The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 1:1-8
Perhaps you have heard of the idea of the last 10%. The last 10% is the difficult and sometimes abrasive part of a truthful message. It’s what a friend can tell a friend, but must be done in a humble and respectful manner. It’s a bit more personal and challenging than telling a friend that he has broccoli in his front teeth.
The last 10% takes courage to tell, but you determine to speak it because you love the other person. It’s not the harsh truth that you spew because you’re angry and want to hurt your sister or brother. It’s the “Wounds of a friend can be trusted” (cf. Proverbs 27:6) kind of truth. It is truth from a friend, spoken in humility and gentleness.
Sometimes, however, we need the more urgent wake-up call. If the house is on fire, a kind and gentle warning would be out of order. If you’re about to run a red light it’s probably a good thing to be yelled at by your carpool riders. If there’s a copperhead snake in your path, better to be warned sternly than gently encouraged to be careful where you walk.
John does not speak in a gentle or humble manner when you look at his preaching recorded in Matthew’s gospel:
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. – Matthew 3:7-10
An urgent call to repentance is very much in order if we’ve blinded ourselves to our need for a Savior. Maybe someone will help you see that last 10% of your need for a Savior. Maybe you already know this. Thank God we have a Savior. That’s good news, and he is the way, the truth, and the life.