Mark: S1 E1 - Readying for a Revolution
Resource: Lead Pastor Justin Dosch
Topic: John the Baptist
So let me ask you a question; do you know who Jesus is? I think nearly every person on the planet would recognize his name. They might even be able to tell me some things about him. But the truth is most people don’t really KNOW Him. And sadly, that includes many people who call themselves “Christian,” which means literally, “little Christ.” Sure, they might have the Jesus-fish bumper sticker, they might have the Psalm 23 coffee mug, they might even listen to positive, encouraging K-Love radio. But everything about their relationship is surface level. There is no depth. They don’t really KNOW Him.
The million dollar question is, why? The answer? Most people have simply either never taken the time to get to know him OR they were taught things about Him that simply aren’t true. Their past experience has distorted Him. The culture has made Him out to be someone He’s not.
We’re on a mission to change that around here. The truth is that two thousand years ago, in just three short years, Jesus revolutionized the world by revolutionizing hearts. And what we want for you is to KNOW him. To know what he DID for you and what he wants FOR you. Where do we start? Well, God has given us four incredible biographies of his life and ministry called the gospels or the “good news.” Packed inside each of those gospels is more life-changing truth than all the books combined in the history of the world. The gospel of Mark happens to be one of those gospels, and today we’re going to begin unpacking it verse by verse.
First, who is Mark?
Also known as John Mark, he is the cousin of Barnabas who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. He’s the same John Mark who had a falling out with Paul and did not travel on his second journey.
His family was deeply devoted to Christ and were some of the first true disciples of Jesus. His mother’s home served as a meeting place for the early church.
He was a close friend of Peter. It is widely believed that Mark’s gospel is essentially Peter’s recollection of his time with Jesus, leading early church fathers to coin his gospel the, “Memoirs of Peter.”
Second, what’s the focus of his gospel?
Like all four gospels it is written by a man but inspired by the Holy Spirit. Mark's focus was to show the humanity of Jesus and his deeds. That he is both the Son of God and a suffering servant.
His gospel moves quickly. It skips the birth and begins with Jesus’ baptism and ministry. In other words, he can’t wait to get into the ministry and teaching of Jesus!
Finally, Mark was written for the church in Rome as they faced tremendous persecution from Roman emperor Nero somewhere between AD 65-69. With that setting in mind we begin in Mark 1:1.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3
Essentially Mark begins by saying, “let me tell you about the greatest King to ever live, Jesus the messiah.” But before he gets to Jesus, he focuses on a man named John the baptist. This might seem strange since Mark was so keen on getting to the life of Jesus, but we must remember his audience. In the ancient world before, a king would enter into a city, he would be preceded by heralds or messengers that would make sure the city was prepared to receive the King. “Roll out the red carpet! Clean things up! The King is coming!”
That messenger was a man by the name of John the Baptist who was prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 of which Mark quotes here in the opening lines of his biography on Jesus. Why did he do this? To show that this King was the one that had been prophesied about for centuries.
Just like a herald would prepare the way for an earthly king to enter into a city, John’s calling was to prepare the way for the King of the universe. To “make straight paths” for Jesus to enter into the hearts and minds of the people of Israel.
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:4-8
There are three things I want us to see about John and his ministry;
The significance of WHO
John was a passionate wild man, and everything about his look and lifestyle had meaning. His disheveled hair and scraggly beard along with his camel hair clothing and leather belt were the clothing of a prophet. They would have been reminiscent of Elijah calling people to turn from sin back to God hundreds of years before. His simple diet of locusts/honey was intentionally designed to eliminate the distraction of food and the trappings of its pleasures. He lived in the wilderness away from the glitz and glamor of Jerusalem and the religious elite. Everything about his lifestyle was symbolic of the stark contrast to religious leaders of his day. They were rich, wore fancy robes and clothing, lived in plush homes and ate the choicest foods. Meanwhile John was out in the wilderness looking like Forrest Gump after he ran across the country a few times. They loved their money and power and prestige. Everything about John’s life directly opposed their way of living and challenged them to think differently about what it means to follow God.
The significance of WHERE
John lived and taught in the wilderness. It’s not a coincidence that God often does some of his best work when we are in the wilderness. Remember the Israelites when they were set free from the Egyptians? Where did God lead them? Out into the wilderness! This is where freedom is often found. In the same way, JB, that’s what I’m calling him from here on out, called them into the wilderness to be set free from their religiosity. Like a second exodus, as Moses called Egypt into freedom through the waters of the Red Sea, John called them into freedom through the symbol of baptism in water, calling them out of their old life into the wild unknown of a new way of living. And that leads to the most important thing I want us to see.
The significance of WHAT
John called them to a baptism of repentance. In those days ritual washing was common, but this baptism he called them to was DIFFERENT. Unlike the ritual hand and foot washings of the day that were ongoing this was a one time act. The closest contextual parallel in that day was the one time washing of gentiles who chose to become part of the Jewish faith. As a sign of true faith they would wash from head to toe and officially be welcome in the Jewish family.
The important thing to note here is that this was normal for a gentile, but to ask a Jew to do this was radical. To ask a Jew to do this was asking them to see themselves as OUTSIDERS who were NOT FIT for the Kingdom of God. It completely defied the religious hypocrisy of the day. The religious elite believed that if you were a physical descendent of Abraham or you followed(seemingly because we know this isn’t possible) the law perfectly that you were automatically worthy of admittance into God’s Kingdom. John began proclaiming the truth of the gospel, that no man can be saved unless he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Jesus as savior. This is why the Pharisees were so threatened, not only by John but by Jesus himself. And ultimately why they killed them both.
Ultimately what John was doing was calling them to a CHANGE OF HEART. That’s what repentance is. It is the Greek word metanoia, which means to completely turn from sin and self righteousness and put our faith in Christ as our savior. AND, to then strive to follow Him and be obedient to Him. To think and live a new way. John would say in Luke’s account, we must “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Those who have truly repented will bear fruit. Baptism is the first fruit of a truly repentant heart. It doesn’t save a person, but it shows what is going on in someone’s heart. It shows the genuineness of a person's faith. The self-righteous religious people of that day wouldn’t be caught dead getting baptized because it meant admitting they were no better than the gentiles. It meant admitting they were sinners.
So, what are we to do with this?
First, recognize that JB’s mission was simple; READY THE PEOPLE FOR A REVOLUTION
His mission was to make sure the people knew that this messiah who’s coming, he’s different! In the best way possible. He is here to bring new hope and purpose to every life. He’s calling you into a new way of thinking and living. His mission was NOT to build his own platform or advance his own mission. And that’s what I love so much about JB.
The truth is he had gained a huge following. He was the man. He had the platform, he was an influencer! But he wasn’t about building his own brand. He was about building Jesus’s brand. Instead of building his platform, he directed all the attention to the coming King, from the trappings of this world to something so much better!
There’s no greater evidence of this than what he said in Mark 1:7, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
Don’t miss the symbolism of JB stooping to untie Jesus’s sandals. In those days untying someone’s sandals was reserved for the lowest servants. And JB said this about that job when it came to Jesus, “I’m not even worthy to do THAT.” In other words, he may have had a great platform but he was nothing compared to Jesus. Greatness recognizes greatness. He recognized that Jesus was going to be able to do something far greater for them than John ever could.
He said, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In other words, I can wash you symbolically, but Jesus will transform you from the inside out! He will bring you permanent salvation and new life! This is the gospel, this is REVOLUTIONARY GOOD NEWS. A new king, bringing a new kingdom; one of forgiveness, blessing and purpose for those who will repent and follow him.
So let me throw down a little challenge for today; will you JOIN THE REVOLUTION!
There are three types of people I want to challenge;
1) The religious person, the Pharisee type, who flat out rejected JB’s message. If you’ve rejected the gospel it’s never too late to repent and believe. The gospel is so simple and yet so profound. Jesus died the death we should have died so that we can live a new life free from the worry that our sin will one day lead to death. To receive that gift, we only need repent of our sin and turn to Him. Make today the day!
2) The crowds who came from “the whole Judean countryside.” People came in droves to hear John speak and would later do the same for Jesus. But the truth is, many of those people came because they got caught up in a moment of hype. Sadly it was superficial and short-lived. Maybe you’re one of those people like the crowds who came from Judea. You’ve liked the idea of Jesus but it’s been superficial. You’ve never truly repented and committed to following Jesus and devoting your life to him. Make today the day!
3) For those who are truly saved by grace, PREPARE THE WAY! Emulate JB, who decided his life wasn’t about making his name famous but making famous the name of Jesus. What does that look like practically? I love how John 3:30 puts it, “He must become greater, I must become less.” It’s leveraging all that you have for his glory and the building of His kingdom. It’s being willing to sacrifice the pleasures of this world and look foolish for the gospel. It’s being willing to let God take you into the wilderness and the unknown if it means Jesus becomes more famous.
Like John, let’s make Jesus famous!
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