Summary: Jesus comes in the wilderness of our lives. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. And that is where his followers are called to be: in the "wild-ness" and brokenness of people’s lives showing the love and mercy of God.
Born to be Wild
December 9, 2007
Last week we started rediscovering Christmas by looking at the story before the story of the birth of Christ and that is the story of Zecariah and Elizabeth. Zec and Lizzy began again as they had a child in their old age (past the age of child bearing) marking the ending of the old Israel and beginning of the new Israel or the beginning of the Kingdom of God in our midst. God calls us to begin again and again and again.
This week we will continue by looking at John, Zec and Lizzy’s son. John was the way maker for Jesus. John was born before Jesus and John was called to give a taste of what Jesus would be doing after John. We are going to look at the beginning of Mark’s gospel for this. If anyone was born to be wild, then it is John. He was a wild man, literally. Turn to Mark:1. As you do, I found this prayer by child that was wonderful. It reminds me of how we are called to come into the Kingdom as little children.
I’m doing the best I can.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I find it very interesting that Mark has chosen to begin the gospel with John. He doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus and he doesn’t talk about Jesus’ Jewish heritage. The “good news” begins with John and how John has fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah. This reads:
It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way"—
"a voice of one calling in the desert,
’Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’
A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Where are the straight paths made? Isaiah says in the wilderness. It is in the desert. In the wild places that the way is made. It is in the brokenness of our lives. It is in the sin that the way of the good news is made.
Now it is fairly important to note something. The Greek texts from which scholars translate and we get our translations (such as the NIV, RSV, ASV, etc.) does NOT have any punctuation. Did you get that? No commas. No periods. No quotations. It is up to the scholars to discern what the text means and provide the punctuation.
Here is my issue. In the NIV the scholars have put a comma after desert instead of after calling. Listen as I read this. A voice of one calling, “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord.” Now the other. A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” To be fair, John came preaching in the wilderness by the Jordan River so it is not a bad way to translate. Theologically, however, there is a whole vein of thinking in terms of our brokenness and our need for God when the voice is not just in the desert but is calling people to repentance while they are in the brokenness of their lives.
This is very important especially for us personally as we serve one another and minister in the name of the Lord.
Join God where God is working.
Where is God already at work? In the wilderness.
And so we continue.
"And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Now contrast this to what Mark says later about what Jesus came preaching. He came with the same basic message but with the slightly different twist. A slightly different emphasis.
Mark 1:15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Jesus preached about the need for repentance but also that God’s Kingdom was near or at hand. It was within our reach. It was being inaugurated with the coming or advent of Jesus. So John came preaching repentance but Jesus came preaching the good news of God’s arrival. Or as the scriptures call Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
Eugene Peterson said, “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us—he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
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. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.