“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.’” (Mark 1:2-4 NET)
This is the first promise in the book of Mark, and the only quote of Old Testament Scripture. Mark is not a biography of Jesus’ life because it does not go into detail about His family or career. Instead it concentrates on what He did, the power He had, and the difference He made in people’s lives; Mark does not present a teaching Jesus, but a Jesus of action.
Interestingly, the book is written in the present tense, as if Mark were a reporter and we were his listeners. It comes across as action packed and alive, making us feel that we are there watching Jesus. Mark wants to transform the reader rather than inform him/her, and wants the reader to be convinced of who Jesus is not by Old Testament prophecies or explanations, but by the things he did: deliverance, healing, miracles, and the changed lives of His disciples.
In today’s verse Mark speaks about John the Baptist being a messenger sent ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Him. In ancient times, like today, whenever a king would visit a city or country His coming would be announced, and people would respond by repairing roads, fixing up communities, and preparing for the special visit of the king. This was done to make the journey more comfortable for the king, but also to give him the best impression of that city or country. Three authors of Scripture and one prophet proclaimed the coming of the King of kings — Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptist, and Mark.
If we want more of God in our lives, if we want to see more of God’s power and presence, the prophet Malachi says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We must prepare the way for Him, and make our paths straight. We have to draw near to Him in our thoughts and actions, in the way we live our lives, and in our decisions. When we put Him first above everything else, we are crying out for His presence using one of the most powerful means possible. As we work at cleaning up our lives and straighten up our behavior so that God will be pleased with us, both our consciences and the Holy Spirit play the role of John the Baptist in our lives today, they prepare us for Jesus and are the voice crying out in the wilderness. When we respond to them in humility and obey, we will be visited and transformed by Him.
We are preparing to start the 40-Day Fast of Jesus on June 10th, less than a week from today. We will voluntarily enter into our own wilderness — depriving ourselves of secular entertainment and information — in order to hear this voice in a better way, and to prepare ourselves for a new phase in our lives. Get ready.