Saturday, December 16 Mark 1:1-8
by Betty Schneier
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.
John “appeared”? Who is “John”, and what does this John have to do with “The beginning of the
gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God”? (Mark 1:1)
Approximately 30 years before this John appeared in the wilderness of Israel, near the banks of
the River Jordan, preaching his message of repentance to his Jewish listeners, and “baptizing” those
fellow Jews who had heard, repented, and wanted to demonstrate their repentance through John’s ritual
cleansing ceremony, a startling event had occurred in the temple at Jerusalem. A priest named Zechariah,
fulfilling his duties there “in the days of Herod, King of Judea” (Luke 1:5), had a dramatic encounter with
an angel at the altar of incense in the Holy Place in the temple. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah”, the angel
said, “for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his
name John…he will be great before the Lord….and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his
mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their god, and he will go
before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the
disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1: 13-17)
“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: 2-3). The
Jews of John’s day would most likely have been very familiar with these references to Malachi 3:1 and
Isaiah 40:3, with their strong Messianic overtones. The Jewish people had been waiting for their
promised Messiah for many, many years. But Israel was currently under the rule of a Gentile nation, and
there had been no new prophecies for hundreds of years. Were those old prophecies still worth believing?
Hoping for? Waiting for? Would Messiah ever come?
Did Zechariah ever stop praying for a son, even as the years went by and he and his wife grew
older – maybe too old to have children?
Three decades after Zechariah’s prayer for a son was answered, his son John fulfilled the angel’s
prophecy about turning many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God; even John’s clothing -
camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist (Mark 1:6) – symbolically revealed his role of forerunner
to Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:8 for a description of Elijah’s clothing). And
Jesus himself, in Matthew 17: 10 – 13, confirmed to his disciples that John the Baptist was indeed the
“Elijah” who was to come before the Messiah.
Do you ever give up hope when your prayers seem to have fallen on deaf ears? When time goes
by and still the circumstances don’t change, the loved ones don’t heal, the desires of your heart seem to be
fading like dried-up autumn leaves?
“John appeared”. Remember John.
God is faithful. God is good. In God’s timing, not our timing, God will fulfill his promises and
make all things new. Come, Lord Jesus.
Lord Jesus, You told us that You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Please help us always to remember these
words, and please encourage us never to grow weary of proclaiming Your birth, death, and resurrection to a world
so desperately in need of You. Amen.