Read Mark 1:2-8
We began our series in the Gospel of Mark with our opening statement found in verse 1
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
If you remember, I told you that the word that Mark uses for “gospel” is euangelion.
That word was used in the Roman world (which so attracted Mark) to announce that a new emperor had ascended the throne. That word brings us to the thought of Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of Lords
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
In verse 1 we have the identification of the King, but now we move in the verses we have read,, Mark 1:2-8, to the proclamation of King.
And just the Kings and rulers of old would have their heralds go before them to announce there coming, so now we are introduced to the Herald of Thee King, and this herald goes by the name of John the Baptist.
Now, as we will find with the unfolding of this Kings story, its not what you expect, or certainly from worldly eyes and thoughts it was not what was expected, for as we know from the nativity story, this King, our King, came humbly, born in simple conditions to a simple family. As, then we come to the Kings herald, we find not what would be usually expected.
Lets take a closer look at this herald, turn with me to Matthew 3
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
So instead f the well dressed, well positioned Herald we might expect for any King, we find that this Herald, John the Baptist is, working in the wilderness; literally the desert! Not only that we find that instead of being clothed in fine apparel as one might expect, we find this character clothed in an outfit of camels hair, set of nicely with a black belt. Let’s be honest here, he is not winning any fashion awards and he’s certainly not impressing upon anybody the value of his King!
Never mind his dietary habits! Locusts and Honey! actually this is not as bad as first read, thanks to my Israel trips I am happy to report back that John’s his honey was date honey crushed from dates, and that the flour for his bread came from grinding the bean of the locust tree, so not as bad as first read dictates!
That all said, it doesn't read like a great report for a Kings herald, certainly the King he represents must be bankrupt if this is the state of his herald!
But, as we have stated folks the King in question is no ordinary King and the Herald in question is no ordinary herald. John the Baptist is a Spirit filled man sent by God, he is actually the last Old Testament Prophet.
He comes with the message
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The announcement or the message he brings is not one that you might expect, I mean if an announcement was made that the Queen was coming to Spalding and that she was going to visit our Church, well we would prepare wouldn't we. We would prepare the building, the gardens, the inside of the building, we would have it looking its best, we would be in our best clothes when she turned up, we would be prepared...
The message from this herald though is radically different though the message to prepare, is not one to prepare externally but one to prepare internally, the message, or the way of the Lord is a message of repentance, for this King cannot be you king unless the heart is prepared with repentance.
Repentance is a change of mind, it reflects a turning away from your way, to God’s way. True repentance is a heart level action, its an action that abandons the former life and clings to the new, it is born out of a broken heart in the reflection of God’s Holiness, love and mercy, and most importantly a recognition of our sinful nature.
So, when our unlikely Herald cries prepare ye the way of the Lord, it is the way of repentance that is being preached.
Three points about that way this morning. firstly
Getting back to opening text in Mark we read
2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
As it is written, where was it written? well we go back to the old testament fort the verses we have just reads are a mixed quote from the Old Teastament.
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, Even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
That word messenger is malak in hebrew, it means messenger of God, the greek work used for messenger in Mark 1:2 is angelos - we get the word Angel from that. An Angel is simply a messenger from God.
Jesus himself identifies John as that messenger
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Next then Mark quotes
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Marks referencing the old testament prophets is important for it shows us that the Kings arrival was not a secondary plan, it wasn’t an afterthought or a knee-jerk reaction.
No folks this way was determined from eternity past, The Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit looked into time and determined the only way, was Calvary.
So, the way was determined, then secondly
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
John preached the message of repentance, that was his Job as Herald, that was what god had sent him to do. As I have said John was the last Old Testament prophet, not the first.
God had sent many before to preach the same message to the people, turn with me to
14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
The message of coming judgement declared, the escape of which was through repentance leading to faith.
What about Noah
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Throughout the Old Testament we find the same message, the way of the Lord - Repent, turn back to me!
15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
This is the message that the man sent from God should bring, the call to repentance, the call to turn back, to change ones position, to reject the old life and embrace the new!
The message of repentance is inseparable from the message of saving faith, repentance and faith cannot be separated, where there is no repentance there can be no saving faith.
The Gospel is a message that if it it is to be accepted it requires repentance. The sad thing is that this call to repentance has be lost by many, it has being removed form the saving formula by many, because its not the message people want to hear, its not popular to call people wicked sinners who need to repent before a Holy God and cry out for his mercy and Grace!
No, its much nicer to say God loves you just the way you are, and you just need to say this prayer and Jesus will save you and then you can be on your merry way....
That sounds nice, folks, but let me tell you what that is, it’s another Gospel
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
It’s another Gospel and we should absolutely and categorically reject it, because any other Gospel is not the way of the Lord its the way of the world and the way of the world is leading millions to an eternal separation from God called Hell.
So the way was determined, it was declared then finally
7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
Here we come come to Baptism. Now. John was the Royal Herald, he announced the coming King and prepared the way through the message of repentance. John though a powerful figure was not a patch on the one who was to come
John preached that “there cometh one mighter than I after me” verse 7
in the greek the language in which this Gospel was originally written, the definite article is used, so it literally reads “there cometh the one” not merely one, but the one!
John, continues in verse 7 to state that he is not even worthy to perform the basic slave task for a master of taken off his shoes. John knew his role, he knew his place and he wanted to ensure others did not get the wrong impression of his ministry
John wanted to exalt Christ at all times, not himself. Now, I want to say there are those in ministry today who are all about themselves, they build there empire and there fortune off the back of the Kings name, those who are puffed up and full of pride, the look and listen to me bunch of charlatans and false teachers. The preachers role is never to exalt himself it is always to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ!!
John Knew this
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
The greek meanings for those words increase and decrease, mean he must become greater and i must be made less.
John had it right, he was all about Christ and we would do well to follow his example
John the baptist, the clue in is in the name, baptisted. Yet he knew that his baptism was nothing compared to one that Christ would bring.
8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
Here we are presented with the two Baptisms of Scripture, now some would teach that there are three baptisms and i don’t have time to address that, but Lord willing once we finish the Book of Mark we will tackle the Book of Acts and address this issue in more detail.
For now though we are dealing with scripture at hand and we are dealing with two Baptism spoken of by John.
Firstly John tells us that he baptises with water. This he was done in the Jordan river, and if you notice in our previous verses he was in the wilderness, the desert, thats where people came to be baptised. Think of the picture here, the wilderness and its association with wandering rebellious Israel, a picture not lost on those of that time and indeed and hopefully not us either.
You see to partake of this baptism you need repentance, repentance remember is coming into agreement with God that you are lost without him, that you are a sinner who deserves to be cast off, to face the punishment you deserve, you understand you are in the spiritual wilderness as it were, and then and only then can you come through repentance and faith to God.
The baptism of water offered by John had no saving merit in it, it was merely a outward display of an inward change, it was a public declaration of the genuine repentance that had taken place. This Baptism looked forward to the cross
This is the same Baptism that we practice in the Local Church and indeed we will witness on the 13th August Lord willing as we have some candidates who will walk the waters of Baptism, in a public display of there relationship with Christ from the new birth, being born again, being born from above. The baptism we perform looks back to the Cross, but just like John baptism with water is purely symbolic there is no saving element to it.
Thats, ours and indeed John’s baptism, the baptism of water.
There is another baptism to deal with though and that is Christ’s baptism.
In this case it is Christ who is doing the baptism, and he is baptising the believer into, with, and through the Holy Spirit, placing the believer into the body of Christ, the Church, or the universal Church.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
John’s baptism was ceremonial, but Christ’s baptism is supernatural
Its is Christ’s Baptism that brings spiritual life, its this bapism that we refer to when we talk about being born again, its the life changing, life giving, life altering power of saving faith poured out from God upon a repentant heart that believes the Gospel, the Good News, That Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and the King of Kings, stepped into time, took on himself human form, led that perfect life amongst us, gave himself willingly upon the cross that he might take the punishment that was due to us, that we might be made free in him if we repent and believe
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
John’s Baptism with water is supremely important today, and I would urge those who haven’t been baptised , by full immersion at an age that they knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it, to consider Baptism seriously. Folks its a command of the Lord, so it needs to be taken seriously.
Important as that is however, its not as important and the Baptism Christ offers, this Baptism is the one that saves you from the clutches of Hell and translates you into the Kingdom of God for eternity, and there is nothing in this life as important as that decision.
So, we have seen how the way was determined, how it was declared and the finally how it was displayed.
The common thread through all of this is the message of repentance, for that is the way of the Lord. To prepare the way for the Lord in your life there has to be repentance, for repentance clears the ground of your heart, firstly for salvation and then for service.
I wonder this morning where you are at in your relationship with God this morning -
As Clare plays quietly in the background, I wonder would you close you eyes an bow your heads for me.
I want to ask to your really examine your hearts this morning, is there something you need to repent off, is there some sin in life that has got a grip of you and you need freedom from that this morning? then come to the Lord with a broken and repentant heart.
Do you need this morning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, do you need to be born again, to trust Christ as your saviour, then come this morning with a repentant heart, and he will not reject you..
Just take the time to reflect before the Lord as he moves in this place, keep your head bowed and your eyes closed, as I read psalm 51 and lets God’s words penetrate your soul and bring you to that place of repentance and faith
Read psalm 51 verse 1-17
Before we close in prayer, could i ask you to raise your hand if you want prayer this morning, now i won’t identify you be name, or single you out but is you have things to confess before God, and you done that in your heart, you raise your hand for me
I wonder if you in that place, the wilderness, were you don’t have a heart level relationship with God, you know off him but you don’t truly know him, there is no relationship there, I wonder this morning in the quietness of your heart will you come to him, will you come in genuine repentance and simple faith, will you come.
Salvation is the greatest gift in the world and it is freely available to you this morning, don’t put off to tomorrow what you should cling to today, you no not what tomorrow brings, as we have seen only to well in recent weeks.
Finish off with prayer