Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making Ready the Way - Mark 1:1-8

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
who will prepare Your way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
'Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.'
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness
preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
And all the country of Judea was going out to him,
and all the people of Jerusalem;
and they were being baptized by Him
in the Jordan River confessing their sins.
And John was clothed with camel's hair
and wore a leather belt around his waist,
and his diet was locusts and wild honey.
And he was preaching and saying,
'After me One is coming who is mightier than I,
and I am not fit to stoop down and 
untie the thong of His sandals.
I baptize you with water;
but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'"(Mark 1:1-8)

Every really good story has an introduction. An introduction consists of those prefacing words and descriptions that will set the stage for all that is to come. Chapter 1 verses 1-8 are the introduction for the good story of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God as told by Mark.

There are several interesting revelations made in these 8 verses, but the thing that most grabbed my attention was the idea of the very introduction itself!

We see that this introduction of the good news of Jesus doesn't simply begin here with Mark. No, it goes all the way back to Isaiah - hundreds of years earlier.

(Actually the introduction of Jesus, the Messiah who was to come and save His people from their sins goes back to the dawn of time in Genesis 3. In verse 15, just after the fall, we are told that God was going to send One who would bruise Satan on the head. One whom Satan would bruise on the heel. That One was Jesus Christ, the Son of God - and that very passage is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of our Lord. The introduction continues throughout all of the books of the Old Testament as we are "introduced" to the Christ who was on the way to save the day! But I digress.)

Mark references Isaiah - a book that is full to overflowing with prophecies about Jesus. (Just glance at chapters 6, 9 or 53 for starters.) But interestingly, Mark begins his introductory comments about the gospel of Jesus with an introduction to the introduction!! Mark's introduction is about the one who was prophesied to make the introduction - John the Baptist.

No doubt, every good king has a herald - or two, or three, or twenty! There are those who are employed with the task of announcing the coming of the king so that the people might be prepared for his appearance. John the Baptist is that herald, set apart to trumpet the coming of the long awaited Messiah - Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Isaiah 40 is the place where you'll find this remarkable prophecy about the messenger who would go before the Messiah. He would come as a "voice crying in the wilderness" and he would tell the people to "make ready the way of the Lord."

How amazingly accurate is this prophecy, though not surprisingly so. After all, these are the words of the omniscient and sovereign God of the universe. The intricately detailed fulfillments of these centuries old prophecies are one of the glorious proofs of the validity and trustworthiness of this Book of books.

Indeed, John did come before Christ. He was born 6 months prior and he began preaching this heralding sermon in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar - just as Jesus was about to begin his own public ministry.

John, the wild man of the wild-erness - the preacher who wore camel's hair and ate bugs and wild honey - the man who perfectly fit the description of the prophet Isaiah, this John came pointing people, not to himself, but to the One who was on the way. He sought to prepare the ground for the great Sower. He sought to make the road ready and the path straight for the One who was headed to Calvary. He sought to direct the people's attention, not to John but to Jesus - the "One coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

John came to tell the people of the Lamb of God who was come to take away the sins of the world and tell of Him he did - just as Isaiah prophesied.

John was "making ready the way."

What strikes me as I read these words is how, even still, there is a herald who makes ready the way for Jesus. When Jesus came physically, God sent John to get things ready. When Jesus comes spiritually, into the life of a sinner, God sends His Holy Spirit to get things ready. He sends One to breathe life into a dead soul and to form flesh where there has been but stone. God the Father, sends God the Spirit to do effectual regenerating work in the inner part of the one to whom He is sending God the Son. He sends His Spirit to "make ready the way of the Lord."

Friends, do you know those whom you long to see embrace Jesus? Might I suggest that we bombard the throne of heaven and beg our Father, who is rich in mercy, to send the herald of His precious Holy Spirit to open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, and breathe life into corpses dead and deteriorating with sin? We once needed the herald of the Holy Spirit. How thankful I am for those who prayed for the preparation of my heart to hear and how much more grateful am I for the God who prepared the hard, dry, stony soil that lay within me!

May we take comfort in knowing that God will make ready the way for the salvation of His people. May we also take action in begging Him so to do!

Thankful, beyond words, for the herald of His Spirit in my own heart,

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