PREPARE THE WAY
Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 1, and lets begin looking at what the Holy Spirit has to show us through Mark. And as we are going to see, Mark is going to speak of John the baptist preparing the way for Jesus to come.
1. The word "gospel" means "good news". And so Mark is going to speak of the good news of Jesus Christ. He lets us know what the focus of his writing is all about. The bad news is man was separated from God by sin. The good news is that Jesus has come to pay the penalty for our sins, to set us free. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
His name is Jesus in the Greek and Joshua in the Hebrew. His name means "Yahweh is salvation". Interestingly enough Moses brought to us the Law of God, but that could only take us so far, it could not bring us into the promise land. Who came after Moses? Joshua! And what did Joshua do? He lead the people into the promised land. You see, what Moses couldnt do through the law, Joshua was able to do. Our Joshua, our Jesus does the same thing for us. As Paul said in Romans 8:2-4, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Now what is Jesus last name? No, it isnt Christ, we dont know His last name . Christ is His title, and it means "Messiah" or "Anointed One". This is who Mark is going to tell us about, the Messiah, God who has brought to us salvation!
1. I believe that this is the only time that Mark quotes out of the Old Testament. Why would that be the case? Because Mark is writing to Romans, not Jews. And the Romans didnt know the Hebrew Scriptures. So Mark is not going to focus on that, He is more interested in the straight forward message of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.
2. This messenger that was to go and prepare the way for the Lord, to be a herald or to announce the coming of Christ was the fulfillment of what the prophets had said would come to pass. (He is quoting Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 40:3). And this messenger that Mark is speaking of is John the baptist. In Luke 7:28 Jesus said of this man, "For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
For some 400 years, at the close of the book of Malachi, God was silent, He was not speaking to His people. But now we are going to see God Himself become flesh and speak the truths of God instead of the many false things the false prophets were saying.
1. If you were going to start a ministry, put on a concert, where would you do it? More than likely in a populated area to draw the people. But not John. He is out in the desert, down by the Jordan River, outside of Jericho. And as the people heard of what John was doing, the people came out to see what it was all about. And it was not just a few, they kept coming and coming to see this man in the desert. There was a constant flow of people coming to see what this strange guy was all about. And this was not an easy place to get to. From Jerusalem to Jericho was about 20 miles, starting at 3,000 feet up and traveling down below sea level. A very difficult journey, and yet they came.
2. What was Johns message? Repent, get right with God! It was kind of a "TURN OR BURN" teaching! The word "repentance", METANOIA in the Greek, speaks of "a turn about, a deliberate change of mind resulting in a change of direction in thought and behavior." What were the people turning from? SIN! You see, we dont measure up to Gods standards, we fall far short. And John wanted the people to recognize that fact, to openly confess their sins, to make them aware of them. This was setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah, for as the people saw themselves as sinners, they could come to Jesus, their savior!
3. The word "baptize", BAPTIZO in the Greek, speaks of immersing or to submerge. Now this was something different for the Jews, to be immersed in water. But the Jews did require gentiles who wanted to become Jews to be baptized by self-immersion. But this thing that John was doing, this baptism of repentance, was for the Jews. John was preparing them for the coming Messiah. Matthew 3:1-2 speaks of this. We read "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
1. Does God only use men that wear 3-piece suits, hair combed, with PhDs? Or what about women that have nice dresses that are the appropriate length, just the right amount of make-up and jewelry, with a degree in theology? Of course not! Here is John wearing camel skin clothes, long hair, a leather belt around his waist. He is a health nut, eating honey and locusts. If he was around in the 1960's or 70's he would fit right in, all he would need was some love beads and a slug bug with a big peace sign painted on it. I think the key is God uses all kinds of people to speak for Him. And that is important for us to understand. We come as we are and God works in us so that He might work through us. It is not our ability, but only our availability!
2. Who called John into the ministry? God did! John was born in a priestly family, his father was Zacharias and his mother was Elizabeth. You may remember the story, they had no children and one day, as it was Zacharias turn to serve in the temple, an angel spoke to him and said in Luke 1:13-17, "...Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Johns ministry was set before he was born, and so are each of ours. All we must do is take those steps of faith to fulfill them.
1. Now John does not know who this person is that is mightier than he was, but all he does know is he is preparing the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah. He didnt know that it was his cousin Jesus! Now many came seeking to hear what John had to say while others just came to see what all the commotion was all about, what this weird guy was doing out in the desert. I believe one of the reasons so many people were coming to see John, traveling those long and difficult roads, was because John lived what He believed. He was real! You see, if the message is just in your mouth and not in your heart, it is an empty message. John, living what he believed, when he spoke the people listened!
2. In Luke chapter 7 Jesus praises John for his faithful service and rebukes those who came only out of curiosity, leaving with their hearts unchanged. He said beginning in verse 24 of Luke chapter 7, "When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You. For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him." Luke 7:24-30.
John was not a reed shaken by the wind! What does that mean? It means that he was not fickled, spineless, wavering opportunist! Nor was he dressed in beautiful clothes living in luxury. What is the point here? John was not some Hollywood-style playboy, wearing high fashion clothes and living in a mansion. The people needed to wake up, John was a prophet, a spokesperson for God. Thus, dont come to be entertained or see a whimpering coward, but come to hear and obey the words of God!
3. What happened when the common people, sinners heard John speak? They repented of their sins and their outward actions reflected what had taken place in their hearts, they were baptized. Now what happened to the religious leaders when they heard Johns message? Absolutely nothing! They went away as they came, still in their sins, seeing themselves as righteous and in no need to repent, let alone need a Savior!
1. At some point in Johns ministry, Jesus traveled some 80 miles from Nazareth, which is by the Sea of Galilee, to the Jordan River by the city of Jericho. And here He was baptized by John. What was Johns baptism all about? It was a "baptism of repentance". Does that mean that Jesus was a sinner? No, not at all. Then what was Jesus doing here? He was identifying Himself with sinners, to be one with us so that He could stand in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. You see, Jesus didnt need to repent of sin or even be baptized, but He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We read of this in Matthew 3:13-15 of this event. It says "Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? But Jesus answered and said to him, Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he allowed Him."
Lets look at a couple of verses that speak of Jesus being sinless and what He has done for us. First lets read what Paul had to say in II Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Also, Hebrews 4:15 says "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." That means Jesus was tempted, just as we are tempted, and yet He was without sin, He never succumbed to sin. And in I Peter 3:18 we read "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." You see, the just -Jesus, for the unjust - you and me. And lastly, I John 3:5 which says "And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin." And so what is the point of all these verses? Jesus was without sin, a perfect sacrifice for us!
1. What important doctrine comes out of these two verses? In them we see the Holy Trinity. We see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three distinct persons. Explain it, I really cant with my finite mind. The best I can do is give you an example of water, it can be liquid, gas and solid. One compound and yet manifested in three distinct forms.
Are there other examples of the trinity spoken of in the Bible? Yes there are. Genesis 1:26 says "Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God was not speaking to His angels or Himself, but here is a picture of the godhead, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit all actively involved in creation. And of course there is I John 5:7 which says "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one."
2. Now we also have an Old Testament hint of this baptism of Jesus, and this is found in Isaiah 42:1 which says "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles." You see, the Spirit of God came upon Jesus when He came up out of the water when He was baptized, as He began His ministry. That is an example to all of us, that without the empowering of God in our lives, we can do nothing.
3. Lastly, and probably most importantly, who is John testifying of? Not himself! Not his ministry! But of Jesus! John pointed people to Jesus, gave them the whole message. You see, John told them that judgment was coming outside of Christ if they didnt repent of their sins, but there was abundant life for those that repented and came to Jesus. It is as Matthew 3:11-12 says, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
The fire that is spoken of is that of judgment. The Holy Spirit speaks of that abundant life in Christ. Again, it was a "TURN OR BURN" message! And John recognized that drawing people to himself would leave them empty and hopeless, so he pointed them to Christ. Because John was humble, because he understood this fact, he was able to say in John 3:28-36, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." What are you to do? Point people to Jesus, for He alone has the words to eternal life!