TO PREPARE FOR JESUS’ COMING
(A biblical reflection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT [YEAR B], 10 December 2017)
Gospel Reading: Mark 1:1-8
First Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Psalms: Psalm 85:9-14; Second Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-14
The Scripture Text
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 thy face, who prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thong 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.” (Mark 1:1-8 RSV)
In 2 Kings, we find Elijah, one of the most important figures in the Old Testament, clothed in the traditional garb of a prophet, a garment of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. Because 2 Kings 9 tells us that God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, some of the Jewish people believed God was saving Elijah for a special mission and that one day God would send him back to the earth to prepare the way for the Messiah.
The author of Mark’s Gospel begins today’s reading by quoting a passage from the prophet Isaiah that the Jews often understood as referring to Elijah’s return and he also informs us that John the Baptist dressed the same way Elijah dressed. In this subtle way, the author tells us that John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah. He was the one God sent to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
In the first sentence of the first chapter of Mark, the author calls his work a Gospel about Jesus, who is both the Christ and the Son of God. The word “gospel” means “good news”, and Mark is the only one of the four evangelists to refer to his writing in this way.
The word “Christ” means “Anointed One”, a title the Jews used for the Messiah. This reference to Jesus’ being both the Christ and the Son of God indicates the Gospel is not an unbiased account of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. It is clear that Mark is a person of faith who wants to share that faith with others. This type of writing is called “salvation history”, a term biblical scholars use to describe an account of how God is working in the world.
Finally, some Jewish people went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. For many Jews, baptism was a sign of sorrow for one’s sins and an indication the person would try harder not to offend God. It was not a requirement for being a member of the Jewish faith.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 122-123.)
Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for sending John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Messiah, Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who came to the world for our eternal salvation. Amen.
Jakarta, 8 December 2017
A Christian Pilgrim