Every Thought Captive

Prophecy, Preaching, and the Presence of the Kingdom of God

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,  

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,  
    who will prepare your way,  
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:  
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,  
    make his paths straight,’”  

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8

Madeleine L’Engle tells the story of a man who had a small son he loved and wanted to protect from a naïve view of the world. He told his little boy that nobody can be trusted and demonstrated it with heartbreaking force.

One evening when the father came home, his son came running down the stairs to greet him, and the father stopped him at the landing. “Son,” he said, “Daddy has taught you that people are not to be trusted, hasn’t he?” “Yes, Daddy.” “You can’t trust anybody, can you?” “No, Daddy.” “But you can trust Daddy, can’t you?” “Oh, yes, Daddy.” The father then held out his arms and said, “Jump,” and the little boy jumped with absolute trust that his father’s arms were waiting for him. But the father stepped aside and let the little boy fall crashing to the floor. “You see,” he said to his son, “you must trust nobody.”

Our hearts cry out “No!” when we read this story because we long for the father to be the one person that the little boy can trust in a world full of lies.

As the curtain opens on the scene of the Gospel of Mark, hundreds of years of Israel’s rebellion against God and brutal domination by pagan foreign nations sets the backdrop. After four-hundred years of silence from God, can the Father of Israel’s word still be trusted? John’s emphatic “Yes!” sets the stage for the drama of God’s mighty acts of redemption to rise to a climax “as it is written. . . .” (Mark 1:1-2).

The Gospel of Mark thrusts us immediately in on the action with the dramatic fulfillment of prophecies spoken through Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3):

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John is not just any Jewish holy man claiming to have a word from the Lord. He is the prophet promised in advance to prepare the way for the coming true King of the world. John lays the road for God to walk to town in person.

Jesus’ cousin John is also an expert at object lessons. He shows up “baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” in the Jordan River (Mark 1:4-5). John points to the new work God is getting ready to enact by returning to the place where Israel entered the promised land more than a thousand years earlier. The people flock to John confessing their sins and symbolically cross the Jordan once again through baptism. Though we may have a hard time picking up on it at first glance, even John’s clothes send a very specific message to any first-century Jew who knew their Bible: Elijah is back. Get ready. God is about to sort things out and set things right (2 Kings 1:8, Malachi 4:5-6). The epic true drama of God’s mission to renew His creation and redeem those who reflect His image has reached its climax.

John primes the people of God like a wick ready to be lit. The One on the way will baptize with the Holy Spirit, a heart-burning fire to ignite a light to the nations.

John’s task is to proclaim by word and deed that God the Father will keep His Word and catch His children in His loving arms; God’s children are headed in the wrong direction so turn around before it is too late; The Kingdom of God is coming—It is as close as the dusty feet in the sandals that just walked to the edge of the river (Mark 1:8-9).

About the Author

Photograph of Brett Bradshaw

Brett Bradshaw

Director of Spiritual Formation

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Brett Bradshaw serves as the Director of Spiritual Formation at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. He is married to Andrea, and they have two young daughters, Elizabeth “Ellie” Grace and Emery Joy. Andrea is the women he delights to love, and his daughters are the littles ones who are a daily glimpse of the Kingdom of God.