I’m going to invite you this morning to turn to the book of Mark. We’re going to start a new series together. If you brought a Bible with you, if you don’t have a Bible, take a Bible in the back seat in front of you and make it your own. I want to encourage you throughout this series to take notes. Especially if you brought your own Bible or you like to do it on your phone or whatever. We’re going to dive deep into God’s Word. And there’s really two goals I want to walk away with in this, especially today. I can tell you my overall goal for this summer is just for us to draw closer to Jesus and enjoy the presence of Jesus in our lives and what the truth of who he is and walking with that. And so I just want to spend the summer in a lighthearted way, enjoying Jesus in that way.
To do that, to kind of get the lighthearted mood today, we invite you to the beach with us. I don’t know what that’s about. If you didn’t go on vacation this week like some people, the first week of June. We bring it to you today. Well this is actually the set for our Vacation Bible School. Our kids are going to sing a song at the very end of that and look forward to that. But in the meantime we’re going to dive into Mark’s gospel and what I really want to get across to us over the course of the summer through this series, one is the beauty of God’s Word and the other is the supremacy of Christ in our lives. And I think Mark does this in a wonderful way. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of all the gospels. It was the first gospel written.
And Mark uses this term “immediately.” He says the word immediately a lot because he’s a guy of action. He just wants to cut right to the chase and share with you some things about the Lord. This book is broken down really right in the middle. If you look at the book of Mark ,16 chapters. The first eight really establishes the superiority of Christ and his identity and who he is, of why you would want to trust in him. And the last half of the book calls us to die for Christ, to give our lives to him. And so Mark makes that case in the beginning of the book, calls us to die with Jesus. And in the end we see Jesus giving his own life. And Mark sets it out beautifully. And the first few verses, 1 to 15 is kind of the prologue to Mark. And he lays down the gauntlet of all that. Mark us. So I’m going to give you just a few minutes to turn to the book of Mark so we can go through this together.
And while you get there, I’m going to introduce you to a couple. This is Weston and Dera Schnitz. I’ve already come up with nicknames for these guys, but that’s the Western schnitzel right there. I miss the Weinersnitchel up the road, so he’s now going to take the title of Western snitzel. Weston and Dara recently graduated from Bible college in Wyoming. They’d been serving in a church in Texas. They feel the Lord leading them to Utah. They want to join our Alpine Bible Church family and just serve here and however the church could use them. Just want to follow the Lord’s leading in their lives. And so the reason I want to share them with you is one, you can pray for them. And two, we’ve had people move here off and on as a church family, especially for the purpose of ministry. And when we get some younger guys that’s getting established in life, one of the things we want to help them with, they’re going to be looking for a job and a place to stay.
In the meantime, if anyone would to temporarily house them while they land on their feet, they’re looking for somewhere for about eight to 10 weeks for them to be able to be housed. My wife and I would love to do that. We’ve already offered our home to someone during that same time, but there’ll be here at the end of August. And so if you are interested in that or even have a place for them to possibly consider for employment, please let me know. And in the meantime, you can be praying for Weston and Dara as they make that transition here over the next couple of months from Texas to Utah. They’re actually not from Texas. Weston’s from Washington and Dera is from Grand Junction.
But let me jump back into the book of Mark for us. You read the New Testament as it unfolds for us. Mark is the first of the Gospel writers to share about Jesus’ ministry. There’s four gospels we know that are written. It’s not the first book of the new Testament probably written. That’s likely James or Galatians. But Mark is one of the early written manuscripts of the Bible, the very first gospel that we have. One of the reasons that we know it’s the first gospel is because Matthew and Luke sort of follow the literary outline of Mark as those two books are written. Reason you have four gospels is because each gospel writer writes from a different perspective to a different audience. Mark’s writing his book to the Roman culture, which is why he emphasizes the word immediately a lot.
The Roman culture was considered people of action. Using their hands, getting the job done. And so Mark writes more tailored to that particular culture at the time. And the reason we know Mark wrote the book of Mark is because church history tells us that. Papias who was taught by the Apostle John, he lived into the first and second century, records that John Mark wrote the book of Mark, or the gospel of Mark under the authority of Peter, who was the Apostle. Eusebius, who was a church historian the first few centuries also records the same thing. Peter talks about John Mark as his son, my son Mark. He refers to him in 1 Peter 5. Peter was in Rome and we know John Mark was in Rome with him. It’s likely where the book of Mark was written. And it would’ve been written before the 60’s AD, and the reason we know that is because Luke came after that. And Acts came after Luke.
Luke writes the book of Luke and Acts. And he ends the book of Acts, before Peter and Paul are martyred. And that happened in the early 60’s. And so Mark would have had to been written before Luke and Acts and it was likely written in the mid to the latter 50’s that the gospel was recorded. Mark was a little bit of a wild man too. He only makes his presence in the gospel in one verse. It’s taught that in the book of Acts, I think it’s chapter 12 that Mark’s home with his mother became a meeting place for the early disciples. He was likely around in Jerusalem. That’s where their meeting house was for the early disciples in Jerusalem. And it’s thought to have recorded himself in the story of the gospel of Mark. He just gives himself a couple of verses. He would have been a very young man at the time, but this is what he said.
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s about to be taken away by the soldiers and it says this, “A young man was following Jesus wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escape naked.” So there you go. Mark, I don’t know why, “I’m going to share this story about me.” Let me give you some wisdom. Don’t walk around in a sheet at night like that. I don’t know why he’s doing that but there he is. Mark doesn’t include his name there.
If you read the stories in the New Testament, you’ll find that the authors of books often, if they would include themselves in a story, they would not write their name in. The gospel of John, John refers to himself as the beloved. He never calls himself by name in the book. Paul at one point describes a man who’s caught up in the heaven or whether in body or out of body doesn’t know and so Paul leaves it like we’re to guess. We don’t know who this person is, but most scholars say it is the apostle Paul. He’s just not including his name there. And same thing with Mark. It’s believed that this is Mark in the story. They would have been around Jerusalem at the time Jesus was there. But he follows the Apostle Peter and records the gospel of Mark under Peter’s authority.
When you read the book of Mark, it comes in a very prominent place in history. Rome has conquered most of the known world. It’s built the roads for traveling. It’s the most accessible time for God’s Word to go out into the world, for the gospel to reach the corners of the earth.
And so Jesus’ arrival during this Roman empire was at a prominent time in life where the gospel was most accessible to different people groups throughout the world than ever before in human history. When Mark writes this book, God has been silent for over 400 years. If you remember the book of Malakai we went through recently, it was the last book of the Old Testament. God goes silent for 400 years. And God breaks that silence here with the Gospels. Mark is about to give the pronouncement of who God is after 400 years of God not communicating with his people.
In fact, Jewish historian Josephus from the first century talks about the succession of the prophets that have ended. The Apocrypha, which are the books written from the book of Malakai to the new Testament records about the silence from the prophets, that God’s prophetic word to the people. And now you have Mark coming in to break the silence of God’s pronouncement to the world.
And he comes at an important point in history, as far as it relates to Jewish culture. When you study God’s Word, it’s important to understand exactly the context of the culture in which the text is written. Because if we lack the understanding of why it was written in the century to the people that it was written to, then we run the risk of making improper understanding and application to our lives today. Before you can answer the question, what does a text mean to us today, you have to first answer the question what it meant to the original audience it was given too. Because a text of scripture can not mean any more to us today than what it was intended to mean to the original audience that received it. If you add to that, then you’ll pervert scripture and come up with a bad form of theology. And so it’s important to get into the first century Jewish mentality during this time to understand what the context of scripture is saying to us, so that we can make proper application to our lives.
It’s the understanding of the difference between the word isogesis and exegesis. Isogesis is taking 21st century ideas and definitions of words and throwing it into the first century context. And you will end up with erroneous beliefs from that. Exegesis is first asking the question, how did the original audience understand this so that we can make the proper application to our lives?
And so I want you to know today, we like to make application here as a church, but in the beginning of this prologue, Mark does such a tremendous job in just declaring who Jesus is, that I think it is more important for us to understand the significance of the statement theologically and how powerful it is before we make the application to our lives. So for the first few weeks, we’re going to slow down, for the first two weeks, and look at the prologue. The first 15 verses of this book, and then we’re going to slam on the gas and just carry on because Mark’s showing us some significant statements about Jesus.
And when Mark gives this pronouncement, he’s doing it to a culture that’s becoming divided. Because Rome has conquered the known world, they’re coming into the area of Jerusalem and they’re placing Greek cultural influence on the people. And the Jewish people are responding in different ways to this. They really break up into three prominent groups. The first two are the larger groups, and the latter one is a smaller group, but these groups are leading the way in Jerusalem and among the Jewish people.
The first is the Pharisees. The Pharisees, they see the influence of Greek culture coming in and they become more rigid and more legalistic in their practice. They hold to the law to such a degree that they’re inventing laws on top of laws that burden the people and their religious outlook becomes filled with such piety that it’s not applicable to the common man. It puts pressure on the people and it becomes a burden. From the Pharisees, that tradition that grows zealots, like Peter who would fight. They would lead revolts against Rome.
On the other side of that spectrum, there were the liberals, the Sadducees. So you had the legalists and then you had the liberals, the Sadducees. The Sadducees were okay with Greek culture because it got them ahead in life. And so when Rome came in with their influence, they would use their authority and power to press the Greek culture and the Roman culture onto the people. They had gotten so corrupt that God had elected a high priest to lead in the temple. But Rome took authority over that position and they started to sell it to the Sadducees. And the Sadducees would buy the position of high priest among the Jewish people so they have that place of prominence among the people group.
And the the Essenes, the third people group, where the ones that just backed away from all of it. They didn’t like how things were going, so they actually went out into the desert. And they base it off a text of scripture, we’re going to read a little bit, Isaiah 40:3. It declares that the Messiah, the Promised One, he’s going to come from the desert. And so the Essenes are like, forget this. We’re going out into the middle of nowhere out in the desert where no one’s going to touch us. And we’re just going to wait on the Messiah because that’s where we know he’s coming from.
Now, you’re probably not not familiar with the term Essenes as much as Pharisees and Sadducees, if you’ve heard those terms, but you will be familiar with the Essenes because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by that culture of people. The ones that went out into the desert, hide in the caves, establish their own civilization. They copied manuscripts of the Bible. They memorize God’s Word and they hit it and they preserved it and they kept it safe. And then the Essenes where those people groups.
In the 1940s into the early 50s there was a young shepherd boy traveling throughout the area of Israel who happened to come across the cave. He threw a rock into the cave, heard it break a pot. He walked into that cave and found the dead sea scrolls there, which to date are the oldest manuscripts we have of the Bible. They predate Jesus coming to earth by almost 200 years.
So that’s an important people group. And that’s the culture that Mark breaks into is the gospel being pronounced here. That God has been silent for 400 years. He now comes back to share it with God’s people. This promise that he had given to us from Genesis 3, that the Lord would become flesh, God would become flesh and he would rescue us. He would save us. The Savior was coming. And so when Mark starts this off, you ask the question, “400 years, Mark? 400 years and God’s people have been looking for this Messiah and nothing. How are you going to share this? What are you going to say?”
When we read these first 11 verses. In our context today, we could just pass by these words as if he’s just sharing a story. But when Mark shares this to the culture of the first century, it was like dropping a spiritual atomic bomb in their lives. It was maybe in our culture today, the essence of the mic drop. It was epic. And the way that it should’ve just dropped their jaws and what he’s declaring over this was profound. And when you see it, not only are we going to talk about the genius of Jesus when you walk out today, you can be like, I’m kind of a genius on the first part of chapter one of Mark myself. That’s what I want. I want you to see the beauty of God’s word and the supremacy of Christ in this.
And this is what Mark says. He says, Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Now, I’m going to let you know the name that God gives to this person in the gospel “Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” we’re going to talk about that phrase next week, because it’s important and there’s a lot of misunderstanding with it. But when we talk about Jesus and scripture, oftentimes we think of names. But when the Bible talks about Him, they are really titles. They’re titles to describe who He is. Jesus Christ is more of a title than it is a name. But it’s describing the identity of who Jesus is.
But before we get to that next week, this is what Mark says about it. It’s the “gospel,” the beginning of the good news. And Mark chooses this word “gospel” to declare what Jesus is about to do in the epilogue that he shares in the first 15 verses because “the gospel” is rich with meaning.
That phrase in this culture is rich with meaning. The word “gospel,” it’s not about trying to convince you. It’s not about just arguing with you and showing why he’s right. The word gospel is actually a declaration. It’s a statement of sharing news. They didn’t have newspapers at the time. So people run through the streets and they would literally be heralds of this pronouncement, this gospel, this news that needs to be shared.
A common place that the gospel would often be shared in a culture was when a king would go to battle. When a King would go to battle, the people of that land would want to know, did our king win or did he lose? Because if he wins, we reap the rewards of that and live in freedom. But if he lost, we’re in bondage to another kingdom now and we’re slaves to them. And so when a king would go to battle, the people would know. They’d sit on edge waiting for the news. The king is fighting. And when the king would win the battle, he would send a herald, he would send an apostle, or a messenger. One to go forth to proclaim the news of victory. The king has won.
And what it’s saying in Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel,” Mark is saying this is a pronounced but the victory cry of God’s people. The King has won. Jesus has gone into battle and He has arisen victoriously. This isn’t a convincing. This is a statement of what is. The King has won. And so Mark shares this statement with us to give us an idea of exactly how he wants to break the silence of 400 years over God’s people.
And then he does something important that Jews would practice in this culture. It’s called keshers. The Jewish rabbis would teach in the form of what they called keshers or the stringing of pearls. And let me just show you this picture. When Mark gives his next statement in verse two, he gives a statement from three passages of the Bible called keshers or the stringing of pearls. And what they would do is would take an Old Testament reference and they would allude to it to teach us how this this thought develops throughout scripture.
You know in your Bible today, you’ve got chapter divisions and verse references, and I can tell you this morning, “Turn to Mark 1,” and just like a street address, you turn right there and you know where it’s at. During Jesus’ day, they didn’t have chapter divisions. They didn’t come to the 12th century. Verse divisions didn’t come until the 1500’s.
And so when you want it to make a reference to a passage of scripture, you would quote that section of scripture. And in the Jewish mind they were so familiar with God’s Word, they memorized it. And so as soon as a rabbi would reference a point of scripture, they knew the background to the story. They knew exactly what he was saying. It would bring imagery to their mind, to the context of what the author was referring to. So these passages that Mark’s just quoting from the Old Testament, he’s not going all willy nilly and just saying, here’s this and this and this verse. He’s describing this to the Jewish people in such a way that when they would see this context of this passage, they would reference in their mind back to the story that was rich with history for the Jewish people.
Because from this he’s going to build on the teaching of the significance of who Christ is. He’s showing us how all of the Bible ties together in the supremacy of Christ and the beauty of God’s Word. And so he’s going back to these passages of scripture for a very specific intentional reason. If you look in your New Testament, when you see Old Testament quotes alluded to, you often see they’re in there in brackets or they’re italicize or indented or something to get you to recognize there is a reason the author is going back to this particular place in scripture.
And so the Jews would develop these keshers, these ways of alluding to passages of scripture. Because the Jewish mentalit,y during this time, was one of learning and studying God’s Word. In fact, at the age of five about the time kids learn to read, they would start to study the traditions of the rabbis and Torah and memorizing large chunks of the Bible. By the time you were 13 you would have this celebration that was called, we know today is bar mitzvahs. Bar mitzvahs are ancient tradition of practice. The word “bar” means “son of.” And “mitzvah” means “the commands.” And by the age of 13 it was expected that the young Jewish people would know God’s Word. And so what they were taught and a teacher would reference these keshers and would string these beautiful pearls of further elaborating what God wanted him to know and understand within the context of his word.
Important to the Jewish people was the ancient texts. Now, Greek culture at the time, they would be considered information junkies. I think our culture is a lot like Greek culture. We don’t necessarily memorize things, but by God we got Google. And we use get information overload. And Greek culture was a lot like that. It was all about information. Not so much application, but the information. The more knowledge you had, the more superior you were. And so they would pursue this information and you see in Acts 17 when when Paul goes to Mars Hill, he argues philosophy at Mars Hill, because there was this location where all the philosophers would get together and wax eloquently how brilliant they were. Not necessarily application but information.
But to the Jews, while they wouldn’t be against learning, what was significant to them was the ancient. They would go back to the pillars of who we are. The foundation of God’s Word. That’s where they built from. And so to remember the ancient was significant to them. To hold to and cherish the content of what God was saying. Because it was from the ancient that the teachers would build the foundation and string these with pearls, these keshers and showing them how this was significant to life.
In our culture today we have phrases that when we say them, we know what we’re alluding to and then can elaborate a little further upon. Let me, let me give you a few examples. Like if you heard today, “Best bang for your buck.” And then you could talk about getting a deal, like I got a great deal on a mattress last week. Best bang for your buck. Or you talk about money, but you understand how you connect something and then create a thought off of that.
Or how, how about this? Let me tell you about, “The birds and the bees.” You know what that means. Or how about this? “Good riddance to bad company.” “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” That is the description of the new England Patriots. I’m hungry for football season.
But there’s a way that we, in our culture, we can allude to things to build on things. And the Jewish mind, they would allude to things to build on the idea. And more than ever, I think the Jews are just reminded of how much they need the Messiah. They need the Prince of Peace. They need the one who is to come to establish his kingdom. The Bible tells us in Genesis, Adam and Eve sin and peace is gone. And from Genesis 3, the restoration of Shalom, peace on earth. Our soul craves for it.
At the end of the book of Revelation, the Bible tells us, God says he’s with his people and there’ll be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more suffering. That’s done away with. In the middle of that story, as it’s unfolding, we had peace. Sin came, we lose peace. God’s restoring peace. In the middle of that, in Isaiah, the Bible tells us that when the Messiah comes, he is the Prince of Peace. I think the Jewish culture with the warring and the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Essenes and even just the general person in life. When you see death and how valuable life is, but how short it can be. There’s peace.
And Mark gives this pronouncement. He says, “I’m sharing the gospel.” The good news of victory because the King has come and he’s been victorious. And then he alludes back, it says to Isaiah the prophet, he actually alludes to three passages here, but Isaiah is the most prominent. It’s at the bottom. But he says, “As it was written,” in Isaiah the prophet, “behold, I send my messenger ahead of you.”
This thought, this kesher, he already shares this. It would just pop in the imagination in the Jewish people. That he’s alluding back to Exodus 23:20. In Exodus 23, the book of Exodus is the book of exiting. The people of Israel called out by God as slaves under Egypt, under the Pharaoh. Being set free. They make this journey to Mount Sinai. And they don’t have an identity. They were slaves. And God’s calling them into the land of Canaan. That’s inhabited by people. And they’re looking at this thinking, how could God call this the promised land? We’re going to be crushed.
And then God gives them this promise. Behold I’m going to send an angel before you. He’s the one that prepared the way. He’ll make sure that you’re victorious. Now it’s important to know in these two passages that the same word that we use for angel’s is also the same exact word from messenger. So you can substitute those words interchangeably. But what Mark does, is he’s the saying to Israel, “Do you remember how Jesus set you free, slaves? How Jesus called you to something new in him and a new identity in him? Now God’s calling you to something new in him again. And from the ancient, I’m reminding you of this text because this is the Gospel of him who has come.”
And then he says this, “Who will prepare your way?” Now this is interesting because this quote comes from the book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book written in the Old Testament. And when the last two chapters are recorded in Malachi, one of the things that God tells us is that there will be a forerunner who would come the Herald or the the apostle, the one that goes forth to pronounce the arrival of this victorious King. That’s John the Baptist. And so when you read Malachi, it says the same thing that Exodus 23:20 says. “Behold, I’m going to send my messenger.
And what God’s doing in the book of Malachi, when he ends the Old Testament and he goes silent for 400 years. He’s saying to us, I want you to think about Exodus chapter 23, when I brought you out of slavery to make you my people. Because when I come again and the forerunner comes before me to pronounce my arrival, it’s going to be that same freedom, only greater. Israel’s escape from slavery was just a picture of what God wants to do for all of his people. And in Malakai 3:1, he says the same thing. It’s a kesher from Exodus 23:20 to Malachi 3:1 to Mark 1:2. “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you. And he will clear the way before me.”
And then it says this in verse three, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make ready the way of the Lord. Make his path straight.” This passage comes from Isaiah 40:3. This was the theme verse for the Essenes.
It’s the reason they went into the wilderness. It’s why some people believe that John the Baptist may have been in an Essenes himself. He lived a very simplistic life. And the beautiful camel hair that he wore and the delicious bugs that he ate living that lifestyle. It was a poor man’s outfit. In fact, in the book of 1 Kings 1:18, Elijah wore the same thing. That’s why the Bible compares John the Baptist to Elijah as being that forerunner. But it says from the wilderness, this pronouncement would be made, this desert, the wilderness is the desert in Israel. He would say this to everyone. Make ready the way of the Lord and make his path straight.
This statement was the pronouncement that you would give when a dignitary, a king would arrive into an area. The people of the village would want the king to have a smooth entry into the town. And so they would go through and they would fill the potholes. They would make the ground level, they would prepare it for his arrival, for the pronouncement, the goodness of this king and for him to be with his people. They wanted his journey to be good.
And so what it’s saying in the book of Mark 1:2 is that this one is coming ahead of you. Just like you are set free as slaves. And so he’s preparing the way and he’s making his path straight. And then Mark goes on.
“Now all the country of Judea was going out to him. And all the people of Jerusalem. And they were being baptized by him in the Jordan river confessing their sins.” And this is what John said, “I baptize you with water,” but talking about Jesus, “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” That’s an important phrase to recognize in John. Because the Bible tells us Old Testament, New Testament. Or old covenant, new covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 Ezekiel 36:26. It’s a promise of the new covenant. That God would free us from the curse of sin, the curse of the law, and would establish a new covenant for us by becoming a curse for us, by dying for our sins, that we could be set free in him.
And so he’s saying he will baptize us with the Spirit because the promise in Jeremiah 31:31 that when Jesus atones for our sin, that the Spirit of God, if we trust in him by faith for that payment, the Spirit of God would indwell His people.
And when John does this, he does this next to the Jordan river, which was no mistake. Because to the people of Israel, the Jordan had plenty of imagery and communicated to them newness of life. This is where Moses led the people of Israel when they escaped out of the bondage of Egypt. This was the place where Moses gave his final discourse to the people of Israel before he died. This was the same river that God parted so Joshua could walk with the people across the Jordan. And he established on the other side of the river a monument, recognizing how God led his people out of slavery into the freedom of the promised land. This was the place where Elijah did ministry, where he was caught up in a chariot of fire.
And so what John the Baptist is doing in this passage of scripture, is creating within our mind this idea of newness of which this Messiah would do and bringing the new covenant for us. John was baptizing. Now, this baptizing John was doing is different than the baptism that we practice today. Because our baptism has everything to do with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And Jesus hadn’t died and been resurrected yet.
But when John the Baptist is calling people to repentance and baptizing, he’s calling them to a newness in life. To leave the legalistic practices and the sinfulness that’s walking away from God and turn to what’s going to be what Jesus says is new wine skin. To prepare the way for the King.
The Essenes had a practice during the time that if anyone wanted to become a Jew practicing the way of the Essenes, they would have to go into the water and self baptize. The Gentile would walk into that water and they would baptize themselves three times and would submerge themselves under the water. John the Baptist is practicing a similar baptism. I don’t think it’s exactly like the Essenes, but he’s still calling them to something new because Jesus is bringing something new to this world through the new covenant.
And then John tells us the significance of who Christ is. It said, “And he was preaching and saying, ‘After me, one is coming who is mightier I. And I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of the sandals.”” What John is doing here and what Mark is doing by sharing John’s pronouncement is he’s elevating the significance of Christ. Because in John’s culture and Mark’s culture, the job of untying a shoe and washing someone’s feet belonged to the lowest slave in a household. So if a home had servants or slaves, whatever one was considered the low man on the totem pole, he was the one that had to deal with the feet and he’s the one that had to untie the shoe and he’s the one that had to wash the feet of the guests. And what Mark is saying is, out of the lowest position I can conceive of in my society, I’m still lower in light of who Christ is.
What Mark’s doing in this gospel for us is he’s taking Exodus 23 all the way to the book of Malachi and the book of Isaiah. Literally the book of the laws and the book of the prophets. And he’s showing us how all of scripture comes together in this significance and supremacy of who Christ is. And then as if to drive home the point he records for us, Jesus’ baptism. I don’t think Jesus is baptized because he’s sinful. He couldn’t atone for the sin of his people if he had sin in his own life, because the sacrifice of lamb had to be without spot or blemish. But Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized, I think for several reasons. I’m going to elaborate a little bit more on next week, but he’s identifying with John the Baptist’s ministry. And he’s being anointed for his own ministry.
And it says in this story that in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening and the spirit like a dove descending upon him and a voice came out of the heavens. And this is what the father speaks about. Jesus, you are my beloved son in you. I am well pleased when a rabbi would start. His ministry typically happened at the age of 30 and he had to start his ministry by the affirmation of other leaders within Israel. Two to three witnesses had to declare that this person was ready and Jesus had his baptism. Why he’s anointed for his ministry work. Here in this passage of scripture, he gets two or three witnesses to declare the authority of who he is and they’re the greatest witnesses you could ever have.
God the father in the spirit affirming Jesus. Now I’m not going to dive completely into the Trinity here, but I’m gonna give you a little taste of it because in this passage you see the Trinity at work. You see this happening multiple times in the Bible and one of the only reasons I want to point this out is because there’s culturally a lot of confusion where we are over the idea of the Trinity. Because this is a common question I get asked if anyone brings up the Trinity: how is it Jesus is getting baptized but then the Father is talking? Is He a ventriloquist like trying to trick people, like he’s down here, but the Fathers talking? And they can’t figure out how that works.
Well, if Christianity believed that Jesus and the Father were the same thing, we would all be guilty of heresy. Okay, that’s heretical. It’s been condemned in church history for centuries. We don’t believe that Jesus and the father are the same person or the Spirit. We believe they’re all distinct. And the place that you see that happening is here in scripture. So we talk about the Trinity, this is what we do. We just affirm what the Bible says. The Bible says there is only one God period. It’s monotheistic. The end of story. There are multiple passages of scripture that say that. Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8, Deuteronomy 6:4. There is only one God.
All three persons are called God in scripture. Jesus is called God. The Spirit is called God. The Father is called God. And all of them carry the characteristics that make them equal as God in authority and position. So they are equal to one another. That’s all we say. That’s what the Trinity is. When you read the Bible, it says there’s one God, it calls all three God and it says all three are equal. That’s it.
And when you look at the story with Jesus, you can see how Jesus is distinct from the Father. They are not the same person. They’re one being in three persons. That’s why we call it a “tri-unity.” It’s a great word. Because it describes exactly what it is. The Father, Son, and Spirit equal. But yet distinct as one God. And so you see the tri-unity of God here at the baptism of Jesus.
And then it says this, this is an important part of the passage. A voice came out of the heavens. “You are my beloved son and in you I am well-pleased.” Again, in case the point wasn’t driven home. Mark alludes to keshers. A tying of the Old Testament, the string of pearls to elaborate on exactly who Jesus is, to see how scripture comes together.
And in this passage he references Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, and in the Jewish mind, this would just explode with imagery. Psalm 2 was a Messianic kingship song. When Israel would anoint a new King, they would sing Psalm 2 over that king. But Israel knew as they would sing that song that that psalm was also talking more deeply than just the king, because the individual described there possess more power than any earthly king could possess. And so while they called it a kingship psalm, they also saw it as a Messianic psalm. And so when Psalm 2 is quoted at Jesus’s baptism, they’re declaring his kingship.
But not only that, in Isaiah 42-53 this is referred to in the Jewish mind as the “Suffering Servant” section of scripture. You might even be familiar with Isaiah 53 which describes Jesus’ death in detail on the cross. The Jews, when they read Isaiah 42 to Isaiah 53 they couldn’t conceive how a Messiah would give his life. And so some Jews even started to interject some ideas here where they thought there must be two Messiah’s. Because one, he could be a king and the other one he could be the servant that dies. But we can’t conceive how the King would also be a suffering servant. And so they would teach about two Messiahs when they come to this passage of scripture.
But what the father declares at Jesus’ baptism is that the King has come to suffer for you and for me. Mark in just these verses tied together the history of God’s people. From Genesis 3, from the time we lost peace with God to now the arrival of the King, he is declaring this victory in our lives. So that we could see the significance of who Jesus is.
And so just like the Jews in alluding to these keshers, if you just let your mind be captivated with what Mark is building on in our lives, you see the supremacy of Christ and the beauty of scripture leaving us to ask the question. Out of all religions in the world and of all of the teachings of religious teachers and the philosophies that exist, what book could even think about taking thousands of years of history and tying it all together like this and prophetically revealing itself in such detail like God’s word can do? Nothing! Nothing.
And when you look at these first 11 verses, how rich this text becomes, it’s more than just saying a story. These keshers give such imagery to our lives. That what Mark is saying to us as people is that there was a time when you were a slave, but the King has won. The gospel has been declared. And the victory has come. And just as the prophets had said, the forerunner would come with the pronouncement of who he is. And he acknowledges before us how unworthy he is for his presence. But in that unworthiness, we’re acknowledging from the King himself, that he would suffer for you and for me.
Mark is screaming in these verses, do not miss this. It is incredible how the Bible just ties itself together over thousands of years and you see the supremacy of Christ in all of it. I know usually we get to the end of these things and we can just tie some great emotional story and all of it. But this is really what I want for us. I want our jaws to drop at the beauty of God’s Word. Just how much you can glean from just a few verses of scripture. How you can plunge the depth of His Word. And I can tell you today and tomorrow when I go through these 11 verses with us, I’m still cutting out so much. We could spend all summer on these 11 verses. There is so much the understanding of this passage, but I don’t want to do that because I know that not everybody gets joy out that. But I just want you to see the depth of what God’s Word is.
Because one day I’m going to lose my voice. One day, God may call me home. Or whoever stands behind this pulpit, the power of God’s Word, rest in your hands. And wherever you are, you can plunge the depth of it and see the beauty of who God is. Because we need his peace. And this summer we need Jesus. Just to use the freedom of whatever your summer is to draw near to Him.
Let me close with this story. Just like first century Jews, are looking for the Messiah, they missed him because they had some preconceived ideas of him. But they wanted the Messiah. I think today we still need the Messiah. You need his peace. We need to experience who he is in our lives.
There’s a story told right after the second World War where Billy Graham traveled to Germany and he’s sitting there with the chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The one who’s supposed to lead Germany after the war. And the story goes that Konrad Adenauer turns to Billy Graham and he asked him, do you really believe what you teach about Jesus? And Konrad Adenauer received the answer that Billy Graham should’ve told him, which is, yes, absolutely. I’ve spent my life telling people about Jesus, and then it says he turns from Billy Graham and he surveys the land of Germany that just lays desolate from war. And he says, apart from Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.
The Bible says this about Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no other way to the Father through him. The significance of who Christ is, the supremacy and purity of Jesus. I think the reason Christians might get bent out of shape when someone tries to transform the identity of Jesus, apart from what scripture says, has everything to do with the significance of who he is. And how important it is for us. This summer, just to dive into the depths of God’s word and just say, Jesus, show yourself to me in these pages.