Tomorrow morning, we will begin to meet as a 3/3rds Group in the large park in Catania called Villa Bellini. I’m looking forward to having a weekly rallying point that will include a time of thanksgiving and praise, prayer for one another, scripture study and discussion, thinking of how we can put God’s word into practice, and prayer for our friends who do not know Jesus. Of course, each thing that we do in making disciples has an impact for the future, whether for good or bad, but I have sensed that now is a time in particular where we are setting the stage for the future, where we are “putting our hands in the wet cement”, if you follow my expression.
This week, I have been reading Mark 1:1-8, thinking and meditating on it in advance of our discussion on it tomorrow morning. I will be trying to facilitate a discussion, not necessarily teaching the passage, but I like to try to think in advance about the passage to consider some of the main things that I can see within it. Here is the passage:
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
As I’ve thought about this passage, here are some simple observations that I have made:
- Jesus is called the Messiah and the Son of God, which means that he is, himself, God.
- Mark points back to the prophet Isaiah to talk about John the Baptist, but it seems that the point is ultimately that God is preparing the people to hear about Jesus, initially through John.
- John would preach a message of repentance. It is a message that the forgiveness of sins starts with repentance, a humble heart before God that admits what we have done wrong.
- The people of Jerusalem and Judea responded to John’s message. They recognized that he was right and God was moving (actually, literally!) at that time. This “made the way” for Jesus to come and bring the Spirit of God.
- Despite John’s great ministry and great response of the people, he says that he is nothing compared to the one who would come after him, namely, Jesus.
- John says that Jesus will baptize them with the Holy Spirit. I believe this means that God himself washes over us to make us clean.
As a primary takeaway, I think this passage is speaking of Jesus coming as the king, a king over the entirety of the world, and John is showing how the king wants to interact with us. Typically, in our own strength, we believe, and try to show others, that we can take care of ourselves on our own. We are proud people, and this extends directly into our spiritual interactions with God as well. We don’t humble ourselves before him because we believe that we can take care of our problems on our own.
But the king is coming, and his herald, the one who will prepare the way, the one we call John the Baptist, is telling the people that they must be prepared for him. To be prepared for him means that we must come in repentance, in humility and in surrender because we have rejected him before. But now, he is coming, and he is bringing with him the Holy Spirit, who will spiritually baptize those who have been prepared in repentance and humility for the coming king.
So what does this mean for me, to put this into practice? Over the last few weeks, we have had a leader’s meeting where we have discussed what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and what we can do on our part to be ready and prepared for this. Following teaching that we have learned, we have been attempting to learn what it means to surrender to God’s will and wait on him. This week, I have been trying to slow down the time of reading in the scriptures and prayer, writing what I have been learning as well, in an attempt to hear more of what God wants to say to me instead of imposing my schedule and steps upon my time with God. It has been a necessary time for me to chew and digest the Word, attempting to listen to the Spirit through this week. In short, attempting to come before God in humility to hear what he has to say instead of doing all as I typically do with super-imposed timetables.
God, I pray that you will help me to continue to slow down to listen to you. You are the energy in all that I do, and without your leading, nothing moves forward. I certainly want you to use me, but I first want to connect with you, so I pray that you will help me to take the steps to practically do this today and as I go forward.