“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”’ In the wilderness John the baptizer began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People from the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem were going out to him, and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.” —Mark 1:1–5
Mark jumps into his Gospel by unabashedly heralding the Good News—Jesus is the Christ—the Son of God! “Jesus” —His divinely personal name—the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word translated Joshua, meaning Yahweh is salvation. “Christ”—the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew title translated Messiah or Anointed One. “The Son of God”—a bold claim of his divinity—a truth that is the foundation upon which the gospel is built.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” —1 Timothy 1:15–17
Right after Mark makes his bold statement about Jesus being the Son of God, he switches gears and refers back to Isaiah’s prophetic words regarding the forerunner of Christ—one who would come to prepare the way for the glory of God to be revealed.
Mark follows this prophecy by telling us that John the Baptist came as this forerunner to Jesus—as the fulfillment to the prophecy of Isaiah! John the Baptist was the one who came declaring to every person,
“In the wilderness clear a way for the LORD; build a level road through the rift valley for our God.” —Isaiah 40:3
The corruption of the world was so great it needed a cleansing and preparation for Jesus—just like our hearts. We are called to cleanse ourselves of all unrighteousness—turning from sin (repentance)—and turning to Jesus. When God sent Jesus into the world, He took care to prepare the way the way for Him, just as He does for each heart to receive His Son as Savior and Lord. The heart where Jesus reigns has been cleansed and the will transformed. Grace is abundantly bestowed not only to save, but also to sanctify—to make us like Jesus. Jesus is grace personified. We are not to remain as we were—we are to be transformed! The rough ground of our emotions is made ready to receive the gentleness of His comfort. In our dry deserts we prepare ourselves for the lushness of His love, the sweetness of His Spirit, the fullness of His springs of Living Water, the all-achieving power of His grace. This requires an emptying of self in order to be filled with Him.
“Some people are full of talk against legal doctrines, legal preaching and the legal spirit. Yet they may understand very little of what they are talking against. A legal spirit is far more subtle than they imagine. It can lurk, operate, and prevail in their hearts even while they are inveighing against it. For as long as a man is not emptied of himself and of his own righteousness and goodness, he will have a legal spirit. A spirit of pride in one’s own righteousness, morality, holiness, affection, experience, faith, humiliation or any other goodness, is a legal spirit … It is even possible to have a self-righteous spirit about one’s own humility and to be self-confident about one’s own abasement … But he whose heart is subject to Christian humility has a very different attitude … Christians who are real saints and the greatest in the Kingdom … humble themselves as a little child … They look upon themselves as children in grace.” —Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clearly identified this messenger as John the Baptist:
“While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Look, those who wear soft clothing are in the palaces of kings! What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet! This is the one about whom it is written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”’” —Matthew 11:7–10
Each one of us must empty ourselves of all our self- righteousness and self-perceived goodness in order to be filled with the righteousness and goodness of God.
“But, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” —1 Peter 1:15–16
“’I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” —Malachi 3:1
“Therefore, since we
have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything
that could defile the body and the spirit, and thus accomplish holiness out of
reverence for God.” —2 Corinthians 7:1