Summary: This message is the first in a series through the gospel of Mark. It highlights the nature of John’s ministry and the importance of Holt Spirit baptism.
Every gospel writer has his angle. Matthew wants us to see Jesus as the King of the Jews; Luke wants us to see Him as Son of Man and John as Son of God. Mark, the subject of our Sunday evening services for the next few months wants us to see Him as the Servant of the Lord, as the Messiah, the Messenger of Jehovah promised from Old Testament times.
I like Mark. I like him because he first introduced me to Jesus. When I was a young Christian, my wife gave me a booklet by John Blanchard entitled “Read, Mark, Learn.” And I did just that. Each day I read a portion of Mark and learned something about Jesus. I will always be appreciative of that little book.
I like Mark because he doesn’t beat about the bush. He gets straight to the point. He tells it like it is. He gets to the heart of the matter. So when we open up his gospel he doesn’t take us to Bethlehem. There are no angels, wandering stars, shepherds or wise men. Not because these things are unimportant, but because he wants to get right to the meat, as it where. He wants to start where it all began for him, (or rather Peter, as this is really Peter’s account, which mark recorded – one ancient writer refers to this gospel as the Memoirs of Peter). Mark concerns itself with what Jesus did. This gospel wants us to understand that He came as the Servant of Jehovah, to both serve and sacrifice. And so, its focus begins by bringing us to the banks of Jordan, the place of Christ’s baptism, and the moment where that great eternal service first began, what Mark terms, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
So how does Mark see the outset of Christ’s coming unfolding?
I. A Prophecy – vss 1-3
A. Two prophecies in fact.
1. In verse 2 we have a quotation from the book of Malachi 3:1.
a. Malachi, of course is the last book of the Old Testament, and between Malachi and Matthew there are 400 years of silence.
b. God has not spoken a Word.
c. But now, out of nowhere a man has been sent from God, a man referred to by Malachi as “my messenger”. That man is John the Baptist. Look up Malachi 3:1.
d. The messenger sent before to prepare the way of the Lord was John the Baptist, who came in the spirit of Elijah heralding the arrival of the Messiah.
e. The “messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in,” is the Lord Jesus Christ.
f. Now it is significant that Malachi portrays the Lord coming to His Temple… but why? Well, hold on to that thought and we will come back to it in a moment.
2. In verse 3 we have the second prophecy cited by Mark – Isaiah 40:3
a. Let us look there.
b. Think about what the prophet is saying, he speaks of the voice of one crying in the wilderness (hold that thought) and his cry is “Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
c. That’s it. You want proof that Christ is God, that he is Jehovah? Well, here it is, the messenger sent before Christ, John the Baptist, goes before him to prepare the way for Jehovah: To prepare a meeting with God.
d. How was this preparation made?
II. A Practice – vss 4-5
A. John was the Baptizer.
1. That is what he was primarily known for. He was a Baptist, not in the denominational sense of that word, but in the practical sense.
2. Baptism is not unheard of in Judaism.
a. In fact before John came Jews then, as now, baptized proselytes, converts to Judaism, by full immersion.
b. Converting Gentiles, under the watchful eye of a Rabbi, submerged themselves in water and in so doing they signified a change in their lives, a change of direction, a change of identity a change in relationships.
c. In that regard baptism, even as it is practiced in the Christian church has changed little in its purpose – it makes the same essential statements.
B. But there was something unique about John’s baptism.
1. John wasn’t baptizing Gentiles, he was baptizing Jews in what is termed a baptism of repentance.
2. Unlike Christian baptism, which looks back at the work of Christ and the moment of conversion – John’s baptism was preparatory to the coming of Christ – it marked an inner change that was necessary before forgiveness could be granted.
3. Mark calls it, “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”
a. Of course John was in no position to grant the forgiveness of sins – that is God’s doing, but Christ would come granting such forgiveness, and so in anticipation of His soon appearing John called men to prepare ye the way of the Lord, by turning from sin and looking toward the coming of the Saviour.