Sunday 06 December 2020

Bible Book:

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (v. 1)

Mark 1:1-8 Sunday 6 December 2020

Psalm 85


The theme of this week is ‘the return of Christ’ and today Mark writes about John the Baptist, who is fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah that a messenger will prepare the way for the Lord. For the first readers (of what was probably the first gospel published) these opening verses must have been thrilling. They would have all heard of Jesus by the time they were reading it, but now they hear the story in full colour, with the backdrop of wonderful biblical Israel in all its vivid glory.

Mark is bold about the way Jesus is introduced: he is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. There is also the hint that God is doing something completely new: the Greek word for ‘beginning’ (in verse 1) takes us back to ‘Genesis’. Here is something new: this is a new proclamation, and it’s ‘good’.

In the prophecy (Isaiah 40), God is announcing something new: God will act with compassion, and a new age will begin: an age that was longed for by the Jewish people and referred to as ‘the forgiveness of sins’. It was not just about individual forgiveness, but rather that God would finally return to the beloved Israel, and a renewed relationship would begin. The ‘voice crying out’ in Isaiah 40 was seen as someone who would herald the coming salvation. And for good measure, the quotation drops in some words from Malachi 3 – the messenger who prepares the way.

Mark tells us that John was signalling this new age (‘the forgiveness of sins’) by urging the people to enact a baptism of repentance – to go back to the place where Israel entered the Promised Land (the River Jordan) and begin again with God (verses 4-5).

The Jews waiting for a Messiah, would have known the prophecy that Elijah should return first (Malachi 4:5). Verse 6 is clearly an allusion to Elijah – described as “a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). Jesus later acknowledged that, in his view, John had been “the Elijah who was to come” (Mark 9).

John’s words in verses 7-8 make the point that Mark wants us to hear loud and clear: the one who is coming next is even greater than John…

To Ponder:

  • In our Christmas preparations, do we always make space to reimagine the excitement of God’s people at the coming Messiah?
  • Read Isaiah 40, which played a key part in this reading. How does it speak to our present situation?
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