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A Person Prepared for Jesus

Mark 1:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 03, 2019.

Today we are going to begin the Gospel of Mark.  The Gospels are more properly named “The Gospel according (insert Gospel writer here).”  It truly is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is written by individual disciples of Jesus.  Comparatively, Mark’s Gospel is much smaller than the others.  It is just over half the size of the Gospel according to Luke.

As we walk through the Gospel according to Mark, let us keep in mind the reality that the Anointed Savior sent from Heaven has come in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, Israel.

Hearts need to be prepared for Jesus.

Mark starts off with the reality that it had been revealed through the prophet Isaiah that there would be a forerunner of Christ, the Messiah.  In a way, that would make Isaiah the forerunner of the forerunner of Christ.  In fact, there are innumerable people who stand in a long line of those who God has used to prepare mankind for His Anointed Savior.  We could focus only on those like Isaiah who impacted large numbers of people, but on a smaller level there are those like parents, grandparents, co-workers, friends, or even chance encounters, who were used by God to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.

This is the work that God has been doing from time immemorial.  He moves upon the hearts of those who are open to Him and sends them to speak to others.  Mark recognized that the entrance of Jesus into the world was taking this work to a more powerful level because He was about to physically step onto the scene.  John the Baptist was important because the person and work of Jesus was too critical for all of Israel to miss it.  He had come to prepare the hearts of Israel for their Messiah.

Thus we need to understand this important thing about God.  He has always been faithful to send messengers to humanity.  He is not content for people to be ignorant of His purposes and plans.  In fact Amos 3:7 states, “For the LORD God does nothing without revealing his secret to His servants the prophets.”  God does not set us up for a secret take down.  He has very openly promised us that He would send a savior and warned us of the judgment to come.  He is still sending messengers today.  His words to His disciples, before He ascended into heaven, was all about them preparing to tell the whole world about Him.  We are a part of a long line of those who have received these promises and warnings, but we are also a part of the long line of those who are sent with the message of Christ.  May God help us continue to be faithful messengers.

By the way, the Hebrew word that is translated “angel” in many Bibles basically means “messenger.”  It can be used for a human messenger or a heavenly messenger, and requires context to understand which is intended.  This too underlines God’s desire to get His message across to humanity.

Mark’s quote in verses 2-3 comes from Isaiah 40:3.  He could have continued quoting verses 4 and 5 because they continue the thought.  They say, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth…”  This is road building terminology that challenges people to get the road, path, or way of the Lord ready for His coming.  Now Jesus didn’t need them to build a road so that He could get into Jerusalem, though He would definitely go there.  Rather, He wants to come to their hearts and gain entrance there.  Our lives can get so full of sin and hurts that the path to our heart becomes full of obstacles.  If Jesus is to come into our hearts then there are high and mighty things in our life that need to be cast down, and there are lowly, broken, and abandoned places that need to be built up.  This gives us a picture or analogy of what true repentance looks like.  Verse 4 of Mark 1 says that John preached repentance for the remission of sins.  What things have become huge in my life and they are keeping me from receiving Jesus?  What things have I neglected, to which I give no thought, but I need to build them up?  We need to recognize our sins and reject them while recognizing that we have neglected a relationship with God and turn towards Him.  Just because a person once repented and Jesus came into their life, it does not mean that we no longer need to prepare our hearts for Him.  Like the Lord did in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, so He wants to do in our hearts every day.  We must prepare ourselves daily, keeping the path to our heart clear of debris for the Lord.

In verse 5 we are told that they were confessing their sins as they were baptized in the Jordan River.  The word literally is “to confess out,” and it involves a public expression of my sin.  We can confess many things, but here they confess those things that were blocking God in their life.  Repentance is an inner work that must make its way to the surface of our life, if it is to complete its work.  Part of this work is an outward confession of our rejection of sin and embrace of the Lord.  James 5:16 tells us to “Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  When we try to hide behind a mask of perfection, we do ourselves and others a disservice.  The point is not to tell everybody you meet every sin that you ever committed.  The point is the work of recognizing and removing those barriers to the Lord in our life.   Sin loves to keep hidden and tells us that it will behave as long as we don’t confess it outwardly.  Beware of those sins that convince you to keep them hidden and yet leave you in a cycle of falling and getting up over and over again.  You need a spiritually mature person in your life to whom you can confess your sins.  They can pray with you and encourage you as the Lord gives you victory over that sin in your life.

Another thing that is good to see here is that Jesus is faithful to come.  Though it had been promised for millennia that the Messiah would come, this was the day that He was really coming.  We are always mystified by the timing of people coming to the Lord.  Some are saved as a little child, others somewhere in the middle of their lives, and some even on their death bed.  Just as the Lord is faithful to send us messengers in our lives, so He is faithful to come.  In fact each time a person tells us of the Gospel, it is Jesus standing at the door of our heart knocking to come in.  Though we may reject Him throughout our life, He just keeps knocking.  This is the grace and love of our Lord.

Now, we have been speaking of Christ coming spiritually to our hearts.  However, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize that we are also warned that Jesus will physically return on the clouds of the sky in order to judge the nations and take up His earthly rule.  Just as He physically came in Mark’s day, so He will be faithful to come physically at the end of this age.  Are you ready for that day?  If you are preparing yourself daily for fellowship with God through repentance and confession then you will be ready for that day when He splits the sky.

We are tempted to look for someone other than Jesus.

From time to time God sends exceptionally gifted and anointed people to get our attention on a larger scale.  Due to weariness in waiting for the Messiah, it is the nature of people to grasp at anyone who comes along and shows greatness.  John recognized this and warned the people that he was not pointing them to himself, but to the Messiah who would come after him.

John uses two words of Christ that we should always remember.  First, Christ is mightier than any who serve him, no matter how great they may appear to us.  Whether Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Elijah, or John the Baptist, none of these are mightier than Jesus.  Even today we see strong believers accomplishing great things for Christ throughout the world.  However, we must never confuse these messengers and servants of Christ with Him.  Too many churches and ministries that have seen great success and increase of numbers of people and amounts of money have fallen into the trap of idolizing a leader.  We must not try to tear down leaders, but neither should we put them on a pedestal that endangers them and us.  Without the Spirit of God, none of us has any power to produce any amount of salvation, healing, and deliverance.  We must never lose sight of this.

Second, John makes a statement of the worthiness of Christ.  He recognizes that he wasn’t worthy even to loosen the strap of Christ’s sandals.  This of course would have been understood as a very low duty.  The irony is that John is performing a very high service for Christ as His forerunner.  Thus John was extremely aware of his unworthiness to do anything for Christ.  Yet, Christ loves us nonetheless and calls us to work with Him nonetheless.  It is not that humans don’t have any worth, but when our worth is placed next to Christ, we quickly recognize that we aren’t even in the same ballpark.  His worth is magnitudes beyond our own.  This leads to the next point.

God uses many people to minister to us in His name throughout our life.  John would be the one who would baptize them in water as a sign of repentance.  Later the disciples would baptize people as a sign of repentance and faith in Jesus as God’s savior for them.  John points out that people can baptize another in water, but they can’t baptize them in the Holy Spirit.  This is the work that only Jesus can do.

Perhaps you have people in your life that led you to Christ, another who baptized you, maybe married you to your spouse, and the list can go on.  All of these are wonderful and those people are special.  Yet, they cannot do for you what only Christ can do.  We need more than outward things.  We need the Holy Spirit on the inside transforming our life.  Using water baptism as an analogy, John recognizes that Jesus can immerse you in the Spirit of God.  At salvation the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our life and makes us spiritually alive.  We are now connected to the vine, connected to Christ through the Spirit.  Yet, we must pray daily for Christ to immerse us in His Holy Spirit that we can be empowered to do the work that He has for us to do.  It is the work of God’s Spirit at salvation and everyday afterwards that makes us worthy to be called the Children of God!

Prepared for Jesus audio