January 22, 2017
This world is a pretty dark place. Yes, there is much beauty. There are many wonderful people. But I am becoming more convinced that the world is far darker and given to violence and destruction than many want to admit. At the same time I am also more and more convinced that the only hope this world has is found in Jesus Christ.
This morning we begin looking at the gospel of Mark. Many consider Mark to be the earliest of the gospels. Most believe that the author is John Mark, the traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas and who was later in Rome with Peter. In fact Papias, who was bishop of Hierapolis until 130 AD, said that Mark was the secretary and translator for Peter. He wrote down the recollections of Peter.
Mark’s gospel is filled with action. The word, “immediately” is found often. Jesus enters into the lives of people. When you read Mark’s gospel, you are confronted with Jesus who wants to enter into your life. In fact as we will see today. The highest potential for living life to the full is found in knowing Christ.
I. GOD IS ON THE MOVE. 1:1-8
The last of the Old Testament prophets is Malachi. Malachi was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel had returned from the Babylonian exile and the temple had been rebuilt. But as time went by their faith became stale. The people of Israel were just going through the motions, observing the Sabbath and other rituals, but their hearts were far from God. So God sent Malachi to call the people to repentance. Mark 1:2 quotes from Mal.3:1. In Mal.3:1 God says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.” This is a prophecy of the coming of both John the Baptist and Jesus, the Messiah.
Between the time of Malachi and the birth of Jesus there was a period of some 400 years. Four hundred years went by without any clear word from the Lord to his people, Israel. During those 400 years Israel was continually oppressed by other nations. As Mark begins his Gospel he wants his readers to understand that the coming of Jesus is deeply tied to the history of Israel.
This is important. It’s important because the gospel, the good news about Jesus is not something that just happened in a vacuum. Jesus brings to fulfillment the history and significance of the nation of Israel. But I must not get too far ahead of the story.
In v.2-3 Mark combines Mal.3:1 with Is.40:3. Isaiah was written roughly about 170 years before Malachi. And yet, both Isaiah and Malachi refer to the same messenger. Isaiah 40:3 says, “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Mark tells us that this voice is none other than John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing a highway for our God. And who is our God? It is Jesus Christ. Do not miss what Mark is saying. The word, Christ, is the Greek word for the Hebrew, “Messiah” or anointed one. Jesus is God’s anointed King. But according to Mark, Jesus is in fact God. In Is.40 the messenger is preparing the way for God. Jesus is God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully man.
Now how did John prepare the way of the Lord? It says in v.4 that John was in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from Judea and Jerusalem were going out to listen to him and be baptized as they confessed their sins. In v.6 Mark tells us how John dressed and what he ate. Why is that important? Well, this description pretty much matches the description of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. In fact, in Mt.17:10-13 the disciples ask Jesus, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" And Jesus answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” There was a belief in the days of Jesus that before the Messiah would come, Elijah would make an appearance. John came in the spirit of Elijah.
John was not just preaching that people needed to get right with God. He was preaching that people needed to get right with God because God was about to do something. After 400 years, God was on the move. Someone was coming who would be far mightier than John. This one would baptize people with the Holy Spirit of God.
Now suppose you were down at Daly Plaza and some guy stood up and started preaching that you needed to repent because an important person was coming to town. Would you pay much attention to that guy? Probably not. Why did these people listen to John? I mean, John didn’t do any miracles. It is because John was talking about things these people understood. Many Jewish people were looking for the Messiah, the Savior who would bring deliverance. John spoke about the Messiah and the people understood. John’s message connected with their understanding of the Old Testament and the longings of their heart. And many repented preparing to receive this one who was coming.
Repentance means to change direction. Based on new information, a person changes the direction of his or her life. If God was about to do something wonderful how would you prepare for it? Would you just keep living the way you have always lived? Or would you want to have your heart ready to receive God’s gift? John was saying that to receive God one’s heart must be tender, open, and repentant. God is on the move. Are you ready for him?
II. GOD IS ON THE MOVE IN JESUS. 1:9-13
Matthew and Luke take the time to describe the birth of Jesus. Mark starts his gospel right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. During those days when John was preaching and baptizing Jesus came from Nazareth and he was baptized by John. Did Jesus have any sins to repent of? Did Jesus need a baptism of repentance? No. Jesus was without sin. So why did Jesus get baptized by John?
I believe that Jesus was seeking to identify with all those who wanted to be right with God, ready to receive the One who was coming. Those who want to be right with God in their lives are tracking on the same page as Jesus. Jesus was identifying with people whose hearts were open and tender towards God. He was showing that he also has a heart that is tender towards God. As Jesus said In Mk.2:17, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
Notice what happened when Jesus came out of the water. The Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Notice that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are referenced in these verses.
A number of scholars have suggested that there is a parallel here with Gen.1. In his book, “King’s Cross”, Tim Keller points out that there is only one place in the sacred writings of Judaism where the Spirit of God is likened to a dove. In Genesis when God created the heavens and the earth, it says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word for “hover” can also be translated, “flutter.” The rabbis translated that sentence like this: “And the Spirit of God fluttered above the face of the waters like a dove.” Keller makes the point, “Mark is deliberately pointing us back to the creation, to the very beginning of history. Just as the original creation of the world was a project of the triune God, Mark says, so the redemption of the world, the rescue and renewal of all things that is beginning now with the arrival of the King, is also a project of the triune God.” At Jesus’ baptism God the Father publicly affirmed Jesus Christ as his beloved Son.
In v.12-13 we learn that after his baptism the Holy Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. In the wilderness Jesus was tempted by Satan. If there was ever any doubt that Jesus experienced life as we know it, these verses should help to bring clarity. After Adam and Eve were created, the serpent, the Devil came and tempted them in regard to God’s command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They disobeyed, sin entered into the world, and Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of God.
Here is Jesus out in the wilderness fasting for 40 days, being tempted by Satan. “Command these stones to become bread and eat.” But Jesus replied, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” If only Adam had said that.
Men and women, in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the second or last Adam. Listen to what Paul writes in 1Cor.15:45-47. “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” Adam disobeyed in temptation. Jesus, the second Adam did not. The Adam of the old creation brought sin into the world. The second Adam makes all things new.
Jesus entered into life as we know it. He was tempted in all ways like us but was without sin. Time and time again Satan tried to thwart Jesus from doing the Father’s will. But Jesus was faithful all the way to the cross. Here is a man who not only died for our sins, but also showed us how to live a “with God” life.
III. GOD IS ON THE MOVE IN JESUS, ANNOUNCING GOD’S KINGDOM. 1:14-20
In v.15 we find the basic message of Jesus. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When Jesus came to this earth as a man, the kingdom of God became visible on earth. Jesus did the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. In the gospel of Mark we are going to see what happens when the kingdom of God invades the world as we know it.
The kingdom of God is the rule of God. The kingdom of God is found wherever God’s will is accomplished. God’s will was and is accomplished in Jesus. For a brief time, Jesus showed the world through his public ministry what the kingdom of God is like.
Notice in v.1 the reference to the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” Notice in v.14, the reference to the “gospel of God.” Are these two different gospels? No. As you know, the word “gospel” means “good news.” The good news of Jesus is about receiving the life of God by entering into his eternal kingdom. That is the gospel. But we cannot fully appreciate the gospel apart from the cross and resurrection of Jesus. It is through his death and resurrection that Jesus makes forgiveness of sin a reality for all who believe.
Notice what happens next. Jesus calls some fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, James and his brother, John. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In both instances it says, “They left their nets and followed him.” “They left their father in the boat and followed him.”
Jesus did not tell them to say a sinner’s prayer. He just said, “Follow me.” The sinner’s prayer is important, but first we hear the call to follow Jesus. Eternal living in the kingdom of God is found in following Jesus and believing all that he does and says. Jesus didn’t even tell them where he was going. Instead he indicated that by following him their lives would change.
My hope is that as we immerse ourselves in Mark’s gospel, we will find Jesus to be compelling and we will apply ourselves to study Jesus and learn from him and enter into life with Him in the kingdom of God.