Sermon on Mark 1:4-11
Text: And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for 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.”
It is a common practice for advertisers to use celebrities to sell their products. People from television or the movies or the sports world will try to sell you just about anything and everything. How do they do it? They do so by telling you that their product is the best one available and that you absolutely need it. Because of their testimonial, you might believe what is said about a particular product is true. In our text for this morning, we see two different parties making testimonials about Jesus and his work on earth. As we look at these two testimonials, we see that JESUS IS ATTESTED TO BE THE SAVIOR. He is attested to be so 1. By The Forerunner, John The Baptist and 2. By The Holy Trinity.
The first part of our text focuses in on John the Baptist. As we read about him, we may be struck by several things that seem odd to us upon our first reading. First, we find John preaching in the desert region rather than in the centers of population. Secondly, we see that he was clothed in some rather unusual garb. He was clothed in a garment made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. This clothing would have been scratchy and uncomfortable. John’s diet is also sure to raise some eyebrows. He ate wild honey and locusts. At first glance, John would appear to be an unusual man.
Why do we focus on John? Is it because of his unusual location or garb or diet? No. If that were the extent of it, we would have little reason to look at John, except as a point of passing interest. Rather, we look at John because of the message that he proclaimed. We are told in verse 4, he was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John called for repentance. As the forerunner of the promised Messiah, he came to prepare the way for the Lord. For that reason, he came to preach the law in full force. When we look at other sermons that John preached, we see that he did not mince words. He did so to break the stony hearts of his hearers. What was the result he was looking for? He came preaching “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
The repentance that was called for was not just feeling sorry for sins. This repentance called for more than that. It called for a turning away from sin. This repentance was expressed as the heart turned away from sin, loathes it, and wants to be rid of it. It also includes the desire to make amends wherever possible. This is the repentance which John called for, and to which we are still called today. We know that we are sinners. The Bible calls for repentance. Not only are we to be sorry for our sins, but we also want to do everything possible so that we do not sin in that manner anymore. We loathe the sin and do not want to repeat it. This repentance is called for by every person.
This repentance is a necessary preparation for receiving Jesus into our hearts. Just as John prepared the way for Christ’s coming, so we want to be properly prepared to receive Christ into our hearts. We are believers and, as such Christ is in us, and we want to do everything possible to please him. This is why we repent of our sins.
John preached a baptism for repentance. However, he didn’t stop there. He also pointed ahead to the one who would bring comfort and peace to the repentant heart. We read of his testimony in our text, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John pointed away from himself to the one coming after him. He knew his role. He was to go before the promised Messiah. He was telling the people who were following to not look to him for their salvation. Rather, John told them very specifically to whom they were to look. We read in John 1:29, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” He told the crowd who Jesus was. Jesus was the one who had come to take away the sins of the world. John attested the fact that Jesus was the Savior of the world. He was the promised Messiah. He was the one they were to look to. We, too, look at John’s testimonial about Jesus, and see what is told to us about Jesus. We thank God for the testimony of John.
Jesus came to John to be baptized. We might wonder why Jesus would be baptized. After all, Baptism is for the washing away of sin and Jesus had none. For that reason, it might seem odd to us that he would be baptized. We are not the only ones to wonder at this. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, we hear John objecting, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14) Yet, Jesus told him it was proper for John to do this. Why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so that he could take our place, as God sent him to do. Jesus was showing his solidarity with sinners. Though he was sinless, he was identifying himself with sinners, by giving to himself the task of bearing their sins. He was putting himself in our place. Jesus was not being baptized for himself, but for us. He takes our place by taking all our sins upon himself. He, who was sinless, bore the sins of the world. As such, he allowed himself to be baptized for us.
After Jesus was baptized, another party gave testimony as to whom Jesus was. We read in verses 10&11, “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. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” The Trinity attested as to whom Jesus was. He is, as the Father says, “The Son of God.” The Father tells all those who were there that the person standing in front of them as the Son of God. The Father was testifying to the world that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, who had come into the world.
The Father attested as to whom Jesus was and so did the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove, he was pointing to the prophecy from Isaiah, which said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1) The person speaking in that prophecy is the promised Messiah. When the Holy Spirit, in the form of the dove, descended upon Jesus, he was pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah, the one who had come to save the people from their sins.
The Father said of the Son, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Verse 11) The love that the Father is speaking of here is more than just some sort of sentimental attachment. Rather, it expressed a complete approval of all that Jesus was doing and had done to this point. The climax to God’s plan of salvation, that had been promised to Adam and Eve, was now at hand. The Father was acknowledging the fact that Jesus’ life was perfect. Jesus led a perfect life for us, who cannot, so that we would be saved. The Father was telling the world that this Jesus was his Son, who pleased him. He attested to the fact that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
This morning, we heard two different parties telling us who Jesus is and what he has done for us. May we also be ready and willing to tell others about Jesus. First, we tell them, as John the Baptist did, that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who has come to take away the sins of the world. Secondly, we tell them, as the Godhead did, that Jesus is the Son of God, who lived a perfect life for us. May God help each of us to be ready to attest to the facts about Jesus, which we learn from the Bible. May each of us attest to the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world and show our thankfulness by living lives of praise. We have something more important than cereal or cars to sell. We have the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior of the world to give away. May each of us be given the strength and courage to attest to these facts. May God help us to this end. Amen.
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