Sunday Service 11/10/20

Mark 1:9 – 11

John’s role had been to prepare the people for a greater person, Jesus                                                                                                           John told people to repent, to turn from their evil ways and to be forgiven of their sins, to show the outward sign of repentance, so he was baptising in the River Jordan

Baptism is an act of symbolism showing death to old self, being raised from the dead and becoming a new creation. It also shows cleansing for the forgiveness of sins. “Repent of the kingdom of Heaven is near”. This is an urgent invitation to change our values, habits, loves, thinking and behaviour. BUT

Baptism is also a command. Jesus says in Matthew 28 v 19 “Go and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So do we need to be obedient and get baptised? It is an outward showing of what has happened in our life, a witness or declaration. It shows that we have died to self,that our old life is buried and we are a new creation. We have been washed and made clean. It is a total immersion baptism, being put in the grave, then given a new life.

It is truly a wonderful experience. I am sure all those who have been baptised will recall what a wonderful blessing it was. For those who have not yet been baptised what is keeping you from being baptised? Selah – stop and think – what is stopping me? Have a word with Charles if you feel God is prompting you to be obedient and follow Jesus example, it is a truly life changing experience,

But  maybe some of us can look back and think ‘I remember the day, oh happy day,’ but my heart has grown cold and I need to be rekindled to be fired up again, so maybe you might like to get some prayer for perhaps share in the breakout time.

So we need to be baptised to show we have repented and turn from our old ways we have died to our old self and am that new creation.

BUT Jesus, God’s son is sinless so why did he need to be baptised?

(Also why should John baptise him? Jesus was the greater person, as John put it, he was not worthy to untie his sandals.)                                         

So let’s put this into context

This was right at the very beginning of Jesus ministry. 

Jesus had had a very low profile until this point. 

His birth and escape to Egypt and the visit to the temple in Jerusalem at the age of 12 were the only accounts recorded prior to this – and these were not even mentioned in Marks Gospel.

But this is where John hands over the baton to Jesus. John had been the fore runner, preparing the way, now Jesus comes to fulfil the word of the prophets. As we have seen, baptism is for repentance and forgiveness but Jesus does not need that. Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 14:15.) What Jesus needed to do was to fulfil the law and the prophets. SO                                                                                                                Jesus baptism was unique.

Jesus was sinless, but He was obedient, submitting to God’s will. In baptism He is offering or dedicating Himself to follow God’s will fully on earth – Jesus is the worthy one – the Lamb of God without spot or blemish, who takes away the sin of the world. But it was necessary for Him to be baptised.

I see Jesus’ baptism as His investiture –  The time when He was recognised by His Father and the Holy Spirit, and is the confirmation that Jesus is ready to take on His ministry.

Jesus comes to John humbly setting an example. He was also obedient. Jesus is showing His whole hearted obedience to God. Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s work in the world. He was obedient even to the point of death.

Just picture the scene — crowds of people  — there must have been a buzz in the air seeing this strange man dressed in strange clothes baptising people in the Jordan. I am sure there would have been mixed emotions, excitement, astonishment, embarrassment, fear. BUT then Jesus turns up and walks up to John to be baptised and Jesus gets into the water with John.                                                                         I am sure no one was prepared for what happened next! “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descend on him like a dove. AND a voice comes from heaven “You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased.” WOW. WOW, WOW  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit together, as it was in the beginning of creation, and now at the beginning of Jesus ministry. And is all the time!  God the Holy Spirit is there to empower and equip the Son.  And God the Father acknowledging Jesus as His Son and telling Him He loves Him and is well pleased with Him. This must have been such an encouragement and acknowledgement.  What an amazing blessing to receive from your Father.  It couldn’t get any better than that.   Now Jesus was ready all fired up to go. But where does the story take us? 

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by satan. He was with the wild animals and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12,13)

Amazing, isn’t it? One minute, Jesus is having a tremendously blessed baptism; Father and Spirit in attendance; lots of people – next minute – he’s out in the desert. Now, that word in English, ‘sent,’ is far too weak. The word in Greek means to throw out – so Jesus was projected out into the desert to be tempted and to get hungry. Has Anyone here ever been projected by God into situations; maybe unwillingly, maybe surprisingly?

These two small verses are very important. Jesus was projected out for reasons, and all for our sakes;

  • He was sent to be tempted. He, very God, had made himself human; to experience everything we experience including temptation. And he took on and defeated the devil at his own game.
  • He went out to pray and fast at the start of his ministry.
  • He went to be quiet with Father away from the noisy bustle of the towns.
  • He went to prove himself. As God, without whom nothing that was made was made, he had nothing to prove. But having become man; he knew he was faced with a very testing ministry that would end in an inglorious death. So he needed to test himself as a human.
  • The absolutely vital and necessary part of this is that he won. He beat the devil and his own human body. What would have happened if he had succumbed? Let’s just take a short minute to consider what may have happened if Jesus had succumbed to temptation.

Now, if this passage is to be more than a history or theology lesson, it has to be important to us. 

And, indeed, the desert has always played an important part in Christian spirituality, from the desert monks, through Tielhard de Chardin and Catherine Doherty, through today the idea of need of the desert as a place to meet God has been important.

I don’t expect Charles to organise an excursion to the Sahara, but we all need that desert place – a place to get alone with God. John & Charles Wesley’s mother had a special chair, and if she sat on that chair and put her apron over her head, she was categorically NOT to be disturbed. I loved it when once a week I went up to Cambridge, I had a whole hour that I could be alone with God. Then an hour coming back.

In our overheated and frantic Western lifestyle, we need to make time with God; book time with God, or it will fritter away. There we can be still and silent, we can pray, we can worship, we can just be with God. But beware, as you go out to meet God, the devil will come out to meet us. 

Being in our own desert, close to God can be hard work, or it can be relaxed and laid back. Or it may seem joyous and exciting. We sometimes have to ‘wrestle in prayer,’ against our own temptations, or for others’ situations. We may feel God close, or he may seem a million miles away. We may have time for a while to spend with God. Perhaps lockdown may have been good for prayer.  (The silver lining to insomnia for me is plenty of quiet middle-of-the-night time to spend time with him.) Or if you have a demanding job, kids or other responsibilities we may need to snatch the time when we can. When asked how much time Charles Spurgeon spent in prayer, he answered,’about two minutes.’ But he went on to say, ‘not a half hour passes but I spend two minutes with God. We all need these times – to get closer to God; to get to know him better; to be anointed for your ministry, (and as a Christian you don’t just have a job, you have a ministry, whatever your job is. George Herbert wrote, ‘to sweep a room as for Thy laws makes that and the action fine.’  We need much time with God to mature into hs ambition; thatwe grow up into the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:28,29)  

The final word I leave with James (James. 4:8) – “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

Jim & Ali