03 December 2015

"Make Straight His Path"

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by [first name] back in December 2008. Frank offered his thoughts on the "non-traditional Christmas account" of the coming of Christ in the Gospel of Mark.

As usual, the comments are closed.
The Gospel of Mark is the only one which doesn't really give a "Christmas" account. Some people may say that John doesn't either, but maybe those people don't really understand why John goes from "in the Beginning" to "the Word became flesh."

At any rate, Mark has other fish to fry in telling the Good News of Jesus Christ, starting here:
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

"Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Now, when Mark wrote this, Leviticus and Deuteronomy would have been books ~1400 years old, (thanks Dan!) right? And Isaiah would have been a book about 700 years old. And the last OT prophet would have spoken about 400 years previous.

I mention that because even 400 years is a long time -- especially in an age with no internets and blogs, no printing press for weekly news magazines, no technological tools for preserving cultural foundations except pen and paper. Yet Mark makes a point of starting out his view of the Gospel by showing that in fact there is no Gospel without these pen and paper artifacts.

Think of this as a devotional moment for us as we consider Christmas -- because what we really want to do at Christmas is sort of close the Old testament and get on with the angels, and the shepherds, and the girl with the forgiving fiance, and the stable, and the idea or the story that this Jesus fellow was relatable and therefore we should at least give him a chance to say what he has to say.

But when Mark starts his story of the Gospel of Jesus, he says first of all that this three thousand year old story is where the story of Jesus begins: the story of Jesus begins in the Prophets.

And in that, what the Prophets were saying about Jesus was not something like, "well: your view of God is evolving, Israel, and one day someone will help you to come to a more human way of relating to and thinking about God other than this sacrificial system you are bloodying the place up with today."

In fact, the Prophets were saying, "God Himself is coming, and you should 'make straight his path.'"

What a thing to say, right? "Make straight His path."

Jesus is the one whose sandal we are unfit to untie, and we ought to be preparing the way for Him -- through repentance, through connecting to the Old Testament, and through the tutor of the Law which God gave us so that it will go good for us.

There's a voice crying out in the wilderness: make a straight path, for God is coming to dwell among us. Don't change the channel. Listen to this voice because it is good news -- even if it means that you have to admit that it is not the good news you were thinking you wanted to hear.