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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark
The Temptation
This morning I am going to show you how elegantly Mark has woven the first section of his Gospel.  What first appears as four choppy pericopes, is a tightly written chiastic passage which hones in on an amazing message.

“Time out Tim, tell us again what pericope and chiastic means.”

--Pericope is a set of verses which tell one story, usually divided by headings in your translations.

--A Chiasm is the A, B, C, B, A format where the As agree and the Bs agree and it all points to the C. 

Let’s read the first fifteen verses looking for our chiasm.  Watch, also, for the time shifts…

ESV Mark 1:1-15 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." 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." 

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. 

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."

Isn’t that amazing… A – Gospel… B – Wilderness… C – Pleasing… B – Wilderness… A – Gospel!

Let’s begin with the A’s of our chiasm.

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ… / Proclaiming the Gospel of God…

By 68 AD, when the Christians in Rome read Mark, they already knew the word Gospel.  The word had already been appropriated by Christians to mean the package deal of Jesus. 

 In the letter to the Romans, written 10 years or so before Mark, Paul used the word Gospel with a specific meaning.  Listen…

ESV Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

ESV Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel.

ESV Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages…

Earlier Paul had written to Corinthians explaining the Gospel

ESV 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Not long before the Mark wrote in 68… Paul wrote his last correspondence…

ESV 2 Timothy 1:10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

So, when Mark uses the word Gospel to bracket these first 15 verses, the word Gospelhad developed a living meaning.  It was the good news.  But it was more than just any good news. 

The word Gospel specifically means…

--The preexistent Word came to this world born as a baby.

--This Jesus experienced life as a human.

--Jesus was tempted and suffered and got tired and cried, yet lived a sinless life.

--The Gospel comes together at his death, resurrection and ascension

--He died on the cross and then was resurrected to bring us the gift of eternal life. 

--Jesus ascended to rule from the throne of God!

The Gospel was a thing. The Gospel was the power.  The Gospel was power in the weakness of dying.  The Gospel was something to obey.  The Gospel was taught to others.  The Gospel traveled. 

The Gospel is a vocation.

“Time out again Tim.  What do you mean the gospel was a vacation?”

I am not saying vacation… the Christian life is not a vacation.  It is a vocation; a life-calling.  Vocation is an emotional connection to a purpose.  Vocation is mission.  Vocation is what a person lives for.  It is not the same as occupation.  It is a dedication to a certain kind of life. 

The gospel was Jesus’s vocation.  He lived 30 years as a stone mason.  He lived as a Jew.  He was citizen of Nazareth.  Jesus was a teacher.  He was a preacher.  He was a healer.  He was a prophet.  Jesus was an exorcist.  Jesus was a Rabbi.  But none of those was his vocation.  His vocation was the Gospel.

Jesus left Nazareth; left being a pleasant peasant, to step onto the path of his vocation.  The vocation of the Gospel was his commitment to the cross. 

The A’s of our chiasm is The Gospel. This package deal of Jesus’s vocation. 

 Isn’t this fun?  Let’s move to the Bs…

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. / The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. 

The Bs are wilderness.  Anytime you hear the word wilderness in Scripture you have to think first of the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness.  Jesus spent 40 days.  Mark wants us to think of Moses and the Hebrews leaving Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, receiving the Ten Commandments, going into the wilderness and then failing to enter the Promised Land and spending 40 years wandering around.

The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.  Tempted by Satan.  Tempted to sin?  I don’t think so… not exactly.  I don’t think Satan was interested in Jesus saying a cuss word or lying or committing adultery.  Jesus was tempted to deny his vocation.

It is all about the vocation.  The children of Israel forgot who they were.  They were the children of God.  They were YWHW’s people.  But they forgot that.  They denied their vocation to enter the Promise Land.  They did not trust who they were as God’s children.  The children of Israel failed their vocation.

But Jesus did not. His vocation was challenged.  Deny the Gospel.  Don’t follow the path to the cross.  It was a temptation of vocation.  Satan was tempting Jesus to abort the mission; quit the path to the cross; don’t go through with it; there is an easier way.

Mark doesn’t give many details of the 40 days in the wilderness… Matthew and Luke elaborate on his temptation.  But Mark does mention wild animals and angels. Why?

--The children of Israel were led by the angel of God in the pillars of fire and smoke.  Jesus was ministered to by angels… pointing him toward the path.

--Wild animals, like snakes, tortured Israel… tempted Jesus.

One more thought about the temptation of vocation in the wilderness.  Remember John the Baptizer was like Elijah.  Elijah also had his vocation tested in the wilderness.

ESV 1 Kings 19:1-4 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow."  Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers."

Remember the rest of the story… In the cave, God did not speak in the wind or earthquake or fire.  God spoke in the still small voice which renewed Elijah’s… vocation; to be a prophet of Israel.  Elijah, the children of Israel and Jesus were all tempted to deny their vocation!

This fits…

Mark, writing to the Christians in Rome in 68 AD, was pointing to their vocation of the Gospel.  After they were baptized there was a time in the wilderness.  When Nero began to persecute them about the fire in Rome, their dedication to the Gospel was challenged.  Would they be like Jesus and stayed committed to their vocation or would they be like the children of Israel and doubt?

The As are the vocation of the Gospel.

The Bs are the wilderness where the Gospel vocation is challenged.

The As and the Bs point to the C!

ESV Mark 1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Jesus knew his vocation was the Gospel.  He began to walk upon the path to the cross when he was baptized by John.  His vocation was affirmed by the dove and the voice.  The central focus of the first section of Mark is Jesus as the pleasing Son.

Being the pleasing Son kept Jesus on his vocation. 

--This is the beginning of the Gospel. 

--John preached in the wilderness like Elijah pointing to a time to test the vocation.          

--But it was being the pleasing Son that gave him the strength of his vocation.

--His time in the wilderness had harden his dedication to this vocation.  The tempting, like tempering metal had refined his purpose.

--This is why Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God. 

That is the point of the first 15 verses of Mark and the point of this sermon.  Knowing we are pleasing to the Father gives us courage to stay with our vocation. 

That’s why chiasms are cool… they point to the point!


But, there are times when we are in the wilderness.  Let’s be honest, there are times when we doubt our vocations… 

--Is this Christian thing really worth it?

--Where is God when I need him? 

--My prayers are hollow. 

--I need to look after me, occasionally.

--I need to focus on my career.

--I hate my life.

There are times in the wilderness when we waffle.

When we are in the wilderness of doubt, when our vocation is challenged we need to echo what we heard in our baptism… “You are my beloved Son, with you I am pleased.” This refrain provides courage to move through the wilderness.

When you are going through the wilderness… keep going.  It’s okay to be there.  The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness.  You just keep repeating your refrain…keeping going.

Last week I encouraged those who have not been baptized to make it a gorgeous day.  Let me be a bit clearer about how that might work…

--We are ready 24/7.  Just talk to me… We can get you baptized.

--Any Sunday you can share it with the body. Gary Secrest has the baptistry ready all the time.  Just let me know.  Share it with the family.

--Easter is coming… April 16… Last year Savannah was baptized on Easter… We will have time for some baptisms…


Let me reaffirm the point. When we are baptized, we commit to the vocation of the Gospel.  We hear the voice, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am pleased.”  This voice accompanies you into any wilderness… giving you the courage of your vocation. 

Aren’t the first 15 verses of Mark elegantly woven into a chiastic passage which hones in on an amazing message?


Tim Stidham

February 5, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ


Los Alamos Church of Christ - 2323 Diamond Drive - Los Alamos, New Mexico - 87544 - (505) 695.5875