Posts Tagged ‘#johnthebaptist’

I love new beginnings.

Spring brings many of those, for it is a season of fresh starts, reawakening. The trees are beginning their blossom beautification to neighborhoods near and around me, with fluffy clouds of whites, pinks and corals. The bulbs, long cold in the ground are pushing their way through the humus, eager to pop all the colors of a rainbow, right there on the ground. I remember each spring, as a child, going for drives ‘in the country’ (I guarantee you, we already lived in the country) to see tree lined fields, inhabited by deer of all sizes and ages, out to forage for ground level nutrition.

In this lenten season, there is new afoot, in the dusty sandals of Jesus, but there was one before him.

I love the passage that speaks of this other man, found in Mark 1:1-15.

I love how Mark goes back, and then forward, back and then forward. It is as if he knows that we mortals will be on the lookout for evidence, for proof that what is reported it truth (which, lets face it, it a good thing and a common practise throughout the word of God).

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as 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 wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord  make straight paths for him.’”

Mark begins his book declaring the start of good news … Genesis may have had a beginning of the world and everything in it, but this story is beginning with the good news … the Messiah!

But, Mark doesn’t then begin with his (first person) take on the life of Jesus, where they went, what they ate, who they talked to, or private jokes between them. No, he goes to the past, to the prophet Isaiah and what he foretold would happen, not just in regard to the Messiah, but those who also had a part to play in this good news.

In this case, his re-telling is about John the Baptist, the cousin who leapt for joy (in his mother’s womb) when he first encountered Jesus.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John was the messenger spoken of by Isaiah. The one who primed the pipe, so to say, preparing people for the grand entrance of the Good News.

Then we read of Jesus being baptized by John, followed by his time in the desert with the devil. Then, John, this messenger who heralded the arrival of the Messiah, was put in prison, his main task completed.

  • Let’s stop here a minute, because I think there is an important life application here for us today. John came, he had a job to do. My guess is that he knew God was with him in his task. He had followers (“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him“), yet, his life was not one that we modern Christ-followers expect, want or think we deserve. He lived simply, sparsely. He did the job of paving the way for the Messiah … and he was done … no accolades, no pat on the back (on this side of heaven), no book deals, no riches, not even a spot on Jesus’ team of disciples. And, though he was the messenger that even Isaiah spoke of, in the end, John kinda lost his head. There is a lesson here … doing what is right in the eyes of God does not guarantee good here on Earth … the only prosperity gospel that is biblical is “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Then, moving forward, we read of Jesus’ ministry beginnings,

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Here we see Jesus fulfilling the words and actions of John the Baptist, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And we also see Jesus declaring his purpose, declaring the good news … for he was the beginning of the deliverance of Good News.


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In Isaiah “a voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3). This voice that Isaiah is referring to is that of John the Baptizer.

It is interesting to me that today, the second Sunday of advent, the Sunday where our focus is on peace, that it is this man, John, who is part of the focus.

John, the cousin of Jesus, the one who leapt in his mother’s (Elizabeth) womb when Mary (early pregnant with Jesus) came near. He was the son that was a miracle baby for old Zechariah and his post menopausal wife. They had been waiting … waiting as we are waiting during advent. John’s choice of clothing (camel hair) and food (locusts and honey) may make him a little less relatable than others.

He was a man who took his calling as messenger seriously, “preparing the way of the Lord, (to) make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3). He did not mince words, did not deliver a happy-clappy message … he “proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1:4). And people came, confessing their sins and having him baptize them. But, he never left them there, at their moment of public confession and being baptized. He would remind them of what … of who was to come, inviting them into the anticipation of waiting … “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8).

Some thought he was the Messiah, but he was quick to put them straight, saying, “the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals” (1:7).

John did not shy away from his beliefs and (literally) lost his head for sharing his perspectives on the divorce of King Herod.

So, John the Baptist and peace …

Here’s the reality, the real, might not be what we want to hear, reality …

John the Baptist was firm on three things, for then and for now …

  1. he was the messenger … not the Messiah (we all need to be reminded of that in our own lives)
  2. repentance of sin is the only way to peace
  3. baptism is a public and physical act of an inner change

Jesus called John his “messenger” who prepared the “way”.

This was the way for those who followed and listened then, it is the “way” now, for us.

It is only through the peace of Christ … the peace that passing all human understanding, that we can truly be at peace …

at peace when the sun shines … and when the monsoons come

at peace when we are soaring in our academics … and when we are not making the grade

at peace in the healthy birth of a child … and when our child is ill

at peace when celebrating birthdays … and when standing at a graveside

at peace when planning a wedding … and when asked for a divorce

at peace when celebrating Christmas with parties, and concerts, and church services and family gatherings … and when we are looking to a quiet Christmas, separated by the realities of a pandemic.

Peace can come only through Christ, the Messiah, for those who have repented of their sins. This is the peace of Christmas

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

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