The Gospel According to Mark – 2017.12.10
If there ever was a prophet named Isaiah, he did not predict the coming of John and Jesus.
We know that this is true, because we believe that God, the creator of the universe, created it in freedom, and nothing is determined.
There was not a prophet named Isaiah, there was a movement that took place over the course of decade, that bore witness to the collapse of David’s kingdom, and the scattering of the Israel, into the remote reaches of the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires.
If there ever was a man named John who offered baptism as penance to the common folk of Judea, he did not predict the coming of Jesus, another man who may or may not have existed.
If they existed at all, what John understood was this:
His people were in much the same place as they had been six hundred years earlier.
They had rebuilt their cities, re-dug their wells, and constructed a new temple in the land of their forebears, but they were still divided among themselves, factionalized and politically weak.
They were still subject to foreign powers, and still subject to the capriciousness of kings.
John knew that the world he lived in was still in need of a prophetic critique, and knowing this he knew that someone one would come after him, to carry on his work and preach to the people.
Did he know this was Jesus? That could only be true if Jesus actually lived.
What we can say is this; someone did carry on the work, someone, or some group. They kept up the critique and they made it strong.
But John was not the forerunner of a nascent Christian movement, and this passage in Mark is naked politics, an attempt by the earlier church to make John’s follower’s their own.
The Messenger, in the Wilderness
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
“Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”
And so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
2nd Sunday of Advent