“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’” (Mark 1:6–8 ESV).
I’ve gotta say, I’m loving digging deep into the Gospel of Mark! It’s so rich. Here in the first chapter (I’ve been in this one chapter for at least a couple weeks now!), verses 6 – 8, we get a brief snapshot of John’s message. While the other gospel accounts give us more insight into what John preached, none of them describe in great detail the message of the Baptizer, other than to say it was a message of repentance and the announcement of the Kingdom of God.
John’s message was very narrow. His role as a prophet was very narrow. John had the blessing of being the prophet who actually got to preach the message all the other Old Testament prophets had longed to preach. But, it was a limited message with a limited role for John. His job was to prepare the way, and once Jesus arrived on the scene John’s role diminished.
Now John knew this, and embraced it. John discovered his place in God’s mission, his purpose in God’s plan, and he ran with it. In our culture, we take great pride (or maybe I should say I take great pride) in beginning, continuing, and completing a project or task. We want to be in control of what’s going on around us. In fact, we often measure our sense of self-worth by how much work we’ve accomplished, how many projects we’ve completed, and how masterfully we controlled various situations and problems to good endings.
The Christian knows better. We are but one small part of a much larger plan. We are one artist’s stroke on a much larger canvas. We have a task, a purpose, a mission, a plan. God has designed you to fulfill a certain role in His Kingdom. While that sounds enticing and makes me feel important, I need to remember that God’s role for me might be vastly different than what I think it should be.
God might want me to start a project, and He might want someone else to finish it. God might want me to plant a gospel seed in someone’s life, but never see them come to faith. Perhaps God will send someone else to water that seed and see that person come alive in Christ. Maybe God has called me to water seeds planted by others.
Our job is to discover our part in God’s plan and live that out. We will find the most purpose, the most fulfillment in life when we play the part, whether big or small, God created us to play. If we seek our own role, if we seek our own purpose, if we seek our own fulfillment, we will never find it. We will chase after this and that, and always be longing for more, never satisfied, never completely fulfilled. But when we chase after God and seek to do what He designed us to do, we will find satisfaction and fulfillment.
Here’s a great quote that really drives this home from one of my commentaries on Mark:
In that wider sweep of God’s purposes we learn to play our limited—yet vital—part. History is his. The universe is his. The mission to the world is his. We are most fulfilled not when we seek fulfillment but when we seek to find our proper place in his never-ending purposes for this world. We are both less and more important than we think. In that on-going process, we belong to one another (Donald English, The Message of Mark, pp. 37-38).