Mark 1:1-8 He Brings Change Pastor
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.
Change is coming. I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s true. Things are going to be different. Does that idea scare you? It does for most people. After all, it depends on what the change is going to be: the change might be good or bad. For example: every 4 or 8 years our country experiences a change in leadership. And every 4 or 8 years roughly half of the population of the country is excited about the change and the other half is nervous about what’s to come. Or how about the changes we experience as we grow up. Do you remember how nervous you were for the first day of school? You had no idea what to expect. It was such a big change, you’re whole life was going to be different. Or do you remember the last day of school? When you realized that you weren’t going to be sitting in a classroom any more and that life was about to get a whole lot more complicated what with being an adult. It was such a big change. You’re whole life was going to be different. Parents, do you remember when your first child was born? When you realized that you were going to be responsible for a whole other little person. It was such a big change. Your whole life was going to be different. Each one of these events is a dramatic change. But none of those come close to the change that God brings to our lives through faith. A change that he knows we need. A change that has eternal impact for us. And that’s why God sent John the Baptist to his people: to get them ready for the change that was coming.
And those people needed to get ready because they weren’t at all prepared. Outwardly the Israelites seemed good. I know we have this negative view of the Israelites, and trust me, Jesus had plenty of things to say to them. But outwardly they were actually pretty okay people. Moral. Kind. For the most part, good neighbors and citizens. And that was part of the problem: they prided themselves on their actions and outward goodness and forgot about God’s goodness and their need for his mercy. That was something that they needed changed about them: they had grown spiritually lazy. They stopped waiting on God and forgot about the promised Savior. Their sins stopped bothering them because they thought they could balance things out by being good people. Instead of living lives of repentance, they chased after self-righteousness. Instead of looking to God, they looked to themselves.
And so John the Baptist was sent to them. Not a random guy out in the wilderness, but a messenger to warn these people who, outwardly were upright and moral, but inwardly they were corrupt, sinful, and running away from the one who saves. John, this messenger of change, proclaimed repentance, turning back to God, listening to his warnings, and trusting in his promises. God sent John to prepare the people for the promised Messiah because he didn’t want his people to miss out on the Messiah and ignore the one who came to bring change to the world. A change so big that nothing would ever be the same ever again.
It’s too bad that John the Baptist isn’t around today. Because as that same message needs to be shouted all over the world. How do you think people would react if suddenly there was this guy in the wilderness: “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4) I think it would probably have about the same reaction as when John was preaching outside of Jerusalem. Some people would come out and listen to his warning and realize that he is proclaiming God’s Word. They would realize that their lives were focused on all the wrong things and moved by God’s Word they would repent. I really do believe that some would. Others would come to listen to him because they were curious. They know somethings not right in their lives so they have been searching for something more. Something better. But they refuse to believe that God can help them so they go away empty. And some will just show up to mock this messenger of God. They will ridicule and try to show how wrong and foolish he is. They will draw upon their own vast wisdom and intellect to try and poke holes in the preacher’s message. They will go away feeling good about their intellect thinking that they have won some great battle for humankind, but still not knowing why they aren’t fulfilled or satisfied. In other words, the same way the people around Jerusalem reacted.
I wonder how we would react. Would we be so ready to change? A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5) As believers I would like to think that we would listen to this warning and act. To listen to that harsh Law that shows us our sins and to react with repentance. To admit our fault and ask God for forgiveness. But change is hard. We don’t always like to change. Just look at how often has God desperately cried out through the Words of Scripture and we have just ignored him. “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3) How often have we heard God tell us that the sins that we like the best are dangerous but we have made excuses for why we do them, or made promises that we’ll stop doing them, but not today. Tomorrow we’ll make solid attempt, but change is just too hard today. How often have we rolled our eyes at the people God has sent to us to warn us of our sins. Parents, friends, teachers, pastors, children. They have come to us out of love, but we just don’t want to listen. God has called for a change in our lives, but we have been too busy, or lazy, or selfish. Just like those people who went out to see John the Baptist but had hardened their hearts against God’s message.
But thank God that he didn’t give up on his people. Instead he kept his promise to save sinners. He brought that change, whether or not the people were ready for it, because his timing is always perfect. Those Jews that had forgotten the coming Messiah: Jesus came to live for them. God’s special people who began to think that they could earn his Love by their works: Jesus came to show them the truth. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rich, the poor, the powerful, the humble, the Jew and the Gentile. To those who lived long ago and for us who are here today: Jesus came to bring change. By his life, death, and resurrection he has changed us. Changed our status before God from guilty to innocent. Those sins of laziness and greed and selfishness that once covered us have been removed. You aren’t who you once were! God calls you special, beloved, important, precious, the greatest of his creation. Instead of the lost, we are the found. We have been changed.
Changed because we have heard God’s message proclaimed to us. His Word that changes hearts and shows us his mercy. His Word that calls out: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Mark 1:3) And through that message, the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts and points us to the work of the Messiah. And we have been changed. Through God’s wonderful plan you have been changed. We know what God has done for us. We know the victory that he has won and we know that we no longer want to live for ourselves. We want to live for our God. We want to be on watch and ready for his coming. We don’t want to be caught unaware.
We have been changed, we have been made alive in Christ. Because we have been changed, we want to live differently. We want to prepare ourselves for our coming Savior. So let us listen to God who tells us to make straight paths for him. Hear God’s warnings in the Bible about the sins in your life. The sins that have trapped you for so long. But not anymore, because God has lovingly and purposefully changed you. Turn away from those sins, repent, and look forward to Jesus’ coming. Because our coming Savior is bringing comfort for all believers. He brings salvation to his children. Prepare the way for the Lord in your hearts and minds because our Savior comes. And he has brought change to his people.
The peace of God , which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.