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Mark I: Preparing the Way - Mark 1:1-8

Who is Jesus? That is the question of Mark’s gospel. It is also the most significant question that humanity has ever asked, and it’s the question that Mark wants to answer through his gospel. He records many people asking about Jesus, and as his narrative unfolds, many of them have their eyes opened, but from the very beginning, Mark wants the reader to know that Jesus is Israel’s Christ, their Messiah, their anointed ruler and deliverer, and that Jesus is the Son of God, the one through whom God will manifest Himself to the world.

And there is an urgency to Mark’s gospel. Those who confess Jesus as Christ and Son of God were being torn apart by beasts or burned alive for this faith, and so the Church needed to know that Jesus was worth following even to death. But even though he knew it might get you killed, Mark called his book the gospel, an announcement of royal good tidings. Through King Jesus, the world heard good news.

Where Matthew and Luke begin by tracing Jesus’ genealogy as a way of connecting Jesus with the story of Israel, the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Mark takes a more direct route by presenting the King’s herald, John, as the prophesied Messenger that Isaiah spoke about. Mark compiled a quotation from the law, the major prophets, and the minor prophets in order to invoke the whole Bible as a testimony to how God would prepare His people for His coming.

John not only prepared the way with words, but he lived it out through actions. A prophet in the wilderness bringing people through the Jordan sent the message that it was time for Israel to be renewed, and all Judea and Jerusalem got the message. They went out to the wilderness, confessed their sins, and were washed in the waters of baptism in order to get ready for God to come.

But John testified that his baptism was simply preparatory for the work of a much greater one who would come after him and baptize with the Holy Spirit, fully effecting and completing John’s provisional baptism, so that everyone who repents and receives baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit receives the cleansing of forgiveness that prepares them for the coming of the Lord. Spirit-empowered baptism brings you out of the wilderness, and into the promised land, into the kingdom.

And so John says, “Get ready. Prepare the way. After me, He’s coming.” Who is Jesus? John says that He’s the one who will lead us out of the wilderness, into the promised land. John says He’s the one who will divide the Jordan for us to cross, and who will wash our sins away with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now fast forward two thousand years. Mark gave us the beginning of the gospel, but now we know much more of the good news – Jesus came, and He was everything John said, and more. He won forgiveness for us by dying on the cross and rising again, and He ascended into heaven and gave us the gift of His Spirit. He is now extending His kingdom by a baptismal conquest of the promised land, and by the proclamation of the royal good tidings to everyone.

If you don’t know Jesus; if you aren’t sure who He is, then hear Mark’s astonishing announcement that He is the Christ, the Son of God. And listen as Mark gives voice to John the Baptizer, who embodies the whole history of God’s people to prepare the way for Jesus.

And if you already believe what Mark says, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, then you pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. You receive His commission to disciple the nations with baptism and teaching. You remember that Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest prophet ever born of woman, but that even the least of those who have been born again by water and Spirit is greater than John.

And if you believe this good news, you believe that Jesus is coming again. So hear and believe the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in the power of the Spirit that filled Elijah, the Spirit that filled John, the Spirit that washed away your sins, prepare the way of the Lord.

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 by CJ Bowen