2.18.2015 Ash Wednesday Mark 1:1-13 John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River
The Baptism of Jesus
Today we begin the pilgrimage and discipline of Lent. With the Lord Jesus, we will walk with Him observing His arrest, trial, passion, death and resurrection. On this day, we come to God with the ashes of repentance and faith for a life that will rise out of the ashes.
Mark begins his gospel with a bold confession. Jesus is the Son of God. For him this is Gospel, good news. In accordance with God’s past promises in the Old Testament, Mark quotes from Malachi and Isaiah to show that John the Baptizer is the forerunner of the Messiah. He prepared the way for Jesus by calling the people to repent, confess their sins, and be baptized. In his preaching, John witnesses to Jesus as one greater than he and as the one who would baptize with the Spirit.
Repentance is the necessary preparation to celebrate Christ’s coming. Literally, it is a change of mind, a re-direction of one’s life and a turning or a returning to God. Repentance involves an awareness and confession of sins. Lent is a season of repentance symbolized by the liturgical color used during the season – violet.
Yet we need to be careful that we do not make repentance the good work, which will earn Christ’s coming into our lives. By grace, Christ is coming but repentance opens us and makes it possible for Christ to enter. In other words, grace precedes repentance, not vice versa.
Today, we come with the Ashes of repentance. In the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve fell headlong into sin, the Lord God reminded our first parents of their new reality, “And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19 That is why today marks the beginning of Lent with the ashes of repentance and faith with a hope of new life, which will come out of the ashes. Repentance and faith are the two watch-words of the Christian faith. The two are joined together on a day we call “Ash Wednesday.”
Almighty God, you have created me out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to me a sign of my mortality and penitence that I may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ my Savior. Amen