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*“Promise and Proclamation”*
*Mark 1.2-13*
What I want us to see this morning is that God has a plan.
We saw this quite frequently in our study of Revelation where God is sovereignly carrying out his plan to the very end of time.
Often times it helps our faith if we can see his hand at work throughout history.
God does not necessarily call us to blind faith.
He has demonstrated time and again his faithfulness to his promises.
Sometimes he increases our faith through the subjective.
For instance, I recently requested prayer for some difficulties I was facing.
And in the midst of the struggle, I suddenly experienced an unexplainable peace.
And it is times like this that I can point specifically to the power of prayer in my life.
Now, God does not ALWAYS do this.
Sometimes he wants us to learn valuable lessons through the struggle even if we don’t experience the subjective peace, love, and joy that sometimes God graciously gives us.
Sometimes he means to test our faith a bit more extensively.
And so it is with our text this morning.
What we will see is how completely and intentionally God carries out what He has promised throughout history.
We entered the book of Mark ever so briefly last week by examining some of the background of the Gospel as well as the first verse of the book.
We saw that Mark introduces the book by indicating that this is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in verse 1.
And we began by taking a look at what the gospel is, the good news of Jesus.
We also looked at some of the distinctives of Mark’s gospel in relation to the others.
We know that Matthew and Luke spend more time on the teaching component in the life of Jesus.
John’s Gospel is less chronological and more theological in nature and looks to show predominantly the deity of Christ.
And when we read through Mark’s account, we determined that it moves more like an action movie.
He jumps abruptly from one event to the next without really filling in much of the detail – as do some of the others.
We will even see that in our text for this morning.
Let’s read verses 1-13 as we look into God’s Word.
The first point is “*Announcement.”
*Right from the outset, Mark includes the words “As it is written.”
It is important for him to assert that what he writes about is fulfilled prophecy and affirms the trustworthiness and authority of God’s written word.
What is interesting here is that he indicates that this comes from the prophet, Isaiah.
In actuality, this is a compilation of three different Scriptures and comes from Exodus, Malachi 3.1, and Isaiah 40.3.
Mark employs a common practice by citing it the most prominent prophet, Isaiah.
This would have carried a lot of weight with his listeners and readers.
But it does also provide a sampling of many prophecies fulfilled.
It began in the times of Moses, and mentioned in both the major and minor prophets.
The Old Testament Scriptures have repeatedly anticipated the arrival of the Messiah.
The Scripture cited here indicates that that there would be a future messenger who would prepare the way of the Lord.
He would be one who declares this from in the wilderness.
And then immediately, Mark indicates in the next verse that “John appeared.”
Promise fulfilled.
One commentator notes that “Mark makes it clear that the gospel is bound fast to the promise of God in the Old Testament and is a continuation of the story of God's saving activity.
Long before the promise-filled preaching of John the Baptizer, there was the promise-filled preaching of Isaiah, which shows that God had planned things out long before John appeared on the scene and was the one who initiated the action.”
And another writes, “The introductory tapestry of Old Testament quotations not only links the person and ministry of Jesus inseparably with the preceding revelation of God in the Old Testament, but it makes the person and ministry of Jesus non-understandable apart from it.”
So this was not something new, but something that was predetermined a long time ago by our sovereign God.
So the introduction of the Old Testament prophet leading into the gospel of Jesus Christ is seamless.
Malachi 3.1 reads, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.
And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
And Malachi 4.5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”
In many ways it appears as though Mark recognized him and John the Baptist saw himself as fulfilling these prophecies.
He was the “Elijah” to come.
For in verse 4, Mark indicates that John was baptizing in the wilderness.
And later in Mark 9.11-13, it says, “And they asked him (Jesus), “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things.
And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?
13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
Verse 6 also tells us that John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
For Mark’s original readers, they would have readily understood this as pertaining to a prophet.
In 2 Kings 1.8, it says, “…He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.”
And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
So it is apparent that John saw his ministry fulfilling these words.
And they are authenticated by the words of Scripture here.
So how exactly did John prepare the way for the Lord?
Well, not only did Scripture *announce* the arrival of John, but John *announces *the coming of the Lord Jesus.
His ministry consisted largely of baptizing and proclaiming repentance and confession for the forgiveness of sins.
John had a very successful preaching ministry.
The text reads that “all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan.”
Obviously, this does not mean every single person was repenting and being baptized.
This is a common figure of speech to communicate how great the impact of his ministry.
This is important information.
The mention of “Jerusalem” here is significant.
This suggests that John’s ministry drew attention from some of the ruling elite from the temple in Jerusalem.
And the mention of the country of Judea suggest that it was not merely impacting the city, but the countryside as well.
This ministry really did draw people from all over.
It was making a big impact.
The fact that people had to leave the cities and country to travel to the wilderness communicates that true discipleship involves withdrawal from the world and sacrifice.
John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
This does not mean that baptism causes or effects the forgiveness of sin.
Rather it is a baptism of repentance /on the basis of /the forgiveness of sins.
So it is a baptism that communicates one’s repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
When one repents, they are forgiven their sins.
And then they are baptized as a response to communicate this act of God.
Now many may have different understandings of what repentance is – or perhaps no understanding.
So, to be clear, we need to define it.
“Repentance” refers to a change of mind and a turning away.
This is understood as conversion.
When a person understands the good news of Jesus and his work on the cross on our behalf, we are convinced of its truthfulness and our need to act on that truth.
Note that this does not refer to a fuzzy feeling or emotional experience.
Though these too can occur.
It is a change of the mind which is acted upon.
It is both a supernatural and rational occurrence.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and our need for salvation by pointing us to the truths of Scripture and opening our eyes to them.
And when we understand our inability to save ourselves and the great love of our Saviour in his substitutionary death, this should, and often will, overwhelm us with emotion.
Repentance involves a change in our thinking.
This then leads to forgiveness of sins and makes us righteous in his sight.
I will refrain from preaching a sermon on baptism at this point because I don’t think it is what is emphasized in this text.
I mentioned a couple minutes ago that the success of John’s ministry here is important.
I believe that Mark has set up a “lesser to greater” argument here.
Let me explain.
He began by telling us that the messenger, the new Elijah would come in fulfillment of Scripture.
Mark then tells us the extent of his ministry.
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