MARK 1:1 – 8 = BEGINNINGS
I like the story told in the Reader's Digest about Albert Einstein the famous scientist who was engaged on a nationwide lecturing tour of America. On the way to one of the venues his chauffeur said to him, "You know, Mr. Einstein, having heard your lecture ten times now I believe I could give it." "I'll tell you what," said Einstein, "No-one knows me in the next city. We'll change clothes and you can give my lecture." That's what they did and all went well. The chauffeur gave the lecture perfectly and received an ovation of applause. Then came the question time and one man stood up and asked the man whom he took to be Einstein, but who was in actual fact just his chauffeur, the most impossible question about nuclear physics in an attempt to show Einsten up. Without batting an eyelid, "Einstein" replied, "Sir, that is the most elementary question I have ever heard. In fact it is so easy I shall get my chauffeur to answer it for you!"
that story for the benefit of those who thought they were coming to hear
Einstein today but have ended up by getting the chauffeur. It will be however
the same message, perhaps not as Spurgeon would have delivered it, but it will
be about Jesus Christ, and I centre everything that I have to say round the
first eight verses of Mark's gospel, so if later you want to go home and read
the verses for yourself you can find them easily.
gospel is traditionally and I believe correctly held to be the earliest of the
four gospels, piecing together for the first time the sayings and events of the
life of Jesus Christ into a kind of autobiography. It was written by Mark,
sometimes called John, or John Mark who lived in Jerusalem. It was put together
around 65 A.D. and it reflects the words and witness of Simon Peter who was one
of the first disciples of Jesus, so Mark's gospel is the nearest thing that we
will ever get to an accurate account of the life of Jesus.
saw for himself the spread of Christianity for his mother Mary opened her house
as a rallying point for the first church in Jerusalem. The believers met there
in Acts 12:12 even in times of the greatest persecution. There is no mention of
John Mark's father anywhere in the scriptures, it is therefore probable that he
was dead and his mother was a widow.
almost certain however that it was through the witness of his mother and the
believers that came through her home that John Mark came to faith himself as
quite a young man. He stayed at home until his uncle Barnabas took him along
with Paul to Antioch to be their travelling companion. All went well at first
until they reached Perga where Paul proposed that they strike inland and John
Mark left the expedition and went home (Acts 13:13).
John Mark go home? There have been many speculations - some have said that he
was probably scared of the dangerous roads; others say that the rift between
Paul and Barnabas was widening and that John Mark was fed up with the two of
them quarrelling, one early commentator with a flash of imagination suggests he
went home because he wanted his mum! Whatever, John Mark left the expedition,
went back to Jerusalem and Paul and Barnabas finally split up and went their
own ways (Acts 15:37f).
interests me here is that for some years John Mark vanishes from the pages of
history. Whatever caused his decision it seems to have taken away from him his
position of spiritual leadership. Tradition says that John Mark went to Egypt
and founded the church there, but there is no real evidence for this. Later on
however John Mark re-emerges in Colossians 4:10 where Paul says that John Mark
is in prison with him in Rome. In Philemon 24 Paul mentions John Mark among his
fellow labourers. Later when Paul is near death he writes to Timothy in 2 Tim
4:11 and praises Mark for his usefulness. It is a far cry from the days back
with Barnabas where Paul accused Mark of being a quitter. Whatever happened
back then Mark redeemed himself, he was the one man that Paul wanted at the
end. Now I identify with some of that, in my case it was leaving the mission
field in Brazil which took me from my position of spiritual leadership, now
here I am poised on the verge of a new ministry. I hope that I can be as useful
as John Mark was when he was found alive and well again in the scriptures.
changes then Jesus Christ brought into the life of John Mark. He changed his
life first of all when John Mark was saved in his mother's home as a young man,
and he changed his life a second time when he restored him from being a quitter
to being one of the most useful and valued of the early Christians, and indeed
to being the first writer of the gospels. It may well be that Jesus would want
to speak to quitters today, people who have given up on their faith.
know what it was once like to be with the Lord yet for some reason have given
up - this sermon today may signal the end of the wasted years and may herald
the time when the Lord wants to restore you to the very front line of
be a message to those who feel that for whatever reason they can not be of use
to God, that because of what they have done, some failure perhaps, even that
God does not want then.
that John Mark met in his mother's house church can be met by you today.
1. THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL (v.1).
gospel begins in the right place - the beginning. He says in v.1 "The
beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." It is worth
noting that he doesn't begin his story with any account of the Magi, the
Shepherds, the angels, the manger, with Mary or Joseph. This is not because these things did not
happen, but because Mark is seeking to make another point and that is the story
of Jesus begins not at his birth but at a much earlier date - right at the
beginning. Jesus is the son of God, he is indeed God himself in human flesh,
and as such he existed before the creation of the world. The gospel or the good
news about Jesus Christ is a long range plan that spans from before the
creation of the world and will reach to the end of our world and beyond it. It
is an eternal plan.
important for us to see is that the gospel, or good news, or message of the
bible is about Jesus Christ and not about other things. It is tragic that many
people know their bibles but don't know Jesus Christ. It is tragic that many
people go to church but never meet Jesus. Jesus is alive and well today. Let me
ask you this - "is Jesus Christ a real person to you?" You may not be
able to explain it, but do you have a sense that he is alive and involved in
sense that when you read your bible that from time to time Jesus speaks to you
personally through what you are reading? Do you sense when you pray that you
are speaking to a real person, that is Jesus? The whole point of the gospel
message is that we can have a personal relationship with God by meeting Jesus
Christ. If we have not met Jesus, then we are not saved, and we need to be
saved. We can know our bibles inside out, we can be faithful in church
attendance, but unless we have met Jesus for ourselves then we have missed the whole
moves on to two old testament scriptures which he links together, the first is
found in Malachi 3:1, the second in Isaiah 40:3. His point in linking them
together is to prove that the OT scriptures foretold that before the Saviour or
Messiah came there would come another who would prepare the way and set the
scene for the Christ. That messenger turned out to be John the Baptist. Malachi
was the last book of the OT, for hundreds of years God had not spoken to his
people directly, now suddenly God began to speak through this man - the baptist
was the messenger of the gospel.
2. THE MESSENGER OF THE GOSPEL (vv 4 -
look at the message that he brought, it is worth considering the messenger
himself. John the Baptist's parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth
was related to Mary the mother of Jesus, it is probable that Jesus and John
were either cousins or first cousins. Whatever, John was born just before Jesus
and thereafter disappears from the scriptures until he reappears here in the
wilderness or desert region. We must not labour the symbolism of the wilderness
but we can say that John chose to live there to get out from sinful society and
to give himself the chance to hear the voice of God.
in v.4 that he preached - the word means to make a bold announcement - but he
preached this message not just with words, but also with his choice of where to
live and with the simplicity of his lifestyle. This forces me, and I hope
forces you, to consider "how much do we preach the message of Jesus with
our words and lifestyle" for just as much John was compelled to preach the one who was about to come, Christians are commanded to preach the one
who is to come again. There are many of us I am sorry to say with the words,
but without the lifestyle to match it. There are many of us with a Christian
lifestyle but no words. It is a sign of being God's people when we have both
the words, and the life in keeping with the words.
was the content of his message?
1. Man's need for repentance (v.4):
to repent because sin is real and is a deadly enemy. We can re-name our sin,
disguise our sin, try to explain away our sin, but it is still sin. Sin spoils
our lives and separates us from a holy and loving God. Sin is a terminal
disease that ends with death and with death eternal separation from God. The
bible says "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of
God" (Rom 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23).
In the bottom of our hearts we know when we are doing wrong. We know that there is sin involved when we can not look someone straight in the face, whether it be a marriage partner, an employer or a friend. We know that there is sin involved when we don't like ourselves and the things that we do.
other hand sin can be enjoyable. There are many things that we know to be
wrong, but they give us a thrill and we keep on doing them. In our hearts we
know that it is wrong, but another part of us tells us that we'll get away with
all of this the message of the gospel is simple "repent!" "stop
it!" But why stop it? Stop it because there is forgiveness from God.
2. There is forgiveness (v.4):
what we have done there is forgiveness, if we are truly sorry for what we have
done and are prepared to turn away from it there is an absolute forgiveness
from God. We're right at the beginning of the gospel here, it is going to take
a while before we see the cost of this forgiveness although the hint is there
right from the first verse - the cost of forgiveness is that God gave his son,
Jesus Christ. Forgiveness comes through Jesus Christ, he won it on the cross
when he died for our sins, it is only he who can give it to us.
have not met Jesus then you are not forgiven. Christians are not better people
than anybody else, but they know the forgiveness of God. You hear people say
"He calls himself a Christian, I'm as good a person as he is." They
may well be, but the Christian doesn't claim to be better, his only claim is that
he is a sinner who knows the forgiveness of God because he has met Jesus Christ
who has purified him from all his sin. There is forgiveness for those who turn
to Christ. How then do you receive this forgiveness?
3. We need to confess (v.5):
says "confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan
river." In order to be forgiven we need to confess, and to confess in
three ways. First of all we need to make the inward confession to ourselves
that we have truly sinned. Unless we admit that we ourselves have done wrong,
unless we accept that fact inside of ourselves we can not be saved or forgiven.
Have you done this, have you taken the step of admitting that you are a sinner
in need of God's forgiveness?
we have to confess to those whom we have wronged. It is not much use saying to
God that we are sorry until we say sorry to those whom we have hurt and
grieved. Not only does the barrier between us and God need to come down, the
human barriers caused by our sinful behaviour also needs to be removed. In
coming to God for forgiveness you must be ready to puts your wrongs right.
you must make confession to God - when your pride comes to an end then God's
forgiveness can begin. It is when a man says to God "I have sinned"
that God gets the chance to say "I forgive you."
4. Baptism and power for living (vv 4
forgiveness comes two clear NT messages that start here and remain the same
throughout the scriptures. That God calls his forgiven people to baptism as a
public witness of repentance, of cleansing and of a willingness to lead a
changed life following Christ, and that this baptism in water comes right at
the beginning of the Christian life.
is a second baptism connected to the beginning of the Christian life and this
is one that neither John the Baptist nor I can give you - this baptism is only
Jesus Christ's to give and that is the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Not only
does God want us immersed in water, he also wants us immersed in the Holy
Spirit. Once the sin is out, once we have been purified and forgiven, once we
have met Jesus Christ, at once he comes into our hearts by the Holy Spirit and
starts to live inside of us. He comes in power ready to change our lives, to
give us the power to resist temptation and to live the Christian life. He comes
to give us the power to witness to him and to play our part in spreading the
gospel throughout the world. The Holy Spirit is the power of God in us working
to change our lives, it is only Jesus who sends the Spirit, so in order to have
such a power in our lives we must turn to Jesus for it. How do I know that
Jesus is alive and well? Because I have met him and he lives in me by his Holy
Spirit, and that Holy Spirit has given me the power to make changes in my life
that I could not make by myself.
invitation today is to meet Jesus Christ. To turn from your sin and
backsliding, to repent and confess and to have the assurance of the forgiveness
of your sins, to be baptised and to know the power of God working in your life.
That is the gospel, and the exciting thing is that all of this is not where it
ends but only where it begins! If you haven't already done so are you ready to
begin a new life today? Are you ready to meet Jesus? If you are then follow me
in this simple prayer:
I WANT TO MEET YOU TODAY.
I AM SORRY FOR MY SIN WHICH HAS KEPT US APART
I CONFESS THAT I AM A SINNER
AND I SEEK YOUR FORGIVENESS
COME INTO MY HEART AND FILL ME WITH YOUR SPIRIT
CHANGE MY LIFE TODAY AS I PROMISE TO FOLLOW YOU AS MY LORD
THANK YOU FOR HEARING MY PRAYER.