Greetings all, here is your e-votional for the 2nd week of Advent…
“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”-Mark 1: 4-8
This week Tasha will be continuing to look at the women in Jesus’ genealogy from Matthew with Ruth. Therefore our e-votional will focus on the standard 2nd Sunday of Advent text, which is always about John the Baptist. This year we find the story of John from the Gospel of Mark. One thing to note, Mark doesn’t offer us any birth story of Jesus at all. Mark simply introduces us to Jesus via the baptism of John. There is no manger here, no angels, no shepherds, no heavenly host, just a wild-eyed man drawing people into the wilderness for baptism.
So why did everyone go? This is a fair question. John was not a glossy televangelist; he was a prophet of sorts. He roamed the countryside with matted hair and dirty robes, eating insects and wild honey, and telling people to repent. Repentance, of course, is related to sin. Literally it means to “turn around.” He was pointing out to people that they were living lives headed in the wrong direction. So why did people go out to hear him? Why did they leave the comforts of their towns and villages to go out and be told they were sinners, and be dunked in water?
I believe there are several things at play here. The obvious is that the Spirit was with John in some form, and he had a charisma which belied his circumstances. But more than that I believe the people understood something that we do not. Their society was not going the way they wanted it to. They were living in an occupied land, under the thumb of a powerful empire and their sadistic puppet regime. They could not live or worship freely. For Jews, this was a big deal. And it would have been logical then for them to interpret their condition as something of a punishment from God.
I do not believe God punishes us for our sins in the here and now, like they did, or at least I don’t believe it in the same way. I do, however, believe that we are in almost constant need of repentance. There was a man in a congregation of mine one time who said that he came to worship just for the confession of sin. He would have gone out into the wilderness to receive John’s baptism.
But the bigger issue with repentance is not merely our need to come to terms with our own sin; it is that this self-awareness is a prerequisite for following Jesus. What John does, and the reason he plays such a prominent role in the Gospel story, is prepare us to hear Jesus’ message. The great preacher Fred Craddock said it well, “If you haven’t heard John, you can’t hear Jesus.”
Repentance is not a fun thing to think about, but as we journey through Advent to Christmas it is vital that we remember we NEED Jesus. We cannot save ourselves, we cannot reconcile ourselves to God, and we cannot love one another if we do not understand our own role in the broken parts of this world.
Prayer: Holy God, today I ask forgiveness for the things I have done, and the things I have left undone. Please remind me this day of the grace I have in my life through Jesus Christ, and help me to follow Jesus. I pray in His name, Amen.