Our adventure toward the manger continues today with a look at the very first chapter of Mark. Mark is accepted as the first Gospel that was written, so it will be interesting to look at the first words of the first words. What was important? How shall we start this story? Every journey begins with a first step and every story begins with a first word. What did Mark think would be the most important way to start the good news of Jesus Christ?
He begins with Isaiah, and then quickly pivots to John the Baptist.
Mark 1 (Common English Bible)
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, 2 happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:
Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
3 a voice shouting in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”
This is a convincing and deliberate way to speak to the Jews of the time. Mark begins by presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of a well-known prophecy. Every hearer would have known Isaiah’s foretelling of the promised Messiah. Mark connects the preparation that Isaiah laid with John the Baptist’s call to prepare. This is to demonstrate that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah.
4 John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.
Here we find the instructions for how to prepare to receive the Messiah. Change your heart. Change your life. Ask God to forgive your sins.
Sounds a little like Lent, doesn’t it?
But what better way could we possibly prepare ourselves for the incoming and indwelling of God-made-flesh?
5 Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. 6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
OK, so John was a little strange in his appearance and habits. But the spotlight was never supposed to be on him. His announcement is loud and clear: there is one coming after me who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
7 He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
This might be a good day to put down the tinsel, set aside the wrapping paper, and really be about our Father’s work. It was his will to send Jesus so that we might be cleansed of our sins and saved.
How are you preparing? Have you stopped your Christmas preparations long enough to do some Advent soul-searching?
Today is the day. Ask God to come into your heart and take inventory. And be ready for a baptism of confession, repentance, forgiveness, and change.
Come, Holy Spirit! Make us ready.