Mark 1:1-8 Already and not yet

Mark 1:1-8 (with 2 Peter 3:8-15 and Isaiah 40:1-11) – set for Advent 2 year B

Questions about Mark 1:1-8
1 What did John the Baptist do? How did this fit in the plan of the gospel? Does anyone have a similar role today? (Who, and how similar?)
2 Why does Mark begin with a quotation from Isaial (40:3 – part of the first lesson)? What connections did he want his readers to make as a result?
3 What was the significance of John the Baptist’s clothing and diet?
4 John’s ministry seems to point away from himself. How many other figures in public life do the same, and for what reasons?

Sample sketch, for 3 voices:

A (meeting B) Oh (John), glad I’ve caught you. I’m supposed to give you a message. Fred says he might be a couple of minutes late for the meeting on Tuesday. Can you make sure everybody gets in and settles down. He will be there, but wanted to warn you.

B Fine, at least that’s clear.

C Morning you two.

A+B Morning.

C I don’t know if it’s the Christmas panic, but I couldn’t get my head round the readings this morning.

B No? – what’s the problem?

C Well, is it all happening, or not? Peter seems to be saying “Wait for it”, while Mark is diving straight in and its all going at top speed.

A Well, the arrival of John the Baptist was pretty exciting for everybody at the time. There hadn’t been a prophet for several hundred years, and then John turned up – wearing the uniform, living the life, and teaching in the wilderness. No wonder he made an impact, and Mark uses that as his starting point.

C So in the gospel it is all happening?

B Perhaps “all beginning” would be more accurate. John the Baptist is starting a new movement, with a hope of getting people back to God. It is like the promise Isaiah made of a return to the Promised Land from Babylon. John is setting the stage for Jesus, before Jesus even begins teaching.

C But what a strange man! Who ever heard of someone in public life spending a lot of time advertising someone else? You wouldn’t catch our politicians or media personalities doing that, would you?

A No way! They’ll advertise themselves and their books or films, not other people.

B Which is probably why we still take John the Baptist seriously. One of the signs that somebody has a real message from God is that it doesn’t bring them any personal benefit. John certainly doesn’t want a comfortable life above all, and he doesn’t seem too bothered about building up his reputation, either.

C That’s worth thinking about. Perhaps John the Baptist has something to teach us about ministry. But you still haven’t answered my question

A about whether its all happening now, or is there a delay somewhere?

B Mark says the gospel starts with John the Baptist telling people to turn away from their sins, and be washed as a sign of forgiveness and a new beginning.

A and the beginning is certainly all happening!

C How!? How can something from 2000 years ago still be beginning?

A Because people today are still finding a new start as they repent and trust Jesus to change their lives and their futures.

B We have the advantage of knowing the full story of Jesus – we know what John the Baptist was talking about – but the message is still news.

C But if it’s taken this long, can we still be serious that it will happen?

B A great deal has happened. – not only has Jesus lived, died, and risen, but also the Holy Spirit has arrived, and God’s Kingdom has begun on earth.

A Your confusion may be that it’s not all obvious. God rules – among Christian people who look for his direction. There are plenty of others who do what they like, and sometimes make trouble for Christians.

C Will it ever be any different?

A One day it will all be sorted out, and God will be clearly in charge.

B We look forward to it, reminding ourselves that we need to be faithful meanwhile. It’s a bit like that message (A – name) gave me. It will happen, but compared to what I thought, a bit differently and a bit later, for good reasons that I haven’t yet discovered.

C I think I get it. Mark is right – it is all happening, as John the Baptist announced a new beginning. Exciting then, and still exciting now because of the possibilities. But because it is still going on, and there are still chances for more people to join in, we haven’t yet reached the end. We have to be ready for that, but get on with now. Right!


(692 words. – about 7 minutes)                                  (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)