Genesis 41:28-40; Ps 29:1-11; Mark 1:9-17; Acts 19:1-12

Everything he did was a statement. It was the way Jesus taught. It was the way he lived. It was not that he went around trying to make waves. His very living and being was a statement of his essence, purpose, and an integral aspect of teaching the good news. Teaching and doing were simply two aspects of being. They were natural responses to the mission of his life. Word flowed into deed, and in living he taught the way of God’s reign.

Perhaps the first public statement was his identification with John the Baptist. That is how Mark records the story for us. Jesus did not need any conversion. At the same time, he needed to let his future followers know he identified and agreed with the message John preached. He was the one coming after John, and there was a need to display before all his agreement with John’s teaching and call to repentance and conversion. Words were fine, but words taking action were better.

It was likely a hot day when he went to the Jordan to find John. The crowds would not have been there in the cold or rain. Not that rain was all that common in the sparse landscape. Jesus walked the sweaty path to the Jordan among the throng of humanity gathering to hear the itinerant preacher attired in such meager means. The rough cut John spoke also a rough cut message without the fancy drivel or dressing to soothe one’s ears. He wasted no effort on presenting a polished façade, but spoke right to the point. He told the crowds the truth about themselves. They were not ready for God’s reign through Messiah, for their hearts and lives were not fixed on living out God’s will.

John told them plainly that he was only a forerunner of Messiah. He was the announcer who would herald the one long-awaited. Such was his purpose and mission–to prepare the nation to receive the one they claimed to desire. The truth was, they did not really want what God had in store. They had other plans, dreams, and purposes. They had wish lists for God and had not stopped to see that those demands ignored God’s design for life. So John called for repentance and conversion. He called them to turn their lives to God for the first time and allow God to have his way.

Jesus stepped down to the water in agreement with John’s message. God called servants, not cats to be pampered. In his immersion in water, Jesus stated that his would be a life dedicated to serve God’s interests, not any human selfish desire or design. For Jesus, it was no conversion. It was a statement of identification, purpose, mission, and identity. The water was refreshing in the hot sun, but that was not the issue. At issue was the message proclaimed with the dove from heaven–God was pleased with Jesus, his beloved son.

Mark’s account gets sparse. From the refreshing waters of the Jordan, Jesus travels off into the wilderness for forty days of preparation, temptation, and fasting. He doesn’t say much about this trek. For starters, he hadn’t been invited. This was not a group getaway. It was not a vacation picture safari in the Judean wilds. It was Jesus reviewing the issues that would stand in his way as he served the mission for which he had come. It was time dedicated to seeking guidance and clarification of purpose for all that would ensue.

Matthew and Luke make much of this temptation time. Mark just mentions it. John ignores it altogether. The stylized forty days was a reminder of forty years of wilderness wandering. It served as a reminder of that time of preparation until the Hebrews would be ready to enter the Promised Land under Joshua. So for those who would be his disciples, it was a statement, as well as preparation. Jesus spent his time in the wilderness, relying on God’s direction and preparing to face the decisions and obstacles that lay ahead.

He returned from the wilderness wandering with purpose. He returned with objective. He returned to announce that God’s reign was at hand. He prepared the people to enter into God’s promise much as Joshua at the edge of the Jordan. Now that he had spent time in preparation, it was time to prepare others for God’s blessing and promise–the fulfillment that lay ahead.

It started off sounding much like John. The hourglass of waiting is full. God’s reign is now standing at the gate. Change your lives in repentance and believe the good news. It was as though he were saying, God’s reign is here. Will you cross over the Jordan? God is ready to lead us into the promise. Will you trust God by stepping into the river?

There is work to be done. It is time to change the pattern of our lives. This mission and purpose lie before us. It is time to enter into God’s reign by taking on that purpose as our own. As Joseph upon interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Jesus’ words were a call to action. Joseph was not reticent about how to respond to the dreams’ interpretation. The dreams were a call to arms. They were a cry to make ready for what was at store. There was not a moment to lose. God’s salvation plan was at hand, and there was no time to quibble over trivialities. Needed was a bold plan, but bold action as well.

Jesus returned from the wilderness with a purpose, mission, message, and the will for action. He began selecting those who would lead others in their approach to all God had in store. He didn’t call the folks we would have considered best qualified. Then again, he saw there was a task to accomplish. The perspective of work to be done outweighed our considerations of worthiness. He looked for people who knew what it was to put in a long, hard day. He looked for those used to putting up with difficulty, with uncertainty, with obstacles, with opposition.

Jesus looked for people who were acting and living with purpose already. He called them to a different purpose and mission. He called them to immerse their lives into a mission of God’s choosing. It was not to comfort he called them. It was not to inherit a life of blessing and tranquility. It was not to a life of pleasure and riches. It was to a changed life of mission, purpose, service, and work.

On watching Simon and Andrew, Jesus did not call them away from their toil. He called them to a new purpose for their labor. “Follow me, and I will give you a new mission for your labor. Instead of fishing for a smelly catch of fish, I will transform you into fishers of men.”

Like the call to Paul, this invitation would take over their lives. It would transform them from one type of productivity to another. The mission into which they were to immerse themselves would transform, it would also give them a higher purpose and sense of fulfillment. God was at hand to take them to a new kind of action. It would make their lives a statement of God’s purpose, mission, and presence. What kind of statement do our lives make? Are we immersed into the mission of Christ Jesus, or have we settled for some lesser purpose? The reign of Christ is at hand. Entering the promise calls for immersion into a mission–a mission that would transform our lives according to a higher purpose than that of our own choosing.

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About The Author

Born in Clinton, SC, Chris moved to Brazil at age two when his parents were appointed as career missionaries with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. After finishing high school in São Paulo, Chris studied modern languages at Mississippi College and enrolled at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1989. There he met and married Karen Goforth. Upon their graduation, Chris and Karen were appointed for two years as Church Planter Apprentices to Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. At the completion of that assignment, Chris began Iglesia Bautista "Cristo te Ama" in Aiken, SC while finishing their application for career missionary service. In 1995, Chris and Karen were appointed as career missionaries to Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil, where Chris coordinated the Program for the Extension of Theological Education of the Baptist seminary in Porto Alegre. Their two sons were born in Porto Alegre. Chris taught systematic theology at the seminary and expanded the extension program to four centers around the state, teaching 28 different courses over seven years of ministry there. Chris and Karen also began the first evangelical outreach ministry among more than 4.2 million Traditionalist Gauchos centered in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The Harbins found themselves leaving Brazil unexpectedly in late 2002. On return to the US, Chris first served as pastor at Rocks Baptist Church in Pamplin, VA, after which Chris and Karen were called as co-pastors to serve Central Baptist Church in Lowesville, VA, where Karen was ordained. They moved to the Davidson, NC area, where Chris served as Associate Pastor for Latino Ministries at First Baptist Church, Huntersville. Chris wrote several texts for use with his seminary and extension students, some of which are currently being used throughout Brazil in theological education. He has since published several works in English including On Immigration (Biblical survey of immigration issues); Questioning the Story (Narrative curriculum for cell group ministry); Hebrew Scriptural Economics (Survey of economics in the Hebrew Scriptures); Lost Prophets (Fiction addressing discovery of Hebrew prophetic writings and how we would respond to them). In 2014, Chris was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Foreign Language Department of Mississippi College for the 2014-2015 year. Chris now serves with the United Methodist Church as pastor for congregation in Concord, NC. Karen teaches at a private Christian school, and their sons are continuing their education at a local college.

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