John the Baptist Prepares the Way for Jesus…
An overview of the Gospel of Mark…
Sent to Serve
“In the master there is a servant, in the servant a master.”
This is what Mark is saying to the Gentiles, especially those who are Romans,
According to prophecy, John the Baptist got people ready for the Messiah’s ministry by preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness.
Jesus appeared and was baptized by John at which time He received “the commission and blessing” from His Father to start His ministry.
Jesus then confronted His greatest enemy— Satan—and defeated Him.
After passing the “wilderness test,” Jesus began His ministry of “servanthood.”
After Jesus is presented by John the Baptist and empowered by the Spirit, He begins His ministry, preaching the good news. Then He calls His disciples and performs various miracles.
Mark Chapter One
Jesus is the unique servant of God
(1:1) Mark wastes no time in telling us the theme of his book.
It is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Since Mark is writing to a Roman audience, he has no need, like Matthew or Luke, to establish Christ’s lineage to prove His credentials as the Son of God to his readers.
There are two reasons the Romans did not need such information.
First, the Romans had the same attitude as those who are from Missouri—”show me.”
They were not so much interested in qualifications as they were in actions.
Second, since Jesus is being portrayed as a “servant” or “slave,” there would be no need to show his genealogy since, from a Roman’s standpoint, slaves do not have genealogies.
Finally, Mark makes it clear about Jesus’ uniqueness.
Jesus is a personal name; it was common among the Jews, being the same as “Joshua” and meaning “the salvation of Jehovah.”
Christ is an official title; it is the Greek equivalent of the term “Messiah.”
It declares the “anointed one” who is coming to save us from our sins.
The Son of God expresses the divine nature of our Lord.
Mark wanted to make it clear that this was no ordinary servant or just a good man—this was the Son of God, who had come to take away our sins.
When we experience the excitement of a big event, we naturally want to tell someone.
Telling the story can bring back that original thrill as we relive the experience.
Reading Mark’s first words, we can sense his excitement.
Picture yourself in the crowd as Jesus heals and teaches.
Imagine yourself as one of the disciples.
Respond to His words of love and encouragement. And remember that Jesus came for us as well as for those who lived 2,000 years ago.
Mark was not one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, but he probably knew Jesus personally.
Mark wrote his Gospel in the form of a fast-paced story, like a popular novel.
The book portrays Jesus as a man who backed up His words with actions that constantly proved His identity as the Son of God.
Because Mark wrote His Gospel for Christians in Rome, where many gods were worshiped, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus is the one true Son of God.
Without God’s revelation, our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite.
But because of what we know about Jesus (thanks to writers like Mark), we can understand what God is like.
Mark gives the “punch line” of his Gospel in the very first verse, but both Jesus’ enemies and His disciples would not get it until Jesus’ resurrection.
For us who read Mark today, the message is clear that we must not ignore or reject Jesus Christ.
(vv. 2-4) Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that John the Baptist and Jesus would come. Isaiah’s words comforted many people as they looked forward to the Messiah.
Knowing that God keeps His promises can comfort us, too.
As you read the book of Mark, realize that it is more than just a story; it is part of God’s Word.
In it God is revealing to you His plans for human history—and offering the Good News of His salvation to you.
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
The second half of the book of Isaiah is devoted to the promise of salvation.
Isaiah wrote about the coming of the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and the man who would announce His coming (John the Baptist).
John’s call to “clear the road for Him” means that people should give up their selfish ways of living, renounce their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and establish a relationship with God by believing and obeying His Words as found in Scripture (Isaiah 1:18-20; 57:15).
(vv. 2-3) Here in these two verses, we find a composite quotation, taken from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.
People who do not know Jesus need to be prepared to meet Him.
We can prepare the way by explaining their need for forgiveness, demonstrating Jesus’ way of life by our conduct, and telling them how He can give their lives meaning.
We can “clear the road for Him” by correcting misconceptions that might be hindering people from approaching Him.
Someone you know may be open to a relationship with Jesus. What can you do to prepare the way for this person?
(v. 4) Why does the Gospel of Mark begin with the story of John the Baptist and not mention the story of Jesus’ birth?
Important Roman officials of this day were always preceded by an announcer or herald.
When the herald arrived in town, the people knew that someone of prominence would soon arrive.
Because Mark’s audience was primarily Roman Christians, he began his book with John the Baptist, whose mission was to announce the coming of Jesus, the most important person who ever lived.
Roman Christians would have been less interested in Jesus’ birth than in this messenger who had prepared the way.
John chose to live in the wilderness, likely for several reasons:
(1) to get away from distractions so he could better hear God’s instructions;
(2) to capture the undivided attention of the people by calling them away from the distractions of their everyday lives;
(3) to symbolize a sharp break with the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, who preferred their luxurious homes and positions of authority over doing God’s work; and
(4) as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that said John would be a voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3).
In John’s ministry, baptism was a visible sign that a person had decided to change his or her life, giving up a sinful and selfish way of living and turning to God.
John took a known custom and gave it new meaning.
The Jews often baptized non-Jews who had converted to Judaism.
But to baptize a Jew as a sign of repentance was a radical departure from Jewish custom.
The early church took baptism a step further, associating it with Jesus’ death and resurrection (see, for example, Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21).
(v. 5) Jesus came at a time in history when the entire civilized world was relatively peaceful under Roman rule, travel was easy, and the people shared a common language.
The news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection could spread quickly throughout the vast Roman Empire.
In Israel, people were ready for Jesus, too, and they flocked to hear this wilderness preacher.
There had been no God-sent prophets for 400 years, since the days of Malachi (the writer of the last book of the Old Testament).
Anticipation was growing that a great prophet, or the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, would soon come (Matthew 17:10-13; Luke 3:15).
The purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son.
When John challenged the people to confess sin individually, he was signaling the start of a new way to relate to God.
What changes do you need to make before you can hear and understand Jesus’ message?
People must admit that they need forgiveness before they can receive or accept forgiveness.
Thus, repentance—genuine sorrow for and turning from sin—must come before a person can have true faith in Jesus Christ.
If you have not yet done so, turn away from the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptations, and false promises, and turn to God. He will give you a new start.
(v. 6) John’s clothes were not the latest style of the day!
He dressed much like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) in order to distinguish himself from the religious leaders, whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in their position (Mark 12:38).
John’s striking appearance reinforced his striking message.
(vv. 7-8) Although John was the first genuine prophet in 400 years, Jesus, the Messiah, would be infinitely greater than John.
John was pointing out how insignificant he was compared to the One who was coming.
John was not even worthy of being His slave.
What John began, Jesus finished.
What John prepared, Jesus fulfilled.
John said that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit, sending the Holy Spirit to live within each believer.
John’s baptism with water prepared a person to receive Christ’s message.
This baptism demonstrated the person’s repentance, humility, and willingness to turn from sin.
This was the beginning of the spiritual process.
When Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, however, the entire person is transformed by the Spirit’s power.
Jesus offers us both forgiveness of sin and the power to live for Him.
Summary of Mark chapter one:
Jesus was baptized, demonstrating Him to be the beloved of God with the authority of God.
We can only understand Jesus rightly by seeing Him at this place of beginning, by seeing Him in relation to God, not only as God’s child, but as His beloved child.
Like Him, we also are baptized.
At the moment of baptism, we give witness that the God who called Jesus His beloved child calls you and me to be His beloved children, too.
Apart from the witness of baptism, we aren’t fully comprehensible as human beings, for it is baptism, not biology, that tells us who we really are.
After Jesus was baptized, He was tested.
The test showed Him capable of living the unique and demanding life of the Christ.
We can only understand the inner dimensions of this life by knowing something of the context in which it was lived out — in the context of difficulties.
Like Him, we also are tested. The moment we become a Christian, we enter a new dimension of existence.
Is our character strong enough for this demanding of a life?
The test provides the evidence.
Testing, not talk, shows what’s inside us.
After He was tested, Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God.
He told people that the world was not the way they thought it was — a place where they were merely making a living or making war or making money.
Instead, it was the place where God was making salvation, where every person was a creature loved by God and chosen by Him for the grandest of purposes.
Like Jesus, we also preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
We tell people by our words and our actions that the invisible God is working out His purposes in our lives.
Everybody wishes for this good news, everyone longs for it, even has moments of believing it.
But our task as Christians is to be deliberate about living out this conviction so that our words and actions give evidence of its reality.
Are we up to it, you and I?
Only by the POWER of the Spirit . . . the same Spirit that empowered Jesus.
“But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Friday, July 15, 2022
God’s Holy Fire
‘JESUS WILL BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT’
[John the Baptizer:] “I baptize you with water, but [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
— Mark 1:8
Jesus was and is directly involved in sending the Holy Spirit to His followers.
He did it when initiating the dawn of the church with the coming of the Spirit that first Pentecost (Acts 2:33-39).
Jesus also poured out the Spirit into the hearts of everyone who came to Him in faith and baptism (Titus 3:4-7).
Paul taught that the gift of the Spirit is the seal of our belonging to God and of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14) and the proof that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16).
The presence of the Spirit is crucial, as evidenced by the fact that Paul re-baptized people who had not received the Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 19:1-7).
The Spirit is the promised blessing of belonging to Christ (Acts 2:33; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:13-14).
The blessing comes from Jesus’ own promise that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to those who asked for the Spirit to be given to them (Luke 11:13).
The Spirit’s presence is our source of “living water” flowing from within us (John 7:37-39).
We live as followers of Jesus because the Lord has given us this great gift of grace!
Dear God, thank you for Jesus and all that He did to give us life and bring us to you as your holy children.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, your holy presence within us.
We praise You and thank You for Your abiding grace in us and for us, and we pray that we can share this grace with others who need to know your love.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
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