Summary: It is good to follow the crowds who listen to the Gospel, but it is better to follow the Jesus whom we preach!
THE MESSAGE FROM THE RIVER JORDAN
There is a huge geological fault in the earth’s surface separating ancient Judah from the mountains of Moab. Viewed from the villages around Bethlehem, it appears like a great chasm. The River Jordan flows along the bottom of the valley, feeding water and minerals into the Dead Sea.
In the days of Joshua, the priests were instructed to set their feet in the River Jordan. The waters parted, allowing all the people to enter the Promised Land. This was as sudden and miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea when Moses had first led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt.
At the end of the ministry of the prophet Elijah, he came to the River Jordan, closely followed by his servant Elisha. Elijah struck the water with his cloak. The waters again parted, and the two men walked through on dry ground.
Elijah was received into heaven on a chariot of fire. Elisha picked up his master’s cloak, and also used it to part the waters of the river. Elisha returned to the Promised Land with a commission to carry on the work of Elijah.
The prophet Elisha instructed the commander of the Syrian army to dip himself in the River Jordan seven times in order to be cured of his leprosy. This was the only time that the river was used to cure bodily disease.
At the beginning of the Gospel according to Mark, we see the River Jordan being used in a different way.
Mark entitles his account: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
This is the good news concerning the Anointed Saviour of the world. He is no mere man: He is the Son of God. He is God become man in the Person of His own dear Son.
The good news is summarised in the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Just before Jesus began His ministry, God sent John the Baptist to the River Jordan.
This was in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy: ‘Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me’ (Malachi 3:1).
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
a highway for our God’
John preached the “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4).
Baptism is a dipping of the physical body into water. The baptism administered by John signified a turning away from sin and a turning unto God.
Every wicked act, every unguarded word, every wayward thought; every failure in our love towards God, towards His people, and towards our neighbours is SIN, and offends the LORD.
We must be aware how sin separates us from God, and turn away from it to Him, purposing in our hearts to be no more the servants of sin, but of the LORD who has loved us, and who is merciful to those who turn to Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
For a while the people were content to submit themselves to the teaching of John, and crowds from all over Judah came down to the River Jordan to be baptised by him.
Clothed with camel’s hair and wearing a leather belt, and living on a diet of locusts and wild honey, John the Baptist came in the spirit of the prophet Elijah.
John was a popular preacher. Yet his preaching always pointed away from himself to Jesus. John’s commission was to prepare the way for Jesus, not to seek honour for himself: “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose” (Mark 1:7).
It is good to follow the crowds who listen to the Gospel, but it is better to follow the Jesus whom we preach!
John spoke of another kind of baptism which Jesus would administer: the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is the need to be inwardly ‘born again’ of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8).
God the Father is God for us: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).
God the Son is God with us: ‘They shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God the Holy Spirit is God within us. When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in Him, and repent of all your sins - then the Father and the Son come to dwell in your heart in the Person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:23).
Jesus came to John to be baptised in the River Jordan. Jesus did not have any personal sin to repent of, but His washing with water may have signified the ritual washing of a priest when he is first consecrated. Jesus was anointed when the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. God the Father accepted the Person of Jesus with a voice from heaven: “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).