Frank Retief was pastor at St James Church Cape Town for 31 years, having planted the church in 1968 with his wife Beulah. He became the Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa until he retired in 2010. Frank remains active in ministry through preaching, teaching, pastoral work & writing, and has authored a number of books.
Preparing the way of the Lord
Mark 1 v 1:4 “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” a voice of one calling in the desert,’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
These words apply to John the Baptist. He was sent as a messenger to prepare the way for the Lord. This is a very significant development and we should not miss out on the importance of this passage for us today.
In those early days of the Roman Empire it was a common thing for a messenger to be sent ahead of a victorious Roman general to proclaim his victory on some far off battlefield. It served as a spur to confidence and encouragement in the local people regarding the ability to their armies to protect them. But in this passage we have the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy (Malachi 3 v 1 Isaiah 40 v 2) regarding the long awaited Messiah. God would raise up a messenger who would prepare the people for the Messiah’s appearance by appealing to them to repent and to be ready to receive Him when He appeared.
There are two ways in which John the Baptist’s proclamation helps us today. Firstly, we can be sure that the One to whom he pointed was truly the Son of God. He was not a fake, not an illusion. He was the true Messiah who came to bring redemption to his people. But secondly, John’s proclamation was one of the signs that marked Jesus out as utterly unique. So unique was he that a messenger was sent ahead of him. Unlike the messengers who were sent out to proclaim military victories for Roman generals, this messenger prepares the way of the Lord Himself. Furthermore this “Lord” who comes does so not as a mighty warrior, but as a servant who will rescue HIs people by dying for them.
The uniqueness of Jesus is spread throughout the opening chapters of Mark’s Gospel but it is probably better to describe His uniqueness in terms of His great authority. Have a look at Mark chapter 1 and see how many signs of his uniqueness there were at his baptism with the voice from Heaven, His temptations in the desert, His power over the men He calls to be His disciples, His authority over evil spirits, His power to heal the sick – these all point to a truly unique individual with unusual authority over all the brokenness of the human condition.
We should take great courage from this. No matter how much it may seem from time to time that Christ’s kingdom is about to disappear we must remember His power and greatness. It is this authority He has exercised over you when he called you to Himself and it is this authority and power that accompanies us on our way.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for endowing your Son with such power and authority so that I may be sure my sins are all forgiven and that He will keep us safe until we reach that Heavenly Kingdom. “Amen”