Advent 2 (2)

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Mark 1:1–8 NIV
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” 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 water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Clothes make the man what one wears is taken by others as an essential signal of status. The proverb is recorded in English from the early 15th century, but an earlier saying in classical Greek is, ‘the man is his clothing.’
How much thought do you give to what you are going to wear? Are you very fastidious in your appearance and making sure you have just the right outfit for the right occasion or are you in danger of being arrested by the “fashion police”. We can probably all think of times when we wore just the right outfit for the right occasion and noticeably impressed people based on their admiring looks and compliments. There may also be those times when we were questioned as to what we were wearing. I myself do not dress up to go to the post office, but when I pick up the mail wearing a suit and tie, the postmaster usually makes some comment about whether or not I have a funeral to conduct or a hospital call to make.
In the future, many science fiction authors predict that mankind will all be wearing the same outfit — usually a shiny jump suit or some other outfit similar if not exactly the same as everyone else. We may think that in the past everyone wore the same thing too. Note how artists illustrate what biblical people wore for example.
Well, we could explore at length clothing styles and proper attire for suitable occasions, but I think we can all agree that what we wear makes an impression on others and often our clothing is intended to send a message. This was the case with John the Baptist. What he chose to wear during his prophetic ministry was deliberately chosen by him to send a message — a message that was congruous with what he was saying and doing. So more important than his odd style of wardrobe was the powerful message that he proclaimed as he prepared the hearts of people for the coming of Jesus Christ into his public ministry.
The Law Prepares us for the Gospel
Context: Mark begins his gospel of Jesus not with the birth of Jesus but with the preparation for his public ministry on the part of John the Baptist. As the gospel writers often do, Mark emphasizes that the ministry of Jesus was one of fulfillment. He came to fulfill the well known Messianic prophecies concerning the Savior whom God would send to save the world. Here Mark cites a prophecy about the forerunner of the Messiah.
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ”
Purpose of a forerunner. In the example, heralds and highway workers would go to an area before a king would travel there to make sure the roads were in as good of repair as possible for those days.
What preparations are made before a political leader visits today?
Unfortunately, security is a big issue. When I lived in Spokane, WA, then President Ronald Reagan game to give a speech supporting Republican campaigns for local officials. It was the only time I saw men armed with rifles on the roofs of the tallest buildings.
Another preparation made for him was the hotel he stayed at had the furniture rearranged so that his suite had the best furniture around brought in for his comfort.
Those who went to see him at the Coliseum were also checked to be sure we weren’t armed. In some cases, those meeting personally with a President are given background checks.
I have to chuckle about the difference in preparation when Rick Santorum came to Beaver Dam for his campaign several years ago. One of the barriers to keep us from him was literally a strand of binder twine. However, the big burly security officer with a gun on his hip served to be quite a deterrent.
Other preparations made before a celebrity comes (especially if he wants to be seen and heard) is the advertising that goes on beforehand.
So John the Baptist came. His work of preparation was twofold. He did some advertising.
“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.”
He also used the Law of God to work on people’s hearts.
He message is summarized in this way: “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
What does this mean? Jesus would come to save people from their sins. But people aren’t going to see a need for him if they either don’t sin or they don’t think they are sinning or that it doesn’t matter if you sin. Which of those conditions do we face today?
People don’t sin? In spite of what society says today (and we will get into that more in the next part), there is no way that we don’t sin. The words of St. Paul are as true today as they were 2000 years ago. (NIV)
10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
2. They don’t think they are sinning? This seems to be the case more and more in our society today. Oh, we may get all upset because of how some people harass women in the workplace and certain men enjoy pornography or the lies that governing officials get caught in, but the morality of our nation and in our own small towns and villages and rural areas is appalling not only compared to the morality of the 50s and early 60s but is grossly inconsistent with the biblical teachings on what is right and wrong. What used to be openly condemned as sin is now accepted and we adopt that mantra, “Not that there is anything wrong with that.”
Example: On Wednesday a good friend of mine was struggling to serve the ball successfully in pickle ball. Finally, he was so frustrated, he said a word which I would never repeat. He immediately apologized. This is a word (and words like it) that he seldom uses. He knows it is a sin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though everyone realizes this. More and more profanity is used in the media. Common speech sees it more and more and is spoken for no particular reason. One can conclude that other sins have become just as common and acceptable because they are no longer considered to be sin.
3. It doesn’t matter if you sin. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god.’” Although this passage is used to demonstrate that there are such things as atheists, it really means that the moral fool - the blatant sinner - does so because he doesn’t think it matters. There is no god who will call him to account. Parents use Santa Claus as a “god” to force their children to be nice (at least in December). “You better behave or Santa isn’t going to bring you a present.” People may think that God isn’t really concerned about how we live that sinning is no big deal. But recall what the New Testament tells us:
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The lackadaisical approach to sin that is so prevalent today mirrors the society Jesus would come to if the people were not prepared. What use would they have for him to take away the sin of the world if they weren’t sinning or it did not matter? He would have as much appeal as news would be to me that Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid won the 2017 Hart Trophy, awarded to the league's most valuable player, at the NHL Awards on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. According to Sportsnet Stats, McDavid is the fourth-youngest player in league history to capture the Hart Trophy. (I had to look up who he was.)
And so God sent John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people to receive Jesus as the Savior. He called for the people to repent (word study).
To repent is to confess that what we have done is wrong and that we deserved to be punished as a result. It includes sorrow over sin and a pledge to correct the wrongs we have done. But our forgiveness does not depend on how much we do to make up for it (Penance) as was wrongly translated by Jerome in the Vulgate. Forgiveness depends on what Jesus did for us. John the Baptist pointed people ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
As the story of John the Baptist unfold, John would tell the people how repenting would lead to a change of heart and action and offered what those fruits of repentance would entai.
He baptized them to demonstrate the removal of sin.
This was significant. Expanded beyond a ceremonial washing for the Gentiles. This included repentant Jews.
He promised that when Jesus came he would “baptize them with fire.” Explain. Although some take this as one of judgment, the better rendering is that of filling people with the Holy Spirit. Creating faith and a desire to live for God.
Conclusion. The message of John the Baptist is still needed to day. We dare not become complacent and act as though we don’t sin or that sin doesn’t matter. Our goal is to confess our sins and to trust in Jesus who has come to deliver us from sin and who comes to our hearts with the Holy Spirit to lead us to live for him.
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