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: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” Mark 1:1-3
With the opening words of his gospel account concerning Jesus, Mark declares the good news that God’s people longed for over generations; the return of the Messianic age. Since their return from exile, the Israelites prayed that God would restore the kingdom and re-establish David’s throne forever. It was a long wait, over four hundred years since the voice of the prophets was last heard. During this time, the people of God would observe the rituals of their faith, celebrate the feasts and tell over and over again the story of God’s deliverance through the Exodus from Egypt. Having been defeated and exiled from their land, only to return and be defeated once again, they dreamed of the day when God would send his Messiah, the Christ to deliver them once and for all.
John’s voice calling in the wilderness was Israel’s wake up call. Someone is coming! It’s the breaking in of the Messianic age! Wake up from your slumber and get ready! Just as sudden as John appeared on the scene preaching his message of repentance, so too did Jesus appear suddenly. Jesus, however, wasn’t the sort of Messiah the people were looking for. Instead of a great and mighty king, Jesus was a humble servant, yet he performed many wonders and spoke with authority. Many came to believe Jesus indeed is God’s promised Messiah.
The words of Isaiah quoted by John the Baptists are familiar to the ears of Christians. We hear this passage often and we understand it to be a heralding voice announcing the impending arrival of Christ. As John announced this in-breaking of the kingdom, the Jews of Jesus’ time were to prepare themselves to receive the fulfillment of God’s long anticipated promise. For the church today, it is no different. We have waited a long time, prayed and stood watch.
Since the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ, the church has done much of what the Israelites did as they waited. We’ve told the stories of our faith, observed the rituals and kept the feasts. We too dream of the day when Christ will return and re-establish his throne among the people of God. But truly it can be said, the kingdom is unfolding all around us. The question can be asked, “Are we ready?” Where are we asleep in our churches and communities? In what ways do we slumber when it comes to doing the work of the gospel? As we revisit the Gospel According to Mark, might it be time for a wakeup call?