It's All About Jesus

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 1/5/2020

Well, here we are at the start of another New Year. Maybe you’re hoping this will be a year of new beginnings, the year you get a fresh start in life. For change to happen in your life, there are certain things that need to be wrecked (totally decimated) in your life. And there are certain things (positively) you need to embrace. Jesus prescription/ invitation to transformation has never changed. Jesus never minced words. Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. ‘Repent and believe the good news.’”

Today we’re starting a series we’re calling “Wreck It!” You might be thinking of the computer-animated Disney film “Wreck It Ralph.” But actually, the title is inspired by this fascinating story in Mark 2, where a group of guys are desperately trying to bring their paralyzed friend to be healed by Jesus. Sadly, they can’t get to Jesus. He’s in someone’s house. People are jammed packed shoulder to shoulder. Nobody is budging an inch. In faith, these men literally “wreck the roof” in order to lower their friend to Jesus. Like seriously! The boldness/audacity of it all. They go up on the roof, and start pulling away the stone slabs, tiles, or awning! They so desperately wanted something better for their friend, they thought nothing of wrecking some poor guys roof! There should be no clearer mission this New Year than bringing people we care about to Jesus!

But in the Gospel of Mark, it isn’t just roofs that got wrecked to bring people to God. Jesus wrecked the corrupted Temple. Jesus wrecked people’s pet laws, man-made traditions, and ridiculous rules. Jesus wrecked people’s false assumptions about God, their self-limiting beliefs, and self-serving attitudes. Jesus wrecked Satanic rulers, powers, personas, and strongholds. On the cross, Jesus allows his own body to get wrecked, to atone for sin. Through his resurrection, his appearance, and his ascension to the right hand of God in glory, Jesus wrecks the power of sin and death for all who might believe! Disney doesn’t have anything on Jesus!

If you truly want to see change in your life and world, you are in the right place. Mark’s big introduction to Jesus is Mark 1:1. He says, “[This is…] The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” People in Jesus’ day were acquainted with the various gospels of Caesar Augustus. The Roman emperor was thought to be Divine. He was even considered to be a “son of God.” Every decree from his lips, every tweet from his fingertips, was considered to be gospel, good news. There was no world-wide web nor 24-hour news cycle. So instead kings had messengers that would go to the ends of the Empire to proclaim whatever gospel they were commanded to preach.

So, for Mark, the fulcrum point of power has shifting. Jesus Christ, the true Son of God has appeared! He appeared exactly as the ancient Scriptures declared. First a messenger (one like the Elijah, John the Baptist) appeared! Then secondly, the King (i.e. the Christ, the Messiah, the Caesar Augustus, the God of the Universe) Jesus appeared! And thirdly, the true Son of God, Jesus the Christ (King) inaugurates his New Kingdom.

Mark first tells us about God’s messenger, John the Baptist. John has come in fulfillment of an ancient promise, recorded in Isaiah 40. In Mark 1:3 John’s the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord: make his paths straight.” Would John’s voice get a four-chair turnaround today? I don’t know! He certainly gets a four-chair turnaround in Mark 1:4-8! Mark says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness (i.e. Desert) and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Jesus Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John wore a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts (i.e. Locusts, grasshoppers, crickets) and wild honey (i.e. not wine, leavened bread, pots of meat). He proclaimed, “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark is covering so much ground, so fast, we have to hit the pause button. None of Mark 1 is going to make any sense unless you are familiar with the story of God’s people. Whatever is Mark talking about? A wilderness? repentance? Baptism in water river? Locusts and Honey? A coming king to rule/lead God’s people? Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Is there any greater/purer beginning recorded in all the Scripture than Genesis 1:1? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In five days, God creates everything and declares it good, but on the sixth day God creates humankind and declares man to be “very good.” In Genesis 2 God places Adam/Eve in a vast garden, watered by a river, flowing out of Eden. But in Genesis 3 Adam and Eve sin! And when they sin the Bible says they are “driven” out of Garden. Their driven from a place of great promise to a hostile wilderness. Their life is the wilderness would be a life of toil, pain, and hardship (suffering/fear/death). There would be no easy bread, only thorns and thistles. Adam would eat by the sweat of his brow.

This isn’t the first time we hear about the wilderness. Fast forward to Abraham and Sarah. In Genesis 12:1-3, God gave him that great promise. “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God finally gives Abraham an heir, Isaac. And from Abraham’s lineage twelve sons are born, who become the Twelve great tribes of Israel. For their sins, Adam and Eve may have been driven into the wilderness, but the God of grace never intended His people to stay there. The story of God’s people is God leading people out of the wilderness to give people a future and hope.

How many of you are familiar with Exodus 1? Exodus 1:6-8 says, “Joseph (who was a descendent of Jacob, who was a descendent to Isaac, who was descendant of Abraham) and all his brothers and all that generation eventually died. But the Israelites were fruitful, increased rapidly and multiplied, and became extremely numerous so that the land was filled with them. A new king, who did now know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we are. Come, let’s deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further and when war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country.”

The Exodus is all about the deliverance of God’s people from the godless King Pharaoh. Through God’s servant, Moses, God works miraculous signs and wonders (the Ten Plagues… against Pharaoh and his household. Remember the plague of the locusts? In Egypt, as slaves, God’s people enjoyed bread, wine, pots of meat. But when they fled Egypt, Exodus 13:17-18 says this, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war. So, he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. . .”

Here again, because of their sin/unbelief, the people of God find themselves driven into the wilderness! But the God of grace never intended His people to stay there. Do you remember how God set about leading his people through the wilderness? Exodus 13:21-22 says, “The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people.”

And how many of you remember how Pharaoh and his army/horses/chariots pursued the Israelites? The Israelites, in the wilderness, terrified, cried out for salvation. In Exodus 14:12, they scream at Moses how “it would have been better to serve Pharaoh than to die in the wilderness.” {The Bible certainly isn’t boring is it! } But they are crying out to God, to make a way of salvation out of this wilderness into the Promised Land (a land flowing with Milk and what? Say it… Honey!). And what does God do? He brings them to the edge of the Great Red Sea, God stretches out his great hand, God’s servant Moses strikes the water, and the people of God escape from certain death to undeserved life, through water. The same water that brought salvation to God’s people brought judgment and doom to Pharaoh’s army (right?).

But as we know, quite sadly… tragically… the proud, stubborn, rebellious hearts of God’s people kept them in the desert/wilderness some 40 years. God gives them his commandments, bread from heaven, water from the rock, eternal promises, the Tabernacle, his divine presence, priestly representation, sacrifices to atone for sin (grace upon grace) … yet still, they live in rebellion!

How many times have you looked back on your life with regret and said those pesky two words, “If only…”? Adam and Eve, “if only we’d trusted God and not eaten the forbidden fruit.” The Twelve sons/Tribes of Israel, “if only we’d believed God… we wouldn’t have been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt… we wouldn’t have wandered in the wilderness 40 long years.” Maybe this morning you find yourself in a wilderness not of God’s choosing, but of your sin/rebellion. Do you think it’s God’s will to abandon you? To let you sit and rot in the wilderness, in your sin and rebellion?

Perhaps now you are getting a sense of the momentous “new beginning” and the “good news” Mark is announcing! John is out in the rugged wilderness, eating locusts. But wait, he’s got the honey! Remember how God promised to bring his people into a land flowing with milk/honey? Here John’s lips are dripping with the goodness of God. Here John is at the edge of the Jordan River, and he’s calling people to down into the waters to be baptized. What is the significance of it all? In water baptism John the Baptist is inviting God’s people out of slavery (to their New Pharaoh Caesar Augustus) . . . and he’s inviting them to repent. . . and in baptism, pass through water, from certain death, to underserved forgiveness and everlasting life! For Mark, this is an Exodus moment! John’s baptism is an invitation to leave their regrets behind in the wilderness, and make their paths straight, and prepare to receive their coming God and King!

In Mark 1:8, John announces, “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John is saying, “I’m going to help you out of your wilderness, across the Red Sea. I’m going to help you repent and get your heart ready. But Jesus is going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The other gospel writers record John the Baptist saying, “Jesus will baptize you w/the Spirit/Fire.”

When the Israelites left Egypt, they were led by the cloud and pillar of fire, symbolizing God’s presence. In Jerusalem, the temple was the place people went to experience the presence of God. But here John is saying, “The king will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. You (your body) will become his temple. He will come and fill you with his presence.” Remember the woman at the well? Do we worship on this mountain or in Jerusalem? And Jesus says, “Woman a time is coming when it will be neither… people will worship God in spirit and in truth.” Remember the Apostles scandalous sermons in Acts that God doesn’t dwell in temples made by the hands of men? John is saying, the King is coming into your wilderness to take you into the promised land… and you better get ready… he is coming not just to lead you, but indwell you, and fill up your empty life with his overflowing Holy Spirit power/presence! Are you ready? The King is coming! “I’m not even worthy to tie his sandals.” Are you getting a sense of why all Jerusalem went out to see John?

For change to happen in your life, there are certain things that need to be wrecked (totally decimated) in your life. In baptism we leave the old life of regret behind in the wilderness. By faith we enter the water, and God washes us and cleanses and forgives us. But friends, repentance is just half of the equation. Because God has in mind that we’d embrace/believe on Him once more.

In Mark 1:7-11 Jesus appears! “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. As soon as he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open 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.” Mark intends everything about this account to remind us of Genesis 1. God is present. The Spirit is fluttering/hovering like a dove over the water. And by His Word God speaks into the chaos to create a new heaven/earth. In the other gospel account God says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

What sorrow we’d be spared had we listened/believed in God from the beginning. What was God’s chief command to Israel? “Hear o Israel.” God is saying, this is your chance to listen, and hear, and obey, and begin anew! But more than this, Jesus is going to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. He’s going to make us his temple, and he is going to fill us with his presence/power and enable a wilderness-defying life free from the power of evil!

And what is Jesus first act? After baptism, Mark tells us Jesus is “driven” out into the wilderness. Mark 1:11 says, “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.” Like Israel, Jesus found himself in the wilderness tempted. But unlike Israel… unlike Adam/Eve… Jesus is the second Adam. He is tempted yet without sin! And if only we’d repent/believe on Jesus, we too could have this new life!

Mark 1:12 says, “After John was arrested (John was the messenger, his purpose was fulfilled!), Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:16-20 Jesus starts calling his first disciples. Their commanded to leave their boats/net/old life and become fishers of men! The twelve disciples would become the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles, like the Twelve Son/Tribes of Israel, would be commissioned to shepherd God’s Kingdom. But unlike the Twelve sons/tribes of Israel (minus Judas but including Paul), they’d be found faithful even unto death!

This is our Garden moment. This is our Exodus moment. The Kingdom is near! It’s knocking at the door of your heart. What will you do? Repent? Pass through the waters of baptism? Receive forgiveness? Kiss regrets goodbye? Believe? Receive Spirit?

Scripture Verses

Mark 1:1-45

Worship Playlist

This Is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham

Who You Say I Am by Hillsong

Better by Pat Barrett

Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin

Study Questions

  1. What "Good News" do people long to hear today? What "Good News" do they most NEED to hear?  
  2. Mark introduces us to Jesus with powerful language. What is the significance of these terms: "Christ" (v.1), "Son of God" (v.1), "Lord" (v. 3), "Beloved Son" (v. 11), "Nazarene" (v. 24), "Holy One of God" (v. 24)?
  3. What is Jesus' relationship to the Heavenly Father (v. 9-11)? What is Jesus' relationship to the Holy Spirit (v. 7-8, 10, 12)? How would you describe the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to a friend?
  4. What is the urgency of repentance, baptism, forgiveness, and belief in the truth (v.2-4, 5, 8, 9, 14-15)? Why are people so reluctant to take steps of faith? Have you taken these first steps of faith?
  5. Read Mark 1:41. How does Jesus meet people at their greatest point of need? What are the various physical or spiritual needs Jesus responds to throughout this chapter? How does this enrich your understanding of God?
  6. What kind of pressure or expectations did Jesus experience (v. 28, 32-34, 35-37, 43-45)? What was Jesus' urgent priority (14-15, 35, 38-39)? Why is there so often a gap between people's expectations and God's priorities?
  7. Read Acts 6:1-7. How did the Early Church handle the tension of meeting everyday needs without jeopardizing their larger call as God's people? What are the practical implications of this for our church?
  8. What do you believe is the church's primary message today? How clear are we making that message?  

Apply It!

Resources

At the Lakeside Bookshelf:

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God by Timothy Keller.