Mark’s story seems a little bizarre, but his listeners are curious to hear more. Mark has set the stage for the Romans by letting them know they must humbly repent to receive the coming king and his message, but his listeners doubt any real value exists in this common Jewish man’s story. Jesus Christ, the Son of God does not sound like an incoming king. Mark may know that he is losing the interest of his audience and so he has to quickly paint the picture of this man to keep his audience’s attention. He must cut the unnecessary details and focus on the crux of Christ, and he must explain the “Holy Breeze”. Mark quickly tells four different stories about Jesus. He tells of Jesus’ baptism, temptation, purpose, and command. Throughout each of these stories, the Holy Breeze moves in different ways. And in each of these stories, Mark introduces several new characters to note and remember for the remainder of the story.
Jesus Christ arrives at the place where John the Baptizer preaches a message of repentance and baptism. Jesus does not dress differently, he does not seem different, he is not different from any of the other listeners in John’s crowd. He comes from the region of Galilee. Galilee compared to Jerusalem in the region of Israel is like Bakersfield compared to Los Angeles. Nobody important has ever come from Galilee. And so no one notices. Jesus walks into the river just like the dozens of people before Him. Jesus wades up to John just like the dozens of people before Him. John submerges Jesus into the water just like the dozens of people before Him. As he emerges from the water, the entire scene changes. What seems to be a normal day to the crowd along the river suddenly becomes the most spectacular scene. The heavens tear in two and the Holy Breeze descends upon the incredibly average. This man is different. The crowd falls silent, the river seems to stop flowing, and a voice breaks the silence, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) How did the people miss it? John had preached a message about a coming king whose straps no man could stoop to untie, yet this man walks amongst them unnoticed, walks into the river unnoticed, and on the most ordinary day, the king, the one John told everyone about, appears. Then he disappears.
The king arrived on the scene suddenly, and just as quickly he disappears. The Holy Spirit drives the king to the wilderness. Mark's listeners may be thinking to themselves, "No one tells the Roman emperor what to do. The Roman emperor does only what he wants to do." Yet Jesus, the newly appointed king, obeys the Holy Breeze. This Holy Breeze has authority above the king. The king submits to the Holy Breeze. The Holy Breeze sends Jesus on a mission to test the king. Mark uses the verb “ekballo” to describe the Holy Breeze leading the Son of God into the wilderness. “Ekballo” is not a wayward word.
“It is a spiritually violent word filled with passion and force…The authority and the force of Jesus casting out demons is the same spiritual force and authority by which he thrusts forth laborers. It is the word used when Jesus goes to confront Satan in the wilderness.” (ekballopasadena.org)
There is only one way for the Romans to understand this story. Jesus goes into the wilderness on a mission. He goes into the wilderness to fight. The Roman emperors would march to the wilderness in front of their legions of warriors and centurions to fight the barbarians and protect the Roman kingdom. There is always an enemy to defeat in the wilderness to protect the kingdom. Yet the Son of God does not fight the Germanic warriors, he fights Satan. So Jesus goes out, he faces temptations of Satan, he is with the wild animals, and angels minister to him. Does Jesus emerge from the wilderness victorious? Is the enemy slain for good? Mark does not answer the question. He finishes this short story with Jesus in the wilderness and the Romans curiously await the news of victory.
Suddenly, the wild man John who preached the message of baptism and repentance is arrested. No explanation of who arrested him, and no explanation of why they arrested him. The messenger of the Son of God is gone. In his vacancy, Jesus returns from the wilderness to proclaim a similar gospel message. “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:15) Did Jesus defeat the enemy? He must have, for he proclaims his Father’s kingdom has arrived. Jesus is both a coming king and he is a messenger. No one is above the Roman emperor, yet Jesus Christ the Son of God submits to the Holy Breeze, and he fights for his father’s kingdom. Jesus declares something major, “The time is fulfilled.” (Mark 1:14) How is time fulfilled? The prophecies from Isaiah are fulfilled. The message John spoke is fulfilled. It is time to begin preparations for another king. How should the people prepare for God? John told them to repent and be baptized. Jesus Christ tells them to repent, but not to be baptized. Instead he tells them to believe. What does it look like to believe?
“‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17) Mark does not waste any time to provide an example of people who believe the message of Jesus. The people who believe the message of Jesus leave behind their livelihood, their families, and follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He now has four followers in this story: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. These four men fished the Sea of Galilee for a living. Why would the Son of God choose four fishermen to follow him? They are dirty, uneducated, and uninfluential men. If the Son of God wants to prepare the world for his Father’s kingdom, then he should choose influential people. Centurions, poets, and priests could shape the hearts and minds of Roman men and women. Fishermen have leathery skin, smelly clothes, and curse every other word. No one will listen to a fisherman. For some reason these are the people that Jesus Christ wants. Repent and believe. Their hearts were ready to receive.
For the Holy Breeze, more commonly called the Holy Spirit (well never called the Holy Breeze, only maybe Holy Ghost) has grabbed a hold on the hearts of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They have just started on the journey of following the Son of God. How will Jesus make these fishermen into fishers of men; men who will cast their nets onto groups of people and change the hearts of their listeners? Mark's Roman listeners are intrigued. This story is fast paced and moving with a purpose. They are committed to following their emperor, but Jesus Christ clearly has a mission, and Jesus Christ needs people to follow him.