6 Dec. Mark 1:1-8

6 Dec. The opening words of St Mark's Gospel

"This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

'I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way.' [Malachi 3:1]

'This is the voice of one
who calls out in the desert:
Prepare the way for the Lord.
make the road straight for him'." [Isaiah 40:3]

"John was baptising people in the desert and preaching a baptism of changed hearts and lives for the forgiveness of sins. All the people from Judea and Jerusalem were going out to him. They confessed their sins and were baptised by him in the Jordan River."

"John wore clothes made from camel's hair, had a leather belt around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey."

"This is what John preached to the people: 'There is one coming after me who is greater than I; I am not good enough even to kneel down and untie his sandals. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit."

          (Mark 1:1-8)


 

We rarely hear these opening verses from St Mark’s Gospel at a Christmas Carol Service because Mark’s narrative doesn’t contain a nativity scene. Yet, as Mark says, this account “is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)

So what makes this passage an important part of the Christmas story?

Our perception of the coming of Jesus as a baby at Christmas tends to obscure the earth-shattering significance of this event. Not only did the birth of Jesus mark the coming of God's 'Messiah' or 'Christ', but it also initiated the start of a completely new chapter in the life of the Jewish people. It marked the beginning of a new freedom - freedom from slavery to sin - just like the Exodus from Egypt had marked a new start in the story of God's chosen people as they escaped from slavery to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

At the start of Mark's Gospel, John teaches that people must change their lifestyle and turn away from wrongdoing if they wish to be forgiven by God. He baptises them, immersing them in the River Jordan, to show that their wrongdoings have been ‘washed away’ by the running water.

But their immersion in the River Jordan also symbolises a new start and a new freedom, set free from the desire to commit wrongdoings ('slavery to sin'), just as the Jewish people, after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt, had waded into the Jordan as they crossed from the eastern desert. They, too, had started a new life in the ‘promised land’ of Canaan over a thousand years earlier, set free from slavery in Egypt. (see Joshua 3:1-17)

Many people from Judaea and Jerusalem flocked to hear John preach about this new freedom. The road they travelled from Jerusalem dropped steeply for 3000 feet / 1000 metres as it crossed the hot, barren wilderness and descended to the valley floor of the River Jordan.

Here they listened eagerly to John's message, and were baptised by him in the River Jordan to symbolise a fresh start and a new freedom in their lives.

The photo shows a painting of John the Baptist by Bartolomeo Veneto (1470-1531).

You can read more about John the Baptist's message @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/the-bible-journey/2-john-the-baptists-journeys-b/john-begins-baptising/


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