Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 1:1-8. He spoke about Mark’s bold opening to his gospel account. Reminding us of Jesus’ great sacrifice, how he came down and washed our feet by dying on the cross for us.
- Imagine a king. A king that rules over everything and there is a hierarchy of people in the kingdom. Imagine you are a peasant, the lowest of the low, and you understand that as a peasant you are never going to get even close to being able to get near the king. You are not worthy to be in this king’s presence. Now imagine that this king not only decides to talk to you but he invites you into his home. You get to enjoy his company. This is a picture of what Mark is setting us up for. We are so unworthy to be near God. So unworthy to be noticed by Jesus, but he does that and more.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
- Mark begins his story, his gospel account, by saying straight up who he believes Jesus to be. He says Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The word Christ means messiah, or anointed one. The Old Testament is full of prophecies about God’s anointed one who will come and save his people and give them a new heart. Christ isn’t Jesus’ last name, it’s a title. Mark is saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, the one who was prophesied about for hundreds of years before. Not only is he the Christ, but he is the Son of God, another loaded term. Psalm 2 is what is called a Messianic Psalm. It is a Psalm that talks about the Messiah that is going to come.
- Psalm 2:7-9 says, “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”
- In this Messianic Psalm, the Messiah that will come and be a king of all nations and bring justice to the world is referred to as God’s Son. Another important passage is 2 Samuel 7. This passage describes the Davidic covenant. David tells God that he wants to build him a house, but God responds by saying don’t worry about me, I am going to build you a house. Not a house of wood and clay, but a kingdom, a dynasty. He says that from David’s line a king is going to come, and this king is going to rule the world with peace and justice.
- And in verse 12 it says, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
- So in these two major passages in the Old Testament, the Messiah, the anointed one is referred to as God’s son. Now we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the Jews in this time. They would have been very familiar with these Messianic prophecies. They had been expecting this person, this king, this Messiah, this Son of God to come for hundreds of years and save them from their oppression and sinful hearts. They were longing for this, and they would have known everything they were looking for when that person came. As we will see as we work through Mark, they didn’t fully understand all who Jesus was, but they knew what to look for.
- So the opening sentence is packed full with triggers for a Jewish audience, and it says a lot about who Mark believed Jesus to be. All in the first sentence of the book.
- Imagine the book of Mark is an article, and the title, the headline says, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” There is no mystery, it isn’t a click bait title, it is bold, upfront, and clear about what this Jesus guys is all about, who he is.
- Notice how Mark starts off his gospel presentation. He doesn’t hide who Jesus is, he doesn’t give little bits and pieces of who Jesus is, he isn’t scared to say who Jesus is, he straight up says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one that Israel has been waiting for since the fall of man. That is a bold statement, so are we that bold when we are talking about Jesus?
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
- Mark is saying so much about Jesus by quoting these Old Testament prophecies. He is not only quoting Isaiah, but he is also quoting Malachi. There is a lot in these two prophecies, but there are two things we should note.
- First, when we see Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, it is alluding to a lot more than just the specific quote. Old Testament quotes, especially the prophets, are referring the context of the verse quoted, and sometimes even the whole book.
- It’s like if I said the word, “Katniss” you would all probably instantly think the Hunger Games. I could say Katniss and I could be referring to the Hunger Games, bravery, victory, rebellion against oppressors, love. There are a lot of things that I could be referring to just by saying the word Katniss. And that is the same for these kind of quotes. Mark says one line, and instantly everyone knows that he is referring to a lot more.
- So in this Isaiah quote, the second half of what Mark has written, it says, “a voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” This is taken from Isaiah 40:3. But if you read the context, verses 3-5, we discover more about what Mark is saying.
- Isaiah 40:3-5 says, “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”
- So get this picture in your head of what is happening in this section of Isaiah. The way of the Lord is being prepared, a highway is made straight for God. The land is being flattened, valleys brought up and mountains brought down, uneven ground is level and rough places plain. So the entire earth is changing so that a path can be made, a highway can be made for God, a highway that goes to God. And when this happens the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh, all of creation is going to see it. When the mouth of the Lord speaks, everyone, all of creation, listens. So it’s a pretty vivid picture right? The ground being changed and flattened and this high way being created for God so that all of creation can see his glory.
- This image gets even cooler when you consider the entire book of Isaiah. There is a lot in the book of Isaiah, but one theme throughout it is God’s relationship with the nations. God’s relationship with everyone in the world. And throughout the book this image is revealed of a highway being created that goes to Zion, where God’s glory will dwell in the end, God’s kingdom, and all the nations will be streaming towards God’s kingdom and his glory on this highway. It is a picture of the end. A picture of heaven, of God defeating evil and all the nations streaming towards his kingdom and his glory, being ruled by the creator of the universe with peace and justice. So this idea of a highway for God is an incredible picture, one that has eternal implications.
- Notice what Mark is saying. He is saying that Jesus’ arrival is the arrival of God’s kingdom. Jesus showing up means the highway is being created. Jesus showing up is the mouth of the Lord speaking and the glory of God being revealed.
- And this is the second thing I want to draw out in this, the messenger in these passages is John the Baptist, we learn that in the next few verses, and he is preparing the way for Jesus, but in these Old Testament passages the way is being prepared for God, for the Lord. Mark is saying that Jesus is God. He is claiming that Jesus is divine. That is another incredible statement.
- So these two Old Testament quotes put into one at the beginning of Marks gospel is saying some incredible things about who Jesus is.
- We are three verses in, and Mark has told us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, divine, the bringer of God’s kingdom, and the revelation of God’s glory. That is incredible.
- Next Mark begins to introduce what Jesus came to do by talking about John the Baptist. Let’s take a look.
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
- So John came along, and he was in the wilderness, which connects to the prophecy in verse 3 up above. He was baptizing but also he was teaching. It says he was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He was teaching that people needed to repent so that they could receive forgiveness for their sins.
- John’s baptism is difficult to fully understand. He likely had an eschatological purpose in teaching and baptizing. John was a prophet. In verse 6 he looks a lot like a prophet, and he is doing what prophets did. Prophets were greatly concerned about the Day of the Lord, the end times. So John is looking ahead to the Day of the Lord, the end times, when he knows there will be judgment. He knows that in that judgment, God is going to punish those who are sinful and morally corrupt. So, he is teaching people that they should be baptized to be morally cleansed or purified for that day of judgment. Now this does not mean that baptism saved these people. It was a purification ritual much like the purification rituals in the Temple that Israelites had to do according to the law. But it is important that John had the Day of the Lord in mind. He is looking forward to the day when God is going to judge the earth, and he knows that sin is what is going to be judged. Sin isn’t a new concept that comes when Jesus arrives, sin is something that has been around since the fall of man, and it needs to be dealt with. John understood that, so he called people to repent and confess their sins so they could be forgiven.
- The principle is the same for us today. We must recognize that we are sinners, confess that sin, repent and turn from that sin, and we will receive forgiveness. What is different, however, is that we aren’t washed clean by a baptism of water, we are washed clean and forgiven by the blood of Jesus. John isn’t just preparing the way for Jesus by saying, “Jesus is coming.” The very teaching and baptism he is performing is preparing people to understand what Jesus is coming to do. Jesus is coming to baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. This kind of baptism forgives us of our sin and cleanses us so we do not experience the judgment of God that we will deserve on the Day of the Lord.
- Notice too how many people are coming to hear what John is teaching. This isn’t some small little shindig, this is a massive movement. John is preparing an incredible amount of people for the coming of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins he will offer. And these people are traveling! They are going a long ways to be baptized with water, to confess their sins and repent and receive forgiveness.
- So how far will you go? How far would you travel if it meant your sins were forgiven? How important is it to you that you will be forgiven on the Day of the Lord, when judgment is sure to come? Would you pack up your entire life, change everything, give up time and energy, do whatever it takes to receive this forgiveness?
- But no matter how far or how little you are willing to travel, you don’t have to go anywhere. Jesus comes to you. He comes to you right where you are, meets you where you’re at, and offers salvation, offers forgiveness. How bad you want it and how much you realize you need it will then determine if you accept it or not.
- Look at what John was preaching.
7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
- He says after him comes someone who is mightier than him. Someone who is way stronger than John. John recognized that he didn’t have the power or the strength to forgive sins or offer salvation, but he knew Jesus did. He knew Jesus was so mighty, that he says he isn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie his sandals.
- This is an incredible picture. Think about the feet of people who walked around in sandals, in the desert, with no running water. They would have been disgusting. Smelly, dirty, gross. Feet were not a cool thing back then. And John is saying that Jesus is so mighty, so far above him, that he isn’t even worthy of bending down and untying Jesus’ sandal. He isn’t even worthy of touching Jesus’ smelly, dirty, gross feet. He is not worthy of doing the lowest possible thing for Jesus. That is how magnificent, mighty, and powerful Jesus is.
- We too are not even worthy of untying Jesus’ sandals, but Jesus, mighty Jesus, unties ours. He does more than untie our sandals, he washes our feet. There is a story in the gospels where Jesus washes his disciple’s feet. He stoops down to do something so unpleasant and so unclean, something someone with his status should never, ever do, but he does it out of love and service for his people.
- And that’s the gospel. Jesus, who we aren’t even worthy of untying his sandal, came down and washed our feet. Do you see the irony? The God of the universe, the Messiah, the Son of God, the revelation of God’s glory the bringer of God’s kingdom came down from his throne and washed our feet. Our dirty, smelly, gross feet.
- Jesus Christ came down from his throne to die the death we deserve. He died the death we deserve on the cross, was buried, and rose again, proving that he is in fact all these things that Mark is boldly claiming him to be. And with his death and resurrection and our belief in him comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- John was well aware that people needed to confess their sins and repent in order to receive forgiveness. But he was also well aware that he was not strong enough to provide that forgiveness. Baptism with water could never do it, the people needed a baptism of the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God dwelling within them. And that is what we need to. We need the Holy Spirit to come inside us so we can be forgiven of our sins, cleansed of our unrighteousness, and seen as clean and holy before our God.
- But this is only possible, because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the revelation of God’s glory, the bringer of God’s kingdom, God in the flesh, the one who we are not even worthy to untie his sandals, came down and washed our feet by dying in the cross for our sins.