Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Follow Me" My Authority (Part 1)

During the month of May, many people all over the country graduate from many types of schools having attained various levels of education. But while graduation brings one type of freedom to many, it brings a new level of responsibility to most. And that responsibility is still directed by some level of authority. The authority may be in the form of new professors, new coaches, or new bosses, but some level of authority remains. The question is how do you let that authority guide you? Do you rebel? Do you cherish it? Ultimately, how you respond to these individuals can say a lot about how you respond to the one with true authority – God. After all, He is the author – so he has author-ity.

And Jesus, the Son of God (and, indeed, God in the flesh) had authority. In fact, it as an authority that was unparalleled in the first century. For Jesus, the base was Capernaum. And this is the setting for the message this week as we look at the authority of Jesus.

Jesus had the authority to teach.

Jesus begins by teaching in the synagogue. This was not because He was Jesus, or because He was a “pastor.” It was because He was a layman. Scribes could teach, and so could laymen if they had established some credibility. Teaching in the synagogue was done while sitting on what was called the Moses Seat. The chief aim of the teaching was to present an understanding of Scripture. Now, we must understand that this meant the Old Testament. This is obvious on the one hand, but easy to miss on the other. We look back with the truth of the New Testament at our fingertips, but the pages were not yet written. Indeed, at least physically, Jesus was in the process of providing the stories that were to be recorded. We cannot overlook this fact.

Mark does not provide any details for what Jesus was teaching on this day. To Mark, what was being taught was unimportant, and I think we can learn something from that. We do not come to worship Jesus because of what He said or what He did. Those things are important, but what is most important is who He was – and who He is! What He taught and what He did emanate from who He is.

What Mark does provide is a detail that Jesus’ teaching was different (v. 22). Jesus was not discussing what others thought (which is what the Scribes usually did). Jesus taught as if He knew what Scripture really meant. Of course He did, because He is the living Word of God, just as Scripture is the written Word of God.

As we turn to the next section notice that happens while Jesus is teaching.

Side Note: So what gives me, or other teachers any authority today? This question is all the more valid because the Scribes knew far more about the Torah – the first five books in our Bible, than I may about any one part of the Bible. In fact, they were experts in the Torah, highly respected, and their word was binding. It has been suggested that their power was greater than the high priest – at least, in function. But what makes me different, and you as well if you have your faith in Jesus, is that they did not have the constant presence, if any presence, of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 14.26). That does not mean that I understand everything perfectly, but it does mean that I, and you, can interpret the Scriptures by the same power that inspired them (2 Timothy 3.16).

Jesus had authority over demons.

While Jesus is teaching, a man, who is obviously demon-possessed, shows himself. Now what is important here is that Jesus was teaching, not looking for a fight. But this man, possessed by multiple demons (notice the word “us” in verse 24) appears to be infringed upon. The statement, “What have you to do with us?” is basically like saying, “Why are you here? We aren’t bothering anything.”

What we can gather is that this group of demons was comfortable in the synagogue. It was their home. Per the law, the man should not have even been in the synagogue because he was unclean. That was not a concern for these demons apparently or they would not have been so bold in this gathering place.

The demons refer to Jesus as the Holy One of God. This is very significant. One belief in that day was that the use of the name of a spiritual adversary gave you control over it. So, the demon states who Jesus is, correctly mind you, thinking they would have the upper hand against Jesus. However, Jesus reveals that true power does not require calling them by name. Nor does Jesus need any special incantations or magic phrases. He simply tells the demonic presence to be quiet and leave. This is not a request. Rather it is a strong command. The demon has no choice but to leave – and to be silent. The demons shriek, but it is not understandable. (I will cover this idea of silence below.)

So, Jesus was teaching and the devil was looking to disrupt the situation, but Jesus did the disrupting! If you are scoring at home, this makes the score – Jesus 2, Devil 0 (the first being in the wilderness).

Jesus had the authority to heal.

The next small part mentions the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. (This miracle is one reason that I believe that Peter is the story-teller in Mark’s account of the gospel.) The text provides evidence that Peter was married which makes the Catholic understanding (that priests must be single) more difficult to explain. A couple of Catholic resources I checked suggest that Peter had been married before Jesus called him, so, in essence, he was a widower and was not married when He began His journey with Christ. This sounds reasonable other than Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9, which suggests that a woman is present with Peter. Some Catholics suggest this was his sister, although one of the great early church leaders, Clement of Alexandria, writes that Peter was married, had children, and she was actually a martyr for her faith (which Peter witnessed).

Speculation aside, what we do know is that he did have a mother-in-law whether he was still married or a widower. We also know that Jesus healed her. This, too, is significant because she is female. HE (Jesus) touched HER (generally forbidden in those days, especially for a rabbi) and she was lifted up. The words “lifted up” are the same Greek word (egeiro) used of Jesus rising from the dead. The text does not say she was dead, but she may have been very ill, perhaps near death. But by the touch of Jesus, she was healed.

Her response to her healing? She began to serve. Some use this text to show that women should serve men. However, the word is the same word that Jesus uses in Mark 10.45 to show a purpose in His coming – to serve. Really, it is service that is the mark of discipleship as we will see later in Mark 9 and 10. We also musts not overlook that her service is on the Sabbath (see verse 21). In fact, we see, in verse 32, all kinds of people showed up to for healing after sundown. Why? Because they could not walk very far (nor expect to be healed) before the Sabbath ended, which brings us to our last portion of the this week’s teaching section.

Jesus had authority over the Sabbath.

What a busy day! But that day was the Sabbath. It was permissible to teach, but the exorcism of demons and the healing of the woman should not have been. However, Jesus reveals His authority over the Sabbath with these healings. A closer look at how the Sabbath was understood at this time in history may help. The Sabbath had become a symbol of the true rest (eternal rest), and peace (shalom) that is to come – and will begin when the Messiah comes. Therefore, Jesus is showing that God’s peace and rest (the true Sabbath – or Shabbat) has come upon them. Sickness, disease, death, and demons are no match for the Kingdom of God. God created. God rested. But now God is restoring – and bringing in a perfect rest and peace – and doing so on the Shabbat).

As we conclude this passage, we see in verse 34 that, again, Jesus did not allow the demons to speak – “because they knew Him.” Doesn’t that seem a little odd? He says the same to some of the people He heals as well (see verse 44, next week). So why did Jesus tell the demons to be silent?

Some have suggested that it has to do with secrecy. In fact, one claim that pervaded much of the twentieth century was that Jesus did not know He was the Messiah. Except Jesus does say so later. My thought, and I am far from alone on this, has to do with the nature of demons. Remember demons are the minions of Satan, whom Jesus refers to elsewhere as the Father of Lies. So even though the demons rightfully know who Jesus is, being liars themselves, they would spread false testimony about Him.

As for the people being told to be quiet, Jesus did not want people to come to Him only for what they thought He might do for them (as a miracle-worker). Rather He wanted to be able to do what He truly came for – to have them believe in Him as the Son of God that they might be truly healed (redeemed) from their sin.

True Authority: Caesar or Jesus?

As we prepare to conclude this post, we have overlooked two key verses – 27 and 28. The people knew authority – or, at least, they think they did.

If you recall, on the first week of this series, I mentioned that Mark wrote this account of the gospel to the Romans. Thus, Mark was writing to a people who believed that all authority belonged to Caesar. Mark shows, however, that what man considers authority often lacks in comparison to what real authority is. God is the author, and therefore the author-ity is His. It was on full display in the person of Jesus. And it was unlike anything these people had imagined, for they exclaimed, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!”

They were amazed. Essentially, when Jesus speaks, something happens. His word and deed are one. The fame of this man spread quickly and people wanted to be near Him – whether for healing, for teaching, or some other perceived need – they wanted to see this man – Yeshua.

In Rome people would come out to see and worship Caesar. Likewise, in Galilee, people came from far and wide to see Jesus. But did they know Him? They believed He existed. They believed in what He could do. But was He their miracle man or their Savior? More importantly, who is He to you?

The reality is that Jesus was unknown to everyone at this time except the enemy. The disciples were learning who Jesus was. The debilitated and diseased knew He had power. And Jesus proved that no disease was beyond healing. But only the demons truly knew who He was. They addressed Him by title. Yet, they are still bound to hell.

So, the question for each of us is: Do you know about Him? Or do you know Him?


Our JOURNEY letter for today is: J – Jesus.

The authority Mark refers to is not just to prove that Jesus is God. It is to show that Jesus’ message, as we saw last week in verse 15, is real. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s Kingdom had come. It was time to repent (turn from the old) and believe (turn to God). Satan has dominion over this world (2 Corinthians 4.3-4), but he is no match for God when His reign is realized.


Opportunity: Jesus authority did not prevent Him from showing compassion. People brought the sick and oppressed to Him because of what they saw in Him. How can our compassion toward others help them recognize the authority of Jesus?

So, what about our next steps? How can we maximize the opportunities God provides for us?

Learn – Determine the needs of others.
Live – Find ways to help meet the needs of others.
Love – Seek to understand the deeper need in each situation, including any spiritual need.
Lead – Find ways of meeting more the immediate needs by sharing Christ’s love.
(Leave) – Prepare those you are helping to properly care for themselves for when you are not there.

Jesus has the authority. The question is what do we do with that truth. What will you do today?

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Follow Me"...When I Call

Do you remember elementary school? The idea of school itself brings back many memories. But in elementary school we learned some harsh lessons. Perhaps, few were as harsh as the idea of being chosen for some team. Of course, some people had plenty of different skills and would be chosen first. Others were close friends and would be chosen next. But regardless of what the game or event was, someone always has to be picked last. And, let’s face it, most of the time, most everyone knew who that would be before the choices even began. Each time that person’s self-esteem dropped a little more, and a little more, and well, some never recover.

What if Jesus was like that? He could be. And, if we didn’t know anything about Him other than He was God or the King, then we might say He should be that way. But He wasn’t. And He isn’t. And we will see that today as we look at the next few verses of Mark 1. This week’s focus in on two main ideas. Jesus came proclaiming (preaching) the gospel and He called His first disciples. 

The Message: The gospel of God

Jesus began by preaching the good news. And Jesus is the good news. Again, looking back over 2000 years, we may realize this fact, but imagine being there in that day. Imagine someone standing before you each week and telling you that s/he is the fulfillment of God’s plan. The message shared by this person is “If you put your faith in me, then you will have eternal joy with God forever.” This was the message of Jesus. And this was the message about Jesus. John preached this message and verse 14 says that he was arrested. The word here (Greek – paradidomi) means to be “handed over” or “delivered.” It is the same word that is used of Jesus being betrayed by Judas. It is also the same word that Mark uses to convey that the apostles will be handed over and put on trial.

What scares me about this word is that “handed over” carries the connotation that it was done by someone familiar, someone known, and perhaps even trusted. That was true of Judas for Jesus. And it may be true for some reading this post. The days are coming quickly when the same message that got John and Jesus arrested and killed, the same message that got James and Peter and Paul and other disciples/apostles arrested and killed, will be the same message that gets me and you arrested and potentially killed.

I am not trying to be melodramatic. I am trying to be honest. This message is the good news of God, but much of mankind doesn’t like God’s news. Why? Well, not because of the first part of verse 15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” Many people view this as simply a time of prosperity and joy. But the latter part of verse 15, gives us the reality of how the former part is realized: “Repent and believe in the gospel.”

As I mentioned last week, John preached repentance. Repentance is to turn from something. We talk about the need to turn from our sin, which is true. But repentance is actually more. It is to turn or change our mind about how we are living. The disciples Jesus called (below) repented and followed. We don’t know that they were sinning. We just know that they left the nets (repenting of their current way of life) to follow Jesus. But repentance is only the first step. Not only must we turn from the old, we must turn to the new. That is belief. Or trust. This is the part that mankind dislikes. “Don’t make me give up what I want to do, and I will be fine.” But Jesus says, we must give up ourselves for the sake of another. And that other is Him.

So Jesus has come to announce that the wait is over. The time is at hand. God has returned to visit His people. But where does He do it? In Jerusalem? No. In Galilee – the slums of Israel (as the those in Jerusalem thought. And the message is one that, if you believed it, you would be ready to take on the world. So what does Jesus do? He takes a stroll along the lake and talks to some fishermen. This makes me laugh. Now fishermen were very important in that day, but this goes back to my opening example. If you were going to change the world, who would you pick first – fishermen?

But that’s what Jesus does. He calls two sets of brothers. Mark doesn’t give us any indication that they knew who Jesus was, but other accounts do. In fact, combing through various verses in both Luke and John, I think it is a strong possibility, that Jesus was cousins with James and John and that is why they knew it was time to follow. And being business partners with Andrew and Simon, they would have expected this moment as well. One quick point about these men. Most people tend to think that the disciples were poor, but Zebedee owned a boat, and had hired servants, so James and John, at least, were from a somewhat wealthy family. Next month, I will show why that probably led to some conflict. But for now, let us turn to the words that Jesus used to call these men.

The Calling: The inclusion of man

In the introductory example, I used the idea of being picked for a team. But Jesus didn’t just pick up, He called us. So what is a calling? I will further define that below under the section entitled “I will make,” but for now I present a definition from Os Guinness.

“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction live out as a response to his summons and service.”
– Os Guinness

So, what was Jesus call? I will break down the components from Mark 1.17 here.

Follow Me

We have accounts in the Old Testament of God calling people as well. For instance, in Genesis 12.1, God commanded Abram to go, from his land, from his father, and to a place that God would show Him. Essentially, the command is the same – Follow Me. And then God provides a new outlook. Abram will be blessed and those who bless Abram will be blessed. The same is true for the disciples of Jesus. They will experience untold blessing by following Jesus, but most, if not all, of those blessings will not happen in this lifetime. And truly we want it that way. Without a doubt we have wants and desires in this lifetime, but even when these wants are fulfilled, we are left for wanting more. Honestly, we should rather want any blessings later (as in the next life) so that we can enjoy them for eternity?

Just like God chose Abram, Jesus chose these men. This is a deviation from the pattern of the day because usually a young boy (age 12) would choose a rabbi to follow, not the other way around. If the boy did not choose to follow a rabbi, he would return home to learn a trade – usually that of his father. But Jesus chose these men, because He wasn’t just a rabbi. Jesus was also prophet and had a different level of authority (as we will see the next three weeks).

I Will Make

A call is to attach yourself to a person or cause and then imitate them or carry out the cause. But to heed the call of Jesus is not only about imitating, it is about letting Him do the making. And why not, according to this verse, He has promised to make us. And, of course, He is the Creator of all things as well (Colossians 1.16). The word Mark uses here for “make” is the Greek word poieo, which is a root for our English word poem or poetry. Have you ever considered your life a poem? You have likely heard someone way, perhaps about you, “Well they sure are a piece of work!” Well, you are. You are God’s handy-work! And the fact is that He is not done with you yet. He is still making and molding you. Sometimes it is painful, and sometimes it is bittersweet. But the finished product will be beautiful if we allow Him to finish because He is the master. He created the world. He is preparing a place for you, but most importantly He is making, and re-making, you into exactly what He needs you to be.

You Become

Frankly, most of us wouldn’t mind Jesus re-making us, but we want to give Him the instructions and the time-frame. Fortunately, that is not our place. And we would miss out on so much if we did. Consider these two sets of brothers. Would they have ever considered themselves to be a part of the greatest movement in history? Probably not. But Jesus saw potential in them that they didn’t see in themselves. And the same is true for us. Jesus sees what we are capable of accomplishing even when we don’t think we have anything to offer. But let me clarify one aspect of this calling and becoming. The “you” here is plural. Our faith is personal, and our call may be unique. But a part of the calling, the making, and the becoming is about being in community. The New Testament doesn’t teach that faith is a private matter. Again, to choose one’s set of beliefs is an individual decision, and may include times of solitude or even isolation. But such a faith should not leave us there. Consider the instances of isolation in Scripture. For Jesus it was in the wilderness being tested, in Gethsemane praying, etc. And even in all of these places, except the wilderness, others were nearby (and angels tended to Jesus in the wilderness.

So why was Jesus walking along the shoreline? He was starting a new community. Jesus started His ministry by forming a community of nobodies to follow the Somebody so that anybody and everybody might know Him.

Fishers of Men

Why fishermen? The easy answer, and it is truthful, is that God often uses our past for His purposes in the future. But, as usual, the Bible has more to say about this. And we are looking at this story from a Jewish perspective so let’s examine what a couple of Old Testament writings have to say.

First, the sea (and even water) can represent a mysterious and deadly place.

“You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.”
– Psalm 74.13

Secondly, to be rescued from the water is to be rescued from impending doom as in the first chapter of Jonah, and for Jonah himself in chapter 2. But a couple of other passages relate fishing to the pending doom.

“Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them.”
– Jeremiah 16.16

“The Lord has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.”
– Amos 4.2

And doom is what fishing is to a fish. If a fish gets hooked, its doom is certain. Unless, the one who catches the fish has mercy upon it. For a true fish, that mercy would mean being thrown back. But for a person, that mercy means you have escaped the coming doom. This is what a fisher of men must do. Fish, so as to catch some, and then show God’s mercy so a man doesn’t want to jump back in.

Let me provide one further thought relating John the baptizer and Jesus to the idea of a fisherman. Where does a fisherman go to fish? To the water. John the baptizer was near the water, but the people were going to him. But Jesus went to the people. Because a fishermen doesn’t just go anywhere to fish, he goes to where the fish are. And that’s why Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

A Difference in Principles

Much more could be said about this small section of verses, and it likely will be as we have just begun our journey through Mark’s account of the gospel. But for now, we must understand is that Mark 1.17 is the entire basis of this series. It encompasses the entire cycle of discipleship. And when combined with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11.1 to “Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ,” we see it is still applicable for people living after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

While the call for follow is still applicable, each person’s calling is unique. Andrew and Simon left their nets. James and John left their father as well. Mary and Martha never left Bethany. But all had their own part in following Jesus. Today, we may be called to leave our homes, our families, our jobs, etc. In some ways, this isn’t as big a challenge in our day because we live in a society that is so individualistic and one that is particularly connected. Telephones, cars, and other technological advances make it much easier to remain in contact with people than it has been in the past – especially the ancient past.

But regardless of however our calling may be unique, the command is to make disciples (Matthew 28.18-20). We are called to fish for men and women and then help them to then fish for others. Again, this is not an option. Jesus makes this perfectly clear, but many people live by a different principle. One principle that is fairly well-known is the Pareto Principle. The principle suggests that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input source. This principle is well established in many ways, and is evident in many churches (as well as other organizations). The form it takes is that 80% of the work is accomplished by 20% of the people. But, imagine for just a minute, a church in which 100% of the people were following Jesus and making disciples. What kind of church would that be? I assure you it is a church that I would want to be a part of, and many others would too. And whichever side of the 20% you believe yourself to be currently, remember you didn’t choose God, God chose you because of some untapped potential He saw. And thus, the question is, how do you respond?


And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is: OObserve.

When Jesus calls, we must be ready. Because it is only when we choose to follow Jesus that we can truly know who He truly is and thus find out who we are truly meant to be.

Opportunity: Hear His call and respond. It is time to follow Jesus and learn to fish – for men!


So, what about our next steps?

Learn – “Follow Me.” Jesus words to follow are not an invitation. They are a command. Learn to follow Jesus in all His ways by studying His Word.

Live“I will make” – Remember, Jesus is the do-er here. We must remain open and willing, but He is the potter and we are the clay. Are you willingly let Him mold you? If not, your resistance is probably causing you more pain than is required.

Love“You become” – This is the painful process as we are truly remolded. But as we are, we find ourselves more capable of what Jesus want from us – including be able to love others. Who do you need to better love today?

Lead“Fishers of men” – If Jesus has made you, this is the output. His promise is to make you into a fisher of men, so when we aren’t doing this, it is either because we don’t know Jesus, or we are suppressing His work in our lives. Choose someone to lead you as you also lead others.

(Leave) In our passage today, Jesus was just beginning His public ministry. But He knew the time was short and He had to prepare others to continue before it was time for Him to leave. Who are you preparing to fill your shoes when your time to depart is at hand?

Friday, May 6, 2016

"Follow Me" Preparation for Ministry

Consider how many people get paid to speculate in today’s world. Maybe you are one of them. Really speculation is giving giving an opinion about what might be true in the present or even what might happen in the future. The “experts” are usually well-informed on a particular subject but that does not mean they know what will happen, or even exactly why something has happened. Consider some of the questions of this last week? What will the economy do next? Who will my favorite football team pick in the draft? How will the public react to Target’s new bathroom policy?

Of course, Christians share their thoughts, or beliefs, on certain theologically topics as well – and the interpretations are often quite different. For instance, a topic like the Second Coming of Jesus will draw a lot of attention. Hopefully, in such a conversation, the Bible is our source, but many opinions exist over when Jesus will come, whether Christians will be on the earth when He does, and what might happen in the meantime.

But imagine if the internet had existed back in the days of Jesus (Yeshua). Imagine the speculation about who this “guy” was. The questions about His identity would have been as rampant then as some questions are in our day. But if you were a Jew, you couldn’t afford to be wrong – your very religion and culture depended on it. Was this man the Messiah? Well, that was an important issue! But was this man God? That was heresy, or so they thought. But He was. And yet He needed to be properly prepared for His ministry. This post will explore that process as recorded by Mark in verses 2-13.

A Quick Synopsis

If you want to skip the details (but there are some good ones), here is a quick snapshot which could allow you to skip down to JOURNEY.
  • John prepared the way for God to step onto the stage in the person of Yeshua.
  • Baptism was the official anointing of Yeshua as Messiah (anointed one).
  • The Spirit led Jesus to be tested, in part to show Jesus He was strong enough to be victorious, in part to show the Father that He was worthy, and in part to better identify with the challenges we often face. 

John was preparing for the Way (Mk 1.2-8)

The passage begins with a combination of Old Testament verses which Mark linked together. The verses describe one coming to prepare the way for the arrival of someone. But the texts that Mark uses clearly depict the one coming to be God. And Mark is claiming that these verses support the coming of Jesus. Of course, Mark has just claimed that Jesus is the Son of God (verse 1), and as we shall soon see, God makes the same claim from the heavens.

Now John was no more a Baptist than Jesus was a Christian. But John did baptize, and thus was the baptizer. (And Jesus/Yeshua was the Christ, not a Christian). John began his ministry near the Dead Sea but went northward at times, which is where he likely baptized Jesus. Now the idea of cleansing was not new, nor was being immersed in the water, but the way John did it was different. Remember John is from a priestly family, so he was clearly accustomed to temple practices. His baptism would have been clearly seen as a new approach compared to the temple. (Victory of God, NT Wright, 160)

But John’s way of baptism was more than about a new way, it was about repentance. The word repentance (Greek – metanoia) means “to turn” or a “change of mind.” A part of the reason John was in the desert was to have people get away from their everyday lives and the influence of the temple. His baptism, with water, was a call to turn from sin, but the baptism to come (by the Holy Spirit) was to turn to God, or as we would say Jesus. This is remarkable, because it links the one coming to God – again connecting Jesus to God as Mark had in verses 2 and 3.

The prophetic words that Mark chose were a reminder to those living in the first century that God had not spoken through the prophets for four hundred years. But this one who would prepare the way, John the baptizer, came with a message from God. Effectively John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, but he was also the first of the New Testament preachers (Life of Christ, Anderson, 103). But not only is John preaching, he is also doing something NEW – baptizing.

One more item before we leave John. In verse 7, John makes the claim that the one who will come is so much greater than he is that he is unworthy to until the sandals of Jesus. That may be true, but let me tell you how far John dug with this statement. The concept he is using here was the custom of a Gentile slave to his master. The Jews thought that the Gentiles were no better than a dog and used that word to talk about them. So, John, who was thought of very highly by most of the common people, was saying that he was less important than the slave of one of the people called dogs. And yet, John baptizes Jesus!

God is pleased with the Way (Mk 1.9-11)

The baptism of Yeshua was a critical component in His life, and it helped define the church for the rest of the 1st Century. Some people will argue that they do not need to be baptized. That is true, for the thief on the cross was not baptized. But that is the exception. Baptism does not save us, but if baptism was unimportant, why did Jesus do it? In Romans 6, Paul writes our baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua. But what did His do for us? Yeshua being baptized helps us to know that He identifies with us. But this moment was critical. Let me provide you two reasons: Jesus thinks it is important. Peter thinks it is important.
  • When religious leaders questioned Jesus’ authority, He counters by referring to John baptizing, including an inference that John baptized Jesus (Mk 11.27-33).
  • Peter suggested Judas’ replacement should come from those with Jesus since His baptism (Acts 1.22).

These two statements, by Jesus and by Peter, do not need interpretation to see that John baptizing, and Jesus being baptized had a level of significance to the people of that day, and should for us as well. But let’s dig into some theology for just a second, which does mean we need to interpret this passage.

a) The Trinity is clearly present. In last week’s first post, I mentioned that Mark used the Greek word arche in verse 1 for “beginning.” This is the same word that is used in Genesis 1.1 in the Greek version of the Old Testament. Thus, we can see that the Trinity was present at Creation (based upon Genesis 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1) as well as at Jesus baptism. Moreover, in the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Targums, which is what most Jews would have read in Jesus’ time), Genesis 1.2 says the Spirit fluttered like a dove over the face of the water, which is the same thing that happens here in Mark 1.10.

b) The heavens were torn open. Again, Rick mentioned this, but this is not the only time Mark uses this word (Gk – schizo). He only uses it one other time – when Jesus died and the curtain was torn in two (Mark 15.38). So, the heavens were torn open to show God’s glory upon His Son, and the curtain was torn in two in order to show God was now accessible to all man.

c) God speaks from the entire Old Testament when blessing His Son. The Jews refer to the Old Testament Scriptures as the Tanakh. The Tanakh has three parts: the Torah (books of Moses), the Writings (history, wisdom books), and the Prophets (all prophetic books). The Jews believed that anything that was found in all parts was especially important. But God not only uses all three parts, He interweaves them into one congruent statement, showing the His Son, Yeshua, fulfills all of the previous writings.

Artwork from the church at the
home of John the baptizer
erroneously showing
Jesus being sprinkled

d) The truth about baptism. The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek. The verb root is baptizo which means to “dip fully, plunge, or immerse.” The Hebrew word is tabal which also means to fully immerse. Unfortunately, many depictions of Jesus’ baptism show a sprinkling or pouring (both of which have Greek words, but were not used). The mode of baptism may be secondary to the act of baptism, but if Jesus was immersed, I do not understand why some teach otherwise?

Additionally, Scripture says that Jesus came up out of the water, which some say is like climbing out of the pool, but there is much more to this. However, let me just show you how Mark juxtaposed two ideas here. First, I must explain that the word translated “on” in most translations can be translated “in” or “into” as well. The Greek word is “eis” and here is translated as “the Spirit descended on Him.”  But I think “into” fits better here. If we use into, we see that Jesus came out of the water and the Spirit came “into” Him (cf. John 3), leading Jesus “into” the wilderness.

Moving away from the theology, let me just say that: The baptism is a very significant moment in the life and ministry of Jesus. The empowerment by the Spirit to be God’s Servant, and the declaration from heaven, “‘You are my Son,’” enable Jesus not only to speak and act for God but as God. And with that we move to the next point.

Yeshua proved He is the Way (Mk 1.12-13)

Moving to the next set of verses (verses 11 and 12) most readers are distracted by the headings included in many bibles. No such separation was intended by Mark who reveals what the the Spirit does next – He drove Jesus into the wilderness. The word “drove” is the same word for when Jesus drives demons out of people. The Spirit that empowers the Son for ministry now tests him to determine whether he will use his divine Son-ship for his own advantage or submit himself in obedience to God.

Jesus undergoes three temptations (“tested” would be a better understanding) – one each based on 1 John 2.15-17. But it wasn’t just Jesus that was tempted in this way, we all are. And it began with Adam. It is interesting to note that immediately after the Triune God completes the work at Creation and calls it very good, a temptation ensues (Genesis 3. And then, immediately following the Triune God being reveals at the baptism, temptation ensures (Matthew 4; Mark 1; Luke 4;  John 1).

The challenges for Jesus were physical (e.g. the wild animals) and spiritual (the wilderness was often considered a place of demons, and Satan is present). As I mentioned last week, Mark was written to the Romans, so it is likely that the idea of the wild animals is an allusion to the challenges Christians in Mark’s day faced when being fed to the animals for sport, especially under the reign of Nero.

Ultimately, Jesus had to be tested (James 1 says God tempts no one) to know who He was before He could call others to do the work. Likewise, in a few verses, which we will review next week, we will see the disciples being called, and they had to learn who Jesus was before they were willing to do the work.


And that is why our JOURNEY letter for this week is: N - Nurture.

As we nurture one another – in both faith and service, we are blessed with partners in ministry, others are blessed by being involved in ministering, and God is blessed because His church is fulfilling its purpose in making disciples.


Opportunity: Seize the opportunity that God has given you. That little excuse you hear is Satan tempting you (usually successfully) to not get involved, not follow through on your God-given call.

So, what about our next steps?

LEARN God’s truths. Matthew’s account provides details about the time of testing showing Jesus defeated Satan by knowing the Word of God. Take some time to learn from Scripture this week because Satan will try to disrupt you from living out God’s plan for your life.

LIVE obediently. Again, Matthew provides a detail about Jesus’ baptism that Mark omits (different purpose in writing). Matt 3.15 says His baptism fulfills all righteousness. Obedience cannot take short-cuts. Jesus did not really need to be baptized, but He was because God wanted Him to be. We, too, must live obediently to God and His Word.

LOVE your role. John had become prominent in position. He had the ear of the people, but he realized that He was not the Messiah. He was the one to help the people be prepared for His coming. When the time came, he graciously did his part without complaint.

LEAD expectantly. John did not know when Yeshua would come, but His message was that He would come, and the people need to 1) be ready and 2) know something greater await.

(LEAVE) room for Jesus. The apostle John writes in John 3.30 about the words of John the baptizer, who said, “He must increase; I must decrease.”  John had an important role. But ultimately Jesus had to be the key person, so John had to step aside (leave, he was actually arrested) in order for that to happen.