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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark

John the Baptist

 

This morning we need to learn a word.  I suspect some of you already know this word.  But it is a good word that we need have in our vocabulary to help us in our study of the Gospel of Mark.  The word is… pericope.  Not periscope, which is what Microsoft Word wants to change it to, but pericope. 

 

A pericope is a set of verses that forms one coherent unit.  Pericope is a complete story or saying from the Lord.  Most of your Bibles divide sections according to what they think the pericope is and put a heading on it.  That is a pericope.   FYI, the plural of pericope is technically pericopae, but that may be too snooty.  So, we are going with pericopes.  

 

Now that we know the word pericope… This morning we are going to begin our adventure into the Gospel of Mark.  We are going to begin to answer the question of the year… “Who do you say I am?”  This morning we begin be studying the first pericope in Mark… Mark 1:1-18.

 

ESV Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

 

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

Mark starts big.  Mark doesn’t waste any time with genealogies, which we normally just skip anyway.  Mark doesn’t mess with baby Jesus.  Baby Jesus is nice around Christmas, but Mark is more concerned with getting to the good stuff.  Mark begins with…

 

Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight!”

 

Mark is like…

 

You are sound asleep and dreaming, when suddenly the door bursts open and a bright light shines full in your face. A voice, breaking in on your dream-world, shouts, ‘Wake up! Get up! You’ll be late!’ And without more ado, the speaker splashes your face with cold water to make the point. Time to stop dreaming and face the most important day of your life. That’s what the opening of Mark’s gospel is like. It’s a great way to start, because what Mark is telling us is that’s what John the Baptist was like to the Jewish people of his day. John’s ministry burst in upon the surprised Jewish world. Many had been looking for a sign from God, but they hadn’t expected it to look like this. Many had wanted a Messiah to lead them against the Romans, but they weren’t anticipating a prophet telling them to repent.  --Wright, N. T.

 

Mark begins his Gospel by saying you had better repent because someone great is coming.  Get out of bed.  Get ready.  Someone important is about to be here.  He’s the Son of God… He’s the Lord… He’s the one you aren’t worthy to even tie his shoes.  “He’s big.  He’s coming.  Get ready.”

 

Our job this morning is to Get Ready!

 

Are you ready to get ready?  Let’s get ready

Mark begins by merging two Old Testament quotes into one promise.  Mark merges Malachi and Isaiah to form a promise… a promise of a messenger.

 

First Malachi then we will add Isaiah. 

ESV Malachi 3:1-4 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

From the last book of the OT, here is a promise.  There is a messenger coming who will prepare the way for the Lord. The day will come when the Lord of hosts will again make an appearance.  Malachi points to John the Baptizer as the messenger of the Lord!  A promise of a messenger!

 

But this is not only a wonderful promise, it is a scary warning…

--Who can endure on the day of coming?

--When He comes, it is like a purifier of metal… When the Lord comes, he will melt the metals and skim the pure off the top.

-- When He comes, it is like a wash machine.  What?  Soap that cleanses all the dirt. 

--Those whom he refines; those whom he cleans… will be ready! 

 

Malachi predicted it from 400 years before… John the Baptizer will be the messenger of the Lord. 

 

 

The other half of the two verses which form this opening promise is from Isaiah.

 

ESV Isaiah 40:1-5 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins.

A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together,

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

 

The words of Isaiah promise a time of comfort.  After the pardon, there is peace.  After repentance is comfort. There is one coming who will straighten out crooked roads. Take the top off the mountains and put it in the valley to level the ground.  This voice will reveal the “glory of the LORD”!

 

Putting Malachi together with Isaiah we have a promise of a messenger who will prepare the way for the glory of the Lord to be revealed.  John the Baptizer brings a message of get your act together… The Lord is Here! 

 

Wow, John the Baptizer is just like the prophets of old; just like Elijah, who wore a camel hair coat with a leather belt and ate the locust with wild honey.  John the Baptizer is Elijah.  John is a prophet of the Lord who brings a message of repentance.  Repent! Get your lives together!  He’s Here!  Get Ready!

 

But wait.  John the Baptizer is like the prophets of Old.  But, there is something new about what John did.  If we are going to get ready, we do it in a new way… Look at our pericope again.

 

ESV Mark 1:1-8 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

 

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

John offered forgiveness of sins apart from Temple sacrifices.  Under the Law of Moses, in order to get forgiveness of sins, a person had to go to the Temple to offer the appropriate sacrifices. 

--Sin offerings were done in the Temple.

--On the Day of Atonement, a goat was sacrifices for the sin of the people.

--Lambs were offered at the Passover. 

Sins were dealt with by animal sacrifice in the Temple. 

 

But here is something new.  In the wilderness, not at the Temple, people repented and were baptized for forgiveness of sins.  This was new.  This was different.  Baptism was practiced in Jerusalem for other things; purifications and proselytes and stuff… but this baptism was for repentance and sins.  So, all the people of Judea and Jerusalem went to see this; went to be that; went to get ready for the new kingdom.

 

And not only that; the one who was coming was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit.  Flashes of Joel 2…

 

ESV Joel 2:28-29 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit was going to be for everyone.  This is new.  This is different! This is amazing! 

 

John the Baptizer was preparing the way for the Lord.  He was preparing a way for forgiveness; for genuine repentance; for baptism; for the Holy Spirit… John prepared the way for Jesus Christ the Son of God! He’s coming, Get Ready! 

 

The message of the first pericope is Get Ready! The Lord is Here! 

 

As we study each pericope we must process its message on three levels.  This is an important concept for us to keep in our heads.

 

Level One-- What is going on in the story at the time of Jesus?  How did John’s message of “Get ready” work in Jesus’ Day, at the time it happened?

 

Level Two-- How did the message help the Christians of 68 AD as Mark wrote it to them?  How were they to get ready?

 

Level Three-- What does it mean for us in 2017?  How should we get ready? 

Level One-- In Jesus Day…

 

Certainly, it meant John prepared the people’s hearts for His coming.  With all of John’s popularity, it certainly created an anticipation that something big was coming.  The hype of Jesus had to have the people of Israel anxious for the Messiah.

--It led to the crowds following Jesus.

--It led to the expectation that Jesus was going to do something.

--It led to the reception of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost… the spread of the news early on… all Israel was excited about Jesus, even before he stepped on the stage. 

 

But I think there was something more than anticipation. Repentance was needed to get ready. The kingdom of God is spread in repentant hearts.  Arrogance, pride, self-aggrandizement, repeals the Gospel.  For the people to be ready for the strong one to come… they had to repent.

 

To be ready for Jesus Israel in 27 AD needed to repent!  They needed open, soft, receptive hearts for the glory of the Lord to enter. 

 

Level Two-- In 68 AD in Rome…

 

The Roman Christians, to whom Mark was writing, were facing a time when they needed faith in the Lord.  Nero was going to test their faith.  The silver would be refined.  The washing machine would start cleaning.  The church would be verified.  Those Christians should respond to the test with courage not fear…  With the Holy Spirit, not cowardice…  By not being ashamed but with the confession of Jesus as Lord.  The church in Rome needed to get ready... with humility… with repentance… Get Ready!  Make your faith strong!  He’s coming!

 

Level Three-- In 2017 AD in Los Alamos…

 

As we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark, we need to get ready in the same ways.  The Gospel of Mark speaks to us, telling us that…

--Our hearts must be anxious to know him.  Do you long to learn about Jesus?

--Our hearts must be refined by repentance.  To be able to know Jesus we must examine our lives.  We must put our hearts in the washer.  We need his purification. 

 

If you want to experience the Glory of the Lord in 2017… Get Ready!

 

Tim Stidham

January 22, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ

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