A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
a sermon based on Mark 1:1-8
by Rev. Rick Thompson
it striking how Mark begins his gospel?
There’s no angel Gabriel, no Mary and Joseph, no shepherds or
chorus of heavenly angels, no frazzled, overwhelmed innkeeper turning
away the holy family, as we have in Luke’s Gospel.
There’s no Joseph getting messages from God in his dreams, and no
wise ones from the East following a star, like we have in Matthew.
And there’s none of the soaring language of the Gospel of John
about the Word existing from the beginning, and co-creating with the
Father, and then becoming flesh and dwelling among us, full of grace and
truth, revealing the Father’s glory.
Mark gives us none of that. He simply declares, “The beginning of
the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Mark announces this is a beginning, declares it will be good news,
and makes it clear the good news has to do with Jesus.
And, the next thing we know, we’re not at a manger—we’re out in the
wilderness. We’re out in the wilderness, and we’re listening to a
stern, urgent, wild-eyed prophet, wearing the strange dress and eating
the bizarre diet of the ancient prophet Elijah, and proclaiming that
God’s about to do something new. There’s that voice in the wilderness,
urging people to repent and be baptized, insisting that Messiah is
coming any day, and calling upon them to get ready for what God is
A voice in the wilderness.
The owner of that voice, John the Baptist, was living in a
The people of God, the Jews, had waited a long time—a really
loooooong time—for God to do something to deliver them. It had
been centuries since Isaiah reported the people’s cry—we heard it last
week: “O Lord, why don’t you rip open the heavens and come down
and save us!” Centuries later, they were still waiting for God to show
up, and their world was a mess. Politically, religiously, economically,
it was a mess: they were living under the harsh rod of Roman oppression,
and their faith was fragmented into factions, and most of the people
were poor. It felt like a wilderness, a frightening, terrifying,
And, if anything, it was worse by the time Mark wrote his
gospel—perhaps 35 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
There was now an armed rebellion against Roman rule going on—a rebellion
that would be crushed, and would end with the destruction of the Temple
in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Those Jews who had become followers of Jesus
were waiting for their Lord to return, and he seemed to be taking his
sweet time about it, while they continued suffering under the Romans.
There was fear, and uncertainty, and chaos, and death. [continue]