Ever-present God, You walk with me through good times and bad, Your footsteps are my guide and Your hands, my support.
Read MARK 1:1–8
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
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.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Sing to the LORD a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth.’1
The first sentence of the writers’ guidelines for Encounter with God reads: ‘The aim of Encounter with God is to help readers to approach God’s Word each day with awe and expectancy.’ The opening words of Mark’s Gospel invite readers to read on with awe and expectancy. The sheer familiarity of the words and the common meaning of the word ‘gospel’ tend to blunt our ability to see Mark’s words for what they are. Mark is proclaiming good news. Breaking news.
The news is old in one sense. It has its roots in Old Testament prophecy. The quotation in verses 2 and 3 is a blend of the Septuagint, ‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you’ (the Greek word for ‘angel’ also means ‘messenger’), and the Prophets.2 Malachi identifies the messenger as Elijah3 whom Jesus then recognizes in John the Baptist.4 John’s clothing and lifestyle recall Elijah.
However, there is a profound sense in which the good news is new. John’s baptism of repentance called for people to make external changes to their behavior. What Jesus brings is radically different – a complete inner transformation of our whole selves. Living under Jesus isn’t a matter of conforming to a checklist of good practices. In the readings that follow in Mark, we will meet the religious leaders who are concerned only with external appearances, and the true disciples whose lives are turned upside down by the Holy Spirit. If we belong to Jesus Christ, He continually changes our natural, selfish desires, replacing them with the love, joy, and peace that we read of in Galatians 5. If the initial pouring out of the Holy Spirit was dramatic and spectacular,5 the Spirit’s continued work is quiet and gradual as we submit to Jesus daily, recognizing, like John, that we are not worthy even to untie His shoelaces.
How can you tell the ‘Good News’ in a contemporary way as you share it with someone who is not a Christian?
Dear Lord, I pray now for spiritual growth in my life. Lead me from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, and from fear to hope.
1 Isa 42:10 2 Exod 23:20; Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3 3 Mal 4:5 4 Mark 9:13 5 Acts 2
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