“Preparation for Spirit-Empowered Ministry”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 1.1-13
I’d like ask you to turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 1. The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel.
It is a delight for me to begin going passage by passage through the New Testament. I think that the Spirit will confirm in our hearts the delight of this and the value of this.
We are in Mark chapter 1. Our text this morning is verses 1-13. Again, our goal is to get through the New Testament in five years. So, we will feel like we are racing through the New Testament. And after we complete this series, with some interspersed messages on various topics here and there, we will settle down in some New Testament books or some OT passages and really investigate their contents. That’s the plan anyway. We will see what the Lord ends up doing and how he directs us. We need to be open to that, of course.
So what I like to do now is introduce the passage for this morning. And a typical introduction to a passage will conclude with the title of the message. So what we’ll do is run through the passage very briefly in the introduction and demonstrate that the title of the message truly is the message of the passage. The goal of any preacher ought to be to say exactly what the passage says and elongate its contents. We will elongate the contents of this passage through explanation. Sometimes we will elongate the passage with some illustration. We will elongate it with some argumentation, arguing that a particular explanation is the correct explanation of the passage. We will also elongate the passage with some application, how are we supposed to live, think, or what are we to understand about God from the passage. These kinds of things. So I hope you can follow some of these elements in our message’s morning and in future messages.
Mark starts his gospel in the first verse then with these words, Mark 1:1 (NASB) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This is Mark’s title for this passage. And we will elongate exactly what the beginning of the gospel of Christ is a little bit later.
What we have in verses 2-3 are Old Testament prophecies concerning the ministry of John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer. He will be one who, end of verse two, “prepares your way.” So, His ministry is one of “preparation.”
Verse 4 is the historical fulfillment of those prophecies, when John the Baptist comes on the scene in human history.
And what we learn in verse 5 is that John the Baptist came and prepared; he prepared the people for the coming Messiah. And the people’s response in verse five to John’s ministry is tremendous. And we will see that a little bit later as well. John also prepares people for the Messiah in verses 7-8 through his preaching about the Messiah’s coming and about His future work of baptising people with the Holy Spirit.
Beginning in verse nine and running down through verse 13, we have the Holy Spirit preparing the Messiah for ministry. Whereas in verses 2-8, John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah, verses 9-13 concerns the Holy Spirit preparing the Messiah himself for his ministry to those very people that John was preparing, and of course, to all the world at that time and to future generations of the entire world.
Jesus comes then and is baptized by John in v. 9 and it says there that the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus. And then in verse 12 this same Spirit impels Jesus or drives him out into the wilderness where, verse 13, he is tempted by Satan. And now, now that John the Baptist prepares the people for the Messiah and now that the Holy Spirit has prepared the Messiah, end of verse 14, Jesus can begin his public preaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our text however, will be just vv. 1-13.
So, I would like to preach to you the message of this passage, which is Preparation for Spirit-Empowered Ministry. In this passage then, John prepares the people for the Messiah and the Holy Spirit prepares Jesus for his ministry. So, it’s a passage of preparation for Spirit-empowered ministry: preparing people and preparing Jesus.
Beginning: Now, the first verse of Mark’s Gospel is the title for this section of Scripture. This is the beginning of the gospel of Christ. This is how it all started. Now when some think about this phrase “the beginning of the gospel”, some people think that this has reference to the fact that the beginning of the gospel is in the book of Mark and the second half of the gospel concerns when Holy Spirit comes on the scene in the first part of the book of Acts. Others, when they see this phrase they think about the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, where it says, “in the beginning God created.” They would say that just like creation was the beginning, so also the coming of Christ is a beginning. These are the two great monumental events in human history, creation and the coming of the Messiah, which of course is true!
However, often times when trying to understand what a particular phrase means, it’s helpful to keep reading in the context. In this case, in verse four, we have John the Baptist and it says, “John the Baptist appeared.” The word “appeared” in some translations is translated as “began.” And let me also point out that it’s likely that the phrase “the Baptist” here actually should be simply understood as “baptizing.” Now, that’s not the case in the other Gospels, but it is likely the wording here.
So, v.4 would read this way then, “John began baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
And it’s that word “began,” which is the word translated “appeared” that helps us to understand v.1 when mark writes that this is the beginning of the gospel. What he’s referring to is the ministry of John the Baptist. The gospel all began…the beginning of the gospel…the gospel began when John the Baptist came on the scene.
Gospel: now, Mark notes that the beginning he’s referring to is “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
What Mark is referring to here, when he talks about the gospel of Jesus Christ, is this: the gospel which is about Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ means the gospel which is about Jesus Christ, or the gospel which concerns Jesus Christ.
And the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ and about God’s saving power accomplished through Christ for all who believe. So we are here talking about in verse one how the good news began and that good news is about Jesus Christ and about God’s saving power accomplished through Christ for believers. So, Mark, how did God’s saving power accomplished through Christ for believers begin? How did it all start? Mark says, “let me tell you.” And then he goes on to deliver to us verses 2-13.
TRANS: And the way Mark begins is with prophecy. Actually, Mark says, it all started hundreds of years ago with the prophecy that a Herald will come to prepare the people for the coming Messiah.
The Herald Prepares People for the Messiah: His person and proclamation (1:2-8)
The Herald prepared the people to receive the Messiah.
And what I mean by a “herald” is someone who is an official messenger of news, and in this case, good news! John the Baptist was preaching and announcing that something is about to happen! And everybody, “Pay attention!”
His Person: Prophesied and fulfilled (1:2-4)
Prophecy: The Old Testament prophesies the herald (1:2-3)
So what Mark does here is to quote 2 Old Testament passages that prophesy a herald, or a messenger, who would come before the Messiah. Mark said, at the beginning of verse two, that these 2 prophecies are written in Isaiah the prophet. If you have a cross reference at both of these verses, and you will discover that the first prophecy in verse two is actually found in the book of Malachi 3:1. The second prophecy, in verse three, is found in the book of Isaiah 40:3.
Malachi: Yahweh’s promise of a herald to the Son of God (1:2)
Marks point in quoting Malachi in v.2 is to demonstrate that Yahweh promised a Herald to the Son of God. Verse two, Yahweh promised a herald to the Son of God. Now, because of the nature of our series, I must be brief. This verse is easily unpacked by asking a series of questions.
For example, who is the “I” in this passage? Whoever it is, has the power to send a messenger, because he says, “I will send my messenger.” The second question would be “Who is the ‘you’… I send my messenger ahead of you.” So we have three persons involved here. One of them sends a messenger ahead of a third person. And then we read, last line of verse two, that the function of this messenger is one of preparation for the way of this third person. What is that preparation?
TRANS: And we as yet don’t know the answer to these questions. So here are the questions again. What is the preparation and who is it for? Who sends the messenger and ahead of whom does he send him? And the answer to these questions are found in verse three. And this is why Mark includes Malachi’s quotation in verse two. Verse two sheds light on verse three and gives us further information about each of the three persons involved.
Isaiah: The herald’s preparation prophesied (1:3)
Now, in verse three, we have “the voice of one crying.” This is equivalent to the “my messenger” in v.2. So, putting them together then, the messenger cries out, verse three, he cries out where?…in the wilderness. And the rest of verse three is a quotation of what he would be saying. Now, not necessarily verbatim, but this is his function and the content of his message reflects this quotation in the last two lines of verse three.
And so the messenger cries out in the wilderness, “make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Now, like I said, we know more of these two persons when we compare the two verses. Verse three, make ready “the way of the Lord.” In verse two, we have similar wording, …look at v. 2. “who will prepare your way.” A similar wording in verse three, “make ready the way of the Lord.” Now, “making ready” and “preparing” are very similar ideas and we also have “way” in both phrases: verse two says “your way” and verse three says “way of the Lord.” Clearly then, the “you” in verse two is the same person as the LORD in verse 3. And if we were to turn back to Isaiah 40:3, we would discover that “the LORD” being referred to here is the Hebrew word “Yahweh.” And the context of both passages would bear that out.
Putting that together then we have somebody sending a messenger ahead of Yahweh. And that somebody is telling Yahweh He is going to do this. So clearly, this could only be God the Father. So God the Father is promising to send a messenger ahead of God the Son. And this messenger we are told will prepare God the Son’s way and the messenger will cry out in the wilderness.
TRANS: And Mark’s point of course is that both of these prophecies were fulfilled at the coming of John the Baptist.
Fulfillment: The beginning witnesses his ministry (1:4)
And so when John the Baptist comes on the scene of human history, verse four, he marks the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God as these two verses testify, verses 2-3.
And Mark notes in v.4, the fulfillment when John the Baptist comes, he comes in the wilderness. And that of course was directly prophesied in Isaiah 40:3, quoted above in Mark 1:3.
And John the Messenger, the herald, comes and he does so for a particular purpose: the purpose of preparation. He is preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. And we have further record of this preparation, when Mark notes that he was in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Basically, what that means is that John was doing this: John was proclaiming and calling for people to publicly turn away from their sins and if they do that, he will publicly immerse them in water, in the Jordan River. And it was this repentance, this turning away from sin, …when someone did that he would receive forgiveness of sins.
So, Mark’s point is that John the Baptist is indeed the prophesied messenger. He is preparing the way of the Messiah by preaching a baptism of repentance that people’s sins might be forgiven.
TRANS: And the way that this is worded in the Greek is a very picturesque. It has the idea of this all happening right now as I’m telling you this. “John came and he is baptizing and he is preaching.”
His Proclamation: Prepare for the Coming Messiah (1:4-8)
Prepare by repenting (1:4-5-6)
John preached (1:4)
Everyone responded (1:5-6)
And everyone is responding! Verse five, we have the response of the people to John’s preparatory ministry, John’s ministry of preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. First, note how Mark describes who it is that is responding to John’s ministry. Verse five, “all the country of Judea” and “all the people of Jerusalem” are responding to his ministry.
And the way John describes how they are responding is threefold. They were, it says, going out to him. So John was ministering in the wilderness, that is in a desert place, and the people were going out to him. All the people were going out to him. And of course this is hyperbole, exaggeration to make a point. And the point is there were hundreds and hundreds of people coming out to him from Judea and Jerusalem.
And when they got there and received the preaching and the preparatory ministry of John, they were being baptized by him. And that’s the second response. First they were coming out to him and now secondly they were being baptized by him. And the reason why they were being baptized is because of the third response and that is that they, end of verse five, were confessing their sins.
So they came out, they received his preparatory preaching, they confessed their sins, and they were being baptized as the confessed their sins. And so we see here the tie between confession of sin in verse five and forgiveness of sins in verse four. Clearly then as they confessed their sins they receive forgiveness of their sins.
And that’s the way it works today. If you confess your sins to God he will forgive you of your sins. 1 John 1:9 (NASB) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Brother, believe it! You sinned grievously, but as soon as you repent and confess, your sin is gone!
And if you’re wondering a little more about who it was that all these people were going out to, we kind of get a picture of that in verse six. And I don’t know if you ever have the opportunity of describing this verse to kids, but it can be kind of humorous. One children’s book we have in our house pictures John the Baptist with a locust and wild honey sandwich.
Now, that of course is not quite accurate. John’s clothing was a long robe of woven camel’s hair. And in order to tie down that long robe, he wore a similarly very simple belt, probably of untanned leather, around his waist. And he ate the common diet of those living in the desert. He ate bugs, locusts and wild honey. So both his diet and his dress spoke of a very rigorous and austere, yet simple lifestyle. Just by his very presence he offered a stern warning against the self-indulgences of his day. And it reminded people of Elijah, he is described, 2 Kings 1:8 (NASB) “He was a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist.” John is compared to Elijah a little later in the book of Mark.
And Jesus commentary on John the Baptist is that he was the greatest of the old covenant prophets, yes the greatest that has ever been born of women, he says Matthew 11:11. We would do well then to ensure that we ourselves are living a simple lifestyle, not one of extravagance or overindulgence, in order to draw attention to the Messiah, just like John the Baptist was doing.
TRANS: Now, what was John saying? How was he preparing the people? In verses 7-8, we learn a little more about the content of John’s message. So not only did John prepare the people for the Messiah by calling them to repentance, he also prepared them for the Messiah by preaching his coming, verses 7-8.
So John is preaching to the people and preparing them for the coming of the Messiah. He’s preparing them for his coming by calling them to repentance and now secondly he’s preaching his coming, and by implication, that they receive him when he comes.
Prepare by receiving (1:7-8)
The person of the Messiah and John contrasted: The Messiah is mightier.
And what John does here is to draw a stark contrast between himself and the one who is coming. John exalts the coming Messiah and he casts himself in a humble position. And after reading about John’s clothes and his extreme lifestyle for the sake of his own calling, one can understand a little bit more of the magnitude of the person to whom John is pointing. I mean, John is living like this? And there’s one who is greater coming after him?
Yes, John says. First, let me describe for you how mighty he is. He is so mighty, that I am not worthy of myself to bend down and get on my hands and knees as it were and untie his sandal. This is the kind of thing a slave would do for his master, yet John views himself as even less than a slave in comparison to the Son of God. The most menial tasks, John feels personally unworthy to perform.
APP: It is a great privilege to serve the Messiah! He has called upon us to serve him and to do his work. We are not worthy of bearing his name, of going out in public proclaiming who he is and what he’s done for us. Yet, he calls on us to do this. We, too, like John are not worthy of this.
TRANS: Not only is the person of the Messiah greater than John in that he is mightier, but also the work of the Messiah is greater than the work of John.
The function of the Messiah and John contrasted: The Messiah baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
Verse eight…whereas John immerses people with the water, the Messiah immerses people with the Holy Spirit! Just like the Messiah is greater than John in his person so much so that John does not feel worthy to untie his sandal, just like that, the work of the Messiah is so much greater than the work of John. The Messiah doesn’t baptize with mere water, no no, the Messiah baptizes with the Holy Spirit!
And this is, right out of the gate in the Gospel of Mark, what is understood as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is basic Christian doctrine. This is not hidden deep in the dark realms of theological debate, way up there in the ivory towers! If we were to gather up all the verses, we’d find out that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is Christ’s placement of church-age believers at their regeneration into the body of Christ by using the Holy Spirit. Again, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is Christ’s placement of church-age believers at their regeneration into the body of Christ by using the Holy Spirit, with the Holy Spirit. And we’ll gather up those verses when we get to pneumatology, the study of the Holy Spirit, in our Thursday night series.
Christ did this for the first time, as far as we have record, Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to the church.
TRANS: Beginning in v. 8, the Holy Spirit comes to the fore. Chapter 1:9-11 concerns Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit descending upon him and verses 12-13 concern the Spirit’s work of leading Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. So verses 9-13 concern the Holy Spirit’s preparation of the Messiah for his future ministry. Whereas in verses 2-8, we have John the Baptist’s preparation of the people for the coming Messiah, here we have the Holy Spirit’s preparation of the Messiah himself.
The Spirit Prepares the Messiah: His descent and assignment (1:9-13)
First, in verses 9-11, the Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism.
The Spirit descended on Jesus (1:9-11)
John baptizes Jesus (1:9)
Jesus comes from Nazareth, verse nine, which is where he grew up, in Galilee. And John baptizes… John immerses Jesus in the Jordan River.
The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus (1:10)
And clearly we have complete immersion in water here, because it says verse 10, that Jesus came up out of the water. So obviously here Jesus was not sprinkled or poured on since he had to actually come out of the water. So, John completely immersed Jesus in water. That’s the meaning of the word “baptize,” to immerse.
And when John baptized Jesus, something supernatural happened! Right at the time when Jesus was coming up out of the water, it says, verse 10, that Jesus saw the heavens opening and he saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him like a dove would descend upon something.
So, we have here a visible supernatural event. Verse 11 will record an audible accompaniment to this visible manifestation.
So this is worthy of some further explanations. What exactly does this mean in v.11? First of all, what does it mean that the heavens were opened? The way Mark records this is picturesque. He says that the heavens are being opened, using the present tense to give us more excitement, as if it’s happening right now… The heavens being opened!
The fact that they are being opened makes us wonder… who is the one who is opening them? This is an interesting word. It’s perhaps more literally “being split apart.” The heavens are being split apart or torn in two. It’s the same word that’s used to describe what happened to the veil of the temple when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, Mark records that the veil of the temple was “torn in two from top to bottom”, Mark 15:38. That’s this word in chapter 1:10 for opening.
And, theologically-speaking, it’s a very similar concept. Just like when the veil of the temple was torn in two at the end of Jesus’ ministry, so it is similar at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. At the end of Jesus’ ministry, when the veil of the temple was torn in two, it means that the way into the most holy Place of the temple of heaven, that is, into the very presence of God, has been penetrated by Jesus on our behalf, for our benefit! That teaching is found in Hebrews 9:12.
Likewise, at the beginning of Jesus ministry in our text this morning, the heavens were torn in two, similarly signifying a new era has dawned, one of direct communication between God and man.
TRANS: And that’s why you have the voice from heaven in the next verse, v. 11. We have a new era of communication when the voice says, “you are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.”
As a pronouncement to all, this voice from heaven, which is the Father’s voice, pronounces that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God! So here we have a supernatural, audible voice. We just saw something supernatural with the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and heavens opening, but here we hear something supernatural. This voice comes out of the heavens.
The Father pronounces Jesus as Son (1:11)
Here, we have another testimony here about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. John the Baptist identified him and now the voice from heaven identifies him. Clearly, because Jesus is referred to as the Son, it makes sense to conclude the one speaking must be God the Father. The Father clearly distinguishes Jesus, “you yourself” Jesus alone is the beloved son, Jesus alone is the unique Son of God.
The Father pronounces his delight in the Son of God. The Father has perfect satisfaction and enjoyment in the Son of God. And we saw in our study of the Trinity that God the Son is the Son because of the very fact that the Father has given to the Son to have life in himself, John 5:26 (NASB) “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;
This is why we can call the relationship between the Father and the Son, a father-son relationship. The Father has from all eternity given the Son of God to have life in himself. This has always been the case that the Father has given the Son to have life in himself. The Son has always been self-existent and he has been self-existence because Father has given that self-existence to him. It boggles the mind, but the Son is not the Son of God because the Father has given birth to him in some way. No, the Son of God is the Son because the Father, from all of eternity, has given to the Son to have life in himself.
TRANS: And now lastly, the Spirit leads Jesus into temptation in verses 12-13. After John’s pronouncement that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit in verse eight, we see in verses 9-11 the Spirit descending upon Jesus. And now thirdly with reference to the Spirit, the Spirit leads Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, verses 12-13.
The Spirit leads Jesus to temptation (1:12-13)
The Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness (1:12)
Wasting no time at all after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness. After the Spirit descends upon Jesus, he immediately takes control. The word here for “impel” is a very strong word. It has reference to being forced out; as if, Jesus was compelled beyond his control to go out into the wilderness. This was God’s will!
Satan tempts Jesus (1:13)
It was God’s will that Jesus go into the wilderness for 40 days, verse 13. He was there for 40 days and he was tempted by Satan. It was God’s will that Jesus go into the wilderness and be tempted by Satan!
APP: So, sometimes, when walking with God and being mature and upright in his sight, you will be led by the Holy Spirit into temptation. If Jesus can be tempted in God’s perfect will, you can be tempted. If the Holy Spirit can lead Jesus into temptation, the Holy Spirit can lead you into temptation. This is why in the book of Matthew, the Holy Spirit himself guided Matthew to write down Jesus’ words when he instructs his disciples to pray to the Father, “lead us not into temptation.” Why would Jesus instruct us to pray that? Why? Because it is the prerogative of the Father whether or not to lead you into temptation. Now, to be careful, God never tempts us himself. James makes that clear, James 1:13-14 (NASB) 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
However, the Father, by the Holy Spirit, can lead you to a point in your life at which you are tempted. And it could be that you are tempted by Satan and carried away of your own lust.
So, there’s Jesus in the midst of the wilderness and having to deal with boars, jackals, wolves, foxes, leopards, and hyenas, and all those wild beasts, being tempted by Satan himself. What a troublesome time! Nevertheless, he had angels ministering to him.
And we too, the writer of Hebrews says, could be entertaining angels while being unaware of it and angels could be ministering to us during difficult times as well.
But we need a Spirit-empowered ministry! Sometimes it takes difficulty and temptations first before being used of God. As a church, we’ll go through trials. God’s people aren’t immune to trials and temptations. And remember, temptations themselves are not sin. You’re not out of God’s will when you’re tested in some way.
And so temptations as well are not a method of determining God’s will, as if to say… “If I’m tempted or tested, this must be the wrong path.” No, Jesus was tempted, going through difficulty…and the Spirit led him there! That’s why we have to pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation.” And sometimes the very difficulties themselves prepare us for future Spirit-empowered ministry. The Lord must prepare us as a church for Spirit-empowered ministry. We need Spirit-empowered ministry to accomplish His goals in our community.
And finally let me just make an appeal, that you receive this Jesus that John points us to and repent! Believe he is the Messiah and turn from your wicked ways, and turn to God, calling upon him for eternal life, lest you remain under the wrath of God.
Let’s turn in our hymnbooks to 193. Let me just make a comment on unanswered prayer, end of stanza 3. This hymn reflects the wording of this passage and in it we’re asking the Holy Spirit to empower us just like He did Jesus.
Pray: Give us a spirit-empowered ministry!