Sermon 6 December 2020

Mark 1:1-8, 1 Peter 3:8-15, Psalm 85, Isiah 40:1-11
second Sunday in advent Sermon

Revd Tudor V Roberts

This advent of 2020 is when we begin looking at St Marks Gospel. It is the shortest and snappiest of the 4 gospels and probably the first written. So, we can put it alongside 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Peter.

Like Genesis 1 it has in its first verse the word “Beginning”.

The Beginning (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way ( Mark 1:1)

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God

Mark;  the author’s full name was John Mark, Luke mentions him in Acts

Acts !2:12 and 25

Acts 13:5 and 13

Acts 15: 37-39

His mother was probably very wealthy; she had a house that could house that all the disciples gathering there fitted in i.e., it must have been large, see acts 12:12

Mark seemed to have fallen out initially with Paul after deserting him on a mission trip, Acts 15:37-39

But he was, eventually,  very warmly regarded by both Peter and Paul

Colossians 4:10 New International Version

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)

Philemon 24

Philemon 24

New International Version

24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

He is mentioned favourably in these two letters too.

2 Timothy 4:11

New International Version

11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

1 Peter 5:13

New International Version

13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.

The great encouragement here is that God uses those who have failed, Mark Failed Paul he was not cut out to be a missionary but the gospel he wrote has brought thousands to Christ. Here are two prominent examples.

Jürgen Moltmann the great German theologian and Pastor was horrified in a Scottish Prison of war camp (he had not yet become a Christian) when he discovered what the Nazis had done back in Europe, in Belsen and Buchenwald concentration camps, when shown film reel. How could his regime be responsible for such an unimagined atrocity? Then he started to read Mark’s Gospel given to him by an army chaplain back in Germany:

“I read Marks Gospel as a whole and came to the story of the passion: when I heard Jesus’ death cry, ’My God , My God why have you forsaken me’? I felt growing within me the conviction this is someone who understand you completely, who is with you in your cry to God and has felt the same forsakenness you are living with now….I summoned up the courage to live again”

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony Bloom in a similar way before his conversion listened to an address by a saintly orthodox theologian  when he attended a camp for young Russians, but the talk infuriated him and disgusted him, he was determined to proof Christianity as empty and stupid, and started to read St Mark to prove himself right because it was the shortest of all the four gospels. After all he did not want to waste valuable time. He writes later:

“The feeling I had occurred sometimes when you are walking along in the street and suddenly your turn around because you feel someone is looking at you. While I was reading, before I reached the beginning of the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a  presence. I realised immediately if Christ is standing here alive, that he means he is the risen Christ”

He committed himself there and then to the Christian faith and lived out that faith for the next 70 years bringing many other people into the same presence he had witnessed despite persecution.

Marks Gospel was written at a time not dissimilar to what Moltmann and Bloom experienced in 20th Century Europe in the chaos caused by the Nazis and Soviets. For Mark it was the brutal persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor in the First Century AD especially under Nero. Mark was written in a hurry. The storm clouds  of persecution were gathering over the young Church, a great fire had devastated two thirds of Rome and Nero ensured the Christians got the blame. They were arrested imprisoned, tortured, thrown to the Lions; life became extremely dangerous for Christians under Nero. It was probably in this persecution sometime around AD 60 that Peter and Paul lost their lives .For years there had been oral gospels in some form or another circulating. Mark was the first to get one written down and sent around the early Church. This was an urgent task, so Mark frequently uses the word “immediately” and his Gospel was short full of eyewitness reports and to the point. Even its ending is abrupt.

So, Mark 1 was a  new beginning the beginnings of Jesus’s ministry on earth as Mark records it probably much from eyewitness accounts from St Peter. God in Jesus is here, and this is the story of the coming of the Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus.

Mark uses the word Gospel straight away, calling something “Good news, Evangelion was not unusual. Emperors would announce they had some evangelion about a campaign, but it became uniquely the way in which Christians described the saving work of Christ, and no emperor had ever announced that someone had defeated death, but that is just what Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God had done. Mark announces Jesus as the Son of God and will repeat this at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7,) and at the trial of Jesus (Mark 14:61) and it is a Gentile Roman soldier that says Jesus must be the Son of God at the  Cross in Mark 15:39.But first Mark needs to announce the one who prepared the way. Mark has used Genesis or hints of Genesis to introduce Jesus, the one who will bring a new beginning. Now he uses Isaiah (primarily) to introduce John the Baptist, but actually he quotes from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 all to make the point here at last after 40-years absence a prophet has appeared in the wilderness to call  God’s people back to repentance and following Yahweh  in holiness and truth. Why baptise ? because essentially Gods people had lost their way, they needed re-converting they needed renewal just as much of the UK does today.

as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

For Mark John is important not for his own sake but as the beginning of the unfolding drama of redemption which centres on Jesus of Nazareth. John’s story and message makes no sense without the Jesus he precedes and announces, and it happens in the wilderness the place where by tradition Moses and Elijah and Elisha and Ezekiel and Jeremiah and Isaiah have all called Israel back to God. The wilderness was where Israel excelled (tragically) at disobeying God and now His prophet John is here to recall Gods people to God’s way ahead of the coming of Christ Jesus.

Maybe You feel you have been in a wilderness of Covid 19 where either God has felt absent or you and I have felt absent from God, like Moltmann and Bloom we need a saviour to save us. The wilderness as the desert Fathers and Mothers discovered in the first centuries, can be a place where it is sometimes easier to hear God, as well as being a place where our sin is revealed. And Mark will describe for us in Chapter one and he does this uniquely amongst the Gospel writers, that Jesus went out into the desert and was surrounded by the wild animals ( Mark 1:13) what comfort that must have been to Christians facing testing from such creatures under Roman cruelty, or having family going through such testing. Mark is the Gospel writer par excellence written for a persecuted group of Christians (as reflected too by Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-9)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So, Mark like Peter  calls his readers to listen up as well as be resilient in the face of persecution.

We have a gospel that we can respond to in repentance and the fruit, the result is forgiveness of Sins (Mark 1:4)

We are called to follow Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God who brings us to new beginning (don’t you want a new beginning after 8 months of this wretched pandemic)

We follow a Messiah who though Son of God did indeed bend down to untie people’s sandals. (mark 1:7) and he did that as he washed his disciple’s feet before the last supper.

This Jesus is particularly good at using people like Mark and Peter who did not at first get everything right, and he can definitely therefore use you and me, Praise God. Dont wait for a new year start  new chapter with God now particularly as we study Mark.

He will wash us through the waters of baptism, and He Jesus will wash us and then fill us though the Holy Spirit that is the promise here in vs 8 which is where our reading stops.

Like the Prophets of old Isaiah 55:7, Jeremiah 18:11, and Zechariah 1:4 Jesus will come and like John calls us to a true repentance . What Jesus will do that John could not do is to drench us, baptize us, soak us in His holy Spirit in fulfilment of what Joel 3:1 and Zechariah 12:10 said would happen. The change of heart that Isaiah hinted at in Isaiah 32:15 and Ezekiel did in Ezekiel 36:25-27 would happen in Jesus’s coming or at least it would eventually happen in the coming of the Holy Spirit after his death and resurrection. Repentance a wholehearted return to the Lord. John ate locusts the insect of plague and he wore the clothes of a prophet an Elijah like figure that is a witness needed to precede what Jesus would bring.

In our World today people are weary today after this pandemic and  as a church we are in a unique position to hand out Marks Gospels, to point people to Jesus. Watch the Operation Christmas Child video and you will see what Faith in action can do. Maranatha Come Lord Jesus .

 Give us now a sense of your presence Lord, as we bring our prayers and requests to you, and enable us to open our hearts and minds to you. We seek to put aside our busy rushing, and to sense that awe and wonder which comes from an awareness that we are in your presence.


Tudor Vaughan Roberts Advent 2020


The quotes by Moltmann and Bloom are from Rowan Williams Meeting God in Mark SPCK London 2014

The Bible quotes are from the NIV.

© All Saints Lydiard Millicent. Powered by Church Edit