Scripture Focus: Mark 1.1-8
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” —
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Reflection: In Medias Res
By John Tillman
The Latin literary term, in medias res, means “in the middle of things.” It refers to narratives beginning in the middle of the action. No exposition. No introduction. The action just starts.
Stephen King’s epic series The Dark Tower begins with, “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed…” These nameless men, one running before, one following behind, lead us into the desert and the rest of the story.
Vince Gilligan’s addictive show, Breaking Bad, opens with a man in his underwear crashing an RV as sirens sound in the desert. Then he steps out into the road holding a pistol to face the consequences of something we don’t fully understand yet.
Mark begins his story in the desert with a mysterious, strangely dressed man. Mark says John the Baptist “appeared” in the wilderness.
John’s backstory is fascinating. He is a miracle child, announced by an angel, born to a barren couple in their twilight years. John first met and responded to Jesus while still in the womb. Mark cuts those scenes. The only hint of backstory is the mention of a prophecy about a mysterious messenger who comes to announce a mighty king. This reference is just one more way Mark tells us we are beginning in the middle.
John appears in the desert, then Jesus appears in the water. In the middle of a line of sinners, he comes to John, submitting to a baptism of repentance.
When John baptized others, they repented from sin, exited the desert of temptation, and followed a righteous God. When John baptized Jesus, heaven was torn open. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus along with the loving approval of God the Father. Then Jesus, the sinless one, entered the desert of temptation to prove he was the righteous king John announced.
We all meet Jesus in medias res, in the middle of our lives, our troubles, our tragedies, our deserts. We might be fleeing something or chasing something. We might have made a wreck of our lives. There may be sirens sounding in the distance.
Jesus goes into the desert and to the cross to face our consequences and win our victory. He faces what we flee. He obtains what we pursue. He repairs what we wreck.
Because of Jesus, we have the chance to be one who goes before him, announcing the coming of the kingdom.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10
Read more about King on the Mountain, King on the Cross
Israel fell into sin in the desert. Jesus would resist sin in the desert. Everything that Israel had lost or failed to do, Jesus would accomplish.
Read more about Visionaries Not Vigilantes
God calls Moses, not with a sword in his hand, but a staff. He doesn’t need vigilantes. He needs visionaries.