Jesus: Who he is and why he came.
When Mark wrote about Jesus in his gospel his purpose was not to simply pass on information. He wanted his readers to encounter Jesus personally. He wanted them to realise that God had intervened in history in a new way. It was not that God was uninvolved in history to this point but this was something fresh and new.
So he begins in a fairly abrupt and attention catching way:….
Mark 1:1 1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Gospel – this word means ‘good news’. The word ‘gospel’ has become very commonplace to us – we are so familiar with it that we have lost some of the force. When the OT used the equivalent word it usually carried with it the idea of God breaking in to history in a dramatic way.
Mark tells us what the good news is about – Jesus Christ the Son of God.
AD last week – Jesus – Joshua: Saviour, Rescuer, Deliverer.
– Christ – God’s Chosen One
– Son of God made it unambiguous that this was a unique person.
So this gospel of Mark is written to challenge the reader to faith. There is a urgency about this story. It is not written like a novel to entertain or like a textbook to inform. It is about life and death issues. S
So Jesus opening words in v15 are striking and attention-grabbing:- “The time has come … the kingdom has come … repent … believe …”
- 1. The Preparation.
2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” —
3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ” (NIV)
While Jesus’ coming was God dramatically breaking into history it was not a spur of the moment decision on God’s part. God had planned it long before and the Jews were expecting a Messiah. There was very patient preparation. Mark quotes from the OT to back up his claim [he says Isaiah but actually it is from Malachi, Exodus and Isaiah]
The point is that Jesus Coming into the world was planned by God from the beginning. And he told his people that this would happen. It did not happen exactly as they expected but that is because they didn’t understand not because God changed his plan.
I am sure that over the centuries preceding Jesus coming the prophet must have sometimes despaired, wondering if God would ever fulfil his promises. “Why doesn’t God do something! Our nation is in a mess surely this is a good time for God to send the Messiah.”
And then eventually when the Messiah did come he didn’t act in the way they wanted him to act.
We can often think that we know what God should do – we can be in such a hurry that we miss the lessons God is teaching – Patience being one.
God’s people in the OT had to be very patient. The Psalmist learned something of waiting for God – Psalm 37:7
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes. (NIV)
1 …. I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry. (NIV)
We have seen God fulfil his promises in the OT – but we too need patience to wait for him. To a degree patience is a response to the sovereignty of God. When we wait for God we acknowledge that he alone knows the time, place and circumstances for things to happen in our lives.
ILLUS.: Often I look at a situation and think I know what God should do here.
But sadly my perspective on things is very narrow and no matter how well I may think I understand, I NEVER have all the facts.
How often the OT prophets must have thought – “Surely this is a good time for the messiah to appear!” BUT God knew better!
Sometimes the best answer to our prayers is “WAIT!”
So when the time is right God sends John the Baptist to preach a message of preparation.
- The Baptiser – Preacher.
Mark 1:4-5 4 And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River. (NIV)
The purpose of John’s ministry is to prepare the way for the coming Messiah – King.
ILLUS.: When the Queen goes to visit a town or village there is a great amount of preparation. The buildings are painted – roads are repaired – the place in generally spruced up.
The same was true in the 1st C. if a monarch was visiting a town the people would go out into the approaching road and remove rocks, fill in holes so that the king could have a smooth ride into town.
John’s message is Luke 3:4-5 [ a longer account than Mark] 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth. (NIV)
John is saying to the people , “You need to straighten out your hearts to receive the coming Messiah as your Lord and king” HOW? >> Repentance!
Sin is that which clogs the way between us and God and it needs to be removed if there is going to be an open way between us and God.
John message to his hearer is come and repent for the forgiveness of your sins and the way you express that genuine heart change is by baptism.
Baptism was not a new concept to the Jews – any Gentile who wished to become a Jews – a proselyte – was baptised into the Jewish faith.
The surprise of John’s message was that he called the Jews themselves to be baptised – this would have been difficult for them to swallow, esp. the religious ones, because it showed that religion itself may be a hindrance to being ready to receive the Messiah.
Repentance simply means to turn around – to turn back. It is always pictured in relationship to God – when people, even religious people, through neglect or deliberate self-will leave God out then there needs to be a turning in repentance.
This is what John is calling for.
God was doing a new thing through John – There had been centuries of silence from God.
History is like that there seem to be ebbs and flows in God’s dealings with nations. God’s people pray and wait – pray and wait and the danger is we can get to the point were we no longer expect God to act. We are so locked into our traditions that we resent or even resist God’s activity when it does come.
On the other hand, we must not be willing to accept everything new unless we are sure it is from God. Remember there were many before Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah!
The way to receive the Messiah, Jesus then as now was through repentance before God for the forgiveness of sins!
- 3. The promoter.
Mark 1:6-8 6 …… 7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
It is a special kind of person – a special gift – to be no.2.
To untie someone’s sandals was a very lowly task – to claim to be unworthy to do even this could be to denigrate oneself beyond what is humanly reasonable OR to elevate the other beyond all levels of human honour. John is elevating Jesus – he is not trying to show false humility but he has a right view of how high Jesus is.
We don’t have time to discuss in detail the differences between John’s water-baptism and Jesus’ spirit-baptism.
John’s was just a sign – a sign of repentance– a taste of what was to come –
If you like John’s baptism was just the starter / the taster – Jesus’ came to give the main course.
Later when Jesus had ascended to heaven after his resurrection he would pour out his Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – and on every true convert since then.
John’s role was to announce the Coming King – and he played that limited role faithfully. He could have tried to hold on to his position of popularity but he willingly stepped aside to let Jesus have the glory.
Our place in God’s overall plan is very limited. History is his. The universe is his. He is working out his purposes BUT he gives us the privilege of working with him.
ILLUS.: I remember when our kids were small and they wanted to help with some task or other – in the kitchen or DIY. We let them fumble and muddle along. They didn’t really contribute to the task sometimes they were more of a hindrance BUT they derived huge benefit and pleasure in helping.
In some ways it is like that with us and God – he doesn’t need our help as if he were unable to cope – but he allows us the joy of working with him. BUT the glory is his and we must not try to steal the spotlight.
ILLUS.: Pastor Duma – his life story after his death “Take your glory Lord”
- 4. The Promised One.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Here’s a surprised – the messiah comes from Nazareth – Nazareth was a backwater, an insignificant one-horse town where the horse was long dead!! In the words of Nathaniel in John 1:46 ….. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
The principles by which God operates are different from ours. The bible is full of God choosing unlikely people to fulfil his purposes.
Moses – a murderer who had a speech defect – to be a national liberator!
Gideon – the youngest son of a poor farmer – to be an army general!
Amos – a farmer from the South – to prophesy to the king of the North!
Paul – persecutor of the church to become one of its greatest leaders!
God’s wisdom is different to ours – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no-one may boast before him. (NIV)
It is not that God doesn’t use the strong and rich and clever, he does. But they are more likely to rely on their own resources.
Our usefulness to God has more to do with our attitude than our abilities!
If we have hearts for God – seeking his glory and not our own – willing to obey He will surprise us in what he does for us and through us!
Another surprise is this —-
If John’s baptism was for repentance then why did Jesus have to be baptised? – He was the Son of God – perfect – sinless!
John must have thought the same as in Matthew’s account we read Matthew 3:14-15 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. (NIV)
It seems Jesus wants to dedicate himself to obey God completely – a symbol of his entire ministry.
By being baptised he shares and identifies with the circumstances in which sinners find themselves. He identifies with our needs in order to meet those needs. We see this again and again throughout Jesus ministry but supremely in his death and resurrection.
As Jesus is baptised God confirms his pleasure with his Son’s obedience in the coming of the Spirit upon him like a dove. Who saw this? Was it only Jesus? Was it John also? Was it everyone? We have different account in the gospels BUT one thing is certain this was a sign of God’s approval and pleasure with his Son.
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (NIV)
Mark gives little detail about the temptation – it is much briefer than the other account – many things we could say.
Jesus has just identified with sinner in his baptism and is then thrust out into the desert to experience an onslaught of sinful temptation. To experience that temptations that sinners face.
Is there a link with the OT history of Israel – crossing the Red Sea, a symbol of baptism – and their wilderness experiences for 40 years; Jesus for 40 days? Probably!!
It probably is in keeping with Mark’s theme of costly discipleship.
The gospel is not just about coming to God through Jesus to have our sins forgiven – it is not just to have our sin problem solved and make life tolerable / enjoyable. We do receive BUT there is a cost. We see it in the life of Jesus and he calls us to follow his example!!
These verse – 1-13 – are Mark’s way of introducing Jesus the Son of God. In the next section we have Jesus preaching and performing mighty miracles.
Jesus arrives on the scene in an unexpected way; he is promoted by an unusual man in John the baptiser; – it is surprising that he comes from the backwater of Nazareth; we stand in awe at how highly John reveres him; we marvel that he identifies with us sinners in baptism and in the temptations he face.
As we look ahead we see his authority in teaching and over sickness and demons and nature ……
All we can do is stand amazed in his presence and wonder at how he could love us so much!