Last week, we introduced this new series by defining discipleship as “intentionally laying aside my will and direction for my life, turning another way, and living according to the will and purposes of another”. It is putting aside how I want to live, and living in another direction. As Mark progresses, it speaks of a Kingdom, which is a “society created by a group of people who intentionally lives as disciples”. The Kingdom of God is all about its King. Its King’s obedience, victory over sin and temptation, and message of repentance and faith. How are we to respond to this new King?
(A) A Kingdom of Sinners with its Perfect King (Mark 1:9-11)
As we have read in Mark 1:4, there was a man who came proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He introduces a new way by which people can be cleansed of their sins via repentance. This is different from obeying the law perfectly to be sinless. John is also self-aware. He knows that he is not the king and someone greater will come after him. He says that he baptizes with water, but one mightier than he will baptize with the Holy Spirit, they will receive the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, "in those days" (Mark 1:9a), Jesus was baptised by John. What happens in baptism? Many of us are baptised but what does it mean? We know that baptism doesn’t involve magic water. The act itself doesn’t save us. Rather, it marks our repentance and turning away from sins towards Christ in faith. Baptism is the physical act of immersing into water and it outwardly signifies what is happening to a believer, that his old life is dead, and he is born again to newness of life. We will speak more about that later but baptism is a picture of repentance and faith. It is confessing that your old self of sin is dead and now, you lead a new life of faith. We go down into the water in Jesus’ death, and come up “immersed” in Jesus’ resurrected life.
In the text, we also read that Jesus came from Nazareth (City) of Galilee (Region) to be baptized by John in the Jordan. The trouble then is why would Jesus need to be baptized? John was proclaiming a righteousness apart from the law. Was he sinful? No, he wasn’t. He was baptized to identify with the people whom he will save. He was filling himself with us, being one of us, joining with us (just as we are joined to him in baptism). Matthew in Matt 3:13-15 tells us that Jesus explains his baptism by John to be “fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus was modeling righteousness for every single sinner. He shows us that sinners need a righteousness apart from what they know of obeying the law. The need a righteousness that stems from Jesus’ death and resurrection, and baptism is the outward sign of this new righteousness that comes from Jesus.
Thus, baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. All we are doing is confessing something that is true. Are you baptized today? Why or why not? Does baptism make you “special”? Does baptism save you from your sins. The answer is No, but baptism has its own value. In baptism, we identify ourselves with our Jesus who was himself baptized. We identify with him outwardly in his death and resurrection. We answer his call of repentance and faith which we will speak about later.
But if you are a Christian today that has not been baptized, consider it. Baptisms are often accompanied with testimonies, where the individual shares his/her story of how God pursues. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you know that following Jesus is hard. Do you realise how sharing your story can encourage other Christians of their faith in Christ! Think of how you can commit yourself to a church by being baptized.
As Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens were being torn open and the Spirit
descended on him like a dove (Mark 1:10). Jesus is anointed and empowered by the Spirit. The Spirit commissions Jesus as God’s Servant mentioned in Isaiah 42:1, who will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 61:1 tells us that Jesus is sent with good news to the poor or afflicted which we will see more of later. This Servant will do something great (to the nations) and will also bring something for the marginalised.
After that, a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well
pleased” (Mark 1:11). This is God the Father speaking and it confirms the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, two members of the Trinity. It confirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and is the son spoken of in Ps 2:7, the one who will have the nation as His heritage. This is exactly what our passage speaks of today — a King who came to rule. This phrase of “my beloved Son” appears again in Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:5. But what is even more interesting is how perfect this relationship is. It is the fulfillment of Isa 42, where the LORD is delighting in his servant.
Jesus is perfection, and if you are a sinner today, you are meant to go, how can I ever please God with my filthy life. You and I are imperfect, we give God our imperfect
obedience, but Jesus, at his baptism “fulfills all righteousness” as Matthew 3 tells us. What are you and I then to do? What does this king bring? What kind of Kingdom does he establish?
(B) A Kingdom at a War that its King has Already Won (Mark 1:12-13)
The Bible makes it clear to us that Jesus was led by the Spirit, and the Spirit drives him out into the wilderness immediately after the baptism (Mark 1:12). It mirrors almost exactly what happens to the Israelites after they were saved from slavery in Egypt in Exodus. Israel left Egypt with the Red Sea experience and was sent into the desert. Like them, Jesus also goes into the wilderness, but his experience there is completely different as we shall see next. This transition in Mark would seem sudden but when those of us who have been baptized think about it it, it isn’t! Baptism doesn’t make us all of sudden perfect, in fact all baptized Christians are tempted by sin. After his baptism, Jesus is tempted too, but let us see how he responds.
Matthew gives us a more detailed account of Jesus’ temptation by Satan (also known as the “accuser" or "slanderer”) in the wilderness in Matt 4:1-11. Jesus faced 3 temptations:
- Hunger after fasting 40 days and nights (Matt 4:1-4), akin to Israel's 40 years in the wilderness
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:2-3 in that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is not about merely physical sustenance, but it calls to attention the value of God’s Word. Do you feed yourself spiritually with God’s word daily? I know that I struggle with thinking I need his word daily. Even on my good days when I read my bible, it is seen more like a chore than something that satisfies. When one is hungry, you know how satisfying food can be, and this is the same with God’s word for our souls.
Misuse of Scripture when Satan tried to get Jesus to “jump off” while quoting from Psalm 91:11-12 (Matt 4:5-7)
Satan seeing that Jesus quotes him Scripture does the same to convince him to commit suicide. Satan twists and bends God’s word to try to tempt Jesus into sinning, but once again, Jesus quotes him Deut 6:16 it says that you shall not put the LORD your God to the test. The Israelites tested the LORD at Massah (“testing”) when they were thirsty and said “is the LORD among us or not?” Just like how Satan misquoted God's commands with Eve, Jesus too was tempted in the same way. Are you aware that Satan even tries to use Scripture to tempt you and me? Can we know if we are reading it right? One way to read your Bible rightly is to read it as a whole. Remember the larger storyline of the Bible when you read it. Not knowing your Bible well means that you and I are susceptible to being misled and tempted.
Worship Satan as a shortcut to reigning rather than follow the Father’s will. In other words, glory without the cross (Matt 4:8-11)
Jesus quotes Deut 6:13 and 1 Sam 7:3 after Satan offers him the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Jesus utterly rejects idolatry. Jesus was completely firm about whom he worships and that is God alone. What about us? Are we serious and firm about the idols in our hearts? Can you imagine being offered every single thing you have dreamt of, would you trade your
worship of God alone for it? We need to be aware about what we are worshipping on a daily basis! What are you enduring for the gospel? Is the gospel worth enduring everything for?
These verses show us that we are at war and fighting some sort of a war. When we try to follow Jesus, it will be tough. Somehow God allows things to happen. We know from James 1 that God tempts no one, yet here we see how Jesus is a new Israel here that is tempted and comes out without sins. God does allow circumstances to test us but he himself tempts no one and he cannot be tempted. Jesus came through his tests powerfully, and gave Satan nothing to accuse him of. There was no sin found in him. He didn’t trade God in for physical food, nor test God, nor even for the reign of the world. He overcame Satan’s temptations, such that there is nothing Satan can use to accuse him of sin. Today we are like Jesus in the wilderness, Satan tempts us to reject God daily, telling us that we are better off without him. But what comfort it is to have a King who sympathizes with our weaknesses and was tempted in every respect and yet without sin (Heb 4:15).
(C) A Kingdom with the Good News of Repentance and Faith in its King (Mark 1:14-15)
In just one verse, we see that John's role was done after he was arrested (Mark 1:14). John’s role was a transitional role and it is clear that he was never meant to be the “king” in this new kingdom although he proclaims it in the earlier part of Mark 1. He says in John 3:30 that “He must increase, but I must decrease” when speaking in relation to Jesus Christ.
This is the kind of attitude that you and I struggle to adopt. Naturally, we want ourselves to increase, and we want our own glory to be furthered. But what does it mean that we must decrease. How can our lives be more about the glory of Christ, and his honour and fame? Are there areas in our lives that we must “decrease” in?
Jesus begins His ministry by proclaiming that the “kingdom of God is at hand" and we are toe "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15). The kingdom of God is God’s rule and reign over the world, therefore what Jesus is trying to say is that the kingdom of God is here, and it is now being established with Jesus’s arrival. In fact, God’s rule and reign is happening right now in the hearts of his people. If you are a Christian today, Christ is your King and you are a part of his kingdom. And how did you become part of this kingdom? You heeded his call of “repent and believe in the gospel”. What does it mean to repent and believe?
- Repent: Change one’s thinking towards God that impacts life choices. It means to turn away from one way of living and thinking to another way.
- Believe in the gospel: It is to place your faith in Christ as your Saviour. The gospel is the good news of Christ as God’s anointed one who will save a people from their sins.
This is how we take part in this kingdom of God, where the King is perfectly obedient to God, where the King has already defeated Satan’s accusations of sin. When we trust in Christ’s good news, his perfect obedience and the full righteousness he fulfills is ours, and the Father is pleased with us. His victory over sin is ours too, that Satan cannot accuse us of our sins against God. Satan is powerless. The followers of this king repent and believe daily. It is easy to say but hard to do. How often do you and I feel sinful? How often do you feel like you need Christ more than anything? Repent and believe is a daily activity that informs our lives. It informs us in good and bad circumstances. And because it is good news, it causes us to want to repeat this message to everyone who hasn’t heard it. Do you feel a burden to share this good news with the ones around you? In repenting and believing everyday, (turning away from building our own kingdom to building his or turning away from our will to his), we enter God’s Kingdom and look forward to the king’s return, where all creation will be restored and his kingdom will come in its fullness.