Based on: Mark 1:1-8
Someday, off in the future, it just might happen that the President of the United States comes to Sleepy Eye. I don’t know who the President will be when that happens, but you can be sure that if and when it does happen, someone will come ahead of him to make sure everything is ready.
This person will need to prepare the town of Sleepy Eye for the arrival of the President. He will make sure the road is suitable for the President to travel on. He will make sure people will show up to listen to the President when he stops to speak. Of course he will also make sure everything is safe for the President so that no one is able to hurt the President.
Much work goes into preparing the way when someone as important as the President of the United States travels. Why would it be any different when the Lord of the universe makes a special visit to earth? Either for his first coming or his second.
God prepared the world for the first coming of his Son and he is even now preparing the world for his Son’s second coming. And how does he do that? Not by sending holy angels to make everyone pay attention, but by sending sinful human beings into the world to tell others about Jesus Christ. God uses simple human communication to prepare people for Christ’s coming. He sends a messenger with a message
In our Gospel for today we see God use his messenger, John the Baptist, to prepare for Christ’s coming. John was certainly sent by God. As Mark writes about John he quotes the prophecy of Malachi, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” In that prophecy God makes it clear that the reason he was sending John was to prepare for Christ’s arrival.
It is no different today. God still sends his messengers to prepare people for Christ to come again. The Bible says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11). In that same portion of Scripture we hear the reason God sends pastors and teachers – it is so we become mature in our faith and resist the false teachings that would tempt us to be unprepared for Christ’s return.
Before I go too much further let me explain that this example of John the Baptist applies most directly to those called by God to proclaim his message publicly: pastors, teachers, Sunday School teachers, Elders, and others. But these same principals apply as we confess Christ in our personal relationships. Remember what Jesus commanded you. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” You are also one of God’s messengers placed into this world to prepare family, friends, and neighbors for Christ’s coming.
And how, exactly, do we prepare for Christ’s coming? Look at what John did. “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” It is all about the message
It is the all important message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is a message that focuses completely on Christ, because only in him can we have true repentance for forgiveness.
In other places Scripture tells us more about John’s preaching. He told many people, including the Pharisees, what they were doing wrong. Any preparation for the coming of Christ will lead people to understand they have offended God. Not that they have made mistakes, but that without Christ, their lives are utterly and completely offensive to God and deserving his punishment.
That message prepares people to hear about the forgiveness that comes only from Christ. When you understand what a mess your relationship with God is, the news that Jesus suffered your punishment for you on the cross is oh, so sweet.
That is why everything we do here as a group of believers focuses on Jesus Christ. The good news about Christ is the only message that saves us. Paul even said to the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” To proclaim the message of Christ crucified is a primary reason for our existence as a congregation.
We may have questions regarding the details on how to do this: “What songs do we sing?”, “Do we print the order of service in the bulletin or leave it in the hymnal?”, “Do we have communion up there or down here?”, or “What are our priorities?” I do not claim to know a definite answer to these questions, but as we discuss them we discuss them with the goal of proclaiming Christ crucified in the best possible way.
We do not answer these questions based only on what we personally want. After all, proclaiming Christ is not something that brings glory to the messenger. John the Baptist said, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” He recognized that he was not the important one in this process of preparing for the Lord’s coming. It was Christ himself.
His actions backed up his words. His diet of locusts and the clothes he wore were not to draw attention to himself, but to draw attention to the importance of his message. Just think, if he had come in fine clothes and with a herd of camels to carry his belongings would it have been more difficult for people to believe that the “one coming after him was more important than him?”
In a similar way it would be a disservice to you for me to stand up here and tell you about all the wonderful things I did this week. Certainly, I may occasionally use something from my life to make a point, but it should always point you to Christ. So, please, if I start talking too much about myself, come to me and say, “Pastor, we think you are a nice guy and everything, but we really want to hear about our Savior.” Hopefully, I’ll get the message.
We are also among those who need to hear this message. Just like those who heard John the Baptist we have a response to the message of repentance for forgiveness. We listen in humility. Look at the response of many who heard John the Baptist. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized in the Jordan River.” Included in the word “confess” is the concept of “agreement” – to “speak the same thing”. They agreed with what John said about their guilt before God and they welcomed the forgiveness they received through baptism.
We respond the same way. God has sent his messengers with his message. We agree with them that we are sinners in need of a Savior and we receive God’s message that Jesus is that Savior. When we hear God’s message it brings joy, because it prepares us for Christ to come.