Our story begins with a man who miraculously prophesied the future, had power over the weather, multiplied a little food into a lot of food, raised the dead, and visibly ascended to heaven at the end of his time on earth.
Our story today begins with the prophet Elijah.
By prayer, he stopped the rain, caused the rain, called fire down from heaven, and brought a widow’s son back from death.
By God’s mercy, he was fed in the desert by ravens, and was fed in Zarephath by a Gentile widow. Elijah heard the voice of God, proclaimed God’s Word to a king, parted the waters like Moses, and ascended to heaven in a whirlwind.
And according to prophecy, the day would come when Elijah would proclaim the arrival of the Messiah.
When Elijah departed from earth, a double-portion of his spirit came upon his disciple, Elisha. Scripture records twice as many miracles during the course of Elisha’s ministry as it records for Elijah. But even Elisha was not the promised Forerunner. A greater prophet was still yet to be born. The spirit which was poured upon Elijah, and which was doubly poured upon Elisha, was awaiting the arrival of a man who would be greater than them both.
This man was John the Baptizer. From conception to martyrdom, he was the voice of one shouting in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord! Make his paths straight!'”
In the first verse of Mark’s Gospel, Mark says he is proclaiming the “beginning of the gospel”. And in verses two through nine, Mark proceeds to tell us about John the Baptist. Before the world could meet Jesus, it had to meet John, for the gospel begins with him. He is the one who was chosen to point the way to Christ.
But what is the beginning of the Gospel? What was the focus of John’s ministry?
This should not surprise us, because John was sent to call Israel to repentance. John called Israel back to the Greatest Commandment . . . and this very commandment includes a specific provision for the proper nurturing of children.
Holy Scripture records the sad stories of fathers like the Prophet Eli, the Prophet Samuel,
and King David, who lost their children, because they failed to train them to be godly. Just imagine a world in which thousands of people became Christians, yet none of them passed it on to their children. The Church would die out in a single generation. The success of the Gospel depends upon godly parents, raising up their children in the Faith.
The Gospel, God’s commandments, and John’s ministry share a common attribute . . .
They all begin in the family.
This sermon was preached on Sunday morning, November 27, 2011, at Christ the King Orthodox Church, in Omaha, Illinois, by Joseph M. Gleason.