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Summary: As Mark's Gospel opens, we find that the stage is almost set for Jesus' ministry to begin. John the Baptist is on the scene. He was there to prepare the way so that the people would be ready to receive the King.

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Mark 1:1-8

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."' John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. And he was preaching, and saying, 'After me comes One who is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'" (Mark 1:1-8)

When you don't know where to start, start at the beginning. That is what Mark does. He begins his gospel at the beginning. In verse 1 he says, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." It is the beginning of his Gospel. But it all didn't simply begin here. In the beginning of creation, as Adam and Eve sinned, God was already speaking of the coming of the One who would crush the head of the serpent. Then, in the Old Testament prophets, God spoke again concerning the One who would come as the forerunner; one like Elijah: John the Baptist. Verses 2 and 3 say, "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 'Behold I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."'

So, as Mark's Gospel opens, we find that the stage is almost set for Jesus' ministry to begin. John the Baptist is on the scene. He was there to prepare the way so that the people would be ready to receive the King. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God's bulldozer, sent to build a highway to God; to level hills, raise valleys, straighten crooked ways, and smooth the rough places. His message would be the road on which the Lord would ride in.

When we find John, we find him in the wilderness. It was not that John couldn't find a place to preach in the city. God had sent him to preach in the wilderness. I find this interesting. You see, this is not the wisdom of the world. Some would say that this was not the wisest move, at least if you were looking at it from a marketing viewpoint. I mean, how many people could you draw to the wilderness? Surely the city would be a better place to begin. But the wisdom of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Not only did the people come, they came in droves. But this raises another interesting question: "Why did they come?" They came because of the message which was being preached.We want to focus on the message which John preached. Let's turn our attention to two aspects of this message: its allure and its authority.

Its Allure

There is no doubt that the people came to John because his message had a deep appeal to them. They willingly made the trek from the surrounding countryside to hear this strange preacher. Strange indeed. He did not live like other men. The Bible teaches us that he clothed himself in a garment of camel's hair and that he ate locusts and wild honey. No doubt, some came in curiosity. But I am convinced that the vast majority were moved by the strange allure of his message. They were moved for several reasons.

They were attracted to John's message because John spoke to a universal need. Deep within us all, there is the realization of our sin. While many like to deny the reality of sin, it is still there. People only intellectually deny it. In their hearts they feel the burden of it and it presses in on them. The knowledge of our imperfections is inescapable. We see them every day. And who hasn't felt the sting of conscience at impure thoughts and wrong actions?

Along with the knowledge of our sin comes the accompanying guilt of sin. Our souls are equipped with conscience. As we sin, we cut a wound in that conscience and we feel its pain. We feel the pangs of guilt. And the weight of sin is guilt. People are driven to suicide because of guilt. More frequently in our day, they are driven to the psychiatrists's couch in an attempt to alleviate this terrible burden. What is sad is that many are told that there is no reason to feel guilty. After all, it's not a matter of right or wrong; there are no absolutes, they say. What's right for you is right for you. What's right for me is right for me. They will tell you the real problem is the "guilt feelings" you are experiencing. Perhaps if you can go back and see just what it was in your past that made you that way, you can quit feeling guilty. As a result, many in our day fix the blame on someone else for their behavior. Now, while there may have been someone else involved, the fact remains that you are still responsible for your behavior before God. And the reason why you feel guilty, generally, is because you are guilty. But guilt is a heavy burden. That is the reason why people will do almost anything to rid themselves of it.

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