"Prologue" Bible Study on Mark 1:1-8
December 3, 2020, 11:48 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from Mark 1:1-8 (Common English Bible).

 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
a voice shouting in the wilderness:
        “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.”

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The beginning of Mark's Gospel is a prologue  A prologue is a part of a story that comes at the very beginning, and it has a special job to do.  Its job is to get us ready, to tell us what we need to know to understand the rest of the story.  In the very first verses of Mark, we meet John the Baptist, who was a wilderness preacher who helped many people to have their sins forgiven by baptizing them in the River Jordan.  Later in his life, he would even baptize Jesus

What was John's message to the people coming to hear him preach?  "Don't just think by getting yourselves dunked in water that you can get right with God.  No, your hearts and lives have to be changed, turned all the way around by doing things that show you believe in God -- don't cheat widows, welcome foreigners, live God's commandments.  Good news, the one whom you have been so long awaiting is coming.  He is the mighty one.  I'm worthy even to untie his shoelaces.  Confess your sins.  Get baptized.  While I wash you up with water, he will pour upon you God's Holy Spirit."

I wonder how we would respond if someone showed up at the Fairport Famer's Market holding a sign that read, "God is coming!" and yelling at the top of his lungs, "Repent! Get baptized!"  We would probably think this person was emotionally challenged, maybe we'd even call the police to help this poor man.  Would we receive such a messenger as a preacher of "good news"?

And so, Mark's Gospel opens with, "The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ .. . ."  It is addressed to people who await news, good news.  And the first person to speak directly in Mark's Gospel is John the Baptist.  He speaks to crowds who had been crushed under the heel of Roman oppression, to a nation longing for a messiah to come riding on the clouds of great glory to vanquish their Roman overlords.  John the Baptist clearly addresses his short sermon to expectant, waiting people.

We, too, are a waiting, expectant people.  We are waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine.  We are waiting for peace in our divided nation and world.  We are waiting for a return to normalcy or at least some kind of new normal.  Our children and youth are not just waiting to get Christmas presents; they are waiting to get back to school, sports, and activities are on a full-time basis.

The way I figure it, around 400 years has passed from the time of the writing of the last words of our Old Testament until the gospel writer wrties Mark's Gospel, in which we hear John the Baptist preach his short sermon.  That means that God's people have had 400 years of waiting, a 400-year delay from God's speaking in our Old Testament until the first words of the New Testament (Mark is the earliest gospel, written between 65-70 C.E.).  That's a long time to wait!

And what did they do, while they waited?  They pondered the words of God in the past.  They poured over every word in the Hebrew Scriptures, parsing each phrase, unpacking each metaphor, all in the hopes of hearing a word in the present.

In other words, they waited, but theirs was not a meaningless, passive waiting.  While they waited, they read, they listened, they prayed, expecting to hear the address of God coming out of these ancient texts and prayers.  If God did not speak directly to them in the moment, God could speak to them as they overheard the conversation between God and themselves, listening in on God's talk to those who had gone before them in the past.

Finally, God acted in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth -- God's sign of hope, love, and justice -- in the flesh, among us, one of us.

In the gaps between when God directly addresses us, and when it sometimes seems we hear no direct communication, what do God's people do?  We read.  We listen.  We watch.  We speak up for the poor.  We act with justice for the oppressed.

John the Baptist preached, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.  I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

That's our daily prologue, our daily beginning.  That's the Advent good news for which we have been so desperately waiting: God is coming!

Let's pray:  Dear God, we know that Advent is the prologue to a new year in the Church.  Watch over us during the week ahead as we prepare our hearts for the coming of your Child, Jesus Christ, at Christmas.  Amen.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Greg Rupright



12-03-2020 at 9:32 PM
Pat May
And so, while we wait, we act!
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