And so the gospel begins – extravagant, outrageous, vulgar grace.
2Isaiah the prophet saw it coming –
Can you see him? – he is coming, right before your eyes, to prepare the way.
3Can you hear him? – he is howling from the margins ‘The Lord is coming. Get ready!’
4First came John’s dare to be baptized, plunged beneath the water’s surface to mark time and forgiveness. 5They came to him from country and city, Judea and Jerusalem, all of them confessing, naming wrongs for all to hear. John pushed their soiled lives into the muddy Jordan. 6John was of the earth, wrapped in camel-hair robe and cinched with leather belt. He lived on grasshoppers and wild honey. 7His sermon was always the same: He’s coming soon, much more than I’ll ever be. 8I can stir muddy water but He will plunge you into the Spirit of God.
9Then he walked right up, Jesus of Nazareth, and John pushed him face-first in the sin-filled river. 10As Jesus stood tall the sky tore and the Spirit fell to him like a dove.
11A voice rained from the sky: You are my son, the loved one.
12Then the Spirit wrangled him, still dripping wet, into the desert where wild animals lived. 13Jesus was badgered by Satan forty days and nights. But angels were close at hand.
14Then the Baptizer was handed over and Jordan’s surface was stilled. Jesus strolled into Galilee announcing something good:15It begins now. Gospel. Turn around and believe.
16He sauntered along the shore of Galilee and spied Simon and his brother Andrew casting their fishing net into the sea. 17Jesus yelled: C’mon! There’s more than this.
18Just like that, Simon and Andrew dropped what they were doing and ran after Jesus.
19Jesus strolled a little farther downshore and spied Zebedee’s sons – James and John – in their father’s fishing boat. They were all caught up in the usual – mending broken nets. 20Jesus called out to them with the same words he spoke to Simon and Andrew. Just like that, Zebedee lost his sons on that day. Jesus and his words unraveled the brothers from the life they had known.
21Now there were five. They strode into Capernaum. When the Sabbath began Jesus made a beeline for the synagogue. His words began overshadowing the usual trumpery. Jesus didn’t ask anyone if he could start teaching, he just did it, like he belonged. 22People couldn’t believe their ears. It was beautiful.
23Just like that a haunted man started screaming: 24This is none of your business, Jesus of Nazareth! You’re going to wreck everything, aren’t you? I know you – you’re the One!
25Jesus roared No more! Leave him, now!
26The evil did not leave quietly, but it did leave.
27People couldn’t believe their eyes, couldn’t help but ask What is this? This is different. He is stronger than the darkness.28Just like that everyone around Galilee was gushing about Jesus.
29The five left the synagogue and went straight to Simon and Andrew’s house. 30They told Jesus that Simon’s mother-in-law was racked with fever. 31Jesus went to her side and held her hand. Just like that the fever cooled and she got up and started mothering them.
32When dusk fell the sick and haunted showed up at the door. 33It seemed like everyone was outside. 34Jesus held the hands of many of the sick and they were cured. For many chased by darkness, he drove the evil away. The spirits knew who Jesus was; he gave them clear instructions to keep quiet.
35Later, in the dead of night, Jesus left the house and found a lonely place to pray. 36Simon and others searched till they finally found him – 37Everyone wants you.
38Jesus had a faraway look in his eyes. The other towns nearby, they need to hear something good too. That’s why I’m here.39So the synagogues around Galilee were visited by Jesus and his words, and he drove the darkness away.
40A leper came and dropped to his knees before Jesus: I’m begging you. Please take this away.
41His story broke Jesus’ heart. Then Jesus did the unbelievable – he reached out and held the leper. Now you’re clean.42Just like that the man was made new.
43Jesus was firm with him: 44Don’t tell anyone. Go show yourself to the priest and make the required offering from Moses’ law. That’s all I want you to do.
45But that didn’t happen. The man made new just had to tell somebody; in fact, he told everybody.
This changed things for Jesus. He kept to the margins of the city now. But even there the people found him. They were coming from everywhere.