The Normal and Abnormal Prophets

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:1-11

Mark wastes no time in making absolutely certain the reader knows prophecies are being fulfilled. In what I expect to be the wordiest two verses in the entire gospel, he quotes a prophecy from Isaiah that covers both John the Baptist and Jesus, so as to get two birds with one stone.

Now, Mark says very little about John the Baptist, but what he does say is very important. He is living in the wilderness, wearing camel hair, eating locusts, and proclaiming a greater prophet to come. Jews of this time period expected their prophets to behave in a certain way. Specifically, they expected them to be beggars, to wear and eat only the lowest of food and clothes, basically only what they could find. So John was exactly what the Jews were expecting in a prophet. That’s why they were coming from all over to hear him. But when John starts saying a greater prophet is coming, that’s when things start to get a little unusual. 

Mark says even less about Jesus. All we know about Him is that He comes from Nazareth, and without a birth story that information has no significance. Unlike Matthew, Mark is not concerned with Jesus’s lineage. All that matters is that the Holy Spirit descended on Him and called Him the Son of God. And why should anything else matter? What other evidence do you need than God’s word?

Back when I read this part of Matthew, I wondered if everyone could see the Spirit, or only Jesus. But now I think it’s clear that everyone saw and heard. That was God’s purpose, I think. To proclaim to one and all exactly who Jesus was, so no doubt could be left in our minds. Again, what greater proof do you need than the Word of God?

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