Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Matt's Messages - Introducing Jesus

“Introducing Jesus”
December 4, 2005
Mark 1:1-15

Starting today, we are going to begin a fast-paced trek through the Gospel of Mark. We’re going to spend the next 18 weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday, studying the Gospel of Mark together verse by action-packed verse.

Let me ask you a few preaching trivia questions to get us started. #1. How long has it been since we studied through a gospel together (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)? The answer is five and a half years! We finished the Gospel of John back in May of the year 2000 a few months before Robin was born. So, it seemed like we were due to return to the gospels together.

Question #2. How many sermons would you guess that I have preached here at Lanse Free Church on a text in the Gospel of Mark? The answer is, I’m afraid, only one. I preached Mark 10:45 one year at Christmas time. But that’s it. So, when it was time to figure out which of the gospels to preach, Mark came to the top of my mind as one that we need to get into. There are a lot of reasons why I have picked Mark for us right now (and some of them will come out in future weeks), but a key reason was that I have not spent much time here in Mark and want to fix that for me and for you.

Another key reason why I have picked the Gospel of Mark is because it is a very Cross-Centered gospel, that is, the Cross is a dominant theme throughout the book. And as we begin the journey towards Passion Week in a month or so, we’ll be joining Jesus as He resolutely sets his face towards Jerusalem and His crucifixion.

Question #3. Who is the Main Character of the Gospel of Mark? It’s Jesus, isn’t it? In fact, every page, every paragraph is about Him. Jesus is the biggest reason why we are going through Mark together. We exist as a church to bring people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ. We need to know Who He is! And the Gospel of Mark introduces us to Jesus. Introducing Jesus.

The first 15 verses of the first chapter introduce Jesus, as well. They are the prologue of this gospel where Jesus is brought out on center stage and introduced to the audience. Introducing Jesus.

Let’s read Mark chapter 1, verses 1 through 15.

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 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.'’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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 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.’ At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (NIV)

There is a lot in these first 15 verses. That’s how Mark is! There is a lot packed into a little space. But I think it’s helpful to say that this chapter introduces Jesus.

This morning we’re going to have Jesus introduced to us by five different people in this text.

The first is John Mark, the Evangelist. Verse 1.

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

As far as we can tell, this gospel was written by John Mark who was both an associate of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter. And historical tradition has it that Peter told John Mark everything he could remember as an eyewitness of the Lord Jesus, and Mark put Peter’s memories together into this short biography to introduce Jesus in writing to the Roman world. Mark’s was probably the first of the four biblical gospels. And it starts off by saying what it’s all about.

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The word “gospel” means good news. And in Mark’s day, it was often used to refer to the announcing of the joyful tidings of a military victory or the birth of a new ruler. It was news of an event which had changed the situation that people were living in.

Mark intends to set out the news of Jesus Christ and His Cross as good news of a marvelous victory that has been won, His coming as an event which has changed the world. And chapter one is the beginning.

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Notice what Mark intends to show. He intends to show in his gospel that this person, Jesus, is the Christ–the Messiah, the Anointed One, the coming Savior foretold by the Old Testament–and not only that, but that Jesus is also the Son of God.

This is no ordinary person being set forth in the pages of this book. In Mark’s opinion, this is none other than God’s own Son!

God’s Son has come. And that is exceedingly good news. It is gospel! And we need to be introduced to this Jesus.

The second person to introduce Jesus might be a little unexpected. It is Isaiah the Prophet. V.2

“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.'”

In actual fact, there are three Old Testament verses that are quoted here: Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40, verse 3. But the key one that Mark is highlighting is Isaiah chapter 40.

How many here have been using the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading plan that we have made available in the foyer? I think it’s on orange-ish paper this year? For those of us on that plan, we just read Isaiah 40 this week, didn’t we? This should sound familiar.

Let’s turn there and read the first 11 verses in context.

Isaiah is speaking to a very depressed Israel in exile. And he says:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. [God is coming! God is coming! Isaiah is saying that God is coming!] Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. [God is building a highway and doing the excavation that is necessary for Him to come to town. V.5] And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’ A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. You who bring good tidings [GOOD NEWS] to Zion, go up on a high mountain. [Go tell it on the mountain!] You who bring good tidings [GOSPEL!] to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (NIV)

Isaiah is prophesying that God is going come in person.

Now, we know Who that is. But Isaiah didn’t. Mark is now making it plain.

Jesus was introduced (prophetically) 700 years before He was born! This is the “Gift of Christmas” that the Schiefers were just reading about for us. Prophecy fulfilled. God keeping His promises. God has said that He is coming, and now here He is.

And Mark (in chapter 1) pulls together from this scripture in Isaiah about the voice in the wilderness (both literal and figurative) and from Malachi that there will be a forerunner to God coming in person. A messenger that comes ahead of him and prepares the way.

And that messenger comes. And He, also, introduces us to Jesus. The messenger is John the Baptizer. V.4

“And so John came [just as prophesied], baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Now, baptism was practiced a little bit before John, but it was mainly done when Gentiles converted to Judaism. Here, John is calling everyone (Jews included!) to repent and be baptized as a symbol of their repentance and God’s forgiveness.

Repentance is a radical change of heart that leads to a radical change in life. And John in his fiery preaching was calling people to change. Calling people to turn from their current life-styles and practices and beliefs and to turn towards God and His righteousness. Asking for forgiveness and getting baptized to say that they had repented.

And people were responding! V.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.”

Now, this is an aside, not the main point of this passage, but have you been baptized? There are people who call themselves Christians who have never publically made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ the way that John the Baptist called people to do and the way that (we’re going to see in a second) even Jesus did.

If you have repented of your sins and come to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then you should follow Him in water baptism.

If you’ve experienced a radical change of heart leading to a radical change of life, you should make it public using the picture God has commanded. Be baptized.

Now more about this forerunner, John: V.6

“John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”

This is a wild man, a strange figure even in that day. He lived in protest against the evils of his day and the way that the religious and other leaders greedily lived on the backs of the people.

But much more, John was dressing the part of a prophet.

He looked like 2 Kings 1:8 says that Elijah looked. And he was fulfilling the role of the prophet Elijah by introducing Jesus.

His message was much more than just repent and be baptized.

It was: watch for Great and Powerful One to appear. V.7

“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.’”

John wasn’t pointing to himself. He was pointing to the One Who was coming. And John didn’t consider himself worthy enough to tie that One’s shoelaces! Somewhere else, he said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

John was humble. And He was introducing people to Jesus even before Jesus came on the scene.
John was saying, “You think I’m a powerful preacher? You think I’ve got something to say? Someone is coming Who makes me sound like I’m talking babytalk. I’m a candle. He is a volcano. I am a whisper. He is a windstorm. I am a drop in the bucket. He is an ocean.

I call you to repent and then baptize the outside of you.

This One who is coming will drench you with the Holy Spirit on the inside!

And that’s quite a claim. That someone could give the Holy Spirit! Up till this point in the Bible, only God can give the Spirit. This One who is to come is like God.

We could learn a lot from John the Baptist about how to introduce people to Jesus.

Sometimes we try to win people to ourselves or to our church.

“Well, if they like us, maybe they will like Jesus.”

But we are nothing compare to Jesus. Our job in evangelism, our job in gospeling, is to present Jesus as He really is and call for a response.

We are not selling Him, as if He were some product that we need to talk people into.

We proclaim Jesus. We introduce people to Jesus by telling them how great He is.

“The thongs of whose sandals, I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”

I’m not worthy to be Jesus’ slave.

What if that was how we did evangelism? Instead of “Come to our great church!” Or “Come hear our loud, bald, funny pastor!” Instead, we just pointed people to Jesus and got out of the way. “He must increase, I must decrease.”

You might think that that approach would decimate you yourself. But the Bible teaches that humility is true greatness.

Jesus said that there was no one born of a woman greater than John. How many people are born any other way? John’s humility and simply pointing to Jesus made him truly great.

John the Baptizer introduces us to Jesus. And then God does.

God the Father. V.9

“At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. [Here is the hero of our story! He appears on the scene just as foretold. And even He gets baptized even though He was without sin. Here he identifies, with our sins! V.10] As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Wow.

What do you say about that?

The heavens are ripped apart. “All heaven breaks loose!” (Garland, pg 48) The Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove (gentle? guileless? poetical?). And God the Father speaks to Jesus and we get to hear it and be introduced.

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

This is Who Jesus is. He is God’s beloved and pleasing Son.

Here He is!

He is the culmination of history.
He is the promised Savior.
He is the fulfillment of prophecy.
He is baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

He is God’s beloved and pleasing Son.

God loves Him like He loves no other.

God is pleased with Him like He is pleased with no other.

He is God the Son.

One of the most recent questions in our kid’s catechism is “What happened when Jesus grew up?” And the answer is, “When Jesus was 30 years old, the Holy Spirit came on His life in a special way.”

That’s this day in verses 10 and 11.

“As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’”

Introducing Jesus: God’s beloved and well-pleasing Son.

Now, you might think that that was the end of the story. God’s Son is revealed and His kingdom lasts forever.

But it’s just the beginning of the story. Jesus doesn’t get a celebration or a reception, in fact, it’s not clear from the Bible that anyone else except John the Baptizer understood what was happening here. And the Spirit takes Jesus from this introduction right into a battle.

The Son of God meets Satan. V.12

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”

The rest of the book is about a battle between Jesus and Satan. The other gospels tell us more about this desert fight and how Jesus won it. Here, Mark just lets it hang, I think to give us the impression that it continued to rage.

Jesus was in the desert for 40 days (paralleling the 40 years that Israel was in the desert) being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, but like Daniel, was not harmed. And angels attended Him.

He is the Son of God, but He is treated not as royalty but to fight.

And then, finally, we are introduced to Jesus and His message by Jesus Himself. V.14

“After John was put in prison [at some later point], Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news [gospel] of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

Jesus calls a press conference, as it were. John is going off of the scene, and Jesus begins his Galilean public ministry.

There is an urgency in His voice: “The time has come...The kingdom fo God is near.”

The reign of God that was promised in the Old Testament is now breaking in upon you.

The kingdom of God is near because the King has drawn near.

And now, now, now: Repent and believe the gospel.

Jesus’ message is just like John the Baptizer’s.

Turn. Turn from your sin. Repent.

And He also says: trust.

Believe the good news of the coming Kingdom because of the King Who has come.

“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

And that is still our application today.

Repent and Believe the Good News.

Turn and Trust.

If you have never repented and trusted in Jesus as your King, that’s God’s call on you today. Turn from your sinful rebellion against God and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He has come! I’m introducing you to Him today. Put your faith, your trust, your belief, your self in His hands.

He is the culmination of history.
He is the fulfillment of prophecy.
He is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.
He is God’s beloved and well-pleasing Son.
His coming is the best of good news!

And He calls you to turn and trust in Him.

And that’s his call on those of us who believe in him already. He is constantly calling us to repentance. He is constantly calling us to trust the gospel–to preach the gospel to ourselves.

The Christian life is a “race of repentance.”

We are called to repent and believe the gospel every day.

This Christmas season, we are hassled by a boatload of temptations.

Last year, I preached on the Temptations of Christmas: Greed, Gluttony, and Gloom.

We are called to repent of our Greed, Gluttony, and Gloom. And to trust in the Savior.

This is “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

And we are called to repent and believe it.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

Introducing Jesus:

He is the culmination of history.
He is the fulfillment of prophecy.
He is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.
He is God’s beloved and well-pleasing Son.
His coming is the best of good news!

And He died for our sins.

The Gospel of Mark is a gospel of action. Think about all the things that have happened in just the first 15 verses of the book.

In the Gospel of Mark, we learn the most about who Jesus is by what Jesus does.

And the greatest thing Jesus did was die on the Cross as a ransom for our sins.

This table reminds us of that truth every time we eat and drink from it.

If you have repented of your sins and believe the good news of this Jesus Christ, the Son of God, you are invited to eat and drink with us.

If you have not yet turned and trusted in Jesus, we ask that you not join with us so as to not bring judgment on yourself. This table is for believers.

While we pass out the bread and cups, use this time to reacquaint yourself with Jesus. Think about Who He is and what He has done.

And then commit yourself to humbly introducing Him to someone else very soon.

0 comments: