6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: What are you going to do with your life?

Mark 1:4-11

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

here is a story about the 41st President, George H. W. Bush. It seems the senior President Bush was touring a nursing home. As he walked down the hall with his entourage of aides and reporters, he came upon one old man who was slowly making his way in the opposite direction.

The president reached out, took the patient’s hand, and asked gently, “Sir, do you know who I am?”

The man stared back blankly for a moment; then his eyes focused. Slowly he shook his head from side to side. “No,” he admitted, “I don’t know who you are. But if you ask the nurses, they can tell you.”

When the voice from heaven spoke no one had to guess who Jesus might be. The Holy One of Heaven said “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

That statement demands a personal reflection for followers of Jesus Christ: If the life of Jesus was lived in a way that pleased the Heavenly Father, it ought to be our goal in life to live as He did. And so, we ask the question:

What kind of life pleases God?

There are many words with which we could frame an answer to that question. In the body of Christ we have a kind of shorthand that covers it…we could say that following Jesus in a way that is pleasing to God is living out our baptism. It is like the old saying, if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk. These shorthand statements are another way of saying that our life in Christ demands faithfulness; it’s the kind of faithfulness that’s 24hour/7day/52weeks a year kind of faithfulness, to the promises of our baptism.

The baptismal covenant of our church contains those promises that you and I made at our confirmation or adult baptism.

These are some of the identifying marks of a baptism lived-out. These are what separate the way God’s people live from those who live the unexamined life.

This morning let’s examine these a little deeper. They can be separated into two pictures – the Servant of Christ and the Soldier of the Cross.

The Servant of Christ

Paul used this term to describe himself when he wrote to the church of Galatia (or Asia Minor, Turkey) and also the Christians at Colossae ; all believers are servants of Christ. You can tell the servant by the distinguishing marks of service:


Jesus exhibited the life of a humble servant. Living-out our baptism as a servant calls for humility, just as the Master was humble. There is not a task too great or small that we should not be willing to attempt in His name.


Obedience is certainly a characteristic of humility, but in Mark’s gospel there is a special significance. In verse 10 it says that as Jesus came up from the water of his baptism the heavens were “torn apart”. The word means a violent “rip”. The only other time Mark used the word was the crucifixion scene where the temple veil is “torn” from top to bottom at Christ’s death.

It is entirely possible that here Jesus sees the end of his mission, the cross; it’s not a pretty sight for Jesus as we imagine this inspiring scene to be. As we joke about Thanksgiving that it’s a wonderful meal, except for the one who provided the drumsticks, Jesus knows what’s ahead. The Father says words in heaven that have been spoken before in the Son’s presence:

Isaiah 42:1 (NRSVA) 1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

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