Andy Stoddard ~ Are You John the Baptist?

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As we start our journey through Mark together, today we are going to look at Chapter 1:1-8:  In the NRSV this section is entitled The Proclamation of John the Baptist:

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

stjohnA few things that jump out to me in this passage.  First, in verse 1, the “good news.” That’s what the word Gospel means.  It is good news.  Jesus is Good News.  The grace of God is good news. When we tell folks about God, we are telling them about good news!  God loves you!  Do we communicate that “good news” like it is actual good news?

In verses 2-3, we see a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.  Mark’s Gospel doesn’t have as many Old Testament quotations as Matthew does, but he does quote from the Old Testament a good bit.  Why? Well, a couple of reasons.  First, this shows the Jewish believers that this “new” Christian faith is really the same faith that their ancestors were pointing to.  It is actually what Abraham and Moses and others were hoping and longing for.

And second, it shows us non-Jewish (i.e. Gentile) believers that God was at work for a long time.  We aren’t the first believers in God ever.  God was working all of history towards the coming of Jesus Christ.  And we as Christians, we should not forsake the Old Testament. We should treasure it and read it as well.  It is our story as well. We believe that all the Bible is inspired.  The Old Testament matters to us as well!

In verses 4-8, we see the entrance of John the Baptist.  Can’t you just picture him with this description. And you know what?  He looks different, doesn’t he?  Mark makes it clear to us that he is not like the other religious leaders.  Not in his dress, not in his actions (baptism of repentance) and not in his message – the savior is coming.

John was different. But what was his purpose?  To prepare the way for Jesus.  To get folks ready for Jesus.  To make sure that people knew Jesus and were ready to follow him.

In fact, you and I have the same purpose.  To make Jesus known.  So, we too have a different message and a different purpose.  Just like John, we are called to be different. And we are called to point folks to Jesus.

Today, we share that same mission as John.  To point folks to Jesus.

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Elizabeth Glass Turner serves as the Managing Editor of Wesleyan Accent. Elizabeth holds an MA in Theological Studies and has written for Ambrose University College & Seminary, Good News magazine and others. She also has an essay in “The Philosophy of Sherlock Holmes.”

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