And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35-39)
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:29-34)
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)
This coming Sunday, being the 15th of November, 2016 – I will be ministering at St Andrews by the Sea Community Church in Whitianga.
This is a local church to whom I have not been before, and was asked if I would take the opportunity to minister there in the absence a regular pastor/minister.
That being the case, I’ve decided to do something a bit different to my usual 30-40 minute sermon: A “sermon” in 4 parts. Or: “A guided tour through Psalm 136”.
Here is my manuscript:
Give thanks to the LORD.
Have you ever noticed that this LORD is in capital letters?
This isn’t just because it’s important, but rather, behind this capitalisation of God’s title sits His name.
When you read LORD, in capital letters, it’s referring to God’s proper name: Yahweh.
God’s name is Yahweh.
His name means “I AM” and Exodus chapter 3 gives us insight into that meaning.
In Exodus chapter 3 God appears to Moses in the burning bush, telling him to represent Him before Pharaoh, so that the people of Israel might be let go.
“The Moses said to God ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask What is his name? what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses ‘I AM WHO I AM” and he said, ‘Say to this people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you’”
So God says to Moses “I AM WHO I AM” and tells Moses to tell the Israelites “I AM has sent me to you”
In this, God says something about who He is.
I AM and I will always be.
I AM and I exist by my own power.
I AM and independent of all things, I need no more than what I AM.
And so, we give thanks to God because of who God is, as the I AM – the God who is, who exists by His own power, and has need of nothing.
So, in Scripture, God’s name has meaning.
Did you know that the name Jesus means “Yahweh saves”?
In and through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is God in the flesh, Yahweh saves by His own power. It was on His own initiative that God sent His Son into the world, to become like us, to seek us out, to save us, to die in our place, to shed His blood for the remission of our sins.
Next we are told that God is good.
We give thanks to God for He is good.
God is good by His very nature. He is good, that is what He is like.
God is good and not evil, or bad, or sinful, or corrupt, or corruptible – and so we give Him thanks.
God is good, lacking nothing, being totally sufficient, totally complete – and so we give Him thanks.
Throughout this Psalm we repeat the refrain “For His steadfast love endures forever”.
There is a lot that could be said here, but it is in and through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that the steadfast love of God is most clearly and powerfully demonstrated.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The love that God has for His children in Jesus Christ is a love that endures forever, a love from which they can never, ever be separated, a love that will never, ever cease.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.
In this part of the psalm we read of our God who does great wonders.
When you hear or read “great wonders” what comes to mind?
Here the psalmist is using the term great wonders to express the sense of something loud and impossible and big.
What kinds of loud and impossible and big things has God done?
The Psalm divides the work of God into two categories: creation, and salvation.
This section focuses on God’s great, loud, impossible, and big works in creation.
The WSC tells us “The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, but the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”
Remember that God’s name is Yahweh and that Yahweh means that God is totally self-existent and that He needs nothing?
In the beginning there was nothing, and yet out of nothing and into nothing, God made all things, God created all things.
He designed and planned and brought into existence all things.
He did so by the word of His power, by speaking.
He did so in six days.
After each day God saw that what He had made was good. At the end of the sixth day, God saw all that He had made and declared that it was all very good.
The work of God in creation is great and loud and impossible and good.
But lest we have a notion of a vague creator away out there, the Bible is clear that it is Jesus Christ, as the Second Person of the Trinity is God the Creator as well as God the Redeemer.
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.
Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
The Psalmist goes on to tell us that God made the heavens by His understanding; that God spread out the earth above the waters; that God made the great lights, the sun to rule the day, the moon and stars to rule the night.
And again, that refrain – for His steadfast love endures forever.
How does God’s love relate to His work of creation?
Ultimately, creation is an expression of God’s love.
Creation is a gift from a loving Father to His much loved children.
There is a simple song we teach our children but is worth pondering, even as adults:
My God loves me
And all the wonders I see
The rainbow shines through my window
My God loves me.
There is an alternative set of lyrics that are sometimes used, and I think are more fitting in light of this psalm.
My God loves me.
And all the wonders I see,
Are all small signs of the love,
My God has for me.
The only change I would make to those lyrics is that the wonders that we see are big, loud, great signs of the love my God, and your God, has for me, and you!
Remember that part one of this Psalm talks about who God is?
And that part two of this Psalm talks about God’s work in creation?
This third part talks about God’s work in salvation.
The Psalmist introduces us to God’s work in salvation by reminding us of an event that took place in the history of Israel: The Exodus.
In the Exodus Israel is delivered from slavery in Egypt, by God, across a dry sea floor, through the wilderness, and into the land that God had promised Abraham centuries earlier.
But rather than this Exodus being an isolated event in the history of Israel – what God does in the Exodus of Israel from Egypt prefigures what He does in Jesus Christ.
You see, no matter where you go in the Bible – it is impossible to escape a word about Jesus. The Bible is about Him.
Every event recorded in the Old Testament is but a shadow of what God does in Jesus Christ.
And what God does in Jesus Christ is His ultimate work of salvation.
And yet, for Israel, their Exodus from Egypt was very real. It happened. Millions of Israelites were set free from bondage to slavery in Egypt. Yahweh, their God, acted decisively to set them free from cruel, oppressive, and unjust task-masters.
It is this Exodus that the Psalmist reminds the people of God about.
God struck down the first born of Egypt.
This was the climax to the 10 Plagues that God poured out on Egypt as their Pharaoh refused to listen to our God’s command.
In the 10 Plagues our God demonstrated His power, authority, and superiority over every sphere of creation, and over every Egyptian deity.
In the 10 Plagues our God demonstrated Himself God of gods, Lord of lords – He demonstrated that He is the God of everything, not just of one or two areas of creation.
Verse 11 of the Psalm reminds us that it was our God who brought Israel out from multi-generational slavery in Egypt with a strong and outstretched arm.
Verse 12 reminds us again that our God is the Lord of heaven and earth, that He is very real, present, and powerful. He is the one who divides the Red Sea in two.
I work for a construction company. We deal in concrete. Recently I had started taking responsibility for cleaning some of the machinery. I use a high pressure water baster that not only removes built up concrete from machines, but would remove skin from my body if I had contact with it.
If I needed to stop the blasting water from coming out of the blasting wand, the last thing I would use would be my body.
Yet to do so would make about as much sense as the Egyptians thinking that they could keep the walls of water at bay. And so, in another act of God’s power, He brings the walls of water crashing down on Pharaoh and his army. In His conquest over their enemies, our God is rescuing His people Israel. In rescuing His people Israel, God demonstrates His love for His people.
Verse 16 reminds us of God’s love, demonstrated in His leading His people through wilderness.
From Cairo in Egypt to Jerusalem in Israel its 527km. It would take a month to walk. If that sounds like a long time, it would take Israel 480 months, or 40 years before they crossed the Jordan River into the land promised to Abraham centuries earlier.
But why so long? And how was this an expression of God’s steadfast love?
For Israel, the wilderness was a period of preparation. A period of time where they would learn what it meant for them to be God’s people. For them, this was preparation for the land that God had promised Abraham.
It was a period of training and discipline by a loving God towards His much loved, but hard hearted people.
As a parent, I train and discipline Benjamin because I love him, because he is my son, because I want to prepare him for what God has promised Him in the gospel.
It is said that Israel wandered around in the desert for 40 years. But the Psalm tells us that they were being led, led by a God who love them.
During those 40 years, God was preparing His people for the land.
But He was also preparing the land of His people.
That’s what is being retold in verses 17-20.
In order to prepare the land for Israel’s arrival, it’s present occupants, who were enemies of both Israel and God, had to be dealt with in a series of divinely initiated and sustained military victories.
While it is violet, it is an act of love on God’s part as He lovingly prepares the land for a people He loves.
What does all that have to do with us?
What does all that have to do with our salvation?
After all, God does not promise Christians real estate. For us, salvation is not a matter of getting access to a piece of land in the middle east flowing with milk and honey.
Rather, God’s promise to us in salvation is that we become His children, we are given the Holy Spirit, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places, being united by faith to Jesus Christ the Son of God.
It is true that one day we will possess new heavens and a new earth and that this will be our ultimate inheritance.
Through plague and military conquest, God deals with the enemies of His people.
It is in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that God deals with enemies greater than Pharaoh of Egypt; greater than Sihon, king of the Amorites; greater than Og, king of Bashan.
Sin is our greatest enemy. Sin separates us from all of God’s goodness. Sin alienates us from true Christian community. Sin enslaves. Sin binds. Sin kills. Sin destroys.
In the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, God kills sin. He nails it to the cross and Jesus dies for it. Jesus Christ conquers sin for us, an enemy we could never defeat, for the sake of our freedom.
There is another enemy of the people of God. The devil, satan, the prince of darkness, the father of lies, he who was a murderer from the beginning.
Pharaoh represented satan in the story of the Exodus as a ruler who opposed God, who enslaves people – and that’s what satan does to people.
And yet in the cross of Jesus Christ, satan is dealt a decisive, fatal would. Satan receives a decisive blow to the head that results in his having to surrender all those who belong to Jesus Christ.
God deals with our enemies because He loves us.
I come here this morning, having had only brief email conversations with Julie and Dorothy.
Apart from that, I do not know you.
You might be a Christian, you might not be.
You might have been attending this church for a long time, or you may be visiting for the first time, like me.
I don’t know what your beliefs are, what your religious or spiritual experiences have been.
But I know that we all face two powerful enemies – sin and satan.
I know that these enemies seek to separate you from the promises of God in Jesus Christ, promises of being His children, promises of having His Holy Spirit, promises of being blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places through union with Jesus Christ.
I know that Jesus has come into the world, to defeat these enemies, to give you life, life that is in Him. For whoever believes has eternal life. For he who has the Son has life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
I want you to know some things this morning.
I want you to know that in Jesus Christ God has done everything for your salvation, in defeating sin and satan, in dying in your place, for your sins, paying in full your debt – for the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Know that in Jesus Christ, God continues to defeat your enemies, forgiving your sin, and bringing you to a growing sense of freedom from sin and satan’s power.
Wherever you are at, however sin is tempting you, however satan is trying you, whatever struggles you face, however limiting or restricting or binding or oppressive they might seem, know that if the Son of God has set you free, you are free indeed.
For God did not give us a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but He has given us the Spirit of Adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father”.
I wonder, do you know the love of God this morning?
Do you know Abba, Father this morning?
I don’t promise an easy life. I don’t promise fewer temptations or harassment by sin and satan.
What I am promising is that neither sin nor satan, nor anything else in all creation can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
This is the message of the Bible. This is the message of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.
That, dear people of St Andrews by the Sea – is the message of the gospel.
While we have one more section of the psalm to recite, I want to give you the gospel this morning. In the final section, I want to encourage you in practical terms, give you some points of application – but more important is the gospel – the gospel that in Jesus Christ, God deals with our enemies, and liberates us from their power and influence.
There are things in your life as an individual, as a family, as a couple, or as a church that are potential sources of discouragement.
The things that discourage us can often lay us low, humbling us.
But more than that, these sources of discouragement can position us to receive abundant and amazing grace from God.
Ultimately, that’s what He does in salvation. He looks on us in our low estate, in our helplessness, and He has mercy, and compassion, and grace.
But even in everyday life.
Things happen. People die. We lose mobility and we become forgetful. Our circle of friends isn’t as big as it once was. We grieve our losses and we’re laid low by them.
No matter how we get there, God remembers us in our low estate.
There He gives us grace.
God gives grace to the humble.
So when discouragement comes, when life lays you low – I urge you – look to God to receive grace in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth.
What’s more, Jesus is the only one from whom we can find and receive God’s grace.
John 1:17 “…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.
So when you are discouraged – look to Jesus.
When life lays you low – look to Jesus.
Look to Jesus in prayer, cast your cares on Him – He loves you, He cares for you, and no matter what you are going through, you cannot be separated from Him or His love.
Look to Jesus in His Word – as all the Scriptures point to Him.
Look to Jesus in creation – as He is the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created and are sustained.
Look to Jesus and do not stop looking.
Look to Jesus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
In the light of His glory and grace.
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (Mark 1:12-13)
In looking at the baptism of Jesus, I want to explore the reason. I want to ask “Why was Jesus baptised?”
Jesus was baptised as further testimony to His identity as both Christ and Son of God.
In other words – the baptism shows us who Jesus IS.
Before we take a closer look at that – about the reason for Jesus’ baptism – let’s explore the details of what happened.
Let’s start with a story from the perspective of one of John the Baptist’s disciples.
They came by the thousand. A constant and steady stream of people.
I guess this is what it would have been like when people were leaving Jerusalem on their way home from feasts. But they would have left tired, having exerted themselves with ritual and celebration.
This time people were coming to Bethany with the same kind of anticipation they would have had when they were approaching Jerusalem – especially if it marked the end of a long and arduous journey – you know, like the last dash at the end of a marathon – when all you have left is, well… the energy comes from somewhere.
And those coming weren’t all that sure what they were coming to see. As Jesus once asked us “What did you go out to see?” What were people expecting? A tent meeting and a well-dressed and well-intended crusade evangelist?
Day after day they would come. Day after day John would preach and baptise. The same message, the same method, but always with sincerity and life-changing power. People came. People heard. People responded to what they heard. It really did seem as if people were genuinely convicted of their sin; moved to both confession, repentance, and baptism.
One day things changed. Things were different. The crowds came – from Jerusalem, from Judea, from the South East. John preached. John baptised.
But there was something unusual happened. You see, people usually came in groups, like hundreds at a time, never alone.
Not this one. He came alone. He came from the opposite direction. He came from the North East. I not sure when John saw Him, but John stopped. It was very unusual for John to be interrupted like this, even amidst the flood of emotional expression, John just kept on with the message and the method.
He stopped. He stopped talking. He just stood there. He seemed to be squinting at this lone traveller as if trying to figure out His facial features – unsure where he’d seen Him before.
The man from the North East approached the crowd and the crowd parted like the red sea, a wall of standing soldiers on either side. It was then that John knew.
John knew that this crowd parting traveller was the long-expected one, the one, the strap of whose sandals he was unworthy to bend down and untie. This was part of John’s message. Every day we’d hear about this coming Great One. And everyday there was a growing sense of anticipation as if to ask “Is today the day?” or as people came forward for baptism “Is this the one?”
The closer He got, the more shadows of doubt were evicted from our hearts and minds. This is the one. This was the Great One John had said would come.
We had no idea just how great!
From verse 4 we learn that John the Baptist was a wilderness preacher.
From verse 7 we learn that part of his message was that someone greater was coming.
From verse 5 we learn that all the country of Judea and Jerusalem were going out to John, and were being baptised by him in the Jordan.
All the country of Judea and all of Jerusalem – that’s a lot of people and I doubt they all went to be baptised at the same time – so there was perhaps a degree of repetition with John’s wilderness ministry of preaching and baptising.
I get the idea that day after day, week after week, people would come, John would preach essentially the same message, people would confess their sins, and John would baptise them.
Last time we looked at the essence of John’s message – someone mightier is coming.
I wonder if there was a growing sense of anticipation on the part of John’s disciples who heard the message day after day.
Did they wonder “Would this candidate for baptism, stepping forward now, would he be the one mightier than John?”? Did they wonder, “Will today be the day that the promised one would show up, baptising with the Holy Spirit?”?
In verse 9 we read “in those days” or “at that time” Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee.
The detail of where Jesus came from is significant because of the geography involved.
I have some maps.
[embeddoc url=”http://brendonward.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Presentation1.pptx” viewer=”microsoft”]
First map shows Bethany in relation to Jerusalem and Nazareth.
As I hope you can see, Jerusalem is much closer to Bethany than is Nazareth.
Next map shows the journey that those coming from Jerusalem and Judea may have taken to get to Bethany. It about two days walk, and as I mentioned earlier, they’d likely have travelled in groups from the South-East.
The third map shows the journey from Nazareth.
Nazareth is 124km north-east of Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan. And assuming that Jesus walked there… and that He walked an average of 25km/day, that’s 5 days travelling.
There is nothing in the text to suggest that Jesus had traveling companions, so Jesus walks for 5 days, alone, from the North-East.
Jesus comes to where John is preaching and baptising.
Does Jesus come on a day where there is a crowd, a congregation to whom John is preaching? Does Jesus come while people are being baptised in numbers?
What about the crowd? What were they doing as Jesus approached?
If we take into account John’s message – that a mighty one was coming…
If we take into account the prophetic word – that John was to prepare the way for
Israel’s King, Yahweh’s Messiah – then rolling out the red carpet would have been
But I’m not sure we get that impression. We don’t get the sense of a home-coming, war-winning, spoil-bringing king as Jesus gets closer to where John was baptising.
I wonder who noticed Jesus first?
Or when they first noticed Jesus?
Was it John that first noticed Jesus? Did the Holy Spirit do something in John that made him leap like he had prenatally when the pregnant Mary visited the pregnant Elizabeth?
When did John notice Jesus and shout “Behold the Lamb of God?”
Simply put, the text doesn’t tell us.
What verse 9 tells us is that Jesus was baptised by John in the Jordan.
Notice something different though between verse 9, and verse 5.
Verse 5 “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to John… were being baptised by John in the river Jordan, confessing their sins”
In verse 9, it says Jesus was baptised. No mention of the confession of sin.
Similarly, look at verse 4 – here we’re told that John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
But Jesus did need to repent for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus needed no repentance. He has always had His whole heart, mind, and strength in perfect orientation towards the Father. Jesus could only repent if He had looked at sin the same way He had looked at His Father, and being very God of very God, being the very Son of God, He could not look away from the Father. He could not, He would not.
Jesus had no sins to confess. He knew no sin. He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth. He had never transgressed the Law of God. Rather, His obedience to the Law of God was unwaveringly flawless, unceasingly faultless. Jesus had no sins of omission – He had never failed to do what the Law commands. He had no sins of commission – never having done what the Law forbids. Jesus had no error in His thoughts or the way He spoke to His mother, or the way He looked at stuff, or women, or even Himself.
Verse 10 – this is where the action reaches its zenith.
“Immediately…” this is a word Mark uses repeatedly throughout his writings. It’s characterisitic of the face paced nature of his gospel account.
Jesus comes up out of the water and immediately everyone is aware that this was a different baptism. Perhaps the current crowd had been there all day, and had seen dozens of people being baptised, coming up out of the water and simply retaking their place in the crowd.
But not this time.
We read “He saw the heavens being torn open”
In works of art, we get images of light streaming through the clouds. The kinds of scenes children see and ask whether that’s God.
But all of these art works seem rather pedestrian.
The heavens were split, severed, torn asunder. I’ve never seen that happen but it’s not passive. It’s aggressive. It’s loud. It’s almost violent. It’s a statement no one could ignore.
And yet it’s somewhat unclear as to whether this was just something Jesus saw, or whether John saw it, or whether it’s something that everyone saw.
Whatever the case, if we think back to the way the Old Testament closes with Malachi, and how it was followed by 400 years of prophetic silence, we could say that the heavens were as bronze, heavens gates were closed – but here they were being opened, but not like a garage door that opens gently in response to our pressing a button on the remote – but torn, split, severed. The bronze cracked.
Heaven is open. God is about to speak.
It’s like one of the scenes that followed Prince Williams – where the crowds were gathered before the palace balcony, waiting for a royal appearance – or perhaps more historically, waiting for the reigning monarch to speak.
But before the sound, comes another part of the picture.
The Spirit descends on Him like a dove.
The heavens are opened. The Spirit has descended and now rests on Jesus.
Verse 11 – and a voice came from heaven. God speaks. God breaks His silence. And the first thing He says in 400 years concerns His Son.
But not just any son, but a beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. The voice of the Father from heaven identifies Jesus as the beloved Son, the beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.
This is what happens as Jesus comes up out of the water. A very different baptism, for a very different candidate for baptism.
We come back to the question we began with. Why was Jesus baptised?
All four gospel accounts feature the baptism and give an answer to the question.
But we are concerned with what Mark’s gospel teaches us.
I’ll remind you of the answer I gave at the beginning.
Jesus was baptised as a further testimony to Him being both Christ and Son of God.
Be mindful that we really are still in Mark’s introduction as he presents Jesus to his readers in light of who Jesus is.
Part of Mark’s introduction is to show his readers, and to show us, that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus is the Son of God.
So far, there have been two witnesses to this reality. The first is verse one where Mark identifies Jesus as Christ, Son of God.
Secondly we have the testimony of the prophets that Jesus is the Messiah, and is very God of very God.
The third testimony comes from the descent of the Spirit in verse 10.
To help us appreciate the descent and how this bears witness to the reality that Jesus is the Christ, which means “Anointed one” – let’s look at some passages in Isaiah.
First – Isaiah 11:1-4
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Jesus is the Rod from the Stem of Jesse. Jesus is the One upon whom the Spirit of the LORD would rest. Jesus is anointed with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Jesus delighted in the fear of the LORD. Jesus will judge in righteousness and equity. Jesus will strike the earth and slay the wicked.
He is this, He does this – because he is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One.
Next, Isaiah 61:1-3
Prophetically speaking, Isaiah says of Messiah –
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
In prophetic fulfilment –
The Spirit of the Lord GOD descends upon Jesus.
Jesus is the LORD’s anointed. His title “Christ/Messiah” is by definition “the LORD’s anointed.”
In connection with Isaiah 61, we might consider why the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.
Isaiah 61 highlights Jesus’ concern for the poor, lowly, and oppressed.
As part of the Jewish sacrificial system, provision was made for the poor in that perhaps unable to afford a lamb for sacrifice, they could bring a dove.
In Genesis 8:11 – we’re told a dove returned to the Ark with an olive branch as a sign that the flood waters of judgment were abating.
In a sense, the coming of Messiah was a sign that judgement was coming to an end, that the covenant relationship between God and His people would occur in a greater, closer, and more profound way than ever before, and perhaps the dove symbolises that.
A dove is often seen as a symbol of grace, gentleness, and peace.
While the adage “Jesus, meek and mild” is perhaps unhelpful in light of the totality of His person and work, Jesus definitely possess dove-like grace, gentleness and He is the Prince of Peace.
Yahweh is speaking of His Servant, His Elect One, the one in whom His soul delights.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
This is who Jesus is as the Servant, the Elect One, the one in whom Yahweh delights. Jesus is the one upon whom is the Spirit. He came bringing justice – not by crying out or raising His voice, or causing His voice to be heard in the streets; nor by breaking a bruised reed or quenching a smouldering flax.
Rather, Jesus would not and did not fail; Jesus was not discouraged; Jesus establishes justice in the earth.
So we have one element of Jesus’ baptism and the Spirit’s descent – that it has to do with the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one characterised by grace, gentleness, peace, and justice.
Coming back to Mark 1:11 – this is the part of the testimony that centres on Jesus being Son of God.
Here God Himself says that the one who came up out of the water, the one upon whom the Spirit descended is the Son of God.
But not just a son, but a beloved Son.
Not just a beloved Son, but a beloved Son in whom was all delight.
If you think about Isaiah 42:1 – God speaking through Isaiah says “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon Him…” isn’t that what happens here?
The Father identifies Jesus as the one in whom He delights and as we have already seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus – we know that Jesus is the one about whom Isaiah prophesied. Chapter after chapter Isaiah points us to Jesus – and Mark is doing the exact same thing.
But it’s like God is interpreting His own words in explicit terms.
When you stop and think about what’s happening here, we’re getting to listen in on a conversation between members of the Trinity.
This Jesus is the one in whom the Trinity delights. This Jesus is the one in whom the Trinity is well pleased. I don’t know if I can say anything more about that.
I do want us to notice something – while Mark is very keen to tell us about what Jesus does as He exercises authority over darkness, death, and demons, and as He fulfils His mission through death and resurrection – at this point of the gospel account, Jesus hasn’t actually DONE anything – and yet the Father declares His delight in His Beloved Son.
The Father is delighted in His Son because His Son is His Son.
Jesus is the Beloved Son because He is the Beloved Son.
Jesus Loved and delighted in on account of who He is.
This is important for us because we are often concerned with whether God is pleased with us, whether He delights in us. And we try to answer our concerns by looking at what we are doing, we look at our disciplines, and wonder whether they’re right, or enough? We wonder whether God is pleased with our prayer, our reading and studying of the Bible, our giving, our serving. Am I DOING these things? Am I doing them right? Am I doing them enough? Have my disciplines caught His attention and gained His approval.
The Father’s love for and delight in Jesus is on the basis of who Jesus is as His only begotten Son.
If we are in Christ, if we are united to the Son of God by faith in the Son of God, then the Father sees that, and in that we are loved by the Father, and in that the Father takes great pleasure in us. Can you believe that? That the God of all Creation, whose ways and thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth – His soul delights in us. He loves us as He loves His Son. We are His beloved. I would go so far as to suggest that God likes us, and loves to brag about us – not because of anything we’ve done – but because we are in union with His Son in whom is all delight.
May our pursuit of God through the disciplines of grace be built upon the foundation of who we are in union with Jesus Christ, and on the basis that in Him we are loved and delighted in.
So far, in the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel account, Mark has helpfully given us a series of unified testimony’s increase in intensity and authority. Mark himself testifies. The prophets testify. God the Holy Spirit testifies. God the Father testifies.
And this is the testimony – that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God.
This is who Jesus is. This is important foundations for us to lay down at the beginning of a very action packed gospel account. We do well to appreciate who Jesus is before we consider what Jesus does. We also do well to keep this reality at the fore as we explore the action packed account of Jesus mastery over darkness, demons, disease, and even death.
As we move forward to explore His works, we’ll frequently encounter the crowds asking “Who is this man?”
By spending four sermons essentially asking this question, we’ll have the advantage of knowing that this man, this Jesus is Christ the Son of God – the beloved Son of and from the Father, in whom is all delight.