Summary: “It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.” If you make that your motto, then you’re on your way to understanding what abundant life is all about.
Most towns in America have a “first Baptist church.” That means they were the first Baptist church organized in a particular city. For instance, First Baptist Church Tyler was established in 1848, two years after Tyler became a city. They are our mother congregation and members from there started Green Acres in 1955.
The first Baptist church in America is in Providence, Rhode Island. Roger Williams established it in 1638. The beautiful building is still there. But you don’t have to visit Rhode Island to see it, because an exact replica can be found on the campus of Dallas Baptist University. It’s the Patty and Bo Pilgrim Chapel—a lot of chickens gave their lives for that building!
But Roger Williams wasn’t the first Baptist preacher. The first Baptist preacher was a man we meet in the first verses of Mark named John the Baptist. But he wasn’t a Baptist in any sense of word that we use it today. His title was actually John the baptizer. The word “baptize” means to immerse, dunk, or dip. So long before the NBA, he could have been called John the dunker. And Baptist churches are actually dipper churches; Green Acres is a big dipper and we have plenty of little dippers in East Texas.
Before we look at the First Baptist Preacher, let me let me give you some introductory information about Mark’s gospel. We call this the Gospel According to Mark, but his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the text. We call it Mark because there was an early pastor named Bishop Papias, who wrote in the Second Century, that this account was written by John Mark as told to him by Simon Peter. We know that Peter and Mark were close because Peter ends his first letter by sending greetings “from my son, Mark.” So it could be called the Gospel According to Peter as told to Mark.
Mark was writing to a Roman audience. Romans loved action, especially miracles. Mark contains more miracles per chapter than the other gospel accounts. The most common word in these pages is the little word euthus, which means “quickly” or “immediately.” It appears 40 times in 16 chapters. The action never stops. That’s why I’ve entitled this series, “The reMARKable power of Jesus.”
Mark skips a birth narrative and jumps right into the action. Like a Hollywood producer, he says, “Lights, camera, action!”
Mark 1:1-8. “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way—a voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message, ‘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.’”
We’re not sure exactly what John looked like, but he probably looked like a cross between a homeless man and Bigfoot. One of my favorite images of him is found in the Academy Art Gallery in Venice. Tiziano Vecelli (also known as Titian) painted him pointing to a lamb, which was his ministry.
We know from Luke 1 that John was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. He took a Nazarite vow never to drink or cut his hair. He was unusual in his dress and diet. He wore a coat of camel hair with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild honey. He probably looked like a wild man.
Can you imagine John walking into the local McCamel’s restaurant? He said, “I’ll take a McLocust burger, heavy on the honey.” The kid taking his orders asks … wait for it … “Would you like flies with that?” Sorry.
But John was a man who understood his role in the world. So let’s learn four important spiritual lessons about the man and his ministry.
1. WE’RE CALLED TO HELP PEOPLE FIND AND FOLLOW GOD
The Bible says that John was, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness. Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”
Jay Leno is retiring after 22 years of the Tonight Show. Before Jay, Johnny Carson hosted the show for thirty years. For all of those thirty years, the show started with Johnny’s sidekick Ed McMahon. He would introduce Johnny by saying the same thing, “Live from Hollywood, it’s the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” He would introduce the guests. Then he would utter his famous line, “And now, Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” You didn’t see Ed McMahon until later in the show—in the beginning he was just a voice.