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Daily Bible Readings

John Prepares People for Jesus with Forgiveness

Posted by Dan Sullivan on

[1] The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

[2] As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
[3] the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

[4] John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [5] And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Mark 1:1–5 ESV Read More

It says something that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, starts with Isaiah. Isaiah was one of the most revered and respected prophets in all of Jewish history. He had messages from the Lord to many countries in the known world and he had the boldness to confront kings and empires. His prophecies came at the most burdensome time of Jewish history and continued to help people through the Babylonian exile and the Diaspora. 

To say that the people of Israel were anxiously waiting for the Messiah that Isaiah promised would be an understatement. 

So, when a guy shows up in the wilderness calling people to repentance, many went. John’s message to them was to repent from their sins and be baptized for forgiveness. This was a bold statement, considering that forgiveness came from a sacrifice in the temple. John knew all about those sacrifices since his dad was a Levite priest. 

The big deal about this baptism was that it was a baptism of repentance. This baptism was an act of declaring something about yourself and something you were committing to in the future. The Jewish people had done ceremonial washings and baptisms for other things as they were going through a ritual, but this one was different. If you are going to be baptized as a sign of repentance, you are showing that you need to repent from something. You are admitting your uncleanliness before God. 

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed, it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…
The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power…It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God…Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

This group of people in the wilderness is becoming a group of followers already. They are united in their public confessions of repentance and are experiencing the love of God together in a way they might not have experienced in the temple. 

This is how John prepared the way for Jesus, by giving people a foretaste of the forgiveness and joyful repentance that Jesus offers us even today. 

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Tags: confession, forgiveness, freedom, gospel, grace, repent