By January 31st seven out of 10 resolution makers will give up on their resolutions. Some people react by showing disdain for resolutions. But the new year does provide a special moment.
God gave us the heavenly bodies to mark the seasons, days and years (Genesis 1:14 ESV). Hence, we do well to think of passing from the old year to the new as a new chance, a clean slate, another opportunity for growth and service.
How did Jesus start his ministry? In Mark 1:14-39, seeing several keys to his start will help us to make a great start – and conclusion – of our new year. With these keys, let’s note a both/and quality.
1. Public and Personal Ministry.
At the start of his ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue (Mark 1:21). He worked among the people. On Saturdays, he went to the synagogues. On feast days, he was in the temple at Jerusalem. He went to weddings and banquets. He taught multitudes from the mountainside and from the seashore. People lined the roads where he walked. He was accessible to the crowds and served the many.
At the same time, Jesus worked with individuals. He chose 12 to be with him and to learn. He apparently stayed in Peter’s house. Here (verses 29-31), he heals Peter’s mother-in-law. He was willing to talk with such diverse people as the outcast Samaritan woman and the cream of society like Nicodemus.
Jesus worked the crowds and took time for individuals. Our new year should include both groups and one-on-one. Our high-tech world needs a high-touch ministry. Visitation programs are good, personal initiative is even better. Public and personal. There is time for both.
2. Teaching and Helping.
Jesus’ main activity, his principle concern, was communicating the word of God (21). He begins his ministry by “proclaiming the gospel of God” (14). His preaching brought truth about the time and communicated urgency about the approaching kingdom. He was specific about what people should do.
But Jesus was not mere talk. His life showed the truth of his words. He expels unclean spirits (23-26), heals the sick, feeds the hungry. He does these things because of his compassion. Though he did not come to change man’s physical and material condition, as he had opportunity he did bring relief as a sign of the spiritual blessing he would later bestow. It’s his healing of the man with the unclean spirit that qualifies his teaching as authoritative.
Like Jesus, our new year needs to include both teaching and example. One is useless without the other. Teaching without example avails little; without our teaching the gospel, people will never understand our compassionate action.
3. Giving and Receiving.
Jesus went among the multitudes (32-34). He healed many, cast out many demons. People surrounded him constantly. He didn’t merely fit people into his schedule; people were his schedule. In Peter’s house, he head at night, when it was time for rest. (No electricity, no activity!)
Jesus sought the Father (35). At the same time, he knew that he needed to be alone with the Father in prayer. He needed to commune with his Father.
We need for the new year a balance between service and devotion, giving and receiving. If you’re up late giving to people, you need to be up early receiving strength from time with God.
4. Interruptions and Priority.
Jesus welcomed interruptions (23ss; 32-34). He never expressed frustration when people sought him out. People constantly imposed upon him. He knew how to say no when necessary, but he also was willing to listen to others and consider their needs.
At the same time, Jesus honored his priority (36-39). (Priority is one.) He never forgot the reason why he came to earth, to bring man to God. Here, he turns his back on the multitude. In John’s gospel, he sends the crowd away. Another time, he sneaks away when the multitude comes to make him king. Jesus has his limits, when the priority of his purpose would be compromised.
In the new year, our interruptions provide a great opportunity to demonstrate our priority – to preach to as many as possible.
Before Jesus began his ministry, he obeyed the commandment to be baptized and dealt with temptation (Mark 1:9-13). Before we can take advantage of the new year, we should obey the gospel and deal effectively with sin. Having done that, we’re in a good position, like Jesus, to make the best use of the new year with the both/and principle.
Doing that, we’ll be one of the three of 10 who make it through the coming year with our resolutions intact. And who make it, inasmuch as those resolutions reflect the purpose of God, to eternal life.
We can have a blessed new year by starting as Jesus started his ministry — through the both/and principle.