Summary: Jesus identity with us demands we believe the two cardinal implications of the gospel.
When someone says, “Tell me about yourself,” where do you begin? I could say: “I was born in Tennessee and raised in a small town near Memphis.” Or maybe you begin with your current career: “I have been the Pastor here for only 9 months.” Or would you speak of how you chose your profession? “Well this is actually my second career; I worked for five years as an biomedical design engineer.”
“Tell me about yourself,” has varied answers, depending on you and your preferences as well as the audience to whom you are speaking.
God includes in his Bible four different tellings about his Son. They are not the same because four authors write to different audiences and with a variety of purposes. Mark (who wrote the account we are reading this morning) begins (we might say), “without warming up”—he quickly connects Jesus to the promises of Isaiah and then goes straight to Jesus’ at 30 years of age and his first public action as Messiah. In so doing, Mark emphasizes a Savior who identifies with his people.
Two young folks were baptized today to mark them as belonging to Jesus. The power of that sign comes from Jesus’ identifying with us.
[Read Mark 1.1-13. Pray.]
Yehiel Dinur testified against Adolf Eichmann at his Jerusalem trial in 1961 for war crimes. When he came face-to-face with Eichmann for the first time since being sent to Auschwitz almost 20 years earlier, Dinur began to sob uncontrollably and then fainted.
Was Dinur overcome by hatred, or fear, or simply the horror of the memories of Auschwitz? Mike Wallace asked him that very question on 60 Minutes. Dinur said: “I was afraid about myself. I saw that I am capable to do this. I am…exactly like he.” Mike Wallace then said: “Eichmann is in all of us.”
Chuck Colson, commenting on that episode of 60 Minutes, wrote: “Wallace’s summation of Dinur’s terrible discovery—‘Eichmann is in all of us’—is a horrifying statement; but it indeed captures the central truth about man’s nature. For as a result of the fall, sin is in each of us—not just the susceptibility to sin, but sin itself.” (Story from Kent Hughes, Commentary on Mark, 1989, 27).
In Star Trek, “The Neutral Zone,” is the space between the Romulans and the Federation, an area that belongs to neither. In a similar way, many people assume that we are born into this world neither belonging in heaven or hell, but in the neutral zone between them. We remain there until we chose for either God or the Devil.
In contradistinction, the Bible teaches that we are born citizens of Satan’s Kingdom. We are all Adam’s children and enemies of God. Eichmann is in all of us, and unless Jesus descends into the depths of evil, we will belong in hell forever. Such is our identity with the sin nature, that we are dead spiritually, depraved in heart and mind, and, therefore, damned to eternal punishment.
What a bleak picture! Yet suddenly, another appears with a new identity. Jesus is baptized into our nature so that we might be baptized into his. Jesus’ baptism so identifies him with my sin nature that the end must be the cross.
Let me show you two results of Jesus’ identifying with us. First, we find the courage to own our need; second, we find the power to overcome our sin. First, notice that…
1. Because of Jesus’ Baptism We Need Not Fear Owning Our Need (Mark 1.9-11)
John the Baptizer has prepared the way for the Son of God by confronting us with our desperate situation—we are separated from God. He had one message, one sermon (as it were)—you are sinners in need of forgiveness.
Some were offended by his preaching; he ended up executed (like the Muslims do today in Iran and Saudi Arabia if you say what they dislike). And, of course, people are still offended by this truth: before we make a choice, we are declared “guilty” and damned by God’s Holy Law. We are born sinners; thus, we are sinners not because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.
How is it possible to respond positively to that?
Adam and Eve, as soon as they disobeyed, hid from God. Why would we come out now and accept the Biblical description of our condition? Why not believe that we are all basically good, rather than that Eichmann is in all of us?
One reason is that it is true. We ought to believe this because it describes reality, even if it is harsh. Like Mr. Gore’s passion over Global Warming. He wants us to accept his terrifying scenario because it is true, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
But the Bible offers an even more compelling reason to own this reality. For those with faith and courage to do so, God in his kindness provides a solution. In the midst of John’s sermon on repentance, Jesus appears and insists on being baptized.