The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 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.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Dear Fellow Redeemed:
On this 4th Sunday of Easter, we observe St. Mark, the Evangelist (also called John or John Mark). Evangelist indicates that he was the writer of one of the four Gospels in the New Testament. He was not one of the twelve disciples (though, as a young man, he likely was around at the time). He was the nephew of Barnabas, one of St. Paul’s close associates. He tended to act as an assistant to some of the more prominent names of the New Testament (Barnabas and Paul took him along on their first missionary journey).
At a certain point, Mark had a bit of a falling out with Paul. One of the things that we have to keep in mind about writers of the books of the Bible is that they weren’t perfect. They were sinful people like all of us are. Mark left Paul and his uncle Barnabas during their journey, and returned to Jerusalem (as recorded in Acts 13:13). From Paul’s perspective, apparently, he left them in the lurch. He considered this a great enough offense, that, as he and Barnabas were to set out on their second journey, he said he didn’t think it best to bring Mark along again. He had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work (15:37). This caused a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that resulted in them parting from one another, and going on separate journeys.
Later, Mark and Paul came to be on good terms again. Paul later asked Timothy to bring Mark along with him to Rome, saying of him: “he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). Mark came to be closely associated with St. Peter. In fact, Mark’s gospel relies heavily on Peter’s testimony about Jesus (always guided, of course, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit). The first half of his gospel is about what Jesus did and taught; the second half is about Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection.
Our text is the first fifteen verses of Mark’s gospel. He entitles it: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For Mark’s purposes, the beginning about Jesus Christ is the work of the baptizer who would prepare the Christ’s way. John was the messenger crying, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (as the prophet had foretold).
He says, Make His paths straight because there are obstructions in peoples’ hearts that hinder the Lord’s coming to His people. The way must be prepared so that He can do so. Our sins separate us from God. Repentance is what removes the obstructions, heals the separation, because God receives all who come humbly to Him for mercy. That’s why John preached, and administered a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In his preaching, John was directing away from himself the many who were coming to him. “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie, he said to them. The glad tidings of salvation that Mark was bringing in his Gospel (as said in our Collect earlier) were about this other one.
Having told briefly of John the Baptist’s preparatory work, Mark gives three glimpses of the Christ’s work for us to consider this morning: His baptism by John, His tempting by Satan, and His proclaiming of the Gospel.
The world might wonder, why do these Christians keep turning up Sunday after Sunday to hear this message. It’s even possible you’ve wondered it yourself (there are other things you could be doing, after all). Mark’s first readers had other things they could have been doing than paying attention to his gospel too. There would have to be something we were getting from it that makes it worthwhile, wouldn’t there? That’s what we see in what Mark presents about the Christ.
We mentioned Mark’s failing. He wasn’t alone in it. His story is our story. We fall short of God’s glory. We fall short of His kingdom. Our guilt over our sins is enough evidence of that. We want to be right with God; we know that we can’t be if it be left up to us.
That’s why the perfect Jesus - God’s eternal Son - went out to John to be baptized by Him. Remember: it was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness (or remission) of sins. That word remission means sending away. The sins are sent away from the sinner. They are no longer an issue between the sinner and God.
That brings the question, what need of repentance and remission of sins does one have who is perfect like Jesus? We are baptized because we are guilty; and God has promised to address that problem of ours by the Holy Spirit’s work in baptism. He opens our hearts to know Him according to His mercy in Christ. He gives us faith to believe for forgiveness and salvation. He gives us strength to put off sin, and be led by Him in this world, and toward His eternal kingdom.
In Jesus’ Baptism, He was putting Himself next to you. He was connecting Himself to your Baptism. He didn’t need it for any sins of His own. He needed it in order to take upon Himself your sins. There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). St. Paul wrote those words. They describe what Jesus was doing by being baptized by John. He was going between you (a sinner) and God, Who was angry about your sins. He was taking on that role, taking on your guilt.
And His Baptism was serving the purpose of an anointing as well. This was the real beginning of His work of healing the separation between you and God. As a special indication of this, after going up out the water, the Spirit descended on Him like a dove, Mark writes. This is what was being foretold in Psalm 45:7 God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions, and in Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. St. Peter spoke about it, as recorded in the book of Acts as well: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power (10:38). All of this was happening in Jesus Baptism. The Father’s voice from heaven confirmed it: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The three persons of God were visibly present proclaiming that God’s eternal salvation plan promised of old, was now being put into action.
You are in need of someone who can heal the separation between you and God because of your sins. Jesus has the qualifications to do so, and has taken on the task, putting Himself beside you to take your guilt upon Himself. But all of it would be for nought if He were a sinner like you. Then, He couldn’t bear the burden of yours or anyone’s sins. Mark next turns to give us a glimpse of what happens when satan tries on Jesus the same temptations that work on you.
Mark doesn’t say as much about this as some of the other gospel writers do. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews gives insight into the importance of it. He says, We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). You are meant to see from this incident of Jesus’ forty day temptation in the wilderness that He is exactly what you need as a Savior. This was an exhibition of who and what Jesus is. If the same exhibition had been carried out with you, or me, or any other human, most certainly, the result would have been that that person would have succumbed to the temptation, and sinned. Jesus is different. He has a human nature that isn’t sinful like ours. And He has a divine nature. He is God Himself. If they had done this exhibition a hundred times or a million times, the result would have been the same. Your Savior can’t be made to sin. For that reason, you can have the utmost confidence in Him. What He did for you was legit. It didn’t fall short in any way. His sacrificial death paid for your sins, and for my sins, and for Mark’s sins, and for everyone else’s. Mark’s inclusion of the statement: the angels were ministering to him is indication for us that everything had gone as it was supposed to go. Jesus had remained sinless following Satan’s best efforts.
Finally, Mark writes: Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” When Jesus says, the kingdom of God is at hand, He means anyone who is repentant of sins, who wants to have God’s mercy instead of His angry judgment can become a member of His kingdom right now by believing the kingdom to be his according to God’s grace.
That is a message worth proclaiming, isn’t it? When we consider the weight of our guilt, and how unsuitable we are to be with the perfect God, what a relief to hear that message from Jesus! God will have mercy on us sinners! His kingdom is at hand. The perfect Savior has paid your price. This is the One Who put Himself next to you, who connected Himself to you - even taking upon Himself the Baptism meant for sinners. He’s the One made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [you] might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Whatever of sin’s burdens you bear this morning, leave them with Christ. He has already seen to them. They are forgiven in His blood. Repent and believe in the gospel. Those are Jesus’ own words, and they’re meant for you and every other sinner.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we are Your sin, and you are our righteousness. As You put Yourself beside us in Your Baptism, help us to remain in that blessed place. As You remained sinless in the face of Satan’s temptations, help us to put off sin every day, and live lives of repentance. As you preached the Gospel of salvation, help us to believe it and rejoice. And help it to be on our own lips so as to be heard and believed by all who are in need of the grace that it offers. Amen.
Other Lessons for this week:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, then each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
St. Mark 1:1–11
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.”