In today’s Gospel, we hear the first 8 verses of Mark’s Gospel. Mark quotes Isaiah who had prophesied 700 years prior that a messenger would come before the long awaited Messiah ‘to prepare His way…..and make straight His paths.” Then Mark immediately introduces and describes John the Baptist to us. He goes as far as describing his clothing and what he eats and even his location. And then we hear John’s message: Repent for the forgiveness of sins for one who is mightier than John is coming who will give the Holy Spirit.
There had been a Jewish prophecy from Malachi that announced that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah. By describing John, Mark is telling us that John is the fulfillment of this prophecy. John dresses and eats in the same manner as Elijah. In addition, the region that John was baptizing in was the exact same region in which Elijah had left this earth in a fiery chariot. So Mark is definitively telling us that the Messiah has come because His messenger, John the Baptist, was sent before Him.
But now we must examine the message. It is of the utmost importance if it paves the way for the Messiah, the Son of God. It is a two part message. First, the Messiah is coming and it is not John. Rather, it is Jesus Christ as Mark states in verse one. Second, the Messiah is coming to forgive sins, so we must repent.
The condition for the acceptance of the Messiah in our life is repentance. The condition for the forgiveness of sins of our sin is humbly admitting our faults and asking for healing. John has come to make Jesus’ path straight to all of us. Thus, John exhorts anyone who will listen to repent because that is the straight path to Jesus. There is no faster way into the loving embrace of God than through repentance.
Jesus even references this path in His sermon on the mount whenever He tells us that the way to heaven is straight and narrow. If we already know that this path is repentance, we now know that this path is narrow, difficult, and not used very often. Humility is hard. Asking forgiveness is hard. But it is essential in the life of a Christian.
As we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming and await the second coming of Jesus, our lives must be filled with repentance at all times. We must recognize that left to our own devices, we are a sinful people and we cannot do the will of God by ourselves. In true love, God never forces us to believe Him or receive His aid. Thus, it is when we recognize this in humility that we open the door and invite Him into our lives and He gladly saves us from our sins.