- Mark 1:1-8
Before we get into today’s Gospel of Mark, I praise and thank the Lord for bringing me here to the beautiful and precious Leighmoor to share His words with you all today. I am honoured and happy to become a new minister of Leighmoor. Once again, I would like to express my sincere thanks first to God and to all of you.Jesus came to embody God’s love and peace, and Jesus is “the beginning of the good news and son of God” (1:1). We are witnesses to the Jesus who incarnates on the earth and comes to take away our sins.
Today’s Gospel says to us: “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John the baptizer is the one crying out in the wilderness, “Repent! prepare the way of the Lord!” Here is a voice from scripture.
John the Baptist fulfills the Old Testament prophecies as the messenger to prepare the Way for Jesus who is the Sacrificial Servant. (1:2)
Mark quoted from two Old Testament prophets to show that Christ’s coming had been foretold. (1:2) One is Isaiah (40:3), and the other is Malachi (3:1). Especially Isaiah emphasized the servanthood and salvation of the Messiah. In both cases, a messenger was sent to prepare the way for Christ’s coming.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3)
The messenger being sent to prepare the way was John the Baptist.
If John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him, the road and journey would be smoother. The appearance of John the Baptist in the wilderness was the most important event in his life. He was doing his ministry in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord. (1:4) He was for sure out of his comfort zone, as much as the stand in the new-norms of the COVID-19 affected world.
The wilderness symbolized disobedience. The nation of Israel disobeyed God by not going into the promised land after the deliverance of God and the Exodus from Egypt. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they entered the promised land as God’s people. By coming to the wilderness to be baptized, the people were admitting their disobedience towards God from the place of repentance (1:4)
The baptism by John was a baptism of repentance. Repentance means turning away from something and turning in a new direction. I hope we are all able to turn away from our sins by genuine repentance and can run to God instead of staying in the place of sins, and I believe that our spiritual distance towards God will only get closer and closer even in the midst of social distancing.
We are being asked to turn away from our disobedience and rebellion and to start anew by turning towards the coming Messiah. By doing so we would be forgiven from our sins and would experience the grace of God through the Messiah. (1:4)
Confessing our sins and turning towards the coming Messiah demonstrate our acknowledgment of disobedience towards God. Confessing our sins and returning to God needs to be in our heart and lives in this season of Advent. (1:5) Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The reference to John’s clothing and diet emphasizes that he was not mainstream. John’s dress and lifestyle were a protest against the godlessness and materialism of his days. (1:6)
John was the servant of the coming Servant, Jesus. John’s task was to prepare the way and then get out of the way. He showed his insignificance compared to the Messiah by saying, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. John was saying that he was not even worthy when compared to the One coming after him. John had declared that the coming Messiah will be “mightier” and “more powerful” than himself (1:7)
John made it clear that his ministry was only preparatory, symbolic, and temporary. His baptism was with water. John was pointing out that the Messiah’s baptism would bring about lasting change with the Holy Spirit. The Messiah’s baptism would be internal, changing a person from the inside out. (1:8)
The good news starts with the One who keeps coming to us and calling us to follow. The good news is that our present and future lies with Christ.
Christ comes to our world as one of us, in the form of a human, but Jesus is giving us salvation and unborn and unseen future in both faith and life. We can be carried forward into the future by the wind of the Spirit. Jesus helps us move forward into the new life which is to come even in these arduous times.
We need to commit follow Jesus wherever he is leading us. In our prayer, in our worship via Zoom or in person, in our hope-filled pause we seek to let go of our sinful ways of doing things and move forward into new ways of being God’s people.
We faced and experienced unexpected pause just like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it really changed us a lot, and it broke many kinds of our prejudice and fixed ideas we should not have. There were also unexpected healing and comfort given by God.
Do we have the courage to take up the challenge of turning our life around? I hope all we can remember “A voice cries out in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord!”
We all need the Voice of God speaking to our lives and we all need a voice to confront us with our ingrained sinfulness. In addition, I pray we can stay and move forward to pave the way for Jesus and his salvation through repentance, having a voice for Jesus, and dwelling in the Holy Spirit.
John fulfills the role of the one who is the forerunner, the one who is called to make known “the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1), “the Lord” (1:3), the one who “will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (1:8)
There were big differences between Jesus and John the Baptist.
The journey of forerunners is not without risk and consequence. One of theologian Delores Williams says that “The wilderness was a positive place conducive to uplifting the spirit and to strengthening our Christian life.”
In this text, may we hear and see the value of those who pave the way to Jesus even in this present life. May we reflect upon the contributions of those who made ways for us when there seemed to be no way.
How do we prepare for the coming of Christ? We are being called to turn away from our sinful habits and unhealthy patterns that hurt ourselves and people around us.
Feeling sorry about inner flaws and our imperfections lead to a transformation where the Holy Spirit in Us enables for us to be transformed. Transformation is hard, but genuine change is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
More importantly we are being called to turn to God and embrace the new possibilities that are opening to us. God will help us to be fearless when facing challenges, and to trust in the power of Christ.
What is our voice in the 2nd Sunday of Advent? How is our journey of the wilderness? Do we prepare the way for the Lord? What was happening in the manger and what was happening on the cross for all of us?
May we pause in the gratitude of the coming Jesus, and we seek to prepare for the coming of Christ in a variety of ways. We lit the 2nd candle as a symbol of PEACE today. Repentance will lead to our inner peace in Jesus. I hope all we need to get rid of our biggest obstacle to achieving peace in individuals and communities in the help of God.
For whom are we waiting? I hope that repentance from ourselves and forgiveness from God will be in our lives. Jesus will lead us illuminating the darkness of trouble, anxiety, and danger. I believe that all we can prepare something for Jesus through genuine repentance and sharing reborn love and peace-filled relationship in Jesus in this second Sunday of Advent.
I hope and pray that all we can live, love, and serve in obedience to God’s ways waiting our Jesus, and God’s abundant blessings and the Lord’s peace will be upon you always.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Ref. Scriptures, Commentaries, UCA and other denomination’s materials, etc.