Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord (Year B – Advent 2: Mark 1:1-3)

In 1971 John Michael Tebelak and Stephen Swartz introduced us to Godspell, a musical that they suggest is based on Matthew’s gospel, but falls more in line with Mark’s gospel. The musical begins, like Mark’s gospel, with a player gathering a crowd as he sings:

Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

A messenger goes before Christ (Mark 1:1-3):

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ "

A sower went out to sow, and along the way … (Mark 4:4, 15).

Jesus feeds the four thousand so they will not faint (Mark 8:2-3).

[Jesus said] "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way–and some of them have come from a great distance" (Mark 8:2-3).

We follow Jesus the Messiah in the way (Mark 8:27-29).

… Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah.”

We are not to worry about our place on the way (Mark 9:33-35).

Then they came to Capernaum … he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all."

Later, Jesus was on the way, going to Jerusalem (Mark 10: 32) and the sons of thunder, James and John came with a request:

"Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking.

No sooner was that conversation over, then Jesus encounters a beggar named Bartimaeus and asks the same question again (Mark 10:52).

Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

With Barimaeus now on the way with him, Jesus enters Jerusalem:

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields (Mark 11:8).

Even the Pharisees recognized Jesus’ authority (Mark 12:14-17):

And the [Pharisees and some Herodians] came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" … Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s."

In this holy season, let us follow the counsel of Richard of Chichester, 13th century English bishop, who suggested we pray this way:

O most merciful Redeemer, friend, and brother,
May we know thee more clearly, Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly, for thine own sake.
(The United Methodist Hymnal: 1984, #493).

It was Swartz and Tebelak who taught us to pray it this way:

Day by day, Oh dear Lord,
Three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly; day by day.