“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Mark 1.2-3
Construction zones can be messy places. Hard hats and hardened tools are common place as workers scramble in different directions with various tasks and assignments. Walking by you hear a symphony of random noises like steel clanging on steel, the thud of concrete being broken by a sledge hammer, or the drone-like sound of a pile-driver punching new beams of support deep into the ground. Somehow, the entire project magically seems to come together. At least, this is what’s going on down the street from my apartment near the Dempster Street bridge for the daily commute trains of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
In many ways, life is like a constant construction zone. God, the Master-Builder, is constantly at work in our lives as we daily seek to follow Him. There are things that need replacement and/or strengthening, some things that are new, and some things that frankly need to be torn down. The funny thing is that sometimes God lets you put on your hardhat and join Him, and other times you must simply wait on the sidelines as He does what only He can do.
In this part of Mark’s gospel, we encounter a construction zone. God is doing something new, but it’s not entirely new. It’s like the Dempster Street bridge—it’s not being torn down, but it’s being renovated and being built upon. It’s going to be a stronger bridge for decades to come, but much work is required that needs to be carefully planned and put into motion.
Think of this section in Mark (1:2-3) as a new act in an on-going play. God, again the Master-Builder, carefully pulls the reader aside to show how He has been preparing this renovation of the Kingdom all along—it’s new but not really. Following God has always been by faith—but now it’s faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
You, the reader, are being given “inside information” so you can do some “inside trading” in the spiritual realm. In other words, put all your chips on this one stock and make a fortune — the stock of Jesus Christ.
There is a double-meaning to this passage. First, let’s examine the obvious.
The quotation is a combination of three different pieces of Scripture: Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40:3. Mark combines these three (before unrelated) parts of Scripture to point to the advent of John the Baptist who in turn introduces the main actor on the stage of God’s history for humankind, Jesus Christ. These quotations combine the Torah (Exodus), the Minor Prophets (Malachi), and the Major Prophets (Isaiah) as if to say they all point to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
But there’s another subtle movement being suggested in this passage that should hit home for you. The Gospel of Mark is about Jesus leading his disciples. He leads them to Jerusalem and death (see Mark 10:30), and he goes before them to Galilee (see Mark 14:28 and 16:7). In other words, while God has prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus is now preparing the way for you.
There is no place you can go, where Jesus has not already been. There is no hell-hole you can find yourself in where God’s love for you is not deeper still. There is no place of darkness beyond his grip. One of the ways in which God manifested Himself to His people was in absolute darkness (see Exodus 20.21)–as if to assure us that when we find ourselves in such places we can know that He is with us still. Jesus died on the cross—was forsaken by God the Father—so you would never be forsaken by him. That’s the beauty of the good news we call the Gospel. God is paving the way for you—will you follow Jesus to get there? Faith lights the way where reason, money or even safety cannot shine bright enough.
1. How are you preparing the way for Jesus with the people you know who don’t have a relationship with Christ?
2. Describe the depth of comfort you get from knowing that no matter where you are as a follower of Christ, that yes, he has already gone before you and prepared the way for you…
3. God likes to manifest His presence to His people in the wilderness. Why? What wilderness are you currently in, and how can you begin to recognize God’s presence with you?