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Second Sunday in Advent
Series B

Option #1: "A Christmas Letter from John the Baptist"
Mark 1:1-8
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.

I. Where he was coming from--"my messenger"--cf Mark 1:2 & Isa 40:3-5; see also Lk 1:59-80 (esp 76-79) ; John 1:19-28.

II. What he did--John preached a Baptism of repentance, thereby removing the stony obstacles from human hearts. He came to make straight paths for the King.

(In ancient times it was the custom to prepare the highway when a King was coming to visit. That often involved the removal of stones from the highway. The stones came to be there because of the practice of "load leveling." If the load on a beast of burden was shifting, stones were placed on the other side of the animal to level the load. Some fell off, creating the need for crews to go "rock picking" before the royal personage traveled the highway--an apt metaphor for the stony hardness of human hearts; cf Ezek 11:19-20; Isa 5:2.)

Albert Barnes has another view of this verse:

The whole scene is represented as a march, or return, of YAHWEH at the head of his people to the land of Judea. The idea is taken from the practice of Eastern monarchs, who whenever they entered on a journey or an expedition, especially through a barren and unfrequented or inhospitable country, sent harbingers or heralds before them to prepare the way. To do this, it was necessary for level hills and construct causeways over valleys, or fill them up; and to make a way through the forest which might lie in their intended line of march. This was necessary because these contemplated expeditions often involved the necessity of marching through countries where there were no public highways that would afford facilities for the passage of an army. "When a great prince in the East," says Paxton, "sets out on a journey, it is usual to send a party of men before him to clear the way."

...Hence, it means to pile up stones in a heap; and it has also the signification of removing stones from a field, as in Isa 5:2, and here of removing them from the way when they are an obstruction to the traveler.

III. How he described the coming One--text, vv7-8; John 1:29-35

Albert Barnes: Behold the Lamb of God--a "lamb," among the Jews, was killed and eaten at the Passover to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt, Exo 12:3-11. A lamb was offered in the tabernacle, and afterward in the temple, every morning and evening, as a part of the daily worship, Exo 29:38-39. The Messiah was predicted as a lamb led to the slaughter, to show his patience in his sufferings, and readiness to die for man, Isa 53:7. A lamb, among the Jews, was also an emblem of patience, meekness, gentleness. On "all" these accounts, rather than on any one of them alone, Jesus was called "the Lamb." He was innocent, 1 Pet 2:23-25; he was a sacrifice for sin, the substance represented by the daily offering of the lamb, and slain at the usual time of the evening sacrifice, Luke 23:44-46; and he was what was represented by the Passover, turning away the anger of God, and saving sinners by his blood from vengeance and eternal death, 1 Cor 5:7.

Of God--appointed by God, approved by God, and most dear to him; the sacrifice which he chose, and which he approves to save people from death.

Which taketh away--this denotes his "bearing" the sins of the world, or the sufferings which made an atonement for sin. Compare Isa 53:4; 1 John 3:5; 1 Pet 2:24. He takes away sin by "bearing" in his own body the sufferings which God appointed to show his sense of the evil of sin, thus magnifying the law, and rendering it consistent for him to pardon. See the notes at Rom 3:24-25.

Of the world--of all humankind, Jew and Gentile. His work was not to be confined to the Jew, but was also to benefit the Gentile; it was not confined to any one part of the world, but was designed to open the way of pardon to all people. He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2. See the notes at 2 Cor 5:15.

NOTE: This outline might be used as a conventional synthetic sermon or could be written in the first person as a Christmas letter from John the Baptist, with Mark adding a postscript following John’s death.

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 Option #2: "God Allows U-/You-Turns!" 
"Recipe for Repentance"
Mark 1:1-8 

Rev. Kelly C. Bedard, M.Div.

A. A radical messenger

    1. Oh so necessary in this distracting and distressing world

    2. A voice of truth in a way/desert of many false ways and voices

B. A radical message

    1. Mind-change: forgiveness for sinners, not swimmers, only!

    2. Life-change: style of "dress" and "eating" habits



1. hetoimazo {het-oy-mad'-zo}, v3: prepare, make ready, provide; to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready; metaphorically, drawn from the oriental custom of sending on before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable; to prepare peoples' minds to give the Messiah a fit reception and secure his blessings. (Strong's)

2. baptizo {bap-tid'-zo}, v4: baptize, wash, baptist, baptized; to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk); to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe; to overwhelm. (Strong's)

3. Baptizo is not to be confused with bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be "dipped" (bapto) into boiling water and then "baptised" (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism, e.g. Mark 16:16. "Whoever believes and is baptised shall be saved." Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! (Strong's/James Boice)

4. metanoia {met-an'-oy-ah}, v4: repentance; a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose s/he has formed or of something s/he has done. (Strong's)

5. We are called upon during Advent and indeed through our whole lives to transform ourselves, to break out of our old habits and begin life again as a new person. We may not be able to do it perfectly. We will make mistakes and fall back into old ways, but it is enough to respond continually to the invitation. (Andrew Greeley)

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