Just before the Apostle Peter was executed he penned his second letter to the Christ-followers that he so dearly loved, and this letter was full of exhortation regarding things to come and the spirit with which those he loved could await for the Lord’s return. Consider, for example, 2 Peter 3:11-14:
Since [Heaven and Earth] are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace . . . .
Three words stand out in this brief passage: waiting, hastening and diligent. All three speak to a sense of urgency that is expected to be found among believers. Peter was urging the Christians he knew to expect that the time was short, the needs were great, and their mission as Christ’s ambassadors urgent. Undoubtedly, this message greatly influenced Peter’s younger protégé, Mark.
Thus, when some time after Peter was dead and Mark was the pastor of the Christians gathered in the city of Rome, and those same Christians were coming to him pleading for guidance as they faced severe persecution, Mark would pen the historical account of Jesus’ life known as the Gospel of Mark, and include within its narrative a call to urgency. It is as if Mark were sharply declaring, “Yes, the persecution is intense and our days are numbered. All the more reason, dear ones, for us to stay on mission, to anticipate the Lord’s return and make the most of our days for his reputation and the salvation of men.”
No small wonder, then, that Mark uses the word “immediately” thirty-five times in the Gospel of Mark. From chapter one all the way through one feels the hurried pace, the hastiness, the sense of urgency. It is almost as if Jesus has a whole lot to do in a short period of time, knowing he would die. There are people to heal from physical corruption. There are little kids to release from satanic bondage. There are men and women who need hope for the future. There are whole communities who need to hear God’s Truth. On and on it goes, so much to do and say in a world in which the time is short and the needs are great. Mark 1:29-34 captures one of those moments.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Note the hurried tone. Jesus had been with the religious elite, so to speak, and quickly departed from them, walking about a block or so from the synogogue to the home of his friend Simon Peter (I’ve walked that pathway, by the way . . . it is beautiful and much shorter than one might expect). It would appear that this turn away from the establishment toward the common people quickly engulfed him in a world of real human need. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, and Jesus healed her. Word spread quickly. Next thing he knew the townspeople were flocking around the home. They came in droves, and Jesus labored throughout the evening to show them the Father’s love and healing care. It is noteworthy that these things unfolded in the darkness of night, a telling point symbolizing, perhaps, the spiritual darkness that surrounded everyone and into which Jesus was to shine his light. Meanwhile, in the backdrop, the clock was ticking, begging all to know that Jesus’ death was looming. The time was short. The needs were great.
And that darkness is indeed real, and the human need is too. And the right response is precisely what Jesus offered—availability, expectation, urgency, exertion.
We who love Christ must let these define every ounce of our being, for between this moment and the time we go to Heaven, the opportunities abound and so much is at stake. We must take on an urgent anticipation of the Lord’s soon return and the need to tell his story. We must be extremely aware of who and what is around us, on point, as it were to engage. We must be available to the opportunities as they present themselves.
How available are you?
* * * * * * * * * *
“Write This Down” is a summary of select teaching moments offered by Pastor Matthew. The preceding summary is from the message “A Call to Urgency,” the third message from the series entitled “Church on the Edge,” a study through the Gospel of Mark, presented on the weekend of October 7, 2012, at Bethel Church.