The Lord Jesus Revealed by John / Mark 1:1-8 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 6th 2020 / Advent 2 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Mark 1:1-8 / Adent 2 - December 6th 2020
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,’”
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Jesus and John, in our Gospel reading today, are about the same age. John is just a little bit older than Jesus: It was not too long before the Virgin Mary was overshadowed by the power of the Most High and Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit's working, that John's Mother Elizabeth - in her old age - became miraculously pregnant by her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was six months pregnant with John when Marry came to visit her in Elizabeth's home town, the two women were cousins, relatives, and when these two pregnant women met Elizabeth said to Marry, "behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." Consider these two women, pregnant at the same time together: One a young virgin carrying something new - the promised Son of God, God Made flesh, the incarnate Christ - the other an aged woman, past her child barring years, barren, carrying something old an Old Testament Prophet, the last Old Testament Prophet. So years later when Saint Mark in his Gospel introduces John the Baptizer employing God’s Words proclaimed by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, “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,’” Mark is linking this John with the prophets who came before. And yet Mark is also using these words reveal Jesus as the Lord.
And there is another thing too, the work of John the Baptizer is not about paving the far off future coming of the Lord, but rather the work of John paves the way for an imminent coming of the Son of God – remember also this is not even a foretelling of a birth like you might expect at this time of year leading into the celebration of Christmas – As you hear these words in the Gospel of Mark Jesus had already been born. The Gospel of Mark contains no account of Jesus’ birth like the Gospel’s of St. Luke and St. Matthew do, no as you are introduced to John the Baptizer and Jesus they are both adults. The Christ Child Jesus had already grown and became strong, He's already been filled with wisdom and the favour of God was upon Him  Jesus had, like John, grown into adulthood. What John then is speaking of is the fast, fast imminent immediate approaching Christ.
The preaching of John the Baptizer says to all who hear him that, the end is near, the end of Israel's waiting is near, their King - their Saviour - God's Son is already in their midst and they do not yet know Him. He walks their streets, He eats their food, He sings their hymns, He suffers their troubles. He is hidden and will suddenly be revealed and when He comes this John - this faithful servant, this man from the house of Levi, a priest amongst the people, says that he will fall to the ground in reverence for John will not be worthy to even untie the sandals on the feet of this Mighty Christ, this Jesus, this Immanuel, the Saviour who comes. This Jesus is the one whose Good News, whose Gospel, is about to begin. When Jesus shows up at the river's edge John points to Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit John says “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" And for all the world that day Jesus looked like any other man coming to the River to hear John preach yet John points Him out from among the crowd in order to reveal Jesus to all those gathered there. The Lord Jesus Revealed by John.
It’s about an 8 or 9 hour hike from Jerusalem to the river Jordan - that's if you're looking to get to a place along the river that is near, or near-ish to the city of Jericho. For most of the people outside of Jerusalem in Judea it could be an even longer hike to get to the River. Take a minute to think about that: St. Mark is telling us that all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to John the Baptizer and were being baptized by John in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Many were willing to walk for 9 or more hours to confess their sin and be baptized and then walk 9 or more hours back home, that's a lot of hours walking the paths of Judea to the place where God had raised up a prophet.
(As an aside, even with things becoming more and more challenging in 2020 when it comes to attending church in person, and some uncertainty about what it will be like in 2021, we still live in a time of great blessings. You did not have to walk 9 hours to hear these words today, or to hear God’s Word from Holy Scripture read to you. So for that you can be truly thankful, even still consider what challenges you would be willing to endure to hear God’s Word and the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins spoken to you? We do not know what the future holds for us when it comes to these things. Advent is a time of preparation we need always to be preparing how and where we will be able to take hold of the gifts of God trusting His faithfulness.)
Back to the banks of the River Jordan: Even then back in those days time was as they say “money” and that hike, that long walk to the River, was time off work to be sure because they weren't to travel on their day of rest. Another thing to consider is that the place where the Jewish people went to have their sins forgiven wasn't the river Jordan, it was at the Temple in Jerusalem, yet out they went to the River to confess their sins and be forgiven. After the baptism of John each man, women and child who walked those paths back to their home towns, back to Jerusalem, were men and women and children who were prepared for the imminent coming of Jesus, prepared to hear Jesus preach, prepared to be healed by His hand, prepared to rise up shouts of Hosanna, to wave palm branches, to throw their coats beneath the donkeys hooves when, as we heard about in last Sunday’s Gospel reading, only about three years latter Jesus would come into Jerusalem humble and riding on the back of a colt, the foal of a Donkey. With every baptism that John the Baptizer preformed he was preparing the way of the Lord, he was fulfilling the prophecy of the Isaiah; he was making Jesus' paths straight.
You might ask ‘what was John's Baptism like?’ Did John ask the one about to be baptized 'how repentant are you?' did he turn them away if he didn’t like their answer? Scripture tell us no such thing, in fact, what we know is that the baptism John administered produced a repentant heart and graciously delivered God's forgiveness for those who received it, we know that the baptism was a baptism of preparation preparing their repentant hearts to receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus would be revealed, preparing them to hear Jesus preach God's Word to them. Before their hands would cut a palm branch, before their shoulders would shrug off their coats, before their vocal chords would resonate with a cry for deliverance, they were being prepared by the mercy, love and grace of God. For each of them it's as though the field is turned over, ploughed, ready, left waiting the imminent sowing of the Gospel seed, waiting the coming of the sower, who is Christ Jesus, the Lord.
The Gospel of Mark tell us that "all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to [John]," think on that, not some, not a few, but all! This Jesus, this Son of God, this Christ that was coming to them, their long expected Saviour, was not about to be revealed to a few people, He was not about to be made known to some of the people but to all the people. This Christmas when we celebrate the coming of Christ Jesus for us remember that He came for all people, not for some, not for a few but for all. Jesus says that, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Therefore do not fear to share Jesus with others, for before you do so, the Holy Spirit will already have been at work, the Holy Spirit will implant Jesus, the Holy Spirit will gust forth with the love of Christ, the wind of faith will work the gift of repentance where and when He wills it.
Yes, Jesus is for everyone: He is certainly for the Jew and He is for the Muslim, He is completely for the Hindu and He is for the Buddhist, He's utterly for the Atheist and He is for the Agnostic - Jesus is for All people. Jesus has not come - He is not coming - to less than all people. On His Second Advent, we confess with Scripture that "every knee shall bow to [the LORD], and every tongue shall confess to God.” "So then,” as St. Paul teaches, “each of us will give an account of himself to God [on That Day]." And on That Day there will be the Ressurection of the Dead, there will be no reincarnation, there will be no eternal dirt nap, there will be no black abyss of nothingness: On That Day all will be known and every objection will be silenced, there will be but one God on That Day (Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the Holy Trinity) and the face of Christ Jesus the Son of God will stand before all people and it will be revealed suddenly. The Last Day will be like the banks of the River Jordan, just as Jesus was with the people of Israel and they didn't yet know Him, Jesus is even now with the world: He is amongst the people of the world breaking bread, giving Himself and His forgiveness; He's hidden in the hungry, the naked, the suffering and when He appears there will be those who will be surprised, horrified even, at His revelation and there will be those who stand prepared, who will drop to their knees in joy, who will confess with great happiness that their Lord has come, that He has come to them.
You are hearing these words today because you are drawn to hear them by the workings of the Holy Spirit in your life. The same Holy Spirit draws you to confess your sins and receive forgiveness, to hear about Jesus and His coming for you, His Death for you, His Resurrection for you, His Life for you - a Life which, in Him, has now become your Life. You are drawn by the one who calls and gathers the Holy Spirit. And the fact that you have sins that need to be confessed and forgiven means that you have something in common with the men, women and children that John the Baptizer preached to (these men, women and children that we hear of in the Gospel of Mark) but your baptism is different than their baptism, because you have been baptised into the revealed Son of God - the coming one who has come. You were not baptised simply for the forgiveness of sins, no more that that you were baptised in the Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit as the revealed Jesus commanded.
Did forgiven of sins happen in your baptism as their sins were forgiven in John's baptism? Yes, but their sins were forgiven in the promise of a coming Saviour the fullness thereof they did not yet know - yours were washed away in the blood of a revealed Saviour who suffered and died upon a Roman cross who you do know in the fullness revealed to you in Holy Scripture who will come again, your sins that day were washed away in the fulfilment of the promises of the Lord.
Advent is a season of preparation, today we have thought a bit about God preparing the people for the coming of His Son, about revealing the Lord who is already in their midst: Does this work continue today? It certainly does continue today when pastors point you to Jesus in their preaching, when Christians reveal Jesus to the world. Always keep in mind what St Paul tells us, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." This is precisely what continues to happen today and it’s precisely what today's Gospel reading is about, John the Baptizer comes proclaiming, speaking God's Word, in doing so God is using Him to prepare people for the implanting of faith. Remember earlier when John and Jesus were still both in the wombs of their mothers and Elizabeth says to the Virgin Mary, "behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." When the sound of your greeting came to my ears! Little John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb. The seeds of faith implanted even at such a tender young age. God’s Word comes to you today – revealing this Jesus to you and while your feat may not be wet with the damp sand of the River Jordan between your toes you can, with them that day, rejoice that Jesus has come and that God has made the paths of the Lord straight in your heart so that you may with great joy confess Jesus to be the very Son of God, your Saviour alongside John the Baptizer.
And if you and not yet baptized, fear not, we can help you with that here in this place, or if you are far off we can find a way to help you be baptized, either way Jesus will wash you, not only with water, but with His Holy Spirit, and in His baptism you will receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, a life made new in Christ Jesus. This is for you just as it is for all people, a cherished gift for those who have it and a promised rest for those who will still receive it. Amen.
Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 1:36
 Luke 1:44
 Luke 2:40
 John 1:29
 Zechariah 9:9
 John 3:8
 Romans 14:11-12
 John 14:26, [Jesus told His Apostles,] "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
 Romans 10:17
 Colossians 2:13-14, "you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This [Jesus] set aside, nailing it to the cross."