Friday 16 February 2024


Mark 1 v 9-15

On Sunday we will have come to the first Sunday of Lent, and all the readings are as set for this season. This week’s gospel reading comes 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 Savior.

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 Savior.

Here was a clear and unmistakable 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 woman.

The baptism of Jesus presented a problem to John. Jesus presented himself to John, who felt unable to  proceed, as Jesus had no cause to repent as he was sinless, and John could not understand why Jesus wanted to be baptized.

For thirty  years Jesus lived in Nazareth, and for part of the time did a full day’s work in his (step)father’s business and in his home. He had waited for God’s sign, and John was that sign,

In every life, there are moments when we have to  make a decision, to accept or reject something.  To accept, may be good,  to refuse might later be a regrettable act. Jesus knew when John came, it was time for him to answer the call from God.  He knew there was no confession to be made, but was determined to show the human side of his life. He new if a person had care and comfort, it was  proper to follow a course of living, which might help the poor and needy for their sake.

It was for Jesus, the moment for approval. No man lightly leaves home and sets out on an unknown way. He has to be sure he is doing the right thing. Jesus had decided about the way and his course of action, and was seeking God’s approval. The Jews in the time of Jesus, had an old saying,  by which they believed in a series of heavens, the highest was the one God sat in the light to which no man could approach.

There were rare tines when the heavens opened and God spoke, but it was so far distant, it was only the echo of God’s voice heard.

To Jesus, the voice came down directly, and this was a personal experience,, and not in any way a demonstration for the crowd.  The voice said, ’you are my beloved Son’, so speaking to Jesus. The baptism showed, Jesus submitted his decision to God, and it was approved.

For Jesus it was a moment of equipment.  The Holy Spirit descended upon him, and there is a symbolism there. The Spirit descended as a dove might descend.  But from the beginning, the picture of the Spirit was a picture of gentleness.  He will conquer the world, but the conquest will be of love.

Immediately after the baptism, there came temptations. One thing stands out, and it is too vivid to overlook.  It was the Spirit which cast out Jesus to the wilderness for the testing time.  It is impossible for us to miss being able to escape temptations, but they are not set to make us fall, but to test how we strengthen our nerve and will. They are to be tests which are to overcome, and for us to escape and become better and more capable of resisting all other hindrances.

Forty days  should shake our nerves. It gives in Hebrew, warning, of a considerable time.  Moses on the mountain with God for forty days. Elijah went on a strength of a mere angel.

It was Satan who tested Jesus. The development of the conception of Satan caused interest. In Hebrew, Satan is seen as an adversary.

In the Old Testament, it is a term for human adversaries and opponents.  The word relates to a person who pleads against another and accuses men before God.  In the New Testament, Satan at first is an emissary of God, and not the supreme enemy, but takes a downward course and later becomes God’s adversary, against all things to God

Jesus had to decide how to do his work.  He realized a tremendous task, and of tremendous power.  God was telling Jesus to take his love to men, and love them until you die, conquer them util you die on the Cross.

Mark’s brief story of the temptations, gives out two vivid touches.   The beasts were the companions of Jesus, for leopards were there in the desert with  he jackal, this adds to the terror of the story.

The Jews hoped the coming of the Messiah would create a golden era, when men and beasts come to an end of enmity. Wolf would lie with the sheep, leopard would lie with the lamb.

In the latter days, St  Francis would preach to the beasts, and there might be the coming to the peace of men, with the beasts.

The passage ends when Jesus went into Galilee after John had ben arrested, meaning that God’s rule over peoples’ hearts, should repent and believe the gospel.  The Kingdom of God is more than a title if the Spirit is within people, for the Kingdom will eventually include the restoration of creation.  Jesus has told of the Kingdom coming in stages, and this will be told in future chapters.


In this Chapter we are told of the voice of God the Father being heard, It declared a wondrous love which existed between Father and Son from all eternity.  The voice announced the Father’s acceptance of the Son, to seek and save the lost.  It also tells of Jesus being made Mediator, Substitute , and surety of the new covenant.

Repentance and faith were the foundation of Christ’s ministry, which should be the faithful minister’s instruction.

We should not be surprised if this if we consider human nature, All of us have been guilty of sin at some time, to be condemned by God, and if we are true to the gospel, we will be saved. The problem is so many people will not  accept they have sinned, and the more academic and intellectual  people, are the more resistant to accept.  Sin not confined to sexual offences, it extends to lying, corruption, adultery, theft, jealousy, hatred.

We have to ask ourselves, if we have  recognized our sins and repented.  Have we laid hold on Christ and believed?  We shall never reach heaven if we die impenitent and unbelieving.

People in their own doing, don’t think of how God reacts. God is only seen as someone to call on when they have a problem, and to get upset if he does not answer as they expect.  God knows our weaknesses, but he holds them to be true to Jesus, and when they do so, is well pleased.

We see the nature of the preaching of Jesus.  He came saying, repent and believe the gospel. This is that old sermon which the faithful witnesses of God have, continually preached  from the  very beginning of the world.  From Noah to the present day, the theme of Christ’s preaching has been repent and believe the gospel.

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian Church, when he left them for the last time, the substance of preaching has always been repentance to God, and faith to Christ.  the head of the Church had given him a pattern.

The Bible is clear, the first  followers were not the great of the world, they were men who had neither riches nor rank, nor power. But the Kingdom of Christ is not dependent on such.  The words of Paul will always be true, ’not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world. to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things to confound the things which are mighty.

The Church which began with a few fishermen, and yet overspread the world, must have been founded by God.

The Bible contains many instances of special privileges conferred to the working man. Moses was keeping sheep when God appeared to him in a burning bush.  Gideon was thrashing  wheat, when an angel from heaven brought him a message. Elisha was ploughing when Elijah called him to be a prophet.  The Apostles  were fishing when Jesus called them to follow him, and said, ‘come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’

The meaning of this is clear and unmistakeable,  The Apostles were to be fishers for souls. They were to labor, to draw men from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to God. They were to strive to bring men into the net of Christ’s Church

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