February 6, 2016
Note to Readers: Today we begin a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
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.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentancefor 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: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
WHO IS THAT WILD CRAZY LOOKING MAN?
A young man named Mark had come to know Jesus as a very young man, probably still a teenager. He actually met Jesus personally and was actually there in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus that night when the soldiers came and arrested Jesus. A big sprawl broke out and Mark was so afraid, he ran away as fast as he could. The soldiers grabbed at his clothes and ripped them off as he ran away, and he fled away naked (See Mark 14:51, 52). Not a very auspicious beginning for a new follower of Jesus! Yet, this young man went on to become an ardent disciple of Jesus and he learned all about Jesus through his mentor, the Apostle Peter. This young man also went on to write the earliest gospel, which we know today as the Gospel of Mark.
The Gospel of Mark opens with this wild, crazy looking man. He wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a big leather belt around his waist and ate grasshoppers and honey! He had unkempt hair and a strong message. Who was this wild, crazy man? It was John the Baptist. He was the herald God chose to prepare the way for His Son’s entrance into the world. John the Baptist came with great power and he didn’t mince words. He called everyone to repent and prepare for God’s coming. John was not declaring this in Jerusalem, the capital of Judaism. He was declaring this out in the desert. He was – in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy – a voice of one crying in the wilderness – prepare the way for the Lord. John the Baptist was sent to baptize people in preparation for the coming of Jesus. That’s why we call him John the Baptist! What does baptism mean?
Baptism speaks of an entrance into something. It means entrance into a community of some kind. The Jews were already a very well defined community and have been through most of their history. As the chosen people they were always the ultimate insiders. Anything God did from the time of Abraham they were at the center of it. They were the main players: God’s chosen people. The rest of the world were unclean Gentiles. Yet, here John the Baptist is saying to the Jews: God is doing something new and you are on the outside of it. If you want to be a part of it, you are going to have to repent and be baptized into this new community like everyone else. The Jews had to start seeing themselves as Gentiles. The amazing thing is that those of us who are Gentiles are now, for the first time since Abraham, actually being brought into the inside of what God is doing. God is building a whole new community and already John the Baptist is preparing us for it. It will be a community of people from every tribe, tongue and nation.
At the end of our passage Jesus himself emerges and on the first day of his ministry stands in solidarity with us by being baptized by John. This is also our first glimpse of the Triune God. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity is being baptized. The Holy Spirit comes down like a dove upon him and anoints him for his ministry. The Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” What a beginning!
- I want you to consider how God stepped into time to include you in on something really, really big. Do you believe that your life has a purpose within the grand plan of God?
- Can you relate to young Mark? He had a very embarrassing beginning, didn’t he? But isn’t it wonderful that God didn’t write him off, but actually chose him to write the earliest gospel?
- Is there someone in your circle of family or friends who maybe hasn’t started off on the right foot? Perhaps you could encourage them today and let them know that God is not finished with them yet!
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org.