Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

Meditations on Mark_cvr_wing_c

Mark 1:1-8

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come. Everything is about to change. Get ready. So the first words in Mark are not from an angel announcing a mysterious birth; they are from a fiery prophet named John who is calling people to repentance. It’s time to make a change. God is about to show up in an unprecedented way, so get ready. Repent.

We must be careful not to confuse repentance with a simple act of human will, as in “I’m going to try harder to do better.” The fact is, we can’t. Sin is too much of a reality in our lives. Our efforts at self-improvement will meet with limited success at best. Tell yourself that this time you are definitely going to get into shape. And then remind yourself of that promise a week later when you are sitting on the sofa eating a cheeseburger. Or, more important, tell yourself that you are not going to think any negative or critical thoughts about other people, and then check back in a few hours to see how you did. “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me,” says the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:21.

That’s why this promise from John the Baptist is so important. True repentance requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the living God coming to live inside of us, we will never make the changes we need to make. Repentance, then, is more than a form of behavior modification, as important as that may be. It is an act of inviting the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives. It is acknowledging that we need God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is not enough simply to attempt to get rid of the bad stuff, because other bad stuff will take its place. We must also become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.

Prepare the way for the Lord.

Holy God, I acknowledge my frustrations and failures at becoming the person I want to be. The temptation to sin is too great, too pervasive. Come into my life today. Shine your holy light on the darkness that resides inside of me, and create a space for your dwelling. Make me into someone who is prepared for the arrival of God. Through Christ, Amen.

meditations_on_mark_xsmThis post originally appeared in Meditations on Mark: Daily Devotions from the Oldest Gospel by Chris Cadenhead.

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