In our world of social media certain things explode into the modern mind. Those things become talked about. They get posted to Instagram and Facebook.Twitter accounts are said to “light up.” This may be an event, something someone said, a video on YouTube or many other things. One does not predict it. The event just happens and social media is the vehicle of that wave. The event is said to have “gone viral.”
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,'”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8–ESV)
Revival gone viral
We will come back to verses 2 & 3 but for the moment let us look at what happened in verse 4 & 5. Something weird went down in the desert. A holy man showed up and began proclaiming spiritual things. He was telling those who would listen that they should repent of their sins. Those who did repent were baptized by John as a symbol of their decision.
A revival started and people flocked to him. The message of God and the messenger of John had gone vial. That is what is meant in verse 5. “All the country of Judea and Jerusalem were going out to him….”
The show in the desert showed sins in the heart
The people went out to see a show in the desert, but in that show they were shown their sins. These sins needed to be confessed and set aside. The men and women needed to repent from their misdeeds. Those who did so were baptized as an indication of their repentance. They had a new beginning. Their baptism was a symbol to them and to their community of their changed approach to life.
The community in Jerusalem and Judea was a community steeped in religion and religious tradition. Despite that they were guilty before God. Since they were guilty they needed forgiveness, but before forgiveness comes confession. Before confession comes conviction. So, out in the desert was being presented a message that convicted and it was working. People were confessing their sins and they were repenting and they were running up their flag of intention by being baptized. A big impact was being made.
Things go viral when they resonate with large swaths of people. Confession and repentance were things they needed and were starved for. They responded and the splash of baptism was splashing onto the people who were soon to see the Messiah.
Message gone Messianic
John the Baptist did not stop with the confession of sins and the baptism that he offered. He also preached of the next thing which was the arrival of one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That talk was talk that also resonated with the people for it was talk of a Messiah, the long awaited, albeit misunderstood, figure of a savior. John the Baptist proclaimed his insufficiency compared with that of the Messiah. John’s baptism was that of repentance.
The Messiah’s message, and eventually deeds, would be a baptism of forgiveness and renewed relationship between God and man. This renewed relationship was not built upon a random allegiance, but upon the much more effective blood of Jesus, the lamb of God. It would take a long time for this to fully gel, but by AD 70 or AD 80 when the Gospel of Mark was written the message had continued to spread with power and authority.
Prophecy of a prophet
We now return to the 2nd and 3rd verses of this chapter. These verses were taken from Isaiah. They fit well with John the Baptist. This is where I wish to draw this lesson back to our current time and to lessons of biography. When a person achieves something there is a push to learn more. The author of this book of Mark told the more by connecting it back to Isaiah. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place all the way back to Isaiah. John the Baptist was not merely a flash of something new. He was catapulted by and attested to by God from their past. It was a great day in Israel when John came, but not so great that Mark stayed long upon it. Mark would quickly move to the man Jesus going there in what would become the 9th verse of chapter 1!
Key points on this passage:
- John the Baptist uncovered hunger for repentance
- John the Baptist tapped in to national psyche through talk of the Messiah
- He also tapped into the Jewish psyche by his coming as a prophet does. It had been very long since any prophet had arrived in Israel
- People responded
- John directed beyond himself to the Messiah