Over the past several months I have been immensely enriched by taking a hand in hand journey with Peter and Mark. My adventure in Mark’s Gospel has drawn me into the scenes, the smells and the sounds of a time in the past and has enlivened my senses to a Jesus who seems to come out of the pages.
I will begin to post my journey here on “Thoughts From My Moleskine” and I want to invite you to come with me, eat with me, feast with me. This is not a technical work as much as it is a story, one that calls us to enter into.
Now… we begin.
“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,’”
Beginnings start at the beginning and Mark sets in motion the story, not just any story but a story that has impacted all of creation and shall continue to do so for all eternity. This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is filled with amazing joy and deep pathos. There are tears of profound saddness and shouts of Hallelujah, babies, demon possessed, prostitutes, raging seas, jealous followers, cruel death and an empty tomb. But our narration does not begin in a manger. It begins with the pen of an aged Prophet, seven hundred and fifty years earlier who is drawn into the far distant future.
Sitting at his desk Isaiah is arrested by the Holy Spirit. This is no strange thing for this man. It is not a sudden fit nor is it a trance but rather a beckoning to come aside and listen. He is accustomed to such special moments, accustomed but never comfortable with them. He sits attentive smothered with great respect and a sense of awe. His wife a prophetess in her own right understood the things he saw and heard and even his sons were named to reinforce the prophetic narrative of Judah, but this didn’t make anything better for his kinsmen. The enemies of Judah would soon surround her and the life span of her walls seemed numbered.
Smoke from Babylonian campfires would one day soon fill the nostrils of frightened Jews. It was a bleak time but it belonged to YHWH and he was about to speak something that men would hardly believe. It is during this difficult season that God points to a future that seems like a pipe dream to those who hear it. In the darkness of men’s pessimism the Holy Spirit interjects Himself and sounds forth a different narrative, one that contradicts the story on the ground.
Prophets do that! They see an alternative and then against all odds proclaim it with an assurance that causes the “brokers of power” unavoidable tension.
Mark sets the stage with a quote from Malachi and then concludes with a passage from Isaiah’s fortieth chapter. The prophetic announcement bursts forth like a sonic boom with a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.” He uses words like ‘messenger,’ ‘voice,’ ‘crying,’ and ‘wilderness.’ This is no political machine or a new conqueror about to come to the forefront appearing like the proverbial knight in shining armor. It is herald by a single man, a man who would be called the last and the greatest of all the prophets. It is the urgent disclosure that someone is coming and you’d better get ready!
Imagine it. Isaiah was telling people not yet born to set their house in order and brace themselves for the dawning of a new era!
This is where Mark begins!
1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (ESV)