Posted on May 15, 2013
#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