Good morning church! I know we all are excited as we jump into a new series which is titled “The Story of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark.” I really liked the video intro that Saju gave to our series (Watch the video). He said that many times we have many misconceptions about who Jesus is – either from our experience or what we’ve been told or what we see in the media. The Bible accurately and clearly presents Jesus as He is. So that’s going to be our goal over the next few months – knowing and understanding Him closely through the gospel of Mark!
So before we delve into our main text passage, I think it’ll be helpful for us to understand key aspects about this gospel, the author and the purpose of this book. This gospel was written somewhere between 55-60 AD. Who was the writer? John Mark. There are quite a few things we can know about John Mark from the New Testament.
- There was a house church that met at his home. In Acts 12:12 right after Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel he goes to the home of Mary, the mother of Mark where the church was gathered and praying together
- He was the cousin of Barnabas. (Col 4:10) We already see his spiritual heritage through his family and the church that met in his home
- Paul and Barnabas took Mark along with them on their first missionary journey. (Acts 13:5) Unfortunately, we don’t know why but Scripture records that Mark left them mid-way and returned back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13)
- Later on Mark becomes the reason for the separation between Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas later on decided to go back to the churches they planted in every city and strengthen them. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along but Paul thought it wasn’t wise because he deserted them earlier. They got into such a sharp agreement that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Paul took Silas along with him and went to Syria and Cilicia and Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus which was his hometown (Acts 15:36-41)
- Interestingly when we come to the end of Paul’s life…we read this a few weeks back in the final chapter of 2 Timothy. During Paul’s final stages in life when he is all alone, he tells Timothy to come to him quickly and to bring Mark along because he is “very useful to him in ministry”. What changed? How was an uncommitted believer become radically changed into a powerful witness for Jesus?
- I think we may find the answer in 1 Peter 5. In v13 where Peter is providing his signature to the letter, he mentions the name of Mark whom he refers to as his son who is there along with him. It’s quite likely that during “in between” years, Peter discipled Mark. He told him about the amazing things that happened when Jesus Christ was on earth, he probably reminded him about the beautiful gospel and shared how Jesus strengthened him even though he was unfaithful to Jesus. Peter himself would say a lot of things impulsively but wouldn’t keep up him promise when things got tough. Still Jesus gave him hope, strengthened him and turned him around so that he could not only live for Jesus but also die as a martyr for Jesus! If you are at that place today, where you look at your life and see there’s very little commitment to Christ. Go back to the gospel and trust in what Christ is able to do in and through you. If Jesus Christ can do that for Peter and for Mark, he can do that even in your life
- So Mark’s gospel is the story of Jesus through the eye witness account of Peter.
What’s the main purpose for writing the gospel of Mark? I think there are two purposes:
- To show how Jesus through his impeccable life, prophecies, astonishing miracles, deep perception of the hidden thoughts of the heart, authoritative teaching and the amazing victory over sin, Satan and death is truly the Son of God. And if he is the Son of God, then you must repent and believe in the gospel. If you are a student in a school, the moment your principal calls you and gives you a command, you know it’s serious. You can’t play around with the command or take it lightly. The principal of the school has full authority within the premises. How much more seriously should we take Jesus’ command to repent and believe because He is the Son of God?
- To remind us that believing in Jesus is a call to discipleship. It is a call to die to your desires, your goals and your dependence on yourself. Die to yourself and follow Jesus. Also, following Jesus would involve a life of sacrifice, trouble and persecution! But for those who live a life of sacrifice for Jesus will receive the biggest reward…which is Christ Himself. And the gospel of Mark re-affirms the truth that all the sacrifices and troubles and persecutions for the sake of Jesus and the gospel are worth it. How excited are you already? With that background on the author and the purpose of the book, I invite you all to join me as we discover the story of Jesus in Mark.
Mark 1:1-8: 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare[c] the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” 4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark directly gets to point from the get go. He says here is the beginning of the gospel – “good news” of Jesus “the Anointed King”, the Son of God. And he talks about an Old testament prophecy in v2 and 3. The Old testament prophet spoke of the timing of the coming of Christ. He said that a messenger would come and prepare the way of the Lord.
If any important person…be it the President of a country or a King would never just land up in a new place directly. They will always send a messenger or a secretary to first go to the place, make arrangements, make announcements and then arrive.
John the Baptist could’ve come and booked the best hall, laid out a great stage, published the coming of the Lord in the newspaper in terms of preparation. It’s interesting that the preparations for Jesus the Son of God is of a very different kind.
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
The way he prepared the way of the Lord is by preaching a baptism of repentance. Repentance is a change of mind and a reversal of decision to receive pardon from sin. Pardon meaning being let off as though they didn’t commit the crime.
Now we know that God cannot overlook sin, the only way in which God can pardon people is through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine so that by believing in Him we can be fully forgiven and have a clean slate before God.
Let me ask you is repentance a one-time activity or a life-long event? Sometimes some people say that “we’ve already been forgiven in Christ, so why do we need to repent?” When we put our faith in Jesus, we are positionally made right before God. So there’s no wrath, no condemnation for those who are in Christ. But we still have to reckon with sin until Christ comes back and takes us with Him. We see the effects and presence of sin in our lives until Christ comes back, and so we need to continually and perpetually repent so that we may relationally be made right with Jesus.
Here’s the application point: how do you prepare yourself to meet with Christ every day? Is it by planning different spiritual events like listening to gospel songs, making an elaborate list of all the Christian activities you will do (not that any of this is bad) or is it by continual repentance? How do we prepare ourselves to meet with Jesus on a Sunday morning? Is it by putting on the best clothes, putting on the happiest face or is it by repentance? If continual repentance doesn’t define you as a believer, then something is wrong. Here’s what 1 John has to say about this:
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
A true believer wants to repent frequently because he delights in a close relationship with Jesus.
7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In NT times, they didn’t have the kind of roads and foot paths that we have in the city today. Most people traveled by walking and the roads were dusty and dirty. The kind of sandals they wore also would be equally dirty due to the places they traveled on.
Therefore, even touching or untying the strap of a sandal was the job of the lowest slave in the household. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to do. It wasn’t an honorable thing to do. And yet, John the Baptist says that he isn’t fit or worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. Wow! John was himself very eloquent and respected by the people but he understood his position before God. He understood he was mere man but Jesus is the Son of God. He understood he was a creature – created thing but Jesus is the Creator.
He understood that he baptized people with water, but Jesus would change and transform people by the Holy Spirit so that they would now obey and want to obey God. None of us would even think of having a casual attitude toward the President of the country. Even though the President might be a friend, we would still speak and respond in a manner that is worthy of the President. How much more humbled must we be toward Christ? You want to know how mature you are in the faith? Check out your humility.
Your maturity will be revealed by the level of your humility. If your biblical knowledge is causing you think more about yourself than God, then you are struggling with pride. If your biblical knowledge is causing you to look down on other people and criticize other people, then you aren’t being humble. If your biblical knowledge is not leading you to depend on Christ, then you are struggling with self-righteousness.
If your biblical knowledge isn’t bringing you closer to other believers, then you a struggling with self-reliance. And the sad part is a prideful person would never understand the need for the gospel. In pride we wouldn’t care about the sacrifice that was done for us. We need humility to accept, believe and value Jesus and His work for us!
Again my intent was not to bring condemnation but to help us realize 1) that we need repentance more than ever because the more we know Christ the more clearly we see our sin. 2) Our lives require more humility than ever in order to live to glory of Jesus.