Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas in Mark

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
If we think of Christmas only as the nativity scene, then Mark has nothing to offer us concerning it — no star, no shepherds, no wise men, not even Joseph and Mary, or the infant in a manger. But if we think of Christmas as the coming of Christ into the world, then Mark has something very important to tell us.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has a beginning, and Mark locates that beginning in John the Baptist, and the prophecy that lays out his mission:
As it is written in the Prophets [Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3]:

“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”
(Mark 1:2-3)
Literally, the language alludes to road-building, the preparation of highways. The custom in those days was for kings to send people ahead to make level and passable the roads on which they would soon be traveling. Metaphorically, it is about preparing the hearts of the people to receive the King. This is what Mark is talking about. The role of John the Baptist was to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah.
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:4-8)
Preparing the way for the Coming King, John preached a baptism of repentance. The Greek word “repentance” literally refers to a change of mind, how one thinks about something. It was a preparation of their hearts: First, concerning sin, that it did not belong in their lives; second, concerning how they could be delivered from it and find forgiveness — they would not be able to deal with it themselves. Many came confessing their sins, agreeing with God that they had been wrong to do such things, and also looking to Him to do something about their shortcomings. They were baptized, their bodies cleansed, their hearts bathed in this new message John was bringing:
There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
John’s baptism pointed them to Jesus the Messiah, and prepared their hearts, by repentance, to receive Him. But Jesus would come and wash over them with the life-changing reality of the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to Mark.

This is the season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas when we prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our King, even as we watch for His return. It is a season of repentance, to let go of the expectations we have set upon ourselves, that we may more fully anticipate Him. Even now, He will bathe us with His Spirit and change the world.



Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.