On Jordan’s Banks

Read: Mark 1:1-8; John 1:6-8

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 3:2)

In one way or another, each of the four Gospels starts with John, that austere wilderness preacher of repentance. Matthew and Mark bring him onstage just before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Luke tells about the announcement of John’s birth before the more famous annunciation by Gabriel to Mary, and the fourth Gospel mentions John in its prologue. We know him as John the Baptist, which makes him sound like a fundamentalist preacher (and he was!). But the ancient church called him John the Prodromos: the Forerunner.

John dressed funny, ate weird food, worked in the boonies, and said a lot of harsh things. But all of this served a purpose. John was a one-man messianic advance team, looking and living like Elijah, meeting the people in the wilderness like Moses, speaking words from Isaiah. In fact, when the Jerusalem authorities sent representatives to investigate him, John told them he wasn’t even a prophet, let alone the Messiah. He was just a voice, crying, “Prepare the way!” Get ready; God is coming!

How do you prepare the way for God to come to you? By doing what John urged: repenting. An 18th-century Frenchman named Charles Coffin wrote the Advent hymn “On Jordan’s Banks.” Its message is simple. If we want to get ready for the Lord’s coming, do what John the Baptist says: Then cleansed be every life from sin: / make straight the way for God within, / and let us all our hearts prepare / for Christ to come and enter there.

As you pray, ask God to help you turn from sin and back to him.

Listen along: On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist’s Cry – Norwich Cathedral

About the Author

Rev. Dave Bast retired as the President and Broadcast Minister of Words of Hope in January 2017, after 23 years with the ministry. Prior to his ministry and work at Words of Hope, Dave served as a pastor for 18 years in congregations in the Reformed Church in America. He is the author of several devotional books. A graduate of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary, he has also studied at both the Fuller and Calvin seminaries. Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, have four children and four grandchildren. Dave enjoys reading, growing tomatoes, and avidly follows the Detroit Tigers.

This entry is part 8 of 25 in the series Carols and Lessons