Have you ever noticed how quickly things sometimes happen in the Bible? There are definitely times when things take centuries, like the children of Israel figuring out there is really only one true God. Or what about the accumulating prophecies that foretell the Messiah? Would he ever come? Why did it take so long?
Yes, it did take a good long while for the hearts of men to be ready for Christ’s coming, but once Jesus appears on the scene, and especially when he begins his public ministry, things happen pretty fast.
What does this have to do with our faith? Let’s look at a few examples and see how they apply to us today.
I’ve just finished reading through the Gospel of Mark to get an idea of how quickly things can happen. I’ve read Mark many times, but never with this specific approach. There are so many examples just in the first chapter that I’d never paid attention to before.
First of all, there is an immediacy in Mark’s Gospel that is not in Matthew and Luke. Mark jumps right into the deep end and starts his story with a very brief account of Jesus getting baptized by John the Baptist. Then he launches in to telling the story of Jesus. Matthew and Luke paint the scenery, give the backstory, tell about his birth, and give all kinds of details, which we love. But Mark can’t wait to get down to business as fast as he can. No warming up the crowd for him. He launches into his narrative with urgency.
Immediacy of Jesus’s actions
Here are some things that stand out to me and illustrate how quickly things can happen. All quotes in this section are from Mark, chapter 1, KJV, emphasis added.
- When John baptizes Jesus, “straightway, [i.e. immediately] coming up out of the water,” (v. 10) Jesus heard a voice from heaven declare, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (v.11) There was no delay in God’s response to this event.
- The very next verse: “And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.” (v. 12) Not a moment is wasted here. Jesus had to prove what God had just revealed, that he was the Son of God with no “if thou art the Son of God” from the devil.
- Jesus starts his ministry proclaiming, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (v. 15) That’s about as immediate as it gets. People thought heaven was way off in the future. But Jesus says the kingdom is here. This is perhaps the key to understand his vision of the now-ness of God’s presence and power to save and heal.
- When Jesus calls Andrew and Peter to follow him, “straightway [immediately] they forsook their nets and followed him.” (v. 18) They didn’t hesitate a moment to respond to Jesus.
- When Jesus saw James and John, “straightway he called them,” and they followed. (v. 20) Jesus didn’t waste time deliberating what to do. He acted quickly and decisively because he was in communion with his Father in heaven. He didn’t need to hash it over for hours or a minute. He knew instantly whom to ask and when to ask them.
- Jesus goes to Capernaum “and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught.” (v. 21) He just went in and started teaching. He did not fill out triplicate forms to be approved of by the Keepers of the Red Tape. He waited for no man’s approval. He just did what God impelled him to do with no delay.
- While he’s teaching in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit taunts him, and Jesus doesn’t try to reason with the man or ignore him. He instantly rebukes, not the man, but the unclean spirit. He wastes not one second in wielding his Sword of Truth and the man is healed. (vv. 25, 26)
- What was the result? “And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.” (v. 28) And they didn’t even have social media!
- Jesus left the synagogue and went to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew and found Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a serious fever. Jesus goes to her and heals her, “and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.” (v. 31) Not only was she healed of the fever instantly, she was instantly able to get up and express her hospitality without any recuperation time.
- That night, when the Sabbath was over, the whole town comes to the house bringing their sick folks. Jesus healed them right on the spot. He didn’t tell them to go home and pray or read the Scriptures. He healed them right there and then. (vv.32-34)
- The next day Jesus gets up way before daybreak to pray. His disciples find him and report (no surprise) that everyone is looking for him. Instead of going back to the folks he’s already ministered to, he announces, “Let us go into the next towns.” (v. 38) He is a man with a mission and doesn’t let popularity slow him down or keep him from his goal.
- Jesus continues to preach, teach, and heal throughout Galilee. One day a leper asks him, if he is willing, to make him “clean,” that is, heal him. Jesus was moved with compassion toward this man, who had lived with this problem for who knows how long and had given up on the passage of time to heal him. Of course Jesus was willing to heal him, “I will, be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.” (vv. 41, 42)
- Jesus “forthwith [immediately] sent him away” to the priest to verify the healing. He didn’t want any doubt to rise in the man’s heart that it might not be permanent. And he wanted the man to be obedient to the Jewish law requiring the priest to confirm the healing.
All this is just in the first chapter of Mark. A lot of this all happened on one day. There are many more examples in the rest of Mark as well as the other Gospels, but these give a good taste of how Jesus operated. Jesus could respond instantly to people’s needs because he knew the immediate and ever-present power of God.
Immediate opposition to Jesus
But the response from those who opposed Jesus could be just as immediate. Here are a few examples.
- When Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day, “the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” (Mark 3:6)
- In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains that sometimes, as soon as someone hears the word of God, “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:15)
- When Jesus had completely resigned his will to God’s in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his crucifixion, “immediately…cometh Judas” to betray him. (Mark 14:43) What an odd time for immediacy, but it left no split second for Jesus to be swayed from his resolve to follow God’s will.
How can we experience more of this immediacy of God’s presence and power and not be caught off guard by the immediate opposition from the evils of the world?
I think the key, as mentioned earlier, is having the same awareness that Jesus did, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. When we are conscious of God’s presence and supremacy here on earth, regardless of what the outward appearances are, we are equipped with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. (See Philippians 2:5) And we can respond as he did.
We can act with immediacy too
I know there are a lot of bullet points to consider above, but let’s take just a few of them to see how they apply to us today.
- Jesus was tempted immediately after he was baptized. Sometimes, seconds after you’ve had a spiritual epiphany, you also have a temptation experience. It’s an opportunity to put into practice what God has revealed to you.
- Jesus started his ministry with “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” How do you start your day or a project at work or church? Can you see it as already a complete idea in the kingdom of heaven?
- Do you respond immediately to a call for help? Sometimes I spend too much time weighing all the pros and cons of the best way to help or whether to help at all. When we are in tune with God, we know more quickly what the right thing to do is.
- Do you immediately ask for help when you need it? Jesus didn’t waste anytime asking people to be his helpers/disciples.
- Do you ever get discouraged by the temptations or challenges that come immediately after a profound spiritual experience? I sure have. But we don’t have to be caught off guard.
- Do you feel God is way off somewhere not listening to your prayers or that you don’t deserve to have your prayers answered? Or are you so filled with the “mind of Christ” that you have total trust in God’s immediate presence, ability, and willingness to meet your need?
These are just some of the things I’ve been thinking of the last few days. I have a lot to learn along the way, but I wanted to share these ideas with you. And I invite you to join me in cultivating a deep awareness of the immediacy of God’s love and power to heal and save. It is part of our birthright as God’s children and followers of Christ.
I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.