(This is a re-posting of an article posted about 6 years ago but may be relevant for a time such as this.)
What would you do if there was a man going around your local streets yelling out day after day, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mat 3:2. You’d take notice, especially when you saw he was dressed in a garment made from camel hair, and wore a big leather belt. Then you noticed that as he walked along, he was munching into a meal of locusts and wild honey. You’d have to work out “Is he a prophet from God or is he just plain crazy?”
Jesus saw such a man in His day, John the Baptist. He saw Him not as a crazy man, but as a prophet sent from God to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, for Himself. The religious leaders thought he should be ignored. We read the story in Mark 1 and in Matthew 3.
1). THE PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY BY JESUS. Mark 1:9. In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Matthew adds more detail in Mat 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented.
Jesus saw that this was the right thing for Him to do in the sight of God. He recognised that John was a prophet sent from God to get people to repent of their sins and to turn back to God. He recognised that He as a Jew, needed to be baptised, not because He was a sinner, for He had no sin of His own. Rather He was identifying with all the Jewish people as He went forward to receive baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. He was saying a great “AMEN” to what God was doing through John the Baptist as He submitted to John’s baptism.
By contrast the Religious leaders of the day didn’t do what God wanted. Luke records what Jesus said of John, Luk 7:28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke then added an important comment. 7:29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.) In their pride and arrogance they saw no need for themselves as religious leaders to do any repenting. That was for the “lesser” people who obviously needed to repent.
What strong words, they rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. The leaders of God’s people were out of the will of God because of their pride. They rejected God’s messenger and his message. Jesus, however, humbled Himself to be baptised by John as part of God’s purpose for Him. It became a very significant moment for Him. At that moment it was as though He was commissioned for His ministry.
2). THE COMMISSIONING OF JESUS FOR MINISTRY. Mark 1:10-11
Two things happened after He was baptised.
i). The Holy Spirit came on Him. Mar 1:10 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. Jesus knew the significance of the situation. It was a fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1 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. (see Mat 12:15-18). God had anointed Jesus by His Spirit to carry out His ministry.
Jesus spoke of that anointing with the Spirit for ministry also in the passage from Luke 4:16-21 (which He saw to be a fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1-2.) “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was saying out loudly and clearly “I am the Messiah! My ministry will be done under the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
ii). The Father affirmed Him. Mar 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus, God’s beloved Son. Jesus the Creator. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus, the Great High Priest who would later offer His own body on the cross to bring forgiveness, eternal life and healing to the people of God throughout the ages. Jesus, the King had introduced His kingdom.
3). THE EMPOWERMENT OF JESUS FOR MINISTRY. Mark 1:12-13
i). Out on the battlefield. Mar 1:12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. The wilderness was seen as the haunt of Satan the devil and of the powers of darkness. It’s as though Jesus was saying to the powers of evil, “The battle is on. You will not defeat me. I’ve come to defeat you on your own home turf. ” And He did.
ii). Winning the battle over the powers of darkness. Mar 1:13 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. Jesus withstood all the temptations and all the enemy could throw at Him. He remained victorious throughout all that time over every temptation.
Jesus knows how to resist temptation. He knows how to help us have victories over temptation as well. Heb 4:15 For 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. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our temptations. The story reminds us that being tempted is not sin. Jesus was continually being tempted throughout His life. You may say “You have no idea of the strength of temptations I face day by day. They are always there and I just feel so guilty that my temptations are so frequent and so strong.” There’s a word for that. It’s called being “human”. We all face temptations. Many of them can’t be avoided. And very often they attack us at our weakest point. Other times they are directed at our strengths and catch us off guard.
The great German reformer Martin Luther knew what it was to be strongly tempted. But he gave a very good piece of advice on how to deal with the temptations we face. He said, “You can’t stop the birds flying over your head, but you can stop them building nests in your hair.” That is, temptations are sure to come but you can and must stop them lodging in your mind and dwelling on them. St Paul put it like this, 2Corinthians 10:5 … we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We too can overcome temptation as we learn to take all our tempting thoughts to God and say, “Lord please break the power of those thoughts in my mind. Help me to focus on You and on Your will.”
Jesus had won the victory in the power of the Holy Spirit who had anointed Him and empowered Him to do the will of God. We too can know that same victory as we allow God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. As He fills us with His Spirit He renew our minds by the transforming power of His Holy Spirit, Romans 12:2. We begin to have more and more of the mind of Christ.
4). THE COMMENCEMENT OF JESUS’ MINISTRY. Mark 1:14-15
i). The right time had come for Jesus to minister. John the Baptist’s task as the forerunner to Jesus was now complete. Now it was time for Jesus to begin His public ministry. Mar 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
ii). The right response was needed to His message about the kingdom. Mar 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The King had come. His kingdom was being established. But people needed to turn from their sins in repentance and to turn to submit to Christ as Lord, Saviour and King.
Your role and my role as those who now belong to the family of God, and are subjects of the King, is to live worthily of our great calling, so that Christ is seen in our lives. Our role through our witness and our prayers is also to encourage others to repent of their sins, to turn back to God and make Christ the King, the Lord and Master of their lives.
Today, we look back to what God has accomplished through us as a church and through us as individuals over the past year. We need to answer the questions, How many lives did we impact for Christ as a church? How many lives did we impact for Christ personally and individually?
Why not determine to live for Christ in this coming year so that God can accomplish what He wants to do through you as an individual in our parish and beyond.
A Prayer asking that God may use us.
Lord I repent of anything that stops me from being what You want me to be. Please forgive me. As I open my heart to You, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can:-
- be the person You want me to be
- know what You want me to know,
- do what You want me to do
- speak of You to those whom You want me to speak
- touch the lives of those whom You want me to touch in Your love
- and bring to You, those whom You want me to bring to You, so that they can accept You as Saviour, and submit to You as their Lord, Master and King. In Jesus the King’s name I pray. AMEN
Blog No.265. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 11th February 2018