Godat Workindenominations n BY paUl Mcphail
a holy preoccupation
Willy reimer became head of canada’s
Mennonite Brethren churches last year.
he challenges christians to reflect
christ more clearly.
you never get a second chance to make a first im- pression.” This advice is often given before job interviews, meeting that “special someone” or attending the first day at a new school or workplace.
First impressions are also important to preachers, who
seek to craft exceptional sermon openings that will attract
and hold listeners’ attention. Prime ministers know the
importance of inaugural speeches that inspire confidence
and set the tone for their public service. New executive directors are told their first hundred days
will set the direction for their ministry.
First impressions matter.
As I was reflecting on these ideas, I
wondered what Jesus thought of making a proper first impression. Jesus
chose His words and actions carefully. A
quick look at His first recorded conversations reveals the things He wanted to
emphasize as He made His first public
the Good News!’” (Mark 1: 15, NLT).
Jesus’ first words recorded in the Gospel
of Matthew are presented in the context
of His commissioning as messianic king
who holds all authority. Matthew 3: 13–15 (NLT) reads:
“Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be
baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I
am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so
why are you coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be
done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John
agreed to baptize him.”
Jesus redirected John’s thinking from human ideas of
authority, hierarchy and power, and focused it on obedi-
ence and submission to God the Father. Jesus was baptized
because that is what His Father wanted. Jesus’ first action
– His “first impression” – was to place himself under His
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ first recorded words
present us with Public Relations Disaster 101. ‘“The
Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe
intimacy with the Father
I was struck here by Jesus’ preoccupation with the Father,
both relationally and missionally. Jesus’s first concern was
to submit His life and will to His Father through teaching
and baptism. What does this have to do with us today?
While I’m concerned we teach and lead people to lives of
mission, I’m even more concerned we submit our lives to
To embody the words and works of
Jesus, we must first know Him intimately. To give people a foretaste of the
fulfillment of God’s Kingdom, we must
intentionally develop a holy preoccupation with Jesus. Our identity is not in
position, nationality or degrees earned
– it’s in Jesus.
When we’re focused on Jesus, we will
become passionate about the things He
is passionate about – preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We’ll become gripped by the
Good News, applying it to every area of our lives and sharing it with others. We’ll be so filled and led by the Spirit
that Jesus oozes out of us into the lives of others.
We may not get a second chance to make a first impression, so I pray our lives and churches will be so shaped
by the person and work of Jesus that He is the first and
lasting impression we make. FT
that the words
of Jesus spoken by
make us cringe.
But Jesus was more
concerned with a
truthful first impression
than a palatable one.
Willy reiMer of calgary is executive director of the
canadian conference of Mennonite Brethren churches,
which has 250 congregations across canada. a previous
version of this article was published in Mennonite
Brethren Herald (November 2011). This column
features affiliates of The Evangelical Fellowship
of canada. For a list, see theEFc.ca/affiliates.