Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mark 1:9-15

As promised, beneath is a copy of my talk from preaching workshop tonight. All comment gratefully received!

Mark 1:9-15
Right guys, tonight we’re going to be looking at Mark 1 verses 9 to 15. If you could turn to it now, I’m going to read it out before we begin.

So, previously in Mark’s gospel...
Isaiah’s predicted messenger John the Baptist arrives on the scene. He fits the bill, even down to the clothes that he wears. His message is simple – repent from your sins and start living for God. People from all over came to do just that, being baptised by John as a sign that they wanted to be washed clean.

However the message doesn’t stop there.

To quote John the Baptist’s words in verse 8 – I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit. – God himself is coming. The excitement is building – repent, God is coming.

So, after such an exciting introduction and with such expectation, Mark pushes on to verse 9;
“in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptised in the River Jordan”...
Is this the one we’ve been waiting for, God’s chosen messiah to rescue his people!?! Verse 9 has just told us that Jesus came from Nazareth, and that he gets baptised. Nothing seems too strange there. However, digging a little deeper, several things would have seemed a bit strange to the Jews standing on the banks of the river Jordan. Firstly, Nazareth wasn’t really a place of note in the ancient world. In fact it was a bit of a backwater. To take a verse from John chapter 1 (46), a Jew called Nathaniel says;
‘Nazareth, can anything good come from there?”
Jerusalem, yes, good credentials, Rome, well it’s the capital of the empire, it might do, but Nazareth? If this man was the promised one from God, would he really have such credentials....

To make things seem even stranger, Jesus is then baptised in the river by John. Last time we heard in verse 7 that John wouldn’t be worthy to even untie the promised one’s shoes. Something doesn’t seem right. If this is the promised one, why is he acting like this. Baptism is something for sinners, a sign of a broken relationship with God. How could Jesus possibly be the promised one, when he’s just the same as anybody else!?!?!

With these questions in mind, Mark pushes on with his account showing us three very important things about Jesus. The first one is this, Jesus is endorsed by John the Baptist.

As we heard last week, John the Baptist had a diet of locusts and wild honey, and wore a cloak made of camels hair. Although these things sound strange to us today, the Jewish audience then would have seen many similarities in John to one of the greatest prophets of Israel, Elijah. The Old Testament had said that Elijah would return before the coming of the Lord, and that he would prepare the way. John the Baptist’s clothes and message, fit with this. He is preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. So, if Jesus is the promised one, why is he baptised by John the Baptist? Does he really need to repent and turn back to God? We can find out more about this in the book of Matthew. Please join me in turning to Matthew chapter 3:13.
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.
It is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.

John knows that he isn’t worthy to be baptising Jesus. He knows that he is a sinful man, and cannot be right before God by his own merit or works. However, Jesus insists, he asks to be baptised by John. Not because he wants, or even needs to repent, but instead, because he wants to be like the people he came to save. He wants to be like his people, so that he can be the perfect sacrifice for them.

So, point one - Jesus is endorsed by the John the Baptist, the predicted prophet.

One box crossed off the tick list for a potential Messiah.

Point two: Jesus is endorsed by God the Father.
To turn back to scripture, in verse 10 we see that Jesus’ baptism doesn’t have the expected ending. As soon as Jesus comes up out of the water, something spectacular happens. The heavens are torn open and the holy spirit descends on him. Following this, God’s voice proclaims that Jesus is the son of God, and that he is very pleased with him. What a spectacle, what a show.

Imagine yourself at a concert with many thousands of others. You’ve been through the warm up acts, they were all right, but that’s not what you’ve been waiting for, that’s not what has been promised on the tickets. The lights go out, and the arena goes dark. You can make out a silhouette on the stage. Is it him, you think to yourself, you’ve been waiting so long. A blinding spotlight lights up the centre of the stage. The most famous of rock stars walks to the microphone – it’s unimaginable how they got him to come to the arena. His voice booms across the loudspeakers, as he announces the new musical talent you’ve heard so much about, and waited so long to hear. With such an endorsement, this guy must be everything you’ve been waiting for, and more.

This is just a human example, God is greater than any rock star. He made, sustains and controls everything imaginable. His power doesn’t stop at the Earth, at the galaxy, or even at the universe. And he is saying that Jesus is loved by him, and he is pleased with him. If God is to say this, we must take note.
Jesus is God’s promised one, and all who’ve come to the river to repent and be baptised will know this, because he’s had God’s seal of approval.

Jesus is endorsed by God the father.

Point three: Jesus proves himself
If you’ll look down at verse twelve with me, you’ll see that there’s a bit of a scene change. Jesus has just been proclaimed to be the promised one by God, and had the spirit come down to mark him. The one that Israel has been waiting more than a thousand years for, is finally here. God’s people can at last be rescued from their captives, and the world be judged!

However that’s not what happens, at least not at this stage. Jesus is driven out into the wilderness, and remains there for forty days. Although this is perhaps more than a little unexpected, the reason is reassuring. We’ve heard that Jesus wanted to be baptised by John in order to be like his people in every way. Similarly, going into the desert for forty days allowed him to be tempted like the Israelites were during their long journey from Egypt, through the desert. Mark shows us that Jesus knew temptation, yet overcame it – he proved himself the part.

Perhaps to extend the earlier illustration a little further, the long awaited protégé announced by the rock star, starts playing. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. He’s lived up to the every ounce of the speculation by playing in a way that took your breath away, in a way that only he could. Whilst Jesus is man, and he went through things that we struggle with too, he didn’t turn from God. He didn’t give in to temptation, he held to God.

Jesus proved himself to be the promised one.

So to do a little recap, we’ve seen that:
- Firstly: Jesus is endorsed by John the Baptist
- Secondly: Jesus is endorsed by God the Father
- And thirdly: Jesus has proven himself

Three pretty big affirmations that Jesus is the promised one for the people of Israel. He is the one who will put man right with God and will be the judge.

However what does that mean for us, how should we respond?
Jesus’ words in verse fifteen make plain what our response should be.
‘The time is fulfilled’
‘The kingdom of God is at hand’
‘repent and believe in the gospel’
The ancient nation of Israel, Mankind, You and Me have not met the criteria needed to earn God’s favour or be right with God. Jesus Christ, the one eternally predicted, repeatedly prophesied, and eagerly anticipated, has finally come. He has reached the mark, and he’s creating a new Kingdom of people who can be right with God. Later in Mark’s account, we hear how he did this through taking the deserved punishment for our rebellion. We need to trust in him wholeheartedly, giving up living for ourselves, casting away our selfish desires, and turn to living for him. Whether you would call yourself a follower of Christ or not, we’re all in the same situation, we’re all sinners, and we all need to repeatedly be turning back to the one who came to save us from ourselves, Jesus Christ. Think, who he is, and who he is endorsed by. Can we afford to take his message lightly and not apply it to every single aspect of our lives.

‘The time is fulfilled’
‘The kingdom of God is at hand’
‘repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ’

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Meeting leading

This morning my lovely church (the Plant), gave me the opportunity to lead the church meeting. The job involves welcoming everyone to church, leading in prayer, and introducing the speaker. I've included my notes from the introduction beneath; all comments would be gratefully received!

Hello, and welcome to the Plant on this summer morning. Later today, we’ll be hearing the last Bible talk from our series on the book of Exodus. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this series for the Old Testament pretty challenging over the last term.

To do a little recap, we started back in Exodus 25 with God’s telling Moses of the intricate description of how the Israelites should worship God, the specifications of the tabernacle and actions of the Priest. We even hear in Exodus 29 how God will dwell among the people of Israel, and will be their God. However when Moses returned to his people to tell them this, he was greeted by them worshipping a statue of a golden calf... Not a good response to a holy and almighty God! The relationship was strained – could God really return to his people after such blatant and willing disobedience? After much interceding from Moses, the relationship is given another opportunity, and the people given another chance to worship God. This time the people willingly contribute to the work of God, and his tabernacle is finally completed to the letter. Our voyage through Exodus will culminate today in chapter 40, when we hear Phil speaking on God’s presence coming to his people.

So, that was a quick recap on what we’ve covered so far – what a choppy story!

Whilst the last week probably hasn’t been quite so adventurous, I imagine we’ve all had some interesting and challenging experiences. I hope for some of us, things may have gone pretty well; maybe the end of exams, the chance for a bit of sun, start of the world cup... However I’m sure that there have also been times for each of us over the past week that haven’t been so great.

Regardless of how the last few days have gone, we all know that we haven’t sought to serve God as we should have done, and like the Israelites chosen to instead to put our time and effort into worshipping other things with our lives.

However unlike the people of Israel in the book of Exodus, we don’t need a temple anymore. God the son came and gave himself up for us, handling the punishment for our rebellion, putting us right with God.

It’s so easy as Christians, to forget how great this message really is, and the enormous implications of it for each us. A little later today, we’re going to remember this awesome sacrifice through the Lord’s supper. However, before we do this, I thought it would be good to come to God in prayer, firstly to thank him for what he’s taught us through the book of Exodus, and secondly, to thank him for the most amazing grace, seen in Jesus. I’ll start each with a short prayer, after this, please do add to them with own prayers, either out-loud or in you heart, thanking the Lord for what he has taught us and done for us.

Thanks for reading this far! Later this week I'm giving a talk on Mark 1:9-15, as part of a preaching workshop organised by my church. Again this should hopefully appear on-line shortly afterwards.

Wishing you all a most pleasant week.