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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 14, 2014

Mark 1:1-8

Minister Joe Williams

  1. Verse 1. The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Every great story has a great beginning, and Mark takes us to his beginning of the gospel. The ancient Greek Word for gospel means "good news," so this book is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the good news concerning Jesus. Every word in Mark's description of Jesus is important. First, this is the good news of Jesus, a genuine, historical person who walked this earth like other men. It is the good news of the Christ (which simply means "Messiah"), the promised, anointed Savior of all people. And it is the good news of the Son of God, and a Son in more than a sense that we think of all men coming from God. Jesus is the unique Son of God, who is also God the Son. By using the phrase, “Son of God,” Mark points out the Divine nature of Jesus; and thus glancing at his miraculous conception. This was an essential character of the Messiah. See (Matthew 16:13-17; 26:63, 64; Luke 1:26-35; 22:66-70).

  2. Verses 2 & 3. It is written in Isaiah the prophet; “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”- “a voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the Way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” This passage could easily be translated to read, “It is written in the Old Testament.” The first thing Mark will say about the ministry of John the Baptist is that it was prophesied in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3). Those passages predict this forerunner who would prepare the Way of the Lord; this forerunner whom God would call “My messenger.” My messenger is important, because this is the first authentically prophetic voice to Israel (with the slight exceptions of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2) for 300 years. Some thought that God stopped sending prophets because He had nothing more to say, but John shows this wasn’t the case at all. If we wondered what Mark meant when he called Jesus the Son of God, here he gives us clarity. Mark says the ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the LORD, and he prepared the way of Jesus. In Mark's mind, Jesus is Lord. The passage Mark quotes from (Isaiah 40:3) has in mind building up a great road for the arrival of a majestic king. When building a road the first thing that must take place is the clearing out of debris and poor base material. This can be likened to the removal of sin from our lives (repentance) and poor foundational principles. The idea here is to fill in the holes and low places, to remove the unusable things and knock down the hills that are in the way. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture, because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer. Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist was the one crying in the wilderness and through his message of repentance, he worked to prepare the way of the LORD. We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the LORD truly is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry. "John was God's bulldozer to build that great highway."

  3. Verse 4. And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This passage describes how John prepared the way. He came baptizing, offering a ceremonial washing that confessed sin and did something to outwardly demonstrate repentance. Baptism was practiced in the Jewish community already in the form of ceremonial immersions; but typically, it was only among Gentiles who wished to become Jews. In order for a Jew in John’s day to submit to the baptism that John preached, it took a great amount of humility. This humbling is continued today, but not just among the Jew, but to all who sit idle in churches week after week, all the while feeling the tugging of the Spirit, but because of What they believe others will think or say of them (pride) will not humble themselves and allow the Sprit of God to take charge of their feeble and sinful minds and hearts. For a Jew in John's day to submit to baptism was essentially to say, "I confess that l am as far away from God as a Gentile and I need to get right with Him." This was a real work of the Holy Spirit. John's baptism might have been related to the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts, or to some of the ceremonial washings practiced by the Jews of that day. Though it may have some links, at the same time it was unique - so unique that John simply became known as "the Baptizer. “ If there were a lot of people doing it, this title would bear no uniqueness. Is Christian baptism - the baptism we do today - just like John’s? Christian baptism is like John's in the sense that it demonstrates repentance, but it is also much more. It is being baptized into Christ, that is, into His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3).

  4. Verse 5. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John's ministry met with wonderful response. There were many people who recognized their sinfulness, their need to get ready for the Messiah and were willing to do something about it. John's main message wasn’t “You’re a sinner, you need to repent." John's main message was "The Messiah is coming." The call to repentance was the response to the news that the Messiah was coming.

  5. Verse 6-8. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In his personality and ministry, John the Baptist is seen as being patterned after the bold prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8), who fearlessly called Israel to repentance. John was able to declare the coming of the Messiah with such passion and conviction because he was not motivated by the things of this world but was motivated by the Spirit of God and his desire to do all things to please God. The message of John the Baptist was simple. John preached Jesus, not himself. John pointed to Jesus, not to himself. The thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie: This might sound like spiritual exaggeration on John's part — sort of an I‘m not worthy to “shine his shoes” kind of thing. But John says this because in his day, the rabbis taught that a teacher might require just about anything of his followers, except to make them take off his sandals. That was going too far! But John says that he is not even worthy to do this for Jesus. John recognized his baptism was only a prelude to what Jesus would bring. The Messiah would bring an immersion in the Holy Spirit that was greater than the immersion in water as a demonstration of repentance. John's baptism could demonstrate repentance, but it could not truly cleanse one from sin, nor could it impart the Holy Spirit in the way Jesus could after His work on the cross was completed for us. We, as believers, like John are called to declare the coming of the Messiah and the need for repentance of sin. We must allow the Spirit of God to be our chief motivation and serve as John served, pointing the way to Jesus and not our own selfish agendas.

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