This is how God wants us to respond, straight away. There are far too many people in the bible that respond too late or think that they have all the time in the world.

In the UK [for those who are outside of this wonderful island] we had a popular television advertisement, just a few years ago, for one of our railway companies. It featured the voice of Louis Armstrong singing “You have all the time in the world”. Many people found it humorous, as it was advertising trains which can be late — occasionally! It was suggesting that the journey is smooth and there is plenty of time. This is certainly not a description of the prophetic ministry to which we are called.
Well, it is late! There is an urgency about those who are called by God to serve Him now. In today’s success-oriented world, we must not be deaf to the voice of God who calls us to a new and living way in Jesus Christ. [oops getting on to my message in a few weeks time]

Richard B

Teifion said...

Hi Chris,

Interesting blog, but I have a small issue of understanding on two small things! Would it be ok for me to ask the two questions here? (to help me understand!! :-) )

The ministry of John the Baptist was pre determined by God, he was to cause a revival ready for the incarnation of the Messiah, and those were the paths he had to make straight - he had to challenge the (jewish/elect) society at the time (same as ezra did with the use of baptising).

However that work was then fulfilled. We now walk in the footsteps of Christ, taking our identification from Him.

What then are the paths that need to be straightened today?

How does this verse apply to the church if it has already been fulfilled?

Thanks!

Teifion

Chris HH said...

That's an excellent question Teifion, and I'd be happy to answer it.

First, one has to bear in mind that the prophecies of Scripture can have more than one fulfilment. Indeed this is quite often the case with Old Testament prophecies. There is an initial fulfilment within the span of the original prophet and his hearers, but an ultimate fulfilment - often found in the ministry of Christ himself.

Second, all Scripture is applicable to us, the church, as long as one applies it correctly.

Both these points are particularly pertinent when looking at the ministry of Elijah. The fact that John the Baptist is described as the Elijah that was to come, shows that there is at least one extra layer to the significance of Elijah beyond the lifetime of the original prophet.

It is interesting to note how Jesus talks about Elijah:

Mt 17:11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.

Mt 17:12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come,

Is Jesus speaking about a current ministry that will restore God's kingdom, or a past ministry identified with John. It seems to be both (yet another layer) as John clearly did not restore "all things."

So Elijah was prophetic (not just because he was a prophet) but because his ministry prepared the way for Elisha (lit. Lamb of God) and thus prefigured the ministry of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Lord's first coming and point to the real "Lamb of God".

But there is room for a further layer of understanding in the ministry of the Church who are to prepare the way for his ultimate coming - who restore all things - by doing and praying as he taught:

"You Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

It is in this way that the church has the ongoing ministry of Elijah.

Teifion said...

I see, and that passage in Matt 17 is very good. However scripture does teach us that in the last days it will be as in the days of Noah (Matt 24:36-39). In Matt 17 it seems like Jesus is stating that 'yes, it is true the scripture says that (v11)' and 'you see, he did come (v12)'

Would I be right in saying that towards the close of this age that we will see both the aspects of Noah and Elijah's ministry (the coming of the son of man like a thief in the night/the remnant (however that is interpreted) that God has kept for himself being saved).

If the church represents Elijah, does the remnant represent the Jews?

SLW said...

Chris,
I love the way you respond to questions. Your response to teifion was excellent!

AmeriKan said...

Great...I can comment, now. Could not for several days because of the inoperable word verification.

slw, I ditto your comment to Chris...I was thinking the exact same thing...a very clean, concise, yet understandable answer, Chris.

A comment to your original blog, Chris. There are too many crooked pathes in the church and out there in the world...how the Lord wants them straightened, immediately. Because He is...coming soon!

Matthew said...

Fantastic insight Chris. Thanks