Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare the Way/道を整えよ Advent #2/降臨節第2週

Mark 1:1-8      マルコ11-8 
     His name was John. People knew him locally as ‘the Baptist.’ Some would say of him that he was a religious oddity: a strange man. Others less kind would dismiss him as being simply a flake, a weirdo. He definitely did not seem to be the kind of  "How to win friends and influence people" type of personality to usher in the news of the Messiah's coming. He just somehow doesn't seem to fit in with shepherds and wise men and the other characters that we traditionally associate with the Christmas story. Yet, this was God's unlikely servant chosen to herald the spectacular events that would soon follow. A most unlikely front man to be sure, but God's man nevertheless.
     From the very beginning everything about John was unique. His mother Elizabeth was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. But Mary happened to be a very young girl, indeed almost a child. Her probable age might have been thirteen. It was not unusual for a girl in that day and time to be of childbearing age at such a tender age. Indeed, it is not unheard of even in some parts of the world today.
     Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a woman who was in the golden years of her life and not happy about that. She had never given birth to a child. You would think of her more in the category of great grandmother than a mother. Yet, she and her aging priest of a husband were the unlikely candidates for something very special.
     And then there was John himself. Being the same age as Jesus they grow up together and probably played together. Yet as they reached adulthood they were different in so many ways. When John began his ministry he lived in a rugged desert wilderness of Judea. He fed on honey and wild locust and dressed in garments of camel hair. He constantly brooded over the scriptures, especially the prophetic ministry of Elijah, after whom he modeled his own ministry.
     Nor was John a respecter of persons or rank. He had an intimidating personality. For that reason the upper class folk rejected both he and his message. You can read about that in Luke 7:29.
     Yet, John gathered a respectable following. He attracted many hearers among the lower class, many of whom received baptism by his hands. John even drew a group of disciples around him, which is significant for two reasons. First, some of these disciples later became disciples of our Lord, Jesus. Secondly, a number of people began to think of John himself as being the long expected Messiah. For that reason John's gospel felt obliged or forced to specifically point out “There was a man sent from God whose name was John, He came for testimony to bear witness to the light that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the Light.”

What drew people to John and his message? 何が人々をヨハネと彼のメッセージに引き寄せたのか。 
     Well, John was incredible. His austere or stern life style was a compelling reason to listen to him.  Perhaps his strange ways convinced some people to follow him. Some thought he was Elijah the prophet who returned from the dead. But there was more to John than simply a bizarre strange life. John understood that God was about to do something that would shake the foundations of the earth and he needed to prepare the way for that event. 
He did this in basically three ways... ヨハネは3つの方法によった。
1. By living a godly life. 敬虔な生き様によって。
     A changed life is hard to deny. 変えられた生き方を否定しがたい。 We might have heard of the testimony of a man who used to be a member of the underworld…now converted. He has an all-new way of living. I went to school with a man who used to ride with the Hell’s Angels.  A real bad guy, but, once he was coming off of a heroin high, his ‘friends’ put him in a dumpster and the dumpster was just in ear shot of a Billy Graham Crusade.  (Note: Please be praying for Dr. Graham (93) as he is in a hospital.  He is getting better.) For three days, Rick heard the Gospel. Even in his weak and sickly condition, Rick knew he needed the forgiveness Dr. Graham was speaking about.  It took all the power he could muster, but he walked to the front of the auditorium and asked for counsel.  He looked like death warmed over. The councilor showed him the way to God. Rick became a follower of Jesus and shared his faith all over the US. I often wonder what ever happened to him.
     Other’s lives were very different.  They were good people. Never hurt anyone, never did anyone any harm. Nice person. A friend to all sorts of people.  Yet there was something missing in their life.  They knew they were bent in some way. There was a non-good thing inside their heart. Could not touch it, nor could they speak of it. It was there and once they heard the Gospel, they realized they were missing a relationship with the Creator God. Their life was centered on what they could do.  They did it all with such goodness and selfishness.  Yet they were lost. They were looking to their own actions to get them into Heaven. They would say: “I’ll find a way to get in on my own!”
     Problem is; there is only one way to God and John the Baptist knew that way and He was telling everyone who’d listen about how to get right with God, their maker. 

John 1:29 "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

     But we are moving away from the first point; his way of life was a life that was Godly. He was honest.  You might be honest.  He was just. You might be just. He spoke of the only way to God as being THIS Lamb of God. That might be the place we stop being like John. John was a good man who followed his God and lived a Godly life.

2. By challenging the people's sins. 人々の罪を諭すことによって。 
John challenged the people’s world-view.

Mark 1:4~8 マルコ14-8  And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and 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   And this was his message: “After me will come One more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

     He told people the Good News. The Good News is that God provides for His creation the only way to find His Grace and Mercy—thru His only Son, Jesus. If there were another ways, why did the Father send His son to die? If mankind could make it on their own, why did Jesus die for Man’s bent condition? The answer is, there is no other way to God. John challenged the rich to be honest, the soldiers not to steal, the religious leaders to wake up and see their need.  This message got his head cut off as he spoke directly to Herod of his short comings.  See Matthew 14.

3. John pointed the way to Christ. キリストへの道を指し示すことによって。 
Many are lost and not even know it!

     We all need directions from time to time. Some say that men don’t like to ask for directions. I’m not like that. If I even THINK I am lost, I will seek out a person to show me the right way.  Going the wrong way is time and I want to be where I am going on time and not be late…so I ask for direction.
     Sometimes the directions are confusing.  JAF was once found to be in a jam. Some of their crew used a JAF map, I am told, and got really lost! The maps and reality did not correspond!  GPS helps but you need to know how to read a map. Can you read a map?  Question is: can you refold the map?
     Signs on roads, buildings, directions on a paper all help us get someplace.  We all need, from time to time, someone to point us in the right direction.  ‘Where is the bathroom?’ is one of the first things I learned when I started a new language. Problem is, the answer!  “Blaldaha onsizhfnja mskfing desu!”  I’d better ask another person!
     John pointed the way to Christ. ヨハネは道しるべなのです。  He even told his own followers--- There He is!  Go follow Him. He is the One we have been waiting for.
John himself was a sign post. God sent him to be the one to point to the Messiah. 

Mark 1: 2 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 desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

     His role was to tell others and then to sit back and let Him take center stage. 

7 And this was his message: “After me will come One more powerful than I, the thongs 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.”

     John was preparing the Way for the Messiah. 
     Can you make room in your heart for Him? 
     Are you prepared to be pointed to Jesus? あなたは準備が整っていますか。 
     And will you follow that direction? あなたは従っていきますか