Monday, November 2, 2009

11/2- John's voice

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/2- Mark 1:1-6 (cf. Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-6)

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"— 3 "a voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me comes the one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Calvin abridged; It is not without reason that Mark begins his Gospel with the preaching of John the Baptist. For the Law and the Prophets came to an end with John (Jn. 1:17; Lk. 16:16; Mal. 3:1), but the Gospel began to be published when he began preaching. The reason God did not give them new prophecies, is that he wished to inflame a strong desire for the coming salvation. He mentions the law (Jn. 1:17) because t was common to include the Prophets under the name Law. In both Malachi 3:1 (“Behold I send my messenger”) and Malachi 4:5 (Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet”) the Lord promises a better condition of his Church than existed under the Law, and points to the beginning of the Gospel. Before the Lord came to restore the Church, he would send a forerunner or herald to announce that he was near. So we infer, that the abrogation of the Law, and the beginning of the Gospel took place when John began to preach. All the evangelists, in the providence of God, skip over the first thirty years of Christ’s birth (with the exception of his 12th year in the temple recorded in Luke), until the time the good news is spread publicly. [Many manuscripts call the Christ “the Son of God” here- pointing to the divinity of Christ]. Luke infers John began to preach at about thirty (Lk. 3:1). The ancient writers of the church unanimously agree that he was born fifteen years before the death of Augustus (and thus fifteen years into the reign of Tiberius). Christ also began his ministry at thirty, and so John’s teaching office was not long-lived. John the morning star was immediately followed by Christ the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). John disappeared in order that Christ might shine in fuller brightness. Pontius Pilate had been ruling for two years when John began to preach (Josephus Ant. 18:22; Lk. 3:1). Luke mentions that Annas and Caiaphas were both high priests- but it was not that they shared the same title at the same time But that they split the responsibility- showing the ambition and corruption of the priesthood at the time. Matthew and Mark speak of John speaking in the wilderness while Luke says he came into the country around the Jordan- but these are one and the same thing- as the Jordan area is wilderness (rough, mountainous, thinly populated) and the point was John was preaching in that area. “Repentance” (Matthew “Repent”)- point out that the kingdom of God among us is nothing else than a restoration to a happy life- true and everlasting happiness. People who were alienated from the righteousness of God, and banished from the kingdom, were gathered to God, and live under his guidance. God’s grace comes first (the kingdom of heaven being near), and then comes repentance. Repentance does not bring in the kingdom, but the kingdom’s coming brings in repentance. Pardon of sins occurs not that we may indulge in sins but that he may heal us from our sins. So that without hatred of sin and remorse for transgressions, not may taste the grace of God. So the Gospel consists of two parts: forgiveness of sins and repentance. “Baptism of repentance”- A sacrament is not a dumb ceremony, exhibiting some meaningless pomp without doctrine; but the Word of God is joined to it, and gives life to the ceremony. Baptism is an outward representation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As He pardons us, he delivers us. As He adopts us, He regenerates us. In a sense the baptism of John does not differ from the baptism of Christ since the meaning, power, and nature are the same. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” – the silence of the prophets for so long contrasts with John’s voice. Wilderness is really speaking of the desolation of the nation. “Prepare the way for the Lord”- While the prophet may have indicated Cyrus and the redemption from exile, it is fulfilled clearer in John and the kingdom of Christ. Lk. 3:6- “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”- not that all will be saved, but that all shall be able to experience salvation. “Camels hair, locusts, wild-honey”- This not only tells us that John associated with the peasants, but that he was held in high esteem by men of rank though he was humble and moderate in his things. It is superstitious to think that holiness consists of such outward things. “Baptized confessing their sins”- Confession of sins is a part of adult baptism and repentance- otherwise it is just a mocking performance.

Thoughts: The good news, in a sense begins with Epiphany, even more than Christmas. The good news was publicized in earnest when John came into the wilderness. The gospel of John and Peter’s preaching of the gospel (Acts 10:37) begin with John the Baptist as well. Camels hair and belt- are prophetic symbols of Eijah (2 Ki 1:8), but also of other prophets (Zech. 11:4). John was a simple man with a profound message (symbolized in his lifestyle)- get back to basics. Wipe away all the extras, excesses, and waxed build up- around your faith and remember your first love. The return to basics was a message of preparation for God’s kingdom coming. In our day, we follow easy-believism. In our day even evangelical churches are hiding the cross, lest someone be offended. In our day, we emphasize the love of God so much that there is no room for repentance and holiness. There is almost a sense that everyone sins, and we can’t fully escape it, so we don’t have to repent of any sins. John’s message was a powerful one- emphasizing the power of God to change our lives, and improve our relationship with God. We need to hear that message of repentance and washing anew.

Prayer: May we, Lord, repent from our sins, and break away from our old, thoughtless habits. May we return to you with our whole hearts, and may your kingdom come in us today.

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