Lent Devotion, Monday, March 5, 2018

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John the Baptist, says Mark, “was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” (Mark 1:6)

I’m tempted to draw a comparison between John the Baptist and Winne the Pooh. After all, they both have a thing for honey!

Other than the honey, though, I don’t know how to connect them. So I’ll set Winnie to the side, and ask instead: Why did Mark mention John’s dress and diet? Why does it matter what he wore and what he ate?

As strange as his clothing and food seems to us, it wasn’t all that abnormal for someone out in the desert; he was simply using what was available in that setting. But why would Mark—a writer who is concise with words—bother to mention that? Mark must have a reason for giving the description. One theory is that it points to 2 Kings 1:8, in which the prophet Elijah is described in similar terms. Among some first century Jews, there was an expectation that Elijah would appear just before the coming of the Messiah. So perhaps Mark is saying that John fulfills the role of Elijah.

Another suggestion is that his dress fits his message: he is calling people to prepare for the Messiah by focusing on the basics of trusting God and loving neighbor. Because he calls for simplicity of life, he dresses simply.

Everlasting God, in a world that is fast and complex, we sometimes lose our way. In your mercy, you call your prophets to remind us of what matters. May we heed their call, and through simplicity of life be ready for the Christ whose Spirit is always seeking to lead us. Amen.

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