The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God... (Mark 1:1).

Which is your favorite Bible gospel?

___ Matthew and his focus on Jesus' teaching and fulfillment of prophecy?

___ Mark and his fast-paced Jesus who does mighty deeds?

___ Luke and his focus on Jesus' love for those on the margins?

___ John and his focus on Jesus' conversations with people?

If you are like me, that's a hard question to answer. I like each of them for different reasons.

I love the gospel of Mark because it is the shortest gospel, written in very descriptive language, and is fast-paced and full of bold action. Some have suggested that because Mark was written for a Roman audience, he presented Jesus story in this exciting way for his audience that loved big heroes, great adventure, and powerful deeds. Which leads me to a fascination with the way Mark starts his story:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God...

Guess what comes next?

We'd expect fireworks to announce the beginning of the Messiah's birth or the beginning of his ministry. In a gospel full of action and bold statements, notice how Mark continues this beginning of Jesus' ministry:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the wilderness,

Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message:

After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan (Mark 1:1-9).

The ministry of Jesus began with John preparing the hearts of people for Jesus to come to them. The most important time in world history was prefaced by a man who lived and died as a servant to Jesus to prepare the way for others to come to know Jesus.

This is the sequence of grace: serving before saving!
You know what? The same is true today. Before Jesus comes and enters the hearts of people today, someone comes and serves them to prepare their hearts to meet Jesus. To put it more simply,

Serving comes before saving.

This simple principle is the order of grace. It's the sequence of salvation we mustn't forget. We can say it in other ways — "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care" — but we don't need to resort to sayings. We just need to look at how Jesus' ministry begins: with a servant.

Thank you, John the Baptizer for living your life to serve the King of glory. We want to follow your example of serving others so that we can see Jesus saving them.

Serving comes before saving.


Special thanks to Free Bible Images and the Lumo Project for use of images in Jesus' ministry.

This article ran in April of 2016 and is re-run today as part of what will be an ongoing series of reflections from the Gospel of Mark planned for the next several months.