4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”
It’s Mark. Wake Up!
Now is a good time to get with the studies again. It is time to start reading the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the shortest of the gospels and is often thought of as being the first. Other writers include a lot of it in their gospels, so they might have been copying it down because it came first. Mark is dealing with a couple of issues. People were being persecuted for being followers of Jesus and Mark presents a picture of Jesus who suffers. The second reason, which may be more pertinent to the West, is that people needed a written account of Jesus’ life to make sure everyone was on the same page.
In the West people are saturated with media, but they are less literate in some ways than they have been for centuries. When people learned to read, they learned to dwell in a text, discern its meaning and apply it to their lives. Today, although schools try and teach children solid reading skills, browsing and scanning become the skills of the day. People often wait for the movie to distil the book for them. I actually had a student tell me that she didn’t want to learn a new word for particular type of green by reading a book; She wanted to wait for the film of the book to come out so she wouldn’t have to learn the word. The book of Mark provides a brief introduction for people who like brevity. However, it also forms a useful bridge between the 39 books of the Old Testament and its link with the 27 books of the New Testament.
Things in the book of Mark often happen ‘immediately’. The urgency is clear. We should read Mark as a refreshing wake up call. It’s like morning on the first day of summer camp when someone wakes you with an ice-cold flannel (wash cloth) to the face. John the Baptist proclaims for people to prepare themselves. In the same way that people put on their best suit to appear in court, so we should put on an open attitude and a change of heart to prepare ourselves for the story of Jesus.
Jesus, help us to wake up to what you are wanting to do. The gospel story can seem like old news, not good news. I know that I sometimes miss the wonder and relief that I have felt in the past. Maybe it’s because I don’t see my self as in need. I need you, Jesus. Help me to prepare my heart for your Spirit to continue to shape me. As we learned from reading Mathew, help me to keep you as the absolute authority over areas that you have taken control of. Help me also to relinquish control of areas where I am blind to my needs.
- With what passages of the Old Testament does Mark open?
- Why would he use these passages at the beginning of a story about Jesus?
- What changes does John hope for in Israel do you think?
- Where are we asleep today in our lives, our churches, our homes, and our communities?
- What might it take to wake us up?