It’s gotten hard for me to watch the news in my old age . . . especially when I watch prior to my morning coffee. But I do it anyway. I want to know what’s happening in the world even if it gets me down. A typical evening of the 5:30 p.m. news on NBC, with anchorman Lester Holt, goes something like the following. The first 15 minutes are commercial free and they use those minutes to talk about political messiness. After a commercial break they then talk about the threat of North Korea for 2 minutes and sexual harassment cases involving celebrities. Finally, after the last commercial break they save the last 1 minute for a spotlight on somebody who is making a difference for good. One minute of good news!
I want more time for hearing good news!
Enter John the Baptist. Mark 1:1-8. The very opening of the book of Mark is devoted to good news. It is simple, and it is profound. It is all about forgiveness. Put yourself in the shoes of the Jews of the period. It shouldn’t be too hard because some parts are very similar. At the foundation of your faith would have been the belief that only God can forgive. But you couldn’t be certain of that forgiveness because you couldn’t talk to God. Only the High Priest on the day of the Passover was allowed to speak to God. He would deliver God’s message to the rest of the people. Also at the core of your belief system would be “one and done.” Most of the ancient Jews did not believe in an afterlife as we do today. They believed once you went into the ground you faded away as those who remembered you forget your life. Therefore, the picture was potentially dreary. If you were poor you didn’t really enjoy your life. You couldn’t talk to God. And you had no idea if your life served a purpose or had any value at all.
Honestly when thought of in this way it makes the news of the day I complained about earlier seem rather cheerful. John the Baptist was the first–even before Jesus–who gave us a primitive form of the gospel message. What is his message? It is, “God forgives you.” In those three words come two great revelations: 1) God speaks to you, and 2) Your life has value. I could write a full sermon, maybe a series, on those three words, but I want to here instead briefly show you the relevance in your life.
Have a dismal outlook because you are surrounded by bad news? There is good news to be found. Where? Stop watching the tube, and come to church instead. We’ve got good news coming out of our ears at church. You are forgiven. You are loved. Jesus is your friend. Friends help each other. God loves the world. You can conquer death. You can find peace. And Christ is the Prince of this Peace.