Our lesson this week begins a new quarter of lessons for the spring. In this quarter of lessons, we are going to be taking a look at lessons under the subject – Jesus Pleases His Father. The first unit of lessons this quarter is titled: By His Works. Our first lesson of this quarter takes a look at Jesus coming to John the Baptist and being baptized in the Jordan River.
The first lesson of this quarter, similarly, opens as the first lesson of the winter quarter. In the first lesson of last quarter, you may recall that we took a look at the announcement of Jesus’ forerunner – John the Baptist – birth to Zacharias. So, we fast forward in time, about thirty years later, where John is ministering to all of Judea.
A call for repentance
Mark speaks to John baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (v.4). Something I find very interesting about John’s ministry is the fact that it was done away from Jerusalem. This is a point of time when God’s call for repentance needed to be heard by the people. Had John’s ministry taken place in Jerusalem, the religious leaders would have swiftly drowned it out. I say this because even Jesus did not begin to minister in Jerusalem until His ministry was well known.
Something I mentioned a couple of weeks ago at church was how I can preach on several subjects, but each sermon is essentially a call to turn to the Lord – this is a call for repentance. If you truly minister the word of God – sound doctrine – turning to and having faith in the Lord is always going to be the central focus.
God, we have to remember, has been seeking repentance from mankind since mankind’s fall in the garden. If you think about it, when God came to Adam in the garden, He was looking for an admission of truth – admit that he had done wrong and to commit himself in obedience to the Lord. Even Cain, when he had killed Abel, the Lord was looking for the same exact thing from him!
The apostle John said in his first epistle, if we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All the Lord wants from us is to repent and repentance is confession (admission) of our wrong doing and committing to correct ourselves from the wrong we have done.
So, John’s preaching of repentance was certainly on message when we consider that Judah had been living in wickedness (opposition) for a very long time by that point. The time that had passed between the testaments was 400 years! During those 400 years, the Lord “went silent”; there was no communication from the Lord, by a prophet, to the Jews. John then came up out of nowhere with a message of repentance, and as we a few verses later in our lesson, the message of Christ’s coming.
Setting the way for Christ
As we learned in winter, Isaiah prophesied about the forerunner of Christ. Isaiah prophesied a voice would be crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord (Is. 40:3). John, we are told, preached to the people, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (v.7).”
In the gospel according to John, the disciple wrote that John the Baptist came to bear witness of the Light – the Light being Jesus Christ. So, when John began preaching in the wilderness after the Lord had been “silent” for hundreds of years, he had a very powerful message, right?
Firstly, the Lord was still calling on the Jews, the children of Israel, to turn from wickedness and to turn to Him. However, this time around, John was making it clear to the people that the Lord was coming personally to make His message known. God was sending someone mighty to the people who was coming with a more powerful message than his!
Many heed John’s preaching
The beautiful thing about John’s preaching of repentance and the coming of the Messiah was that there were many who heeded the call. Mark plainly stated that all the land of Judea, and even those from Jerusalem went out to him to be baptized in the Jordan River (v.5). In the gospel according to John, the apostle wrote how even the religious leaders had to send priests and Levites to see what John was up to in the wilderness (John 1:19-28).
When the priests and Levites asked John who he was, he responded to them, “I am ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord (John 1:22-23).”’” Had the religious leaders been well studied on prophecy, they would have certainly recognized the reference by John.
Something else that I find very fascinating about John, and the fact that so many were going to him, is the fact that there was nothing that unique or that special about him. What I mean by this is as Mark said, John wasn’t wearing fancy clothes (v.6); he was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt. Compare what John wore to the priest and high priest who were dressed in far more elegant and fancy attire.
Also, to that same point, the religious leaders worked out of a beautiful temple whereas John ministered in the wilderness. So, it wasn’t like the people were going to hear John or be baptized by him because he preached in some beautiful building or dressed nice! That should be a lesson to so many of us, right? The people were going to John because of the message and I genuinely believe that the message is what people truly need and nothing more than that!
If you minister the good news, never feel like you’re obligated to do so from some large fancy building or that you have to dress in the most elegant and fancy clothes! The goal for us is to share sound doctrine and let the doctrine have its work. If you are out there and you genuinely desire the word of God, don’t go to someone ministering the word because of how they are dressed or where they are ministering from.
It is honestly sad to have to put that in a lesson but frankly, that is how shallow some listeners are and these types of listeners aren’t brand new. Even in the early church, some people would not listen to the word being ministered unless it came from their favorite speaker who spoke a certain way! Today, some people won’t go attend a worship service unless the service is being held in some beautiful church building.
Your main focus should simply be ministering the good news. To those who desire the word of God, you never know the kind of person that is going to give it to you; they may not have the nicest things or wear the nicest clothes.
The baptism of Jesus
Over time in his preaching of repentance and baptizing, we are told that John received a very special guest, one it seems he did not expect would visit him (v.9). Mark’s gospel does not record how thrilled, but yet, humble John was when it came to the baptizing of Jesus.
In John’s gospel, he writes about the day after the visit from the religious leaders, how John the baptist marveled at Christ coming to him. At seeing Christ approaching him, John exclaimed, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)!”
In Matthew’s gospel, John was so humble when Jesus came to be baptized by him. John, scripture says, tried to prevent Him, and he said, “I need to be baptized by You (Matt. 3:14)!” John, we are told, eventually relented after hearing from Jesus and he baptized Him. If you’re curious about the “type” of baptism Jesus was baptized with, scripture makes it clear that Jesus was dipped in the water and came up immediately from the water (v.10) (Matt. 3:16).
After Jesus was baptized, we are told that a couple of things happened. First, we are told that Jesus saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove (v.10). Second, we are told that a voice came from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (v.11).”
So, here is an image of all three persons of God present in one place at the same time – The Son was baptized, the Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father’s voice came down from heaven. If you do not think the baptism of Jesus is significant, let that show you just how special the baptism of Jesus was.
Why was Jesus baptized?
Honestly, the baptism of Jesus should raise a particular question and that is: why was Jesus baptized? We won’t get the answer in Mark’s gospel but we can get the answer in Matthew’s gospel. When John was essentially saying that he was not worthy to baptize Jesus, Jesus said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:14).”
Jesus needed to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was not necessarily setting an example for us to follow in His being baptized. Why are we baptized? You see, you aren’t baptized to be saved because you are actually saved before your body ever hits the water.
What I mean by this is that those who genuinely believe are saved through the confession in their hearts. For us, baptism is the outward sign (or identification) to the world that we no longer belong to it but that we have been washed by the Lord. To be clear, the washing of regeneration, as Paul called it (Tit. 3:5), takes place in the heart and not our physical bodies.
Jesus knew no sin so He did not necessarily need to be baptized, right? So, Jesus was more so baptized to identify Himself with us, mankind, the sinful creature. Last quarter, we studied about how we have a compassionate High Priest – He sympathizes with us. The truly special thing about Jesus’ baptism is that it was Him identifying Himself with us! Whereas, again, when we are baptized, we are telling the world that we identify ourselves with Him.
Alright, I know there is one more verse in our lesson this week but we are going to stop right here for this lesson. The reason being is that the next verse of our lesson is actually a part of our lesson next week so I will save my commentary on that verse for next week’s lesson! I hope you enjoyed this week’s lesson and will share it with others!