In chapter one, verse two, Mark writes, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you.” The words are drawn from Exodus 23:20. The Israelites are at Mt. Sinai, where they hear the Lord’s teaching along with this promise: “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him; listen to his voice.” (Ex. 23:20-21a)
An angel is a messenger from God; it’s that understanding that allows Mark to use these words in referring to John the Baptist who makes the people ready for the coming of Jesus.
Using a verse from Exodus is fitting for Mark; Exodus literally means “the way out,” from Greek words ek (out) and hodos (way). This second book of the Bible tells the story of Israel on its way out from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Canaan. In his Gospel, Mark often uses the word hodos, which in English translation is rendered as “way,” “journey,” or “path.” Along the Exodus journey, the Israelites were taught to trust God and love neighbor. In Mark, Jesus renews this teaching, calling us to walk a radical obedience to God which is filled with compassion and justice for our neighbor.
God of the journey, you led Israel through the wilderness for forty years. Travel with us during these forty days of Lent, teaching us and instructing us. Deepen our trust in you. Increase our love for others. Walk before us, with us, and behind us, that we might be your faithful people. Touch us with the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.