In his commentary on the book of Matthew, Stanley Hauerwas illuminates for us what John’s call to repentance means.
“But what could it have meant for John to call for repentance? Our temptation is to think of repentance in individualistic terms, but John is a prophet of Israel. He represents God’s decisive action on behalf of Israel to save Israel from its failure to live as God’s people. That John baptizes in the Jordan is a reminder of Israel’s baptism in Exodus by Moses’s parting of the waters. Israel had to face death as it walked across the dry land between the walls of water. John’s baptism calls Israel again to face death that it might live. Repentance is about the life and death of the people of Israel.”
Stanley Hauerwas, “Matthew: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible”
In this week leading up to the second Sunday in Advent, our Gospel reading in Mark 1:1-8. Mark get’s straight to the hard stuff. A prophet in the mold of Elijah calling Israel to repentance. As we read the Gospel words from the lips of wilderness voice crying out “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” we are struck by the seriousness of what is at hand. Indeed, for John, preparing for Christ’s sudden entrance onto the script of human history is a Life & Death Situation. That is what Advent declares. And we prepare our hearts, orient our lives, and reclaim our language toward what is “at hand.” The dawn of something new.