Mark - Son and Servant - Hope 103.2

Mark – Son and Servant

By Simon ManchesterSunday 23 Nov 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Son and Servant – Mark 1:9-13

Thank you gracious God for a great mercy – mercy to save,mercy to speak,mercy to keep,mercy to bless and use.  We ask now that you would help us in your mercy to appreciate what is in your Word and then to live in the light of these great truths.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.

What we are doing on these Sunday mornings is we are preaching our way through Mark’s Gospel and there is nothing more basic than Mark’s Gospel.  When we teach “Christianity Explained” we go back to Mark’s Gospel.  If you were here last week for chapter 1 verse 1 you may have seen,as I did and I hope you did,that there is treasure in virtually every word of every verse.  And when you go back to Mark’s Gospel and you think – O we are going back to Kindergarten – you actually discover that you are going back to University! (or at least Senior High School).

And I wonder whether you believe and agree that it is possible to see more and more in the Scriptures?  I hope you do.  I hope you don’t get to the stage which happens when you reach about 40 where you say “I pretty well know everything”.  I hope you will keep crying out to the Lord to open your eyes to see wonderful things in his Word.

I don’t mean that we’ve got to keep seeing radically new things which turn us 180 degrees.  Those moments are very rare but things that will just keep shaping and steering and guiding us so that we are following Christ sincerely and seriously.

On Thursday,which is our day off – Kathy and I went and walked up the Barrenjoey headland up to the Barrenjoey lighthouse which I guess I have done 100 times before but I have not done it since the bushfires of September last year.  And it was a real education to me to see more of the headland than I’ve ever seen because so much had been burnt away by the fires and reflecting on this I wonder whether it is a little bit of a parable that God uses certain difficulties – fires of difficulties to burn away things which enable us to see more clearly and appreciate more clearly what is in his Word.  You’ll often find that the promises of God,the truths of God are more meaningful to you when life is a little more difficult.

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

Alan Cole who was one of the Lecturers at Moore College used to say he never found students reading little books on how to pray the night before exams!  And I thought that was such a shrewd comment really – you just don’t find people looking for a book on how to pray the night before something really difficult – YOU PRAY – because the difficulty has pushed you to the truth.

Well last week we saw the preparation for Jesus.  In verses 1-8 we saw the provision of John the Baptist coming to announce Jesus and today we come to chapter 1 verses 9-13,just 5 verses describing Jesus’ Baptism and Jesus’ Temptation.

What Mark gives us in 5 verses,the other 3 Gospels give us in about 15 or 16 verses so Mark is packing in to these very brief words very great riches.  And I hope this morning that you will get to the end of these few minutes and you will say to yourself ‘we have a great committed,serious saviour who is wonderful’ – especially if you are feeling a bit hopeless.  If you are feeling that you yourself are a bit hopeless and that life is a bit hopeless – I hope that you will just turn mentally to these verses in Mark’s Gospel and you will say to yourself ‘there is nobody more committed,more qualified,more able,more dedicated,more compassionate,more powerful,more wonderful for me to lean on than Christ and be at peace.

So 3 points this morning – the first is that I want to look with you at –

Jesus and His Repentance – verse 9
Jesus and His Identity – verses 10-11
Jesus and His Battle – verses 12-13

First of all,Jesus and His Repentance.  It says “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan”.  It says “at that time Jesus came….”  John has just said back in chapter 1 verse 7 “somebody great is coming” someone very great is coming and then he says “Jesus of Nazareth came”.

Well it’s clear that John is not a false prophet because he said someone is coming – and someone has come.  What we have to ask ourselves this morning is whether Jesus of Nazareth is that great?  I don’t know if you know this but Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament.  It’s not significant enough.  It’s always dangerous to do this but it’s like saying

“Jesus of Bega” –
“Jesus of Griffith” –
“Jesus of Geraldton” –
“Jesus of Lithgow” –
“Jesus of Artarmon” –

Someone will come up to me afterwards and say “I live in that place and I am deeply offended” !! But what I am trying to say is that Nazareth is a non descript place so when we discover that Jesus has come from Nazareth,we have to ask ourselves whether this is significant?  We know that Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem,the city of David the King,but it doesn’t say anything about Nazareth.  And the reason it doesn’t tell us anything about Nazareth is because Jesus is not dependant on his places for his greatness.  His greatness comes from himself.

And as he arrives having had a very major build up from John –

Remember what John said “The Lord God is coming” – Jesus of Nazareth comes. 
John says “the one who is able to give you new life is coming” – Jesus of Nazareth comes.
John says “the one whose shoes I don’t deserve to touch is coming” – Jesus of Nazareth comes.

And you have to ask yourself,don’t you,whether these verses that follow (verses 9-13) have got anything in them to match the build up that John has just given.  I think we would have to say if you are listening to those verses read – the answer is an overwhelming YES.

Jesus of Nazareth goes down into the water – there’s nothing special about that – and then the heavens tear open – the Spirit of God comes down on him – a voice from heaven speaks – the Spirit thrusts him into the desert – satan attacks him and the angels comfort him.

I would say that that is enough supernatural activity for 5 verses to make out that Jesus of Nazareth is a highly significant person.  I don’t think you could have more supernatural activity really packed into 5 verses.

Heavens split  –  Spirit descending  –  Voice  –  Satan  –  Angels.

And if you find yourself saying (as I do) I actually find this hard to believe.  You know – have we just moved into fantasy land?  Have we moved into fiction?  You know none of my friends are going to believe this!  You have to ask yourself the question – this is the key question and you have to ask your friends this question as well –


Because if Jesus of Nazareth is God come into the world then you would expect the whole New Testament supernatural box and dice which is of course what we get.

Now I want to say this to you – this is just an illustration – because you and I live in a world which is marked much by naturalism.  Naturalism is that it’s all just natural,forget about the supernatural – that’s for weird people.

Some years ago in the last Century in fact in the 1930’s there was a group called the “Vienna Circle”.  They were philosophers and scientists.  And it was a mark of their circle that you could only talk about and consider things that were provable.  This was a group in which many ways belongs to an “ivory tower”.  But the fact of the matter is that their teaching,their lecturing,their writing and their ministries have come down into the street and they have affected the world in which we live.

IF YOU CAN’T SHOW IT TO ME – DON’T TALK ABOUT IT.  So they would not discuss the existence of God – unprovable – we are not talking about it.

They wouldn’t discuss the afterlife – unprovable – we are not talking about it.

They wouldn’t even let atheists in the circle because atheists wanted to say there is no God which is unprovable so they couldn’t have atheists in their circle.

But what is interesting is that we read the story of the Vienna Circle is how they unravelled because they have such blinkers that they couldn’t deal with lots of questions which really were coming at them.  So somebody raised the question in the group as to whether there craters on the other side of the moon – and that brought the discussionto a halt because they couldn’t deal with it.

And then somebody else asked the question of whether we could actually dictate any behaviour in the group or beyond the group – can anyone tell anyone how to behave?  And because there were no sort of fixed absolutes,they found that they could not discuss the dictating of behaviour in the group or beyond the group.

Across the city of Vienna and sort of linked vaguely to the group was Sigmund Freud and Sigmund Freud was teaching as pushily as he could that religion and all types of religion were really the invention of people to try and comfort themselves in the face of great trouble and distress.  And in the pushing of this particular philosophy,Sigmund Freud himself developed dreadfully painful mouth cancer.  And so he continued his work in pain but committed to rejecting God,rejecting comfort,rejecting hope and rejecting afterlife and went on in this kind of terrible grief in his particular work.

I mention this to you because when you come to these verses in Mark’s Gospel,and you suddenly sort of reading about Jesus of Nazareth,no one can argue with that.  Jesus of Nazareth is a real historical reality.  The question is – is he also the Son of God?  And the claims and the activity of Jesus of Nazareth persuade us that he is the Son of God but he is being announced at the very beginning as Jesus of Nazareth and the Son of God and unless I guess you are reading Mark’s Gospel with a certain openness to the possibility that he could be Jesus of Nazareth and the Son of God – you’ll find yourself with blinkers which prevent you from really taking and appreciating what Mark is telling us.

So I say that if like me you face these verses and think to yourself – boy this is a long long way from the people that I mix with.  The question for them and us is – Is Jesus of Nazareth the historical man also the Son of God?  Because if he is – get ready for the supernatural.

Well now the question in verse 9 – why does Jesus get baptized?  I thought baptism,according to John,was a baptism of repentance and therefore it’s a good thing for sinners to do.  Why would Jesus who is not a sinner want to get baptized and repent?

Now it’s perfectly true that John the Baptist’ baptism was for repentance.  That’s really all he could do – he could wash you with water and challenge you to repent and put away things which will keep you from Christ.

Then of course Christian Baptism at the end of Matthew’s Gospel is a baptism for membership – it’s a kind of a welcome into Christ and the people of Christ.  And then the Spirit’s Baptism – Baptism of the Holy Spirit – that’s the inward,converting,regenerating work of God.

Well here is John the Baptist pushing a baptism of repentance and Jesus gets baptized and we know in Matthew’s Gospel that even John finds this awkward and says “I shouldn’t be baptizing you” and Jesus says “Yes,do it”. 

But why does he get baptized?  The answer is – because Jesus is really repentant.  Jesus is really repentant.  Karl Barth said “He’s the only really repentant person”.  In other words,the people in John’s day were saying “OK I want to put away sin”.  But then of course like the rest of us they would fall back into sin.

Here is Jesus – he basically says not only is he identifying with the people he is going to save but he says “I am turning my back on sin – I am not going to sin” and then he sustains the repentance from the start to the finish.

So when we read this that Jesus got baptized – we should find ourselves thanking God that there is one person in the history of the world who turned his back on evil and kept it up from the start to the finish.  And that’s why we who trust in Christ can be secure because we are being saved by one who is in a position to save us. 

I mean our piety is hot and cold.  My piety is hot and cold.  I have very good ON days and then I have sad OFF days.  And we all have times I think of repentance and faith where we are very serious.  We have been renewed and we have been refreshed and we find ourselves very keen and there’s lots of joy because when you take the fight of sin seriously you often find the fellowship of God is very close and wonderful and then if you are like me,you almost get proud and you think ‘well I’m being really repentant – what’s the matter with the rest of everybody – and I am being really faithful – what’s the matter with everybody else – and I fall into sin and then I fall back into my sins. 

And here is Jesus and he repents – he turns his back on sin.  He doesn’t turn his back on sins he’s committed but he turns his back on sin as a lifestyle and John baptizes him and our security is bound up with the faithfulness and the death of Jesus.

We repent and we put our faith in Jesus to get saved
He repented and he was faithful to save

That’s why we are so grateful for him – Jesus and repentance.

Now the second section is verses 10-11 and this is Jesus and his identity and this is where great power and great compassion come together.

When Winston Churchill was at the height of his powers in World War II his wife wrote to him a letter to tell him (as probably only she could) that he was becoming overbearing and to quote her “Not so kind as you used to be).  And she said “with your terrific power you must be kind”.  And the letter was quite a long letter but she signed it ‘Please forgive me for saying this – your loving,and your devoted and your watchful Cleme”.

Well now power and compassion – power and kindness – are very difficult to bring together.  Normally if you have great power the kindness disappears.  Or if you have massive kindness,there’s not much power to go with it. 

But in Jesus the power and kindness come together absolutely perfectly and you’ll see this in verse 10 and 11 where Jesus comes up from the water of baptism (verse 10) and the heavens are opened,they are literally split.  By the way I wonder if there is anybody here this morning who can think where is the other time the word “split” in Mark’s Gospel?  Those of you who know Mark’s Gospel well will know that it is the splitting of the temple curtain in chapter 15.

But here is Jesus coming up out of the water and the heavens are torn open.  This is something that Isaiah the Old Testament prophet had prayed for – “God would you please REND the heavens and come down” and here God is RENDING the heavens because he has come down in Christ. 

And then in verse 10 the Spirit comes on Jesus – well the Spirit had come on many people in the Old Testament – so is this different?  Yes it is different because this person on whom the Holy Spirit comes is going to be spirit led from start to finish.  The Spirit came on David and he went on a detour.  Probably he went on many detours – many sins and many failures.  But here the Spirit is going to come on Jesus and he is going to be perfectly obedient from start to finish.

And then in verse 11 the Voice of God speaks from heaven – and we are so thankful that God spoke because nobody on earth is clever enough to work out who Jesus is.  God has to tell us and he says “This is my Son,whom I love; in him I am well pleased”.

Now the sentence that God speaks is a loaded sentence.  There is a little quote in the sentence from the Psalms,from the Pentateuch (that is Genesis through to Deuteronomy) and from the Prophets.  The sentence “This is my Son whom I love,with him I am well pleased” is basically 3 quotes from the Old Testament.

The little phrase “You are my Son” comes from Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 is where God announces that his Son will be the King.  This was a Psalm that absolutely intrigued God’s people in the Old Testament because they were asking themselves – who is this son who is going to sit on the throne and rule the nations? 

Could it be David? – No he fails.
Could it be Solomon? – No he fails.
Could it be the next guy? – No he fails.

Who is going to sit on the throne and rule everything?  And here at the Baptism of Jesus the Voice comes – it’s Jesus of Nazareth – he is my Son – he’s the King.

The little phrase “Whom I love” actually comes from Genesis 22.  It’s where God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  You remember God had said to Abraham “Take your son Isaac whom you love and sacrifice him” and of course God had intervened and rescued the boy so the boy didn’t have to be sacrificed – that he discovered that Abraham was willing to do it.  And here God at the Baptism of Jesus announces that his son is the beloved and we might say in brackets (who will be sacrificed) and there will be no intervention and there will be no rescue.

And I think the word “beloved” is a very very powerful word because God says as he looks at his son “I love him” and that tells us that when Jesus dies on the cross that is very costly to God the Father because His Son is not just going to go through the crucifixion but is going to experience qualitively and quantitively the sins of all those whom God saves piled on Jesus.  And that is a billion times more suffering for Christ and Father than any person ever experiences in this world.

The third little phrase is where he says “With you I am well pleased”.  This comes from Isaiah 42 which was our second or our first reading today.  This is where God speaks to the Servant in Isaiah – the famous servant.  Servant Songs of Isaiah in chapter 42 right through to chapter 43.  And God says “My Servant will suffer – the righteous for the unrighteous” and so God announces the task or the role which his Son,his beloved Son will play is that he will also be the Suffering Servant.

Son  –  King  –  greatly loved  –  suffering servant.

Now I tell you why this is so important that God says this is because God explains for us who Jesus is and what he has come to do and we don’t need to re-invent him.  God is giving us the interpretation. 

Many of you will know that in Theology there is a big school of thought called “hermeneutics” which basically means interpretation.  And it is the thinking of many people that we have to take our massive brains and sort of work out the Bible as if it is a complete mess but we are so clever we will work it out.  And sometimes given that we are sinful people; it will be twisted and turned in all directions which it shouldn’t go.

But what we need to understand and I borrow this phrase from Jim Packer is that the Bible IS God’s interpretation.  He is not asking us to be interpreters; he’s telling us what is the interpretation of his Son and of his Son’s role.

One of the frustrations I have in my ministry is that if I am sitting with a guy who is a Teacher or a Builder or a Doctor or one who sells vacuum cleaners – again and again if they are complete outsiders – for some reason they think that they know everything about Christianity and basically they can fill me in.  It’s just one of the frustrations of my job. (I can’t quite explain that to you but I’d like more time to do it). 

It never occurs to me to tell people how to sell vacuum cleaners to people who sell vacuum cleaners.
It never occurs to me to tell people who are in business how to do business but people will tell me exactly what Christianity is all about – they have become the interpreter.

But God you see gives us the interpretation.  He says ‘this Jesus of Nazareth,he’s my Son,he’s the King,he’s greatly loved and he will be the Suffering Servant who will bring salvation to the world” – THAT’S IT – you don’t need to fiddle with that – you don’t need to change it – that’s the interpretation. 

We need the interpretation because if you go visiting the Art Galleries of the world,imagine you go on a trip around the world visiting the great Art Galleries and you look at the thousands of pictures around the world which are pictures of the crucifixion – will any of those portraits of the crucifixion tell you why the crucifixion is happening?  They won’t.  You cannot work out by looking at paintings why Jesus is dying.  You can see the sadness,you can see the grief,you can see the pain but you cannot work out what the Bible tells us – HE IS DYING FOR OUR SINS.  There is the interpretation.  Why is he dying?  It’s not a mystery – IT IS FOR OUR SINS.  That’s it – there’s the interpretation.

So the Bible you see is kind of like the soundtrack to the movie.  It’s the subtitles to the movie that we are living in.  We may refuse to listen to the soundtrack,we may mentally turn it down or we may refuse to read the subtitles but God has given us the wonderful interpretation.

Now of course we are reading the Bible with great care – yes we are – but we don’t need to interpret and we don’t need to twist.  Just as if you send me an e-mail and you tell me you are unwell,I don’t read that and say ‘that means he is well’.  You’ve told me quite plainly you are unwell,it makes sense and God’s interpretation is perfectly clear.

So what we see here in the wonderful announcement from God as the Spirit comes on his Son – we see the Trinity who was there at Creation now here working salvation.  And we discover that it’s going to be God’s Son who is the King who has been greatly loved and is eternally loved,is going to be the Suffering Servant and the Spirit is going to lead Jesus all the way through to the cross and the crown – that’s it.

If you ask yourself the question ‘what’s this got to do with Monday (tomorrow)? I would say that this has got everything to do with Monday tomorrow because you can go as a believer in Christ and say there is someone who governs my life and all the details of my life –

Who is the King?
Who is filled with love?
Who has proved his sacrificial love for me?

Therefore all the details of my life,whatever I am going through at the moment,are marked by somebody who combines complete power and complete compassion – what more can I ask?

Now the third and the last point is Jesus and the Battle (verses 12-13).  Very quickly – you’ll see the Spirit coming on Jesus doesn’t take him to a hotel.  The Spirit takes him to a battle.  The text is very brief.  We don’t get nearly as much on this Temptation as we do in Matthew or Luke but it’s very clear that Jesus was faithful and victorious because he goes in and he comes out and there is no failure.

I suspect what we are being shown here is that as Adam himself (the first man) went into a lovely
Garden and had everything at his disposal – here is Jesus the last Adam going into a desert with nothing at his disposal except the angels to minister to him.  I think this is the explanation for that funny little phrase “wild animals” which doesn’t come anywhere else in the New Testament because I think we are being told that Jesus is facing complete hostility.  And Adam of course failed although the circumstances were wonderful and Jesus succeeds although the circumstances were terrible.

The other reason that Jesus goes into the desert is because Israel had gone into the desert for 40 years and been disobedient and now Israel reduced to one man,faithful Israel is going to the desert for 40 days and he will be obedient.

And what we thank God for (this is so wonderful) is that we are not just saying ‘thank you’ to God for the sample of Jesus – he was a wonderful example – what we are saying is that we are thanking God for Jesus because he includes us in his success.  He draws us into his victory.  He says ‘Yes,I’ve been faithful,I’ve died for you,I’ve risen again – join in – it’s all yours – come to me – like a marriage and you will have everything that I have,everything that belongs to me will be yours.

So these are just 5 verses but they tell us the identity of Jesus,the mission of Jesus and show us somebody who is committed and effective.  You wouldn’t think,would you,that greatness and compassion could really come together because if Jesus is so great why would he suffer and if he suffers,could he really be that great? 

The greatness and the suffering come together in the Person of Jesus.

I want to therefore say as I finish to those of you who are fellow Christians (the majority here this morning) I hope you will keep turning these things into your brain as you think about them and you’ll say to yourself,maybe as you are driving the car this week – why did Jesus do the baptizing? Because he is so committed – there is nothing that he is leaving – he’s utterly involved – he’s completely committed to the work of salvation.  He is going to turn his back totally on sin.  He’s going to give himself totally to the work of salvation.  And if you ask yourself then – how great is Jesus?  The answer is that you can’t measure the greatness of his power,you can’t measure the greatness of his love and as you begin to meditate on these things – they light up your day.

If you are not yet a Christian,I simply would say this to you – since somebody has come into the world who is so wonderful and has given himself so completely – will you not give yourself in trust to him and find that he embraces you and forgives you and catches you up in all the treasures of his life and his victory and his plans?

A Pastor said to a man in his church once (I thought this was a very moving thing).  He said to this man who was repeatedly refusing to become a Christian – he said to him –


Let’s pray – Father we thank you as we read these verses that we see something of the greatness of your Son,his identity,his mission,his involvement,his seriousness,his dedication,his compassion and we pray that you would help us to see more clearly,love more dearly and follow more nearly in response.
We ask in Jesus’ Name – Amen.