“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
I cannot read Mark 1:3 without hearing echoes of the stirring song from the 1970 musical Godspell (an old spelling of the word “gospel”). In this Broadway hit, John the Baptist sang in the language of King James Version, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
Seeing and admitting how much we need the Lord opens our hearts to repentance, which, in turn, makes us ready to prepare for God’s work in our lives.
The Gospel of Mark begins similarly, with a voice crying out, “Prepare the way for the Lord” (1:3). This voice is identified in verse 4 as John the Baptist. He was raised up by God in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. He was the one who cries out to Israel to get ready for the coming of the Lord. By calling the Jews to repent and by baptizing them as a sign of their repentance, John set the stage for the coming of Jesus and his announcement of God’s kingdom. Moreover, he pointed directly to the advent of one who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (1:8).
As I reflect on the call of Isaiah and John to prepare the way for the Lord, I wonder how we can do this in our own lives? What can we do to be ready when God chooses to move in and through us? We can take direction from John the Baptist, who called the Jewish people to be baptized as a sign of their repentance (1:4). To be sure, repentance continues to be at the core of readiness of God, even as it was once central to the ministry of John the Baptist. Repentance is more than simply feeling sorrow about our lives. It is also an active choice to turn away from what is wrong and go in a whole new direction. The commitment to turn our lives around and follow God’s way of life helps to prepare us for his work in us.
Yet, repentance doesn’t come out of the blue. It implies a prior awareness of our need. We won’t repent until we look at our lives and recognize that we need God more than anything or anyone else. Or, if we have begun in relationship with God, we acknowledge that we need more of God in our lives. Seeing and admitting how much we need the Lord opens our hearts to repentance, which, in turn, makes us ready to prepare for God’s work in our lives.
God wants to do amazing things in us and through us, more than we can even imagine (see Eph 3:20-21). The question is: Are we prepared?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What helps you to be ready for God’s work in your life?
When you hear the word “repentance,” what do you envision? What does it mean to repent?
Can you think of a time in your life when, by God’s grace, you were able to turn your life around and go in a new direction, God’s direction?
Gracious God, may I be prepared for you. May I be ready to receive every gift you have for me. May I be available when you want to work through me. Let nothing stand in the way of your transforming presence in my life. Amen.