Part 3 from the series: Mark’s Story.
Based on Mark 1:8-11
“This is what the LORD says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:5-7)
God calls us to righteousness. Righteousness. It is not a word we use every day, and the implications in today’s world are not attractive. Who wants to be righteous? It connotes sanctimonious hypocrites, those who act “holier than thou” on the outside, and on the inside are selfish, egotistical, bigots, power mongers, prudish and worse. Who wants that? Who wants to be good here on earth just so they can eventually partake in a heavenly banquet where there is no beer and the conversation is focused on who obeyed the most laws, chalked up the greatest points for virtuous behavior, and has the shiniest halo?
Yet God’s call to righteousness is the opposite. It is a call to honesty, humbleness, genuine concern for others, to be slow to anger and quick to listen, and quick to love and slow to hate. This kind of righteousness does not come naturally. It doesn’t even happen after hard work and effort on our part. It is a transformation of the heart that comes only from the hand of God.
God knew we couldn’t do it alone. He knew we were sick and tired of groveling in the darkness, looking for meaning, prisoners of disappointment. He heard the pleas for help and rescue. And he answered.
Mark, the gospel writer, begins his story: Settle in, because I am about to tell you a very good story about God’s son, the one he chose and sent to save us. It starts with God’s messenger, sent to prepare the way—and then it turns to Jesus.
John, the messenger, was proclaiming his message. He was calling people to repentance, to turn from an empty life to one of purpose and hope. People were coming to him in the desert to be baptized into a new faith. And John persistently asserted: he was only the messenger. Someone else was coming. John was waiting for God’s arrival.
As John continued his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth came to him to be baptized. To the observer Jesus was nothing special, just another pilgrim traveling from a Podunk village to check out the hoopla going on in the desert. Yet, when John lowered Jesus into the Jordan River to be baptized, the unusual occurred. The sky split open, and from the gaping hole in the heavens an otherworldly being appeared and descended to the earth, ethereal and fluttering like a celestial dove. Its trajectory was specific and purposeful, and it headed right for Jesus. Then the large crowd heard thunder echo through the wilderness. But John and those close by heard a voice, booming from the clouds, addressing Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (v. 11).
John’s job was now completed. He’d delivered his message: Prepare for God’s visit. And now God, via his son, had arrived, hand open and ready to deliver his people.
All photos courtesy of pixabay.com.
Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of The Bald Headed, Tattooed, Motorcycle Mama's Devotional Guide: For Women Battling Cancer & Those Who Love Them.