The silence is broken
As a teenager I once took part in a ‘sponsored silence’ event at school on a Saturday morning. The lack of conversation, for what seemed like endless hours, was very eerie and it was a massive relief when we could finally chat again and listen to one anothers’ stories. For humans, communication is vastly important. Good communication engages, encourages, stimulates, educates, guides, inspires, shapes, empathises, challenges and, above all, binds us together.
God loves to communicate. In Genesis 1, God ‘said’ eight times in six days and ‘communicated’ the world into being! In Genesis 3:9, God speaks directly to Adam – ‘the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”‘ In fact, throughout the Bible, the words ‘God said’ or ‘Thus says the Lord’ appear 3800 times. God especially used prophets, such as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, to convey His messages to individuals and to whole cities. The final Old Testament prophet was Malachi and then we hear nothing more… for four hundred years! Now that must have been an eerie silence!
This then, is the backdrop to Mark 1. After four hundred years of silence God sends a new prophet, John the Baptist, to pave the way for Jesus. He is the herald of the Messiah! He announces the best news the world will ever hear! What a way to break the silence! A sole messenger in the wilderness, proclaiming the arrival of the coming King! John the Baptist shows the Jewish people how to confess their sins, repent and get right with God. He prepares for Jesus a new people of God, whose identity is based on repentance, not ethnicity.
John the Baptist speaks to the hearts of people, not to their heritage. He offers a water baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins! No wonder ‘all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins’ (v5). It must have been amazing for the people to hear from God through His new prophet and to be given the means for redemption after the long years of silence… and yet, John the Baptist was only the messenger to point the way! The real gospel is Jesus, the Son of God!
When Jesus came to John to be baptised, He had no sins to repent of, but was demonstrating His identification with fallen humanity. At the point of His baptism the Holy Trinity is completely revealed, with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in unity, visibly and audibly. God speaks and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends. God communicates with Jesus, confirming “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v11b). God communicates the same thing to us, if we are willing to listen. We are His beloved children and He is pleased with us. God doesn’t love us on the basis of what we do – remember Jesus hadn’t started His ministry at this stage – but of who we are in Jesus. When we turn away from sin, seek forgiveness and ask Jesus into our lives, God looks upon us as He does Jesus and sees our sins no more.
Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s communication is ongoing and will never end. By the Holy Spirit, who He sent as our helper (to stay close to Him), He speaks to us through prayer, pictures, words of knowledge, prophecies, wisdom and dreams. Sometimes we may feel that He is silent, but it might be that He is incubating something in us that will be revealed in His perfect timing. His silence may be cultivating our patience or reliance on Him. Or perhaps we think He is silent, but actually we aren’t listening? Sometimes in the busyness of life we don’t make space to listen to God. Can I encourage you to take time out today to sit quietly with God and ask Him what he would like to say to you? God is for you, you are His beloved child and He is always looking for an opportunity to tell you how much He loves you.