I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Mark chapter 1 please, Mark chapter 1, and we are beginning to read at verse 9 - and the two events that we are considering this morning are the baptism of the Lord Jesus and the temptation of the Lord. Verse 9 then: "It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him".
Let's pray together. I would ask you to pray with me now that the Lord might speak to you, and speak to others that are here that need to hear His voice - will you do that? Let's pray together: Father, we thank You for our Lord Jesus, we thank You for the revelation of His life and ministry - but, Lord, we want to encounter Him right now. We don't want to be thinking about historical events alone, we want to actually interact with the Living Christ. We want the Spirit of God to come and reveal the things of Jesus to us and in us. So we wait upon You now, Lord, and we ask You to do whatever You want to do today. We want to be very much in Your hands, and we realise that each life before us today in this building is very different, fraught with different issues, stresses, pressures. There are sins that easily beset one another, and no two of us are identical, Lord, in any of these issues and in our spiritual health today. So we ask You to come now, Great Physician who heals the sick, the lost He came to save. We ask You, Lord Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, to come and minister to us now. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray - everybody said: Amen.
I'm sure you've already discovered, having embarked upon considerations of Mark's Gospel these mornings, that Mark particularly is the Gospel of the cross. Now, all of the Gospels, of course, climax at Calvary, but Mark particularly, the way his Gospel is written, he is leading up to this final week of the life of our Lord Jesus - what Christendom has called 'Holy Week', leading up to His crucifixion and death at Golgotha. He shows us Jesus of Nazareth as the Servant of the Lord, the Suffering Servant that is prophesied in the Old Testament, particularly in Isaiah's prophecy. Now, before I go into that to any degree, let me just say: maybe you're here today, and you don't even know if you believe that this Bible is actually the word of God, what Christians claim it to be. Can I just encourage you to look into that matter: because prophecy, biblical prophecy, is one of the great proofs that the Bible is what it claims to be - the inspired, infallible word of the Living God. There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, many of them, by the way, in Isaiah's prophecy. So I would encourage you to look at that. The Bible has shown itself to be what it claims by the fulfilment, to the letter, of specific prophecies to do with the personality and the activity of Jesus Christ as He walked among men here on the earth.
But specifically to do with the cross, Isaiah speaks to us of the Suffering Servant of Jehovah. In Isaiah 52 we read: 'Behold, My Servant... His visage, His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations with his blood. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him, to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. Because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors'. This is the Suffering Servant of the Lord that Mark sets forth for us. In fact, probably the key verse in the whole of Mark's Gospel is chapter 10 and verse 45: 'For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many'.
These two incidents that we have read about this morning show us how Jesus served God, and how He served us in His baptism and His temptation. The swift nature of Mark's Gospel - I don't know how much you've read of it, but he keeps repeating this word 'immediately', 'immediately', it's mentioned twice in our reading even this morning - it reflects the eagerness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, to get to the cross, to accomplish God's will, to fulfil His mission, and to die for our sins. Both of these incidents, His baptism and His temptation, have the shadow of the cross cast upon them.
Let's look first of all at His baptism. I want you to see that in His baptism, Jesus identified with sinners. Now there are many truths here about the baptism of our Lord that I can't really enter into, not least the Spirit's enduement. It says that the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, in verse 10. In order to fulfil what John the Baptist had pronounced about Jesus, John being the forerunner, in verse 8: 'I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit' - Jesus Himself needed this experience. He was going to baptise others with the Holy Spirit, He Himself had to be endued with power from on high, He had to be baptised with that same Spirit before He embarked upon His earthly ministry.
When we think about that, we realise that if He needed to be equipped by the power of God's Spirit, how much more do we? Then there is the Father's affirmation as well in verse 11, the heavens cleft and this voice came and spoke: 'You are My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased' - there is the Father's affirmation of Jesus as the Son. Again, as we consider that, we realise that if we are truly to serve Christ as we ought, we need to know our identity as sons and daughters of God; we need to understand the Father's heart toward us. That is central, and I would love to spend time on that this morning but we cannot. But just as an aside, let me mention to you that the other Gospels specifically detail these three temptations that the devil brought to our Lord. In one of them, to turn the stones into bread, Satan says to the Lord: 'If You are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread'. But, you see, God at the baptism didn't say He was the Son of God - if you note it, specifically He said 'This is My Beloved Son'. It is that 'beloved' nature of what it is to be a son or daughter of God that is the key to overcoming temptation, because it's not law but the love of the Father that will keep you free from sin. Understanding your identity, not just as a son or daughter of God, but as a beloved son or daughter of God.
Not only is our identity as sons or daughters at the heart of the issue of holiness, how we keep away from sin, but it's actually at the core of service as well. You remember when the Lord Jesus took the basin and towel to wash the disciples' feet, the context of that was in John 13:3-4, 'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself'. It was knowing who He was, where He came from, what His identity was that allowed Him to take that low, humble place to wash the disciples' feet. So the Spirit's enduement is something that we need to take note of in this passage of Scripture. Equally, we need to see the identity that our Lord had as He went out into this earthly ministry, knowing where He came from and who He really was, that's what gave Him the strength to overcome and to serve God.
But what we really want to consider today is: why did the Lord Jesus get baptised? There could be several answers to that, but there is one I want to focus on now. This appears to be the baptism of repentance, because John was preaching repentance and he was baptising people, penitents, sinners who were confessing their sins, in a baptism of repentance. Some people think, when they consider that, that this couldn't be a baptism of repentance for Jesus, because He had nothing to repent of. We know, of course, that He is the sinless Son of God, knew no sin, did no sin, I believe could not sin - and yet here He is being baptised, and to all intents and purposes the bystanders would have attributed this to be a baptism of repentance for Jesus. I favour what Campbell Morgan says in his understanding of this baptism, listen to what he says: 'He was baptised is a repenting soul. His also was a baptism of repentance, His also was a baptism of the confession of sins. In that hour, He repented, He confessed sins - but the repentance was not for Himself, the sins were not His own. In that hour, He identified Himself with the multitudes who had been thronging out to baptism, identified Himself with them in a consciousness of sin, in repentance for it, in confession of it. In that hour of baptism, we see the most solemn, wonderful sight of the Servant of God who had come from the silence and seclusion of Nazareth, taking upon Himself the burden of human sin, counting it as if it were His own sin; doing that to which an apostolic writer ultimately referred by declaring 'He was made sin for us''.
This is perhaps why Martin Luther, in his Table Talks, said that the New Testament really begins at the Jordan, where Jesus identifies with sinners by being baptised. Remember, He has just come out of (as Campbell Morgan says) the seclusion of Nazareth, nobody really knows who He is in a public sense - and the first thing He does is identify with sinners by undertaking a baptism of repentance. We get a greater glimpse into this in Luke's Gospel, where he says in chapter 12 verse 50, quoting our Lord: 'But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!'. He is talking about how all the waves and billows of God's wrath would come over Him at the cross, how He would endure the punishment that we deserve a sinners. Whatever it means for every single one of us, as people who have broken God's law, to be punished for that for an eternity in hell, that was compressed into three short hours and was placed upon the Son of God on the cross.
So His baptism was an identification of that. He also, of course, identified with sinners when He went through His temptation; because we read later in the New Testament that He was tested in all points as we are, apart from sin. He was tempted in every way that it is possible for human beings to be tempted in a general sense. That's why the Hebrew writer goes on to say: 'Therefore we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses and infirmities, because He went through similar testings'. We see that this was ordained of God, the language used in verse 12: 'The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness' - that's the reason, this was in God's will. The devil was not in the driving seat here, do you understand? God was doing this, so that we could have a Saviour who identifies with sinners and empathises with sinners, because He has been tempted.
So He identifies with sinful people in His temptation, but that's not really what I want you to see right now. I want you to see that in His temptation He challenged Satan, He challenged Satan. We don't have all the details here in Mark, but from the other Gospel writers we realise this. Satan was the covering cherub. We don't really know an awful lot about him, but we get little glimpses past the veil of eternity past, if you like, into what his role was in the throne room of God. It appears from Ezekiel 28, where he is called a covering cherub, that he had a role a bit like the cherubim that covered the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle, these two angelic beings that covered the presence of God to some degree. So he was very high up, if not the highest in the ranking order of the celestial beings in the angelic sense, who, as it were, covered God's glory and ministered around God's glory in the very throne room. Now he had authority to do that, and he had the power to do that. He had authority to minister in that way in the throne room of God, and he also had the power.
But you know that there is a difference between authority and power, don't you? Sometimes they are translated the same in our English translations, but there is a difference between power and authority - both are needed to act for God. Now when Satan, or Lucifer, rebelled, he didn't lose his power. I think you would all agree with me, if you believe in him at all, that he still has an awful lot of that today in our world - and even, sadly, in some of our lives. So when he disobeyed God and fell in pride, he retained his power but he lost his authority - it became an illegitimate power. To illustrate it, if you think of a police man who carries firearms, he's got authority to do that - he's got the badge, he is enrolled in the service - but a criminal, they might carry the power of a firearm, but they're not authorised, they are illegal. Now Adam, when he was created, the first man was given dominion or authority over creation - that's why he named the creatures, and he was the husbandman of the garden of creation, he was given dominion. But by stealth, in fact the Bible says 'as a serpent', Satan, with power, entered the Garden of Eden and sought to wrest authority from the hands of Adam. If you know the creation story, you will know that Adam obeyed the voice of Satan - by choice he agreed with the enemy, and by doing so he relinquished the dominion that God had given him, and in fact put himself and the earth under the authority of Satan's rule and reign.
You know, don't you, that Satan didn't care one iota about mankind, he was just using us to gain authority - and he's doing exactly the same in all of our lives. Satan has much power, much power, but he only has authority whenever we give it to him. In the same way that Adam did, through obeying, choosing, and agreeing, that's when he gets authority in all of our lives - by the choices that we make. I want you to understand how God, in His divine sovereignty, has what we might call juxtaposed the Garden of Eden with the Wilderness of Temptation - that simply means He's bringing the parallel stories together to contrast them. In Eden you've got a beautiful paradise. In the wilderness you've got a desert, arid. In Eden, God has said 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, bar the one Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil'; and here is Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, fasting for forty days alone in the desert. It says here in Mark that He is surrounded by wild beasts, and yet in Eden Adam is surrounded by tame animals that he names.
The three areas of temptation that are not specified here in Mark, but we have from the other Gospels, are the same three areas that Adam and Eve were tempted in. The lust of the flesh: Eve saw that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that it was good for food, for sustenance. Satan came to Jesus and said: 'If You are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread' - the lust of the flesh. There is the pride of life: Adam and Eve looked at the fruit of the Tree and saw that it was desirable to make one wise, 'It could enhance my humanity apart from God'. Equally, Satan took the Lord Jesus up to a high place, the pinnacle of the Temple, and tempted Him to throw Himself off there, 'Because Scripture says God's angels are given charge over You, and they will come and scoop You up and save You'; and how great You will be thought in the eyes of men if that was to happen' - the pride of life. The third onslaught was the lust of the eye. It says that Adam and Eve saw that the fruit of the Tree was pleasant to the eyes. Satan took our Lord Jesus up to a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and asked Him to bow down and worship him, and he would give Him all of them, and He wouldn't have to go the way of the cross to get them.
Where sin got Adam - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life - it gets us. I haven't been specific about particular sins, but they all come into those three categories. I don't know what the sin is that is gripping you, but all Adam's sons have been infected by it. Isn't it wonderful for us to be able to stand here today and say: 'Though this disease has inflicted us all, Jesus overcomes Satan in the garden, Jesus overcomes Satan in the wilderness, Jesus overcomes Satan at Calvary'. In the end, even the contrast is seen when the angels came to minister to the Lord, and yet in Eden what happened was: the angelic came to bar Adam and Eve from entering Paradise again. Colossians 2 verse 15 says about the cross, Mark's theme, that at the cross Jesus spoiled, disarmed, principalities and powers and made a public spectacle of them, openly triumphing over them through the cross. In other words, Jesus, through all His life and death and resurrection, has taken from Satan what he wrested from Adam: dominion over mankind and the earth, He has taken the authority back. So He can stand resurrected, with nail prints in His hands, before the disciples and commission them and say: 'Authority is given unto Me in heaven and on earth, go and make disciples of all creatures, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit'.
He's got the authority back, and He's got the power - does that not excite you? You wouldn't think it to look at you! Really! He has, as it were, dispensed that power and that authority to us: to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, because all authority in the universe has been given to Him. As one translation puts it 'Go in My authority and make disciples'. That ought to be encouraging for you today, especially if you're a sinner, and I don't know anybody here that's not. Jesus identified with you in His baptism, in His temptation, and He challenged and overcame Satan in the wilderness - because of that, He has got authority and power to set you free from whatever binds you today. It's not just about forgiveness of misdeeds in the past, that's there, that's involved in this whole message, but it's more than that: He can set you free from the power of Satan and sin.
I don't know how techy you are, how technological and computer literate you are - but if you work with computers at all, or have computer in your workplace that you need, you will know that there are IT specialists that are employed by your company or whatever. Very often something goes wrong with the computer that you are using, or a series of computers. You will lift the phone, or do whatever you do these days, and get the IT guy to come. Eventually he will come down, and he can go onto any computer - you may not be able to do this, but he can go onto any computer in the whole department, or maybe the whole industry, and he will be able to fix anything that is broken, because he has what we call 'administrative privileges' - administrative privileges. In other words, he's got authority to do it. Jesus has authority to fix you. Very often not only does an IT specialist need administrative authority, he needs a password. The password that you need is Jesus, He shall save His people from their sins - His is the name that is above every name, His is the name that has power to set the captives free.
He identified with you, but you must identify with Him. He said Himself: 'Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, whom I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven'. He identified with you to the death of the cross, bearing your sin and shame as if it were His own. The question He asks you today is: will you identify with Him? Will you, by faith, receive Him as your Saviour and your Lord? Let's pray.
Let me just invite you, if you've never trusted Jesus as your Lord, never had your sins forgiven, and you long to be set free from the power of sin in your life; let me invite you to pray a prayer with me. Now, it's not a magic spell or a mantra, it's not the words that are important as such, it's what's in your heart - in faith, believing that God has promised this, and Jesus has purchased it, and that you can receive this when you truly believe. Turn from your sinful ways, you haven't got the power to give up all the things in your life that are sinful - I know that and you know that - but as you obey Him in the word of the Gospel, He will give you the power and help you; but you must take the step of faith. Would you be willing to do that as you pray this prayer?
'Oh God, I come to You in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ' - just pray from your heart - 'I confess I'm a sinner, I have broken Your laws. I repent, I turn from my sins and my selfish ways to You for mercy and forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died in my place, took the punishment for my sins. I thank You for that, and I ask You to save me and cleanse me now because Jesus died for me. I confess Jesus is Lord, and I ask You to fill me now with the Holy Spirit that I might live a life that is pleasing to Him'.
If you're a backslider or a Christian that is still struggling in major areas of sin - now I know we all struggle with sin, but you are defeated, you're overcome - can I quote to you Romans: 'Sin shall no longer have dominion' over you. The dominion that Adam gave away to Satan, Jesus has wrested back again at the cross. So you should not, do not believe the lie that you must be continually defeated and confounded by this sin. Don't believe the lie, believe the truth of who you are as a son or daughter of God, of the authority and the power that you have in Christ and through the blood of Calvary to overcome this sin in your life. Why not come and confess it to the Lord, and say: 'Lord, I'm going to choose to believe You at the foot of the cross and at the empty tomb. I'm going to choose to believe You, that You give me authority and power to live in the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ'. As He is, so are we in this world.
Father, I pray for every person here, whatever their circumstances might be - especially for those who don't know You yet as Saviour of their lives and Lord of all. I pray that this will be the day that they will bow the knee and accept You. I pray for all Your people, Lord, sons and daughters, those who don't realise their own identity, those who are not living in the victory of the cross, those who don't recognise that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in them. Lord, would you cause them today to see that for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy all the works of the wicked one. We lift high the cross here today, and we declare that Jesus has won and it is finished, and we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Part us now with Your blessing, in Jesus' name.
God bless you.
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This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Jesus Identifies With Sinners" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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