Mark writes, “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.’” (Mark 1:2-3)
Ooops! If Mark were submitting his writing in a modern academic setting, he would be red-lined at this point; the professor would write a note that said, “Incomplete source reference.”
You see, only the second part of that quote is from Isaiah. The first half is from Exodus and Malachi. By our standards, Mark has made a mistake. But in the first century, it wasn’t uncommon to combine sources, and only credit one of them. Mark is not concerned with literary accuracy, but with making a statement of faith.
His statement goes something like this: What God is doing in Jesus is deeply rooted in the Exodus, the Temple, and the return from Exile.
I’ll have more to say about each of those in coming days. For now, simply note this: At the time of Jesus, the story of God and Israel was already at least 1, 500 years long. Tack on the 2,100 years that have passed since then, and you realize our spiritual heritage is a long one. I find that both humbling and heartening. It is humbling to know that many generations have gone before us, and it is heartening to know that we do not walk the path of faith alone; millions of people have been traveling it for millennia.
God of the ages, you have placed us in a great community of the faithful. Thank you for those who have gone before us who, like us, struggle to make sense of following you in challenging times. As your Spirit inspired our ancestors, so lead us now that we may walk the way of your Son. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.