Jesus is Coming

December 6, 2020

Pastor Charles

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8

Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Last Sunday the message was on the angel Gabriel visiting Zachariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the coming of the messiah. Today’s message is from the Gospel of Mark on the ministry of John the Baptist. The Gospel of Mark’s version of the ministry of Jesus is probably the earliest to be written. This gospel was written probably around AD 70, from Rome, or maybe from Antioch to the Gentile believers, or followers of The Way.

We are not even sure who Mark the writer of this gospel is. Tradition claims this is the same John Mark we read about in the book of Acts (13:13), who traveled with Paul and Barnabas, spreading the good news throughout the Mediterranean and starting churches.

Unlike in the gospels of Matthew and Luke that talk about the infant narratives of Jesus, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus simply appears as a full-grown adult in the middle of the wilderness. But before Jesus can appear, someone must prepare the way for Him. So, Mark begins his story, not with Mary and Joseph, but with a prophet and John the Baptizer. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah” (Mark 1:1).

To get to John, we must go back to Isaiah’s prophecy. Mark gets right to the point. This story is about the Son of God. And it was good news. In these first eight verses, Mark takes us through the past, present, and future of salvation.

First, he looks back in time to the prophets Isaiah and Malachi, even as far back as Exodus. He looks back to a time when Israel was lost in the wilderness, hoping for deliverance. Then he draws his audience into his own present time, describing the wilderness ministry of John the Baptizer, whose call to repentance and call to baptism are one and the same thing.

By the eighth verse, John is pointing Mark’s listeners to the future, when One who follows him through the wilderness will baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Mark connects the past, present, and future of this wilderness journey through the prophetic cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!”

Mark is not just telling his listeners to hop on the road grader and smooth out the bumps. He’s saying, “Build a whole new road through this wilderness! A new thing is about to happen among you. God himself is coming.” How will this road get built? Through the “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Throughout Jewish history, repentance has happened in the wilderness. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, constantly being called to repent of their idolatry and rebellion against God. The prophets who preached repentance throughout the Old Testament did much of their preaching out in the wilderness. This connection between the wilderness and repenting, or turning away from sin, is not new with John.  But John’s baptism, as far as we can tell, was something new. The ritual washing for purification that was required of anyone entering the temple was nothing like this baptism John performed in the Jordan River.

          Friends, through the voice of John, and all the prophets who went before him, Mark is calling us to turn away from whatever is keeping us out of the water. He is calling us to dive into the river of God’s grace, to be forgiven of all our sins, and to be made whole. The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was written to be read aloud. This Good News was meant to be shared. And the story is not finished. As we share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we also continue that story, by participating in it. Whenever we gather at Christ’s Table, whenever we remember the poor, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the least of these, whenever we tell someone else of the way God has changed us, we continue the story, we proclaim the Good News that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God. Amen.