The Gospel of John began before time and emphasized that Jesus is God, the Creator, who existed before time. Nothing has ever existed without the creative work and loving touch of Jesus, the Son of God.
The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke begin with Jesus' miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin named Mary. They each give us Jesus' genealogy, but make sure we know that Jesus was conceived in Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel of Mark, however, begins in an unusual but imminently practical place:
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 (Mark 1:1-9).
Mark's purpose in doing this may elude us, at least at first. After we read his gospel, however, his point appears to be as important as it is simple: The good news about Jesus always begins with a servant who prepares the way in the hearts of others to believe. John prepares people's hearts to mentally accept Jesus and follow him in the way of the cross. John's path prepares the path for Jesus (Mark 1:2-8). John's destiny prepares us for Jesus' ministry and foreshadows Jesus' rejection and murder (Mark 1:14, 6:14-29, 8:28, 9:11-13). John is the ultimate servant who gave his life to prepare people to receive and follow Jesus.
Yet, if we missed Mark's message about the good news of Jesus always beginning with a servant, he drives home the point a few verses into his gospel. He tells a story about four friends trying to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, but the house is too crowded even to get near the door to get inside to Jesus. So, these friends go up on the roof and dig a big hole through the thatch and mud and lower their paralyzed buddy to the Lord. When Jesus sees THEIR faith, he forgives and heals the paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12). These four friends were servants to their buddy who needed help from Jesus. They went to great effort and took a considerable risk to do what they did. They were servants who prepared the way and the heart of their buddy to be blessed by the Savior.
Mark's beginning to his gospel is strategic and powerful. Jesus emphasized that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is a servant, and then defined his personal mission as serving those who are lost:
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45).
So, who are the people you will commit to serving so their hearts can be prepared to know and follow Jesus? Why not choose five people you would like to see come to Jesus and begin to pray for them each day? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know how best to serve them, then serve them in simple ways. The people God has put around us are not accidents or chance meetings; they are opportunities to serve and prepare their hearts to know and follow the Lord so they can be JesuShaped, too!