Summary: A brief background about John the Baptizer, who was Mark, and why would Jesus have to be Baptized? This was preached on a Sunday morning when an adult Baptism was performed.
The Baptism of Jesus
This morning, we’ll begin taking a walk through the Gospel of Mark. It seems to me it’s probably a good idea to know a little about Mark as we begin this journey. And after we come to know a little more about Mark, we’ll look at what happened one day in a river long ago and far from here, involving a character by the name of “John” the Baptist. Though it happened long ago, and far away, it was such an event that I suspect there is hardly anyone in this country, in our culture, believer or non-believer, who doesn’t know at least something about the story, and has some memory, some recollection about it.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest in the Bible. Mark, also known as “John Mark,” was not an apostle of Jesus. Instead, he is known as the interpreter of Peter, writing down all the things that Peter remembered, whether the sayings, or doings of Christ. But his recording of these things are not necessarily in order… as he, Mark, was neither a companion, nor a hearer of Jesus.
History gives us a couple of scenarios as to how the Gospel of Mark came to be written. Almost all agree Mark wrote the book while in Rome. One source, Irenaeus, says that Mark was written when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. Mark is considered by most theologians to have been Peter’s disciple, and following Peter’s death, delivered to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching.
Mark’s Gospel concentrates on telling the story and moves swiftly from Jesus baptism to the critical events of the cross, where Jesus paid the ultimate price for our promise of salvation and eternal life.
We can find the name “John Mark” often in Acts and in New Testament Letters. ‘John’ is his Jewish name, ‘Mark’ the Latin name. The book of Acts, chapter 12 tells us Mark’s mother had a house in Jerusalem where Jesus followers often met in the early days of the church (Acts 12: 12) Mark was a cousin to Paul’s companion, Barnabas, and had the respect and love of Peter and of Paul. We further discover Mark was a comfort to Paul in prison as we see revealed in Colossians 4. He became Peter’s companion and Peter came to love him as his own son as we see revealed in 1 Peter 5: 13. So here we have a little glimpse into Mark.
Mark begins his story right out of the box by proclaiming…”The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Wow, he doesn’t waste any words. The truth is out… Jesus Christ is the Son of God! And so Mark shows us right up front the purpose of his Gospel and its message. Mark passes over Jesus’ birth and John’s early history. For him, the good news begins with the adult John, the prophetic voice Isaiah has predicted, crying out from the desert urging the nation to make ready for God’s coming. The rest of Mark’s account will show Jesus, the one whose coming John announced, is the Messiah, the Son of God.
So, what do we know about John…. Who is he? How did he come to be called to be John the “Baptizer?” Just what do we know about him?
We can find the story of John’s birth in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel. His father is Zechariah and his mother, Elizabeth. We know from the scripture prior to John’s birth, they had no children as Elizabeth was barren. Then one day an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and told him of the coming of his son. The angle told him to name him “John,” that he would be a joy to he and Elizabeth and many would rejoice because of his birth. The angel said the son would be great in the sight of the Lord and that many through his work and words, many of the people of Israel would return to the Lord their God. And what’s more, that he would go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--- WHY?.... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
There’s not a lot of information about John’s childhood. And you may wonder how he came to fulfill the words of the angle who appeared before Zechariah. We can find the answer in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 3, verse 2 and 4. “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And so begins the mission of John the “Baptizer.”