1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
One of the most remarkable things about the opening of the Gospel of Mark is not what it cites from the Old Testament, but how it cites it. Earlier this week, we read how Isaiah the prophet cries out (40:3): in the wilderness, God is making a way for the people to return home from exile. Mark tweaks the prophet’s words ever so slightly, so that the voice calling out belongs to someone in the wilderness—namely, John the Baptist—who is preparing the people for the coming of a long-awaited Messiah. Mark the Evangelist uses his knowledge and imagination to give new meaning to the words of Isaiah the prophet in order to clarify the preaching of John the Baptist. Here, we are reminded of the gospel message that calls us to expect that God can always do something new and genuinely surprising in the story of Jesus the Messiah.
O Holy Spirit, come. We are weary from waiting and hoping for so long that sometimes we fear we have lost sight of what we are waiting and hoping for. Renew us with the feeling of boldness—of those who proclaimed words of comfort to the dislocated, who ministered to the weary, who saw something new breaking forth and were bold enough to name that it was you, O God, coming fully into our world so that we might know how far your love goes. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.