Summary: The new year is an opportunity for new beginnings, a better opportunity comes from know how much God love you.
New Year – New Start
Happy New year! I hope you all have a very blessed 2018. New year is a time when we take stock, reflect on how we’d like our lives to be and potentially decide to make some changes. It’s an opportunity for a new start, a new beginning in a small part of our lives.
This year I’m going to:
- get fit
- get thin
- get a new job
- read my bible more
- pray more
The bad news is that most of us will fail.
I’m happy to report that I made a new year’s resolution many years ago that I have kept ever since the day I made it. I decided that year that I would not make any more new years resolutions ever! … and I never have.
Readings - Beginnings
Our readings this morning are both about beginnings. Genesis is about the very beginning of the Universe, and Mark is about the beginning of the second phase of the Universe. This morning I am going to look at the Mark reading and see what it has to say about new beginnings.
Sometimes new beginnings are heralded, so that we know that something is coming in advance. John was the man who had the news about Jesus starting his ministry. So before we get on to the new beginning lets take a closer look at the start of it.
John the Baptiser
John’s ministry is prophesied in Malachi 3:1 ‘“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.’
John in the dessert dressed in camel hair and eating locusts sounds a bit odd to us, but his dress was quite intentional. It was a signal, to those who knew their scriptures, of who he was. Camels hair and a leather belt signified that John was the promised “Return of Elijah”. 2 Kings 1:8
They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”
Elijah will return
Elijah’s return is also prophesied in Malachi, in chapter 4 verse 5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” John, is the man who is Elijah, as Jesus says in Matthew 11:14 “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
To see John and repent.
To go to see John was not a simple journey, it was likely that he was based in the wilderness in the valley outside Jerusalem. If he was always based near the Jordan river, as he must have been if he was always baptising people – it is the only water in the area, - then it is at least a 21 kilometres walk. The road out of the city takes a steep descent, and if you have to go off the road through the wilderness the climb is even more difficult. That is to say nothing about the climb back up to Jerusalem. A visit to John is at least a day trip – and quite a long day’s trip.
Despite this, John was getting a lot of visitors and what he was doing was similar to the prophets – calling for repentance and a new turning to God and offering forgiveness of sins. But John included baptism in water – something that had previously been a requirement only for Gentile converts to Judaism.
John, we are told would not baptize anyone without a clear statement of repentance.
His message is clear “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.”
Along comes Jesus
And one day, Jesus is there waiting to be baptised. If we look at Matthew’s account we will see that John had a problem with the idea that Jesus should seek his baptism. After all, why be baptised for the forgiveness of sins when you are not a sinner. Jesus tells him “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15). John consents and Jesus is baptised.
The baptism will have taken place in front of the crowd that was already there listening to John, and others who were there to receive baptism, or who had just been baptised themselves. It is Jesus’ public declaration of His ministry. He has gone from being someone who is preparing to someone who is ready. It is a new beginning, a change of lifestyle, time to get started. He has accepted the plan – that he has come to die for the sins of those who trust in Him.