In the Wilderness
Last week, we looked at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and found a long list of names, the names of Jesus' ancestors. This week, we turn to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark.
There is no long list of names here. And not only does Mark leave out the list of Jesus' ancestors, he doesn't even mention most of the Christmas story. He doesn't write about Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, or the wise men.
But Mark does write about someone else who was very important in the life of Jesus. He writes about his cousin John, commonly known as John the Baptist. John spent his life telling people that Jesus was coming. And as Mark reminds us, this job was assigned to him long before he was born...
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: "Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the LORD's coming! Clear the road for him!'" Mark 1:1-3
So, John was supposed to tell people about Jesus and point people to him. But why did God want him to do it in the wilderness? The wilderness is not exactly where lots of people hang out. It's not easy to find food or water in the wilderness, either. It seems like a strange place for God to choose.
But should it really surprise us that God told John to prepare the way for Jesus in the wilderness? The wilderness provides us with less. And when we are surrounded by less, we see God more.
John might have just been one more voice shouting in the crowds of people shopping and working and playing. But God sent him to the wilderness where he would be heard.
Sometimes I think God has given us a taste of the wilderness over this past year...a little of bit of less so that we can see him more. I'm thankful for that. And I'm thankful that Mark wrote not only about what John did but also how and where he did it...so we would remember that being in the wilderness is good. It might not be a comfortable place we want to stay forever and ever, but it is the perfect place to learn, listen, and grow.
Read Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1
These are both prophecies about John the Baptist. What does each say? How are they similar? How are they different?
Draw a picture of the wilderness. You can look up images of the kind of wilderness where John the Baptist would have been (which would have been in modern day Israel) and create your own version of what you see. Or, you can draw a picture of what the wilderness looks like for you...somewhere you feel surrounded by less so you can see God more.
Take time this week for a wilderness moment. Set aside everything but your Bible and just read...or pray...or listen. If you can do it outside, great. If you can't, find an indoor spot without distractions.