July 30, 2019 • Life for Leaders
“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.’”
I cannot read Mark 1:3 without hearing echoes of the stirring song from the 1970 musical Godspell (an old spelling of the word “gospel”). In this Broadway hit, John the Baptist sang in the language of King James Version, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
The Gospel of Mark begins similarly, with a voice crying out, “Prepare the way for the Lord” (1:3). This voice is identified in verse 4 as John the Baptist. He was raised up by God in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. He was the one who cries out to Israel to get ready for the coming of the Lord. By calling the Jews to repent and by baptizing them as a sign of their repentance, John set the stage for the coming of Jesus and his announcement of God’s kingdom. Moreover, he pointed directly to the advent of one who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (1:8).
As I reflect on the call of Isaiah and John to prepare the way for the Lord, I wonder how we can do this in our own lives? What can we do to be ready when God chooses to move in and through us? We can take direction from John the Baptist, who called the Jewish people to be baptized as a sign of their repentance (1:4). To be sure, repentance continues to be at the core of readiness of God, even as it was once central to the ministry of John the Baptist. Repentance is more than simply feeling sorrow about our lives. It is also an active choice to turn away from what is wrong and go in a whole new direction. The commitment to turn our lives around and follow God’s way of life helps to prepare us for his work in us.
Yet, repentance doesn’t come out of the blue. It implies a prior awareness of our need. We won’t repent until we look at our lives and recognize that we need God more than anything or anyone else. Or, if we have begun in relationship with God, we acknowledge that we need more of God in our lives. Seeing and admitting how much we need the Lord opens our hearts to repentance, which, in turn, makes us ready to prepare for God’s work in our lives.
God wants to do amazing things in us and through us, more than we can even imagine (see Ephesians 3:20-21). The question is: Are we prepared?
P.S. If you’ve been receiving Life for Leaders for a while, you know that I take a Sabbath from devotion writing for about five weeks each summer. So, the weekday devotions from July 29 through September 2 will be drawn from a series I did in 2016 on the Gospel of Mark. It’s always good to reflect on the life, work, and preaching of Jesus, making connections to our daily work. We’ll get back to Ephesians in September as we move toward finishing the book by the end of the year. Blessings to you! – Mark
Something to Think About:
What helps you to be ready for God’s work in your life?
When you hear the word “repentance,” what do you envision? What does it mean to repent?
Can you think of a time in your life when, by God’s grace, you were able to turn your life around and go in a new direction, God’s direction?
Gracious God, may I be prepared for you. May I be ready to receive every gift you have for me. May I be available when you want to work through me. Let nothing stand in the way of your transforming presence in my life. Amen.
Explore online Bible commentary: The Beginning of the Gospel: Mark 1:1-13 at the Theology of Work Project.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.