Mark 1:1-4 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” – “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark begins his account of the ‘Good News’ of Jesus by putting his appearance among us in its historical-theological context. For nearly 800 years, the ‘writing’ Old Testament prophets had been prophesying about God’s promise of a coming Messiah-King who would set everything right. The Prophet Isaiah (740-700 BC) had specifically spoken of one whom God would first send as a ‘herald’ proclaiming to the world that this promised delivery had now come: “‘Comfort, comfort my people’, says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:1-3).
Mark wants his readers to know that this ‘voice of one calling’ belongs, in fact, to John the ‘Baptiser’ who was calling the people of his day to repent-and-be-baptised-for-the-forgiveness-of-sins. We cannot overstate the impact that this ‘good news’ would have had on a people who had been waiting for so long for the fulfilment of God’s ancient promise! For all those who received John’s proclamation gladly it was the ‘light-bulb’ moment of all ‘light-bulb’ moments.
Those of us who have had the joy of witnessing first-hand what it means for a Jewish person today to recognise Jesus as their Messiah can sense Mark’s excitement as he begins his Gospel. One such person in his own day was the Apostle Peter (cf Matthew 16:15-18) who is quite possibly the main source of information for the Gospel of Mark.
As I reflect on all this, I ask myself, “Am I equally excited about sharing this firmly-grounded-in-long-range-history ‘Good News’ with whomever I can in a world (especially in my local neighbourhood) that has lost, or is fast losing, hope concerning the future? Why am I so shy about sharing it when it is so life-changing in its effect? Why am I so prayerless when it comes to pleading with God to cure me of my innate, self-preserving shyness? John was obviously NOT a tragic, die-hard introvert like me!
– Bruce Christian