In the third verse of his Gospel, Mark quotes from the prophet Isaiah: “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
These words come from Isaiah 40, which is one of the Bible’s most hopeful chapters. In it, the prophet announces that God has instructed him to announce comfort to the people of Israel, for their exile is coming to an end. The Exile was that period of history during which many Jews were forced to relocate in the foreign city of Babylon. But that time was ending; they were permitted to return to their homeland. The prophet spoke of the upcoming journey as a highway through the desert in which mountains would be leveled to make a smooth path.
The language, of course, is metaphorical; ancient Israel did not possess gigantic earth-moving equipment to cut through rock. What they did have was God’s powerful word of hope that sees them through every obstacle.
It is fitting that Mark begins his Gospel with a few words from Isaiah. For he tells a story of Jesus on the move; on the move to release captives from whatever imprisons them and to lift the lowly from whatever keeps them down.
God of the captive: Speak and set us free. Release us from what binds. Undo our restrictions. Through the power of your Spirit, speak your word so that we may follow the way of your Son. Hear us, O God. Amen.