At the beginning, when all things were created, we were set up with every good thing within our reach.
The beauty of creation was a constant reminder of our Creator and every detail reflected His intentional love for us. Our relationship with this Creator and with the opposite sex had no shame or drama and all of this beauty and goodness was readily available to us. It was the perfect gig, but we messed it up (like we do).
We wanted more despite God providing with us with everything we needed and then some. So in our lust for more we grew suspicious of God and felt that He was holding out on us. We listened to the enemy who so artfully tempted us away from trusting the God of Creation, thus destroying our relationship with Him and each other, and plunging all of creation into a broken and tangled mess.
SIN – the condition of the human race that says to God, “I don’t trust you to know what’s best for my life.”
This is where we find our friends the Israelites. As the stage is set in the book of Mark they are a broken and oppressed people under the mighty boot heel of the great Roman Empire. They’ve waited for God to fulfill His promise of sending a savior to relieve them of their suffering and restore things to the way they were before we screwed up everything.
However, instead of sending this savior right away, He chose to wait.
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Mark 1:4
The heart of man is soaked in the lie that God is holding out on us; that He is somehow keeping secrets on where ‘real’ life is found and we’ve bought it without question. The lie is like a splinter that has worked its way deep into our hearts and it’s going to take some time to soften before it can be extracted.
So, God sends John the Baptist to pave the way for His son Jesus to come to earth. John comes with a message that reflects the heart of God saying “there’s a better way … be forgiven and learn to trust Me again.” This was a breath of fresh of air to the people of Israel who were used to hearing the tough religious rules from their leaders hammered into them over and over.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem when out to him. Confessing their sins, the were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” – Mark 1:5
Do you think they needed some hope or what? The whole Judean countryside? All the people of Jerusalem? You don’t even need to know the region to imagine a horde of people attracted to this fresh news. John wasn’t some cheap, street corner charlatan with the same old message. He didn’t offer stale religion, he wasn’t holding up a list of rules, he was pointing to something more authentic, something bigger than himself.
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. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 1:7,8
The physical image of an invisible god is about to enter the stage. The world needs a buffer, a voice that will prepare it for what’s to come.
John is also a very attractive example and a superb communicator – the best this world has to offer. However, he knows his place and even though people are drawn to him and his message, he’s already preparing the world for “the one more powerful” … one greater.
He’s calling the people who are willing to listen to brace for impact because God is making his final move in extracting the splinter. However, the water of John’s baptism is only preparing the splinter to be extracted. The one who will come after him, God’s son, will pour out a way of life that can only come from the Creator.
What are some experiences you’ve had with stale religion that have left you wanting more from God?
Do you see the wisdom of God sending another before he sends the long-awaited savior?