2nd Sunday in Advent

by Crossings

Dying in the Desert
Mark 1:1-8
2nd Sunday in Advent
analysis by Ed Schroeder


This year’s Gospel for Advent II (Dec. 8, 1996) in the revised common lectionary is Mark 1:1-8. A Crossings matrix for this text could look like this:


Diagnosis: Dying in the Desert

D-1 The deadly realities of living in the desert, even sophisticated 20th century high-tech, high consumerism deserts. Desert in Biblical imagery is God-forsaken turf, the territory of God’s archenemy, the realm of unsatiated hungers and thirsts.

D-2 Before the voice of the Isaianic messenger arrives, there are other voices in the desert that extend their winsome calls. God’s people in Mark’s time, and now too, get hooked on those voices in the very midst of our deserts, and follow their calls. Listening to such voices is always at the center of what Mark calls sin. That’s what needs repenting.

D-3 If no gospel messenger ever comes into our deserts, we die there in the desert, empty of the Holy Spirit, the breath (Hebrew: Ruach) of God which we were created to live from (Gen. 2). How long can you run on empty?

New Prognosis:Water in the Desert via John’s and Jesus’ Baptisms

P-3 (Good News for D-3). There is Good News in our desert. It’s not about John, but the one mentioned in Mark’s very first verse. The good news is about Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Good too, of course, is John’s warm-up work, alerting the people (us too) of our dire D-3 situation, our need to “turn around” (=repent). That means to stop listening to voices of the desert, and listen instead to voices of truth in our desert. John’s voice is the truth of repentance, Jesus’ voice the truth of the good news, the forgiveness of sins. What does such forgiveness entail? Mark’s next paragraphs raises the curtain: forgiveness for sinners entails Jesus joining sinners and receiving John’s baptism “for sinners only.” Then “straightway” he’s in the desert, our desert. All this is just the “beginning” of the Good News, says Mark. Read on to find how it ends, especially in the passion history.

P-2 ( Good news for D-2) Listening to John’s voice (for repentance) and Jesus’ voice for our absolution, is the listening called faith. That doesn’t mean that the voices which come from the desert cease and desist. They still make their pitch, and in our media mad age, that is almost irresistible. Almost. Yet even for those drowned by such demonic dronings, the “voice over” of John and Jesus persists: “Even so, repent and believe the Good News.”

P-1 (Good News for D-1) Christians still live in today’s desert(s) but follow another voice and are nurtured in their deserts by Christ and his Spirit. Not just receivers, they are also doers. We take on John’s role in our wilderness world, joining Christ and the Spirit in God’s ongoing desert rescue operation. That means preparing Christ’s way to today’s “ochlos” (see Sabb. 39) and their way to Christ. Latter day messengers do not necessarily live such an odd-ball lifestyle as John did. Yet we never forget that the ministry of the “ochlos” Messiah was introduced by his cousin John, an “ochlos” if there ever was one. John’s preached and enacted “baptism of repentance” prepares the way for Jesus. Christians assuming such a calling will also look odd, even be treated as “ochlos” in today’s society–no matter what their garb or gourmet habits. Their distinctive trademark is that they are no longer running on empty–and it shows.

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