Sermon Text — Mark 1:1-8
December 7, 2014 – Advent II
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the first chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
The Beginning of the Gospel
From the very beginning of Mark’s gospel account we hear that the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begins with a voice, a word, a Prophetic Word proclaimed by God’s prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament and the Savior’s herald in the New. Such a voice, speaking such a Word is God’s Voicing of His heart to His fallen creation; to Jews and Gentiles, to you and me, to every region in all the world, that all the world might come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. This is God’s will and this is God’s heart. For God so loved the World that He sent John first and then He sent His Son.
It is not for Jesus’ sake that John prepares the way. The King of kings needs no such things. Pomp and circumstance do not become Him. Trumpets and parades of majesty and splendor and power and might are the displays of gentile delusions of both God and His kingdom. Surely the day will come when Jesus enters into His kingdom, but there is no stallion reserved for Him, only a donkey, and there is no palace from which He is to rule, only a dead tree. No, Jesus does not need John to make preparations for His advent. We need John to make preparations for His advent. We need the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We need the heart of God poured out upon us through the ministry of preaching. We need to begin with John because we need the rough places smoothed and the crooked paths straightened. We need to be ready, today,tomorrow, and forevermore because it is not Christmas we are looking forward to. It is eternity. And eternity could happen upon any one of us on any given day. Are you ready? Are you prepared? Are you listening to John?
Call to the Water in the Wilderness
John does not meet us where we are. In fact John calls us away from where we are because where we are is part of the problem. John is in the wilderness not the city. John is near the water, not the lights. John is hearing confession not wish lists. John is giving forgiveness of sins not toys and cookies. John is taking life and death, the Lord and eternity seriously, not playing about in the river like a child at a water park. John is preparing for the coming of the Messiah. He’s not throwing a baby shower. God is fulfilling His promises spoken to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah, and Malachi and all His people. The Lord is about to act for the salvation of the world and the people of the world have their hearts in the wrong places for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. Their hearts are rough with the scars of sin. There is no straight way to their soul. They are weary and lost, distracted and disillusioned. Sin has been heaped up like a mountainous mass. They see neither the wonders of their God nor the need of their neighbor. They are not ready to receive the King and His kingdom.
We don’t talk like that do we? We don’t talk about rough places and crooked paths. We rarely even talk about sin – especially this time of year. Most of us prefer the baby shower to the preaching of John in the wilderness. Well, maybe not most of us, most guys don’t really care for baby showers. No, we don’t talk about sin that way anymore. Today we prefer to call it baggage, issues, skeletons in our closet, character flaws, personality disorders, and alternative lifestyles. These are the things that get between us and Jesus and us and our neighbor. Others struggle to get past their calendars or their pocketbooks. Commitments to trivial things, things that are not eternal, things that do not last beyond the moment, these we choose instead of worshipping Jesus. Choosing these things the rough places heap up and the crooked paths wander about and the heart and soul suffers.
The Mightier One is Coming
So where do we begin? We begin with John. We begin in the wilderness. We begin with repentance. We begin with confession. And confession has two parts, first that we confess our sins and second that we receive absolution – forgiveness. And this absolution is no mere – “don’t worry about it.” It’s not about you trying harder to be better. It’s not about doing this or doing that to make up for what you’ve already done or not done. It’s not about moving your own mountains, carrying your own baggage, cleaning your closet, dealing with your issues, or accepting yourself. That’s not absolution, nor is it confession. That’s not repentance. That’s arrogance. “All flesh is grass” says the Lord. “The grass withers and the flower fades” and you are flesh and you will wither and fade. You will not endure forever if you accept yourself as you are. John calls you away from yourself, away from your sins and to the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.
John points his hearers to Christ. “One mightier than me is coming.” You can’t deal with your sins. John can’t carry your baggage. But one is coming who can.
One is coming who will carry your burden.
One is coming who will confront your issues.
One is coming who will exorcise your skeletons
& shine the Light in the dark places of your heart.
One is coming who will suffer your infirmities and bear your iniquities.
One is coming who regenerate your lifestyle and redeem you body and soul.
One is coming who will take away the sins of the world. Taking them He will kill them. Killing them will kill Him. The coming one is mightier than you or me. He alone is able to suffer the sins of the world, die the death they demand and rise out of them to Lord over them as a King lords over his footstool.
Hanging on the cross Jesus will hang between you and God, and you and your neighbor. There is one mediator between God and men the man Jesus Christ. He will come with a strong hand and His arm shall rule for Him. His reward is with Him and without Him there is nothing but sin, death and devil. He will feed His people like a shepherd feeds His flock. He will draw near and He will be compassionate and merciful. He will forgive the sins of many. That is His heart’s greatest delight. So says His Word. And the Word of our God stands forever.
Call to the Water and the Word in the Church
From the Water John points to the coming one, to the Lamb, to Jesus and His cross. From the church we point to the cross in the water. The gospel for you begins in the water. In the water of baptism is the cross of Christ. You who are baptized have been united with Christ in His death and if united with Christ in His death you will certainly share in His resurrection. Therefore those who would prepare to receive the Lord are called back to the waters of their baptism. Like the Jews of Old you are called away from the mountainous heaps of sin which you have built up over the days, weeks, and years. In the water that mountain was cast into the heart of the sea. In the water the rough places were smoothed and the crooked was made straight. In the water the Word that endures forever was poured on you and in you by the Spirit. In the water sin is taken seriously and is literally washed away. In the water death dies beneath the tide of Christ’s passion for you. In the water there is life because in the Water is the Word, the Word that endures forever.
And so to prepare for our eternity we daily return to our baptism. We go back to the water and recall God’s Word and promises. Old Adam is drowned and the New is raised up and refreshed. Baggage, issues, skeletons, flaws, disorders and alternatives are bleached with blood, Jesus’ blood, the only blood offered for the sins of the world, the only blood given for you and your salvation.
The Beginning Continues
Beloved in the Lord, you need to be ready, prepared to meet the Lord. I’m not talking about some sort of super spiritual remembering of the first Christmas, I’m talking about day of His return or the day of your death. Are you ready? Are you prepared? Readiness and preparedness are not a one-time event. They are a continued existence requiring constant participation and attention to the divine Word and sacraments. Through such means the Lord Himself preserves us for the day of resurrection. He keeps us as His own. He continues what He began.
Therefore, since all these things have come to pass, what manner of persons ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God? We are to be the sort of persons whose commitment to the Lord’s Word exceeds that of our commitments to our calendars and pocketbooks. We are to be the sort of people confess our baggage and receive God’s absolution by faith. We are to be the sort of people who do not indulge in the anxieties of this fading world, but denying worldly ambitions pursue the kingdom of God seeking first His righteousness and patiently awaiting all things from our gracious Father. We are to be the sort of people who look forward to these things and diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
Thus we are to be the sort of people who are found by Him in the middle of it all. Where there is a beginning there is also middle and an end. Jesus is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus has met us in the middle; in the middle of the water, between us and the Father and us and our neighbor and us and our sins. And in the middle of it all we cry to the nations, Behold, this is our God we will rejoice and be glad in Him today, tomorrow and forevermore. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!