Sunday 10 January 2021


This week’s gospel reading come from the 1st Chapter of Mark

In verse 1, Mark focuses on the actual beginning of the gospel, showing the fulfilment of God’s promises to help his people, spoken by the prophet Isaiah (40.v3) and Malachi (3v1). 

"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 'Behold I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."'

 John is preparing the way by telling the wonderful story about Jesus and him being the Son of God. Jesus would come and proclaim the gospel.

It will prove to be a wonderful story of him who would heal the sick of many illnesses, lead his people to find salvation, raise the dead, and finally end his life by dying on a wooden Cross, the most prolonged and cruel death devised by man, to earn salvation for all who accepted him as Saviour.

John lived in a wilderness calling on the people to repent of all sin and turn to God for forgiveness, for  God hates sin and will not have sinners in heaven. Repentance then could lead to baptism; this baptism was not the means by which our sins are forgiven, but a sign showing we have repented and accepted that when Jesus died on that Cross he was doing so to pay the debt we owed to God for the way we had acted against the teaching of both God and Jesus. We were claiming Jesus as our Saviour.

Here was a clear and unmistakably way of becoming a (true)Christian, bearing no resemblance to what has become a modern day charade, when people are asked to present themselves at Church at a given time and date, without them ever being told the meaning of baptism. It may help to add numbers, but it is an affront to God.


The Jews understood baptism well. They understood far better than many today the symbolic meaning of baptism. Baptism symbolized the washing away of the past and the beginning of a new life. It is the symbol of a totally new man coming forth. It was such a powerful symbol that under Jewish law, he was considered a Jew. He could, if he wanted, marry a Jewish wife. The first child born after his baptism was called the firstborn son, even though the couple might have had five other sons previously.

But John wasn't baptizing Gentiles. John was baptizing Jews. It says, in verse 4, that he was "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." John's baptism indicated that the person had repented and received God's forgiveness, that he was now coming forth a new person in order to live a new life. It's all a part of repentance.

.John's message was also one of forgiveness. You see, when you repent, you are forgiven. This is a basic fundamental reality we Christians need to see clearly. Many of our problems would be solved if only we saw and lived by this truth.

People first acknowledged they were not living in a way acceptable to God, they then confessed so and repented, asking for forgiveness from God. By repent it is meant a genuine feeling of regret, coupled with a determination to change the way of living.  This makes a mockery of what is meant by baptism now, which most people think is the naming of a child, which is done when the child is registered at the Registry Office.

We ask people if they repent of their sins when we often know they do not and have no intention of doing so, and then pronounce the baby is ‘born again’.  How can a baby be born again? This term is one taken from the words of Jesus, and is cherished by evangelical believers as a sign of new spiritual faith. Here in this Chapter is spelled out in clear language; confess, repent, believe, and until a person has enough intelligence to understand so, baptism can have no meaning.

John was a powerful preacher, speaking with conviction and without any fear or favour. Many people walked miles from Jerusalem and all Judea into the wilderness to hear John, such was the power and reputation he had created and were baptized by him. How many times I have been told not to talk about sin and judgement, make people happy and well.  If people just want to feel happy and well they can go to a doctor or a comedian, but many people feel very happy singing hymns. (really)

There is no doubt that the people came to John because his message had a deep appeal to them. They willingly made the trek from the surrounding countryside to hear this strange preacher. . He did not live like other men. The Bible teaches us that he clothed himself in a garment of camel's hair and that he ate locusts and wild honey. No doubt, some came in curiosity.   They were moved for several reasons.

The Bible quotes Paul saying, ’woe unto you if men speak well of you. John spoke plainly of the judgement to come, of God’s wrath, and Jesus always spoke of two eternal destinies, heaven or hell, and people either listened and were saved, or departed from him.  We should take the example of John the Baptist and never be ashamed to speak the truth of Christ, remembering the words of Paul to Timothy, ‘do not have a spirit of timidity. A plain Bible speaking preacher I a friend to you, and is not trying to frighten you.

People were attracted to John's message because John spoke to of sin. While many like to deny the reality of sin, it is still there.  In their hearts they feel the burden of it, and it worries them. Who hasn't felt the sting of conscience at impure thoughts and wrong actions?

Our souls are equipped with conscience, but that conscience can become dim, and sin weighs heavily on us.  Concern is mounting at the number of suicides, exacerbated at this time by the pandemic. Some people are tempted to the psychiatrists' couch in an attempt to alleviate this terrible burden, something I have never understood for what I have seen of psychiatrists would make me feel worse.

. They will tell you the real problem is the "guilt feelings" you are must  not worry there are no absolutes, no right or wrong. What's right for you is right for you. What's right for me is right for me. you can quit feeling guilty. As a result, many in our day fix the blame on someone else for their behaviour. Even if there is a whisper of truth in that, the fact remains that you are still responsible for your behaviour before God. And the reason why you feel guilty, generally, is because you are guilty. But guilt is a heavy burden.

In the midst of all this, we desperately desire freedom  " Some have all they want and are not satisfied. They are full of sin and empty without God. That is why things do not satisfy. These people are described as "having everything they ever wanted but not wanting what they had." They are dissatisfied because they are empty. They live in  a spiritual wilderness.

Such were those of John's day. And that is why they came to John. They had a desire to be free. For that reward, no price would be too high. So they came, and came, and came. Out into the hot, dusty, parched desert, they came. John's message drew them because it spoke to this universal need. And they wanted to hear what he had to say. So they came to this desert place, hoping to hear something that would set them free.

Not only did John's message speak to a universal need, but John's message also offered hope. The word was out. People were finding relief. This wild man of the wilderness was preaching and baptizing and they were finding relief. So they came.

 Not only did John's message have certain appealing elements which attracted the people. But it also had a certain authority. He spoke as one who was telling the truth. He was telling it like it was.. And in a day when people soft-pedal the truth, it is exceedingly refreshing to find a man who stands for something and will tell you exactly what he believes. John was such a man.

John's message was one of repentance. He called them to turn from their sins. A change of heart and behaviour was required. You see, that is what repentance really is. This is why, on one occasion, he dressed down the Scribes and Pharisees for coming to him. He told them to show some evidence of their repentance because they had shown now sincerity in truly repenting from the heart. They had shown no "fruit" of repentance.

There is a great need for true biblical repentance in the church of Jesus Christ today. Repentance is necessary, not only to come to Christ; repentance is necessary for Christians to maintain a close relationship with Christ. Repentance, at its essence, means both a change of mind and a change of behaviour. It means that we turn from our ways because we have been convinced by God that they are wrong. It means that we confess our sins, that we humble ourselves before God, that we lay down our pride and bow before Him.

Our sins are put away from us by repentance. This is what it means to be forgiven by God. When He forgives, he puts our sins as far away from Him as east is from west.. We become free from sin and guilt. We are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We are made righteous in God’s sight, we are justified, just as if we had never sinned.

John's message was one of new life in Christ. You see, John was only the forerunner to lead us to Christ. He knew that his ministry was one of pointing to the coming Messiah. That is why he said that he was unworthy to even untie the laces of Christ's sandals. This was a job reserved for the lowliest servant. John saw that his message was only a beginning. He was only baptizing with water, but there would come One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. He would complete what John had started. John would fade into the background as Christ came into the foreground. Only Jesus could take us into the Kingdom. . That is His desire. That is your destiny. This is what God intends for your life. And that is good news.  .

The passage ends with Jesus seeking baptism from John.  This was done for Jesus to show he identified with us in his human form, and was able to face all we do.  He got tired and weary, was hungry and even got angry at times when it was justified. This did not in any way diminish his divine role; he was God on earth, and would perform all that God his Father sent him to do

In the manner of John  the Church has a duty to teach the gospel as laid down in the Bible, and not vary in any way.  Not to be blown into every new spiritual wind of fashion wo that we drift from our moorings.  Hold fast to the anchor of the gospel, once and for all time given by the Apostles from the Lord himself,  You and I must contend to the truth, and never let anyone tell you do not count, you count tremendously, so glory in what God has called you to do and be faithful to His Word.


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