#2: Preparing the Way

Welcome to our study on Mark! Last week, we were introduced to Jesus as the Word, who became the Son of God. (Check the archive for that study if you missed it.) Today we’ll see the preparations God made for His Son’s ministry in the world. Grab your Bible and let’s get started.

Read Mark 1:2-8.

Roughly 800 years before Mark’s writing, the prophet Isaiah had written about “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.'” (Is. 40:3) Then 300 years after Isaiah, God’s prophet Malachi wrote, “See, I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me.” (Mal. 3:1) God detailed the plan for His Son’s coming hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, giving “signposts” by which men could identify Him.

Four hundred years of silence followed, the gap between the Old Testament and the New, during which no word came from God. Then suddenly, into this spiritual “desert” the angel Gabriel appeared in Jerusalem’s temple to an old priest named Zechariah. He brought startling news: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…. He will go on before the Lord…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Lk. 1:13,17) The righteous old man knew exactly what Gabriel meant, and he responded with a glorious song of praise to God that the time at last had come. (Read Luke 1:67-79. Sense the excitement of Zechariah over his own son who would herald the way—and over the Messiah’s long-awaited coming!)

So we read, in Luke 1, the birth announcement of John the Baptist. He came to his parents in their old age. He was a delight to Zechariah and Elizabeth (Lk. 1:14), a dream son! He would be great because of his work (Mt. 11:11-14; Lk. 7:28), but he would never marry or have children. By the time his public ministry began, both of his parents were probably in their graves, having never had expectations of grandchildren or other normal pleasures of having a son. Theirs would be eternal joy, the larger story.

John was born to be a voice. In his book The Fourfold Gospel, J.W. McGarvey wrote, “The diet of the Baptist was very light…. He probably had no set times for his meals, and all days were more or less fast-days. Thus John gave himself wholly to his ministry, and became a voice—all voice. John took the wilderness for a church, and filled it…. Something like a million people may have attended John’s ministry.” Quite a congregation!

Yet John had no illusions about his role. He resisted any idea of his own greatness, saying, “He (Jesus) must become greater, I must become less.” (Jn. 3:30) John was not a miracle worker or a healer. He had a targeted ministry with a single theme: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. His preaching was a one-point sermon: “Repent and get ready: He’s coming!”

What do you think? Comment below to share your ideas!

The purpose of John’s baptism is given in Mark 1:4—”a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The people of Judea accepted John’s message and were baptized. (Mark 1:5) Shortly after this would come baptism into Christ Jesus, which would include forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the accepted practice of the early church from its beginning (Acts 2:38). Why, then, do you think there is so much misunderstanding and controversy over baptism today?

There is a slight difference in punctuation between Isaiah’s original prophecy and Mark’s quotation of it. Isaiah wrote, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord” while Mark quoted, “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’.” Do you think there is any significance to this shift of emphasis?

© Diane McLoud 2013

16 Comments on “#2: Preparing the Way

  1. I don’t see a particular meaning in the difference. The world itself was a desert, dry and parched from waiting on The Lord for so long! When He finally came, it had to be as rain finally falling after a long drought; a waterfall bringing God’s love and grace! John was certainly “the voice”! We need to be preparing today for His Second Coming, as well!

    • I agree! After 400 years of no word from God, Jesus was Living Water on a parched spiritual desert. “In the desert, prepare the way…”

  2. I was wondering in the phrasing of “Prepare the way for the Lord” AND “Make straight the paths for Him.” Is it just that we should be ready for His return by praying, obeying, studying His Word, living for His return & helping others arrive to that end….OR IS THERE IS A DEEPER MEANING. It just seems to me there is more to this than I am getting… How can we prepare & make straight the paths for Him? The phrasing of it is awkward & if it was that we were merely suppose to prepare ourselves & others it should read…….”Prepare yourselves and others for the coming of The Lord” AND “Make sure you are walking in His will when He returns.” I am not into changing the words in the Bible, so I clearly think it means what it says….. I am just praying that His Holy Spirit will guide me as I search to revel it to me. What do you think?

    • I believe that the ” preparing the way” was refering to the old testiment people announcing the Lord’s coming in the new tesiment…Christ’s coming had to be fortold in the ealier scriptures in order for those in the new testiment to recognize that prophesy being fullfiled was indeed God coming to us in the flesh as a child to show us who God is, what God wants and how god wants us to live, and there had to be a sacrifice to end all sacrifices, sinless, and pure in all things, and it was the Lord.

  3. The thing I have always loved about John the Baptist is we see God’s purpose for this man foretold and realized. The awesomeness of it becomes so clear when you point out that his patents were thrilled with his purpose, that did not include a wife and children-something most parents look forward to. I also marvel at his near complete devotion to his purpose. In this day and age, it’s almost incomprehendable.

    • That’s why I love McGarvey’s phrase that John “became a voice.” John totally understood and accepted why he was here. He laid his life in God’s hands. I struggle to do the same!!

      • Me too Diane, this is one of my daily prayers. I was thinking more about John the Baptist this morning and this study. My thought was that I wish God would make my purpose as clear to me as JTB’s was. Then I realized he has, he made our purpose clear throughout the New Testament – share his commands, love Him above all, love one another… Like JTB, our purpose is to make the way for His second coming.

  4. I think there is controversery over Baptism for several reasons, two of which, I believe, are that some people demand their own way. They have opinions that differ from another’s and will argue their opinion and gain support. Then knowing that Satan is the author of confusion, weak-minded persons have been unable to stand their ground, and have been persuaded to compliance. Thus, over the years, diverse groups of similar thinking have grown, each one thinking they’re “right”. I never could understand why we have so many denominations of churches.

    I also think that other groups have taken to Baptism as an infant out of fear that their child will not enter Heaven upon death, so they try to intervene by making the choice for that child. and again… we know where fear comes from.

    Diagreement and rebellion and defection started with Lucifer and God, trickled down to Adam & Eve and Cain & Abel, and will reign forever. Unending study of the Word could still enlighten four different people four different ways, even when all four have prayed for a teachable spirit. Who knows the answer?? Tell me!!

    • Good thoughts, good questions! Can’t wait to see what folks think! (Also glad to see you were able to access this finally. Welcome!!)

    • Marianne, those items you mentioned won’t “reign forever”, only in this temporary life, as you most likely know. Just in case someone else doesn’t, when Christ comes back to claim His inheritence (us) PTL!, Truth will prevail.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head Marianne when you said people want their own way. I can just imagine someone saying, “I don’t want to go down into that dirty river and get baptized! My clothes will be ruined, I just had my hair done! Can’t you just sprinkle some water on me?” The problem with doing things our way and not God’s way is that it doesn’t get us all the promises of Glory, it leads us to death and damnation.
      As for infant baptism, I think it might have started with the Catholics, who believe children are born sinful. I don’t know how anyone can argue for infant baptism when the steps to forgiveness are clearly spelled out. First, we must repent, then we can be baptized. Infants can not repent.
      When different people get different meanings from the same scripture, I think it’s important to look at their desire and motivation. What part of their life are they justifying by their interpretation? If we read the Bible and don’t apply our opinions, we should all come to the same conclusion.

  5. Imagine if we all had a heart and mission like John, if we had no thought to our own lives, (or building up our own kingdoms) that we whole heartedly lived for building God’s kingdom. Preparing for the second coming…..this teaches me to take a closer look at my priorities.

    • “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man [or woman!] who is fully consecrated to Him.” This quote of Henry Varley was spoken to D.L. Moody. It’s one of my favorites, because I think it’s still true. Wouldn’t it be great to see what God could do through people like you described?

  6. What Isaiah wrote compared to Mark seems to be a little more insight into what to be looking for. In Isaiah, a voice, who’s voice? Prepare in the desert the way of the Lord, what desert. Does one have to do with the other? (If I were reading the scrolls this is what I’d be thinking). Mark’s, since John IS a voice and in a Desert and telling of One coming who was mightier than he and before Him, etc., this would seem to be more revelation of what was coming.

  7. The question about baptism, I truly believe Satan loves nothing more than for someone to stop short of doing all that is required to be “in Christ”. But, if you don’t die (baptism), you can’t live. Nor can you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nor can your sins be forgiven, there’s no contact with the blood of Christ, (not literal, but this is the way God says so who are we to question?). I get frustrated when speaking with anyone about this because I want them to do what God says, but there IS alot of confusion due to perversion of the Truth.

    • Jane, I think you’re right. I would also suggest that the reason Satan loves the debate over baptism is that we often get so hung up on our disagreement about that one aspect of accepting Christ that we don’t truly teach or understand confession, repentance, etc.

      Even moreso, it has divided Christians across the globe. There are Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, you name it…we all believe in and worship the same God. We all believe in the same Savior, Jesus Christ. We all believe in the same Holy Spirit. And I love and honor my friends who belong to different “denominations” than I do…I just think they’re wrong on certain items. And they think I’m wrong. And that’s ok!

      What we have to remember is that Jesus prayed that we’d be one. Satan loves it when we allow anything to get in the way of that. And because we’ve become so wrapped up in a few key issues (not that I’m saying they aren’t important, because we all agree that they ARE), we often push other things to the back. We need to communicate the WHOLE gospel, the WHOLE message of the hope of salvation, and all the details that go along with those things. We can’t allow ourselves to leave anything out!

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