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Jesus Prepares for Ministry

Mark 1:9-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 10, 2019.

I apologize for taking so long to get the article up this week.  The snow definitely puts a crinkle in all of our plans.  We pray that you are all safe and have what you need.

Today we are going to continue in Mark chapter 1 as Jesus prepares to begin His ministry.

The beginning of the ministry of Jesus

Very little is said about the activity of Jesus before His water baptism in the Bible.  We are told of an incident at the temple when he was 12.  Other than that and the time around his birth and toddler years, nothing specific is revealed to us.  Jesus simply grew up as another Jewish boy in an Israel that was occupied by the Romans.  There are specious stories that developed later by people who had ulterior motives, but none of these have a shred of evidence that they are true.  As best we can tell, it was God’s plan for Jesus to simply be an Israelite and identify with their life before He took up the mantle of the Messiah.  Luke tells us that when Jesus started ministering he was “about thirty.”  If you take time to think about this, you will find that it is easy to be so ambitious that you jump ahead of God and try to accomplish things in your own power and strength.   I think this is what Moses encountered when he struck the Egyptian.  His heart was ready to deliver Israel, but God was not ready for Moses to deliver them yet. 

Throughout His ministry we see Jesus emphasizing that He was following the timing and direction of the Father.  He who had the most critical work for God the Father ever, had to wait for the timing of the Father.  We need to be led by the Holy Spirit and according to God’s timing, not ours.  This may call for time where we faithfully do those things that are “less” than the big desire that is in our heart.  Learn to trust God.  Yes, He works to put things in our heart, but we must still wait for His timing.  Waiting on the Lord can be our most difficult test.

When Jesus does come forward, He does so with a public act of being baptized in water by John.  Remember that John is telling people to repent and prepare their hearts for the Messiah.  He had them come to be baptized in the Jordan as a sign of the cleansing that was going on in their hearts.  So why would Jesus need to be baptized?  Mark sort of skips over this point.  However, we know from other Gospels that Jesus explained it this way.  He was to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness.  For Jesus this act was an important picture.  He personally had no sin from which to be cleansed, but He is not just saving us by waving a wand over our sin.  Just as Moses personally led the people from Egypt to the Promised Land, so Jesus is personally leading us in the way we must go.  He is baptized to set the example for us of what we need to do, and I am not talking about getting soaked.  As the “Captain of our Salvation” (Hebrews 2:10), Jesus comes to the Father in humility and presents Himself in a way that will make clear that He is the One for whom Israel had been waiting.

When Jesus comes up out of the water there is a witness given from the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven.  Now having at least two witnesses is very important for Israel because The Law stipulated that all legal things must be established by at least two witnesses.  Again, Mark does little explaining, but in this event the ministry of Jesus will start with a witness from earth, John the Baptist, and a witness from heaven, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in the other Gospels John explains that the whole reason he was baptizing people was because of a prophecy that God had given him.  He had been told that He would see the Holy Spirit come upon the person who was the Messiah.  John gave testimony to the fact that he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.

Now the heavenly witness has two components.  First, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit, like a dove, descends upon Jesus.  Second, a voice from heaven states, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Both of these are important.  The first establishes that the Spirit of God is upon the man Jesus, which he will go on to demonstrate.  The second is that God the Father is pleased with whom He is and what He is doing.  This will be in contrast to the lack of approval from the Pharisees.  It is interesting that the words of the Father are directed to Jesus personally.  Later during the transfiguration (Mark 9:7) the Father says something similar, but it is directed to the disciples.  “This is my Beloved Son.  Listen to Him!”  I don’t think the first time is directed to Jesus because He needed assurance.  I think it was to publically show an intimate moment between Father and Son.  Both are for the sake of the people and have the effect of encouraging them to listen to Jesus.

Water baptism would become the initial act of obedience that all who believed upon Jesus would be told to do.  It still retains its imagery of repentance, but it also included an element of putting your faith in Jesus.  Thus water baptism speaks of dying with Jesus to the lusts and desires of our flesh and this world, and coming alive to the Spirit of God in order to live a new life.  It is important not to skip over this too quickly.  At its heart, salvation is about repenting of living life selfishly, in order to gratify our flesh, and then putting one’s faith in Jesus.  Thus repentance must be a dying to self.  In fact we cannot allow repentance to be just a thing of the past, but rather it must be a daily thing.  To such a person the Spirit of God will take up residence in their life, lead them, and guide them in the way of the Lord.

Jesus goes into the wilderness

Once Jesus comes up out of the water, you would think that Jesus would begin teaching and healing people.  However, instead of doing those things, the Spirit of the Lord does an odd thing.  It drives Jesus away from the crowds and people and into the wilderness.

Two things need to be pointed out here.  First, the word used is “driven.”  It is the same powerful word that is used of Jesus driving demons out of people.  It is an authoritative directive, which seems strange in relation to Jesus.  However, it emphasizes how important this is to the Father, being that the Spirit does nothing of itself, but only what the Father and the Son send it to do.

Second, Jesus goes into the wilderness.  It is as if He is reenacting the life of Israel.  When Israel had reached maturity as a nation, God then called her out of Egypt into the wilderness.  There He made a covenant with them and prepared them for what was ahead.  The wilderness is a barren place and it is an isolated place.  Before we can minister for God, we need to get to a place that is isolated from the world and receive from the Lord what we need from Him.

While Jesus is in the wilderness, He will be tested in body and in spirit.  We should beware trying to make the wilderness an ideal place of being close to God.  Both the wilderness time and the time later among the multitudes were equally part of God’s will.  Now, Jesus was tested physically because He was fasting over the course of 40 days.  Of course on the spiritual front, the devil comes and tries to tempt Him away from His purpose.  Now there are several words that Mark uses in a row that are important Old Testament concepts: Wilderness, 40 days, Satan, Wild Beasts, and Angels.  As I said earlier the wilderness is a place of physical and spiritual testing (these are integrally linked) that prepares us for what is ahead.  We often feel alone and like God isn’t keeping up His end of the bargain, especially when we are attacked by the devil.  However, God is faithfully preparing us.  Isn’t this whole life a wilderness that God uses to prepare us for His Eternal Kingdom?  I think so.  Thus there are many layers to this.

Forty days is also an important concept.  The rains of the Flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights.  Moses went up on the mountain to receive the law and stayed there for 40 days.  The spies of Israel were in the land 40 days before they returned to give their report.  Also, Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David came forth.  In all of these times, God was getting ready to do something new, and so God was doing with Jesus.

Satan of course comes to tempt Jesus.  However, the next phrase “wild beasts” is not a coincidence.  Yes, Jesus may have had to face a wolf or lion, but I think the proximity to Satan is intended to remind us of the biblical metaphor in the Old Testament.  Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 used wild beast imagery to represent the beastly empires that Satan would raise up in order to try and dominate God’s people.  They are a picture of the savagery of Satan and His angels.

However, God was faithful to send His angels to minister to Christ so that He would not physically perish under His heavy testing.  God is always watching over us in order to give us the ministry that we need, whether from heavenly messengers or earthly ones.  Ultimately we must recognize that none of us minister without the need to be ministered to ourselves.  No work for God is so great that He expects you to burn yourself out and your family.  God pulls us out of the fray from time to time and ministers to us in ways that we could never receive if we are still out there on the front lines of ministry.  Learn to listen to the Spirit and let your ministry be driven by Him, rather than your best intentions for God.

Jesus Prepares audio