Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/29/14 Sermon - The Wilderness

Mark 1:1-13

“The Wilderness”

We have spent the last month in the Old Testament, studying Habakkuk. I thought we would now take a look at a book in the New Testament. I thought the beginning was a good place to start. Now according to the Table of Contents, Matthew is the first book in the New Testament. But actually, the first gospel of the four gospels to be written, has been agreed upon by scholars, to be the book of Mark.

 

I think it will help if I give you a snapshot description of who Mark was and how he was associated with Jesus and where he was when he wrote the book. This background type of information helps us, the readers, to have a better understanding of what we read.

So who was Mark?

Actually the Bible has a great deal to say about Mark. Luke mentions Mark’s name several times in Acts. Mark must have followed Jesus and listened to Jesus many times. It appears that Mark was at the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51-51)and it is thought that the Last Supper took place at Mark’s home. You see, the first Jerusalem church met in Mark’s mother’s home. Mark became a missionary and started on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. He doesn’t make it through the entire journey but ends up going home early. Later on he travels with Barnabas and Cyprus on more mission trips. Paul must of thought of him as a significant member of the Christian church, because Mark is one of the last people the apostle mentioned in his final letter 2 Timothy 4:11.

It is believed that Mark’s closest companion was Peter. And most scholars think that Peter was the source for the material Mark has written down in his gospel. Peter visited so often and was so well known at Mark’s mother’s house that the servants knew Peter by the sound of his voice. You can read about this in Acts 12:12-14. At the time Mark is writing this gospel, he and Peter were in Rome and Mark was writing from Peter’s recollections sometime before Peter’s death circa AD 64-68.

So what makes Mark’s gospel unique?

 

Well for one reason, Mark chooses to portray Jesus as forever moving, not stopping, on a mission. That mission was the cross and the resurrection.

You see, the word “immediately” is used 39 times in the gospel of Mark. This brings across the idea that Mark saw Jesus having a lot to be accomplished in a short span of time.

That being said, Let’s “immediately” begin, reading through the Book of Mark and see what he has to say, and more importantly, let’s see how we can apply God’s Word to our lives today.

Mark chapter 1, verses 1-13 are known as the “Prologue to the Gospel” because they introduce the main character,

Jesus.

You’ll notice unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not begin his gospel with the birth of Jesus, instead he starts his story with Jesus fulfilling prophecy by being called to

“The Wilderness”.

To give you an idea of what “The Wilderness” looks like, I brought this picture we found during the work day on Friday. As you can see, the concept of “Wilderness” in Judea, is quite different from the concept of wilderness in Maine. There is little or no vegetation and very little water, except we will find the Jordan River flowing through Judea and that is where the book of Mark begins.

In verse 3 we find a voice crying in the wilderness, which is the voice of John the Baptist.

It is John’s voice that leads Jesus out to the wilderness. It turns out that John’s voice is fulfilling a prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah wrote:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,

            Who will prepare your way –

A voice of one crying in the desert,

            “Prepare the way of the Lord,

            Make straight paths for him!”

I want you to try and picture the scene Mark is describing.

We have John the Baptist, who by the way, wore clothes made of camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate wild locust and honey. He is out in the desert and he is saying things like,

“Prepare the way of the Lord, Make straight paths for him!”

He was not your average Israelite. The description of John’s attire and the food he eats reveals he is familiar with being a nomad in the wilderness and life in the desert. The reference to the leather belt he wore is a reference to another wilderness prophet, Elijah.

Just think about it.

Israel has not heard from a prophet for over three hundred years. Rabbis had begun teaching that the prophets were no longer necessary. Yet there was this hope that one last prophet would appear, one who would signal the events of the “last days”.

 

Could John be this prophet?

Indeed he was.

John was preaching a radical repentance. Now for a person of Jewish heritage, repentance was not new, however, John’s call for the action of being baptized in the Jordan River to demonstrate one’s repentance was brand new. It was so new, John was given the name, “the Baptizer”.

John was known for performing

“a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.

There is a significant relationship between this repentance and the wilderness.

The Greek word for repent, metanoia, means to turn 180 degrees, change your mind, a complete turn around.

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had a history of turning 180 degrees and entering the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that God lead his people to the Promised Land. During this first Exodus, they walked through the Nile River, a form of baptism, and they arrived on the other side. Then because of their disobedience and grumbling they were sent to the wilderness. And it was during their 40 years in the wilderness the Israelites say they developed their “sonship”.

Notice the direct correlation with John the Baptist.

He is calling the Israelites to join him in the wilderness, to renew their sonship with God, to return to a place of judgement, acknowledge their disobedience and rebellion and demonstrate their desire to begin once more and have God lead them to the “Promised Land” which this time means “salvation”. John reminds the Israelites that God not only gives judgment but He also extends grace.  

John explains how this salvation will come about in verses 7 & 8.

And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The “coming one” relates back to Malachi which has a warning concerning the Lord who comes suddenly with judgment.

And,

In Psalm 118:26, with its call of praise to “him who comes in the name of the Lord”.

John also refers to the “coming one” as baptizing with the Holy Spirit, Again, another connection with the wilderness. Isaiah described Israel’s trek in the wilderness as being guided by the Holy Spirit, in Isaiah 63:11 and it was the Spirit who gave the people rest in the wilderness 63:14.

And then,

“It came to pass…”

Jesus comes out to the desert, like everyone else, to be baptized.

Have you ever wondered?

? If Jesus is God, and therefore perfect, why would he need to repent, and then be baptized to demonstrate his repentance?

? Jesus is supposed to be the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Why does he need to be baptized in the Jordan River?

It is significant that the first time Mark writes about Jesus, he is doing something that demonstrates that Jesus shares in the predicament of His people. He does not set himself apart from the sins of the people, but like the people, joins them in their trip to the wilderness.

And it is through this obedience that Jesus is revealed to those around him for who he really is. You see, he goes down, into the water, as human but when he comes up, heaven is torn open, the Spirit descends as a dove and there is a voice who declares, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

I wonder what the face of John the Baptist  looked like?

Unfortunately Mark does not reveal whether anyone but Jesus understands the meaning of what had just occurred, at least not at the time. Once the story unfolds, those who were there, may have been able to make the connections. But Jesus clearly understands that this is the beginning of his mission on earth.

The very purpose for Jesus being on Earth begins with his baptism and proclamation that he is the Son of God, and God is well pleased.

It doesn’t take long for the mountain top experience of hearing how the Father is pleased with His son, before the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness for forty days and he is tempted by Satan, and living with wild animals. Mark also reminds us that Jesus had angels attending him.

Mark has a strikingly different description of this event than Matthew or Luke. Mark chooses not to add any details but leaves us with the facts that directly after being announced as God’s Son, Jeus is lead further into the wilderness, by God, to battle with Satan. Mark doesn’t even tell us whether he wins or not. Commentators agree, the reason Mark does not elaborate on the battle with Satan, is because for Mark, Jesus’ entire life on Earth is a battle with Satan, and it is not until the big battle, when Jesus conquers death and rises again, for all humanity, that Mark concedes that Jesus has won.

So what about you?

Have you had a “wilderness” experience?

Maybe you have been like those who have heard the voice calling in the desert, but who are too comfortable and content to get up and “turn 180 degrees” and put yourself in the wilderness.

? Why would God expect us to do such a thing?

Let me put it this way.

Jesus did it.

And Jesus came to earth to be our example.

He is like the teacher’s “visual aide”.

Where he leads, I will follow.

And yes, that does mean, into the wilderness. But remember, the wilderness is synonymous with “sonship”, being a child of God.

It is not a place,

but a representation of our need to recognize our sins and our need to repent, and our need for a Savior.

That Savior is Jesus because he is the only one who can save us from our sins.

Then we need to accept the gift of salvation, as free, be baptized to show that we have taken the gift of salvation and then we need to keep it.

Or -

Maybe you are in the wilderness right now. You are on your 40 day trial with Satan, or at least it seems like that. You have wild animals coming at you from all sides.

I am here to remind you, if you feel like you are in the wilderness, you are not alone, God’s Spirit and angels are also with you and their job is to attend to you.

God didn’t leave Jesus in the wilderness alone, He is certainly not going to leave you in the wilderness alone.

It’s just sometimes we get lost in the wilderness.

We focus on the negative things around us and that is when Satan wins. Satan knows if he can get us to take our eyes off God, he’s got us.

Matthew and Luke’s account of the Jesus’ temptation give us more details of this event, and they reveal Jesus’ tactic for survival.

It was God’s Word. Every time Satan threw something at Jesus, he responded with “But it is written…” You see, Jesus knew that he needed to keep his eyes on the Father, and since he couldn’t literally “see” the Father, he knew that God’s word was God.

You know, “and the Word became flesh.”

The Word of God is also the Sword of the Spirit according to Paul in the book of Ephesians. And what a mighty sword it is, sharper than any two edge sword able to cut between bone and marrow, Hebrews 4:12.

Or….

Maybe you are sitting there today and as you think about it you realize you have either had your wilderness experiences and have come through on the other end, or you have repented and the Spirit has not lead you through your wilderness experience with Satan….

Yet.

Don’t waste time waiting and relaxing. If you haven’t experienced a wilderness temptation, prepare yourself for one, just in case. Read God’s Word so if the time comes you will be ready. And even if you aren’t the one who is going to be tempted by Satan, read God’s Word so you can help someone else who is.

Bottom line….

Sharpen your sword, be ready by knowing the Word of God.

Until Jesus comes again, Satan has the ability to make a wilderness experience for us.

But Jesus showed us three sure ways to survive:

1st - He remembered God did not leave him alone, but provided him with angels and he used their assitance

2nd – He used his sword, God’s Word, to win the battle

And last but not least,

3rd – He knew he would win the war

As we leave today, let’s remember, the wilderness experiences we have, are truly a spiritual battle. God’s Holy Spirit & angels are always with us. We have a weapon, God’ Word, that we need to keep sharp. And for those of us who have repented and accepted the free gift of salvation, we know we have ultimate victory. And this means we have the hope of eternity with God, without ever experiencing the wilderness again.

At this time I would be amiss if I did not extend an invitation to any of you who have not followed the example given by Jesus today in the Scripture.

There is a voice calling from the wilderness, a voice calling for all of us to repent of our sins –

Turn 180 degrees from the things that separate us from God –

And follow Jesus.

I believe that for salvation you only need to repent once and you are saved.

But I also know there are times in our lives when we need to step out into the wilderness, focus on our sonship with God, get away from our daily routine and examine our lives.

When we have done so, we need to ask God to cleanse us from the things that have us trapped.

There is no better time than the present.

Let’s pray.-