(February 13, 2023) Richard Winter shares some salient facts…
The rumours had come in from a far-flung corner of the Roman empire…
- There was trouble over a Jewish teacher who had apparently led a nonviolent campaign.
- To stop the problems He had been crucified as a common criminal.
- His friends and many others are saying He has come back to life – and has been seen walking around and gathering with crowds of people.
So what are the facts? Mark tells them rather simply…
(A continuous history which – if you follow – you will know how it all links together and how that Jewish Messiah will affect your life and others).
1. New start
A guy had come baptising people who were repenting of their sins. Jesus was baptised… even though He had no sin! What Jesus was doing was demonstrating that all old ways of doing things either religiously or secularly needed to be buried and everyone can start a new spiritual life.
Baptism is the commissioning service for ministry – the new life. That’s what Jesus did – He accepted a start time for His ministry. And that’s what we are to do as well – start and serve.
Accepting Christ is a new start for us! His great commission (Matthew 28:19) included water baptism. And belonging to a church is vital to your maturation and spiritual growth. But note…
- Your church is not a holy club!
- Nor a retreat centre where you simply relax.
- You don’t come inside to retreat from the world.
- It is not an armchair experience.
A Bible-teaching church is where you actively learn about God and what is happening in this world. And about the unseen activities of the supernatural spiritual world… and how our lives are to be one with God’s will.
2. Plural baptisms
After Jesus was baptised He underwent a time of testing. It shouldn’t surprise us that when we say ‘Yes’ to God and His will, we also may undergo a time of spiritual testing!
In Meditations-on-Mark, we read that John would baptise in water and the one coming after him (Jesus) would baptise in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). This Holy Spirit baptism is a sign that you are empowered for ministry and witness for your service in the kingdom of God.
Just as there are two baptisms Mark introduces us to the two supernatural spirits at work in the world today – one Holy and the unholy!
Mark 1:12-13 tells that after Jesus’ water baptism, the Holy Spirit immediately directs Him away from the Jordan into the wilderness. He’s there for 40 days and encounters the unholy spirit, Satan, who constantly tempts Him!
And who, what is Satan? His very name, of Chaldee origin – Satanas – is frightening enough! It means accuser, and that’s what he is… the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He is also the –
- Devil (diabolos Matthew 4:1).
- Tempter (peirazō Matthew 4:3).
- Liar (pseustēs John 8:44).
- Murderer (anthrōpoktonos John 8:44).
- Adversary (antikeimai 1 Timothy 5:8).
- Dragon (drakōn Revelation 12:9).
- Serpent (ophis Revelation 12:9).
- Deceiver (planaō Revelation 20:10).
- Head of the fallen angels cast out of heaven onto this earth and now known as demons (Revelation 12:9).
In this world there’s a war out there… between this evil Satan and his demons against God and His saints!
3. Spirit warfare
No doubt some would question why after His baptism did Jesus go into the desert – ‘out there’? Surely it was a time to celebrate, perhaps have a family meal and rejoice, not fight!
But for Jesus, this is a special time… that desert trip was not a choice –
- It was a decision by God’s Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12).
- In obeying the leading Jesus was entering the devil’s home ground as it were.
- Using the word of God and not yielding, Jesus overcame the devil there!
- This was round 1 of the spiritual war commenced at His baptism, completed in round 15 at Calvary’s crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins, and eternal life guaranteed to any who would follow Jesus!
There are lessons here for us…
a) Don’t be surprised that you have demonic encounters and become involved in a spiritual war.
b) It’s important to know, as Jesus did, key scriptures and use them!
c) Only when we fight empowered by the Spirit will we defeat the devil!
d) Was it a coincidence that Jesus, victor over the devil those 40 days in the desert, would spend 40 days after Calvary speaking victoriously and encouragingly to His disciples about God’s kingdom? (Acts 1:3).
4. Kingdom now!
Mark unified two explanatory revelations into one message when he tells of Jesus beginning His ministry –
1) Jesus is here!
2) So is the kingdom of God! (Mark 1:14-15).
‘Well,’ you may ask, ‘doesn’t “the kingdom” mean that all evil be done away with… no more sin, sad times, bad times?’
Writing about this, Luke said, ‘…the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ By this he meant that when Jesus is within you, you are already in the kingdom of God because Jesus is ruling your heart! (Luke 17:21).When you die or when He comes back to take His believers to heaven, then all the old problems will be removed from life and the earth.
Here and now we are to be concerned about witnessing Jesus: ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’ (Mark 16:15).
5. Support structure
Jesus never operated alone! Mark 1:14-20 tells what was to be involved in the church’s formation. We learn how Jesus starts calling His first disciples…
Walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He sees fishermen brothers Simon and Andrew casting a net into the lake and says, ‘Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.’ Amazingly, they did so – immediately, leaving their nets behind! As they follow Him, Jesus sees other fishermen… James and John, Zebedee’ sons, preparing their nets. He calls them too, and they leave their father in the boat with the hired men and follow Him.
Now what was Jesus doing first calling those two sets of brothers?
- He chose key people to become the support structure on which reaching the world would be built.
- They left their successful fishing business (James and John had employees, and left dad to take over).
- Theirs is the first example of followers of Jesus willing to die to self and trust Him completely!
- This is the most compelling initial vision of what was to be accomplished through one agency!
- It was also the beginning of the mission in the war for souls!
Jesus called these fishermen to become ‘fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17). Fishing for people would not be accomplished with hooks and nets but with a compelling, powerful and confrontational message. Actually, it’s the same message we – Bible-based churches – proclaim today!
Our Lord is greater than any moral teacher – above Buddha, Mohammed or any spirit that people can worship. He is the Messiah, explains Mark, Lord of all, Saviour of all the world, the one who forgives sin, the living gospel and the one we proclaim.
So remember that Jesus, and what He is, is our main message, not non-biblical truths. May you too follow Jesus, willingly joining with others who have joined, will join, all those who further the kingdom of God!
6. Blank contract
Yes there were eight more who joined initially, making the core group known as the 12 disciples. Later they would be known as apostles, which simply means they were sent forth to do the job of ministry all over the then known world.
When you know about the kingdom of God, that getting the good news message out into the world is a prime concern, that there’s a spiritual war involved… you’d want to find the right people to support you.
If it was me I would choose important people to help me… those with money and connections, important politicians, and the like.
But Jesus did nothing like that! He simply said, ‘Follow me’ to that inconspicuous twelve… and those first disciples did! Today He is still looking for men and women who will leave what they have been doing to learn from Him, take up their cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38, 16:24)!
In many ways it is signing a blank contract! A case of – ‘Follow me… into a spiritual war. I’ll fill in the details as we go along.’
Are you such a follower of Jesus? If so there is one more thing you must know in your heart. It’s the –
7. Right message
The right message, not false, deceitful doctrines but the gospel message of full salvation through genuine repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Saviour! The Romans 3:23 message that ‘… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ and Romans 6:23 ‘… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
False teachers are common in every era! And many follow them today! False teachers of scripture, finance, power, sexual relationships, ‘isms’ and genderisations.They focus on the individuals’ desires, needs and wants, essentially their pleasures!
But Mark’s gospel encourages us to look above and beyond self to Jesus, to the one who –
- Is king over His kingdom.
- Can heal the sick.
- Works miracles!
- Is the teacher of truth!
- Has authority over sin and death!
This then is the right message, one that proclaims that the kingdom has come because the King Jesus is here! That nothing will ever be the same again… and that the hour of decision for Christ is now!
‘Mirror, mirror on the wall…’
Remember that old Snow White line?
Let me finish this meditation in an unusual but important way. Let’s examine ourselves in the mirror of God’s word, we who would follow Jesus and bring the right message to the lost…
1. We may see more than we want to!
What is really in our lives? Do we really understand that sin is rebellion against God? Are we rebelling in some way or ways?
2. Why look for any personal unrepented sins?
Because they replace Jesus in what we consider important! And they’ll hinder us in sharing the gospel!
3. God’s mirror can expose idols that may be in our heart!
Idols are false gods, and always disappoint. They undermine our ability to love and fully serve God because they centre on pleasing our flesh. Essentially they scream a big lie: That God is not enough!
4. Acknowledging bad reflections and revelations helps us
If these show by looking into God’s mirror and we respond repentantly, they will lead us to a heart change – we’ll see Jesus and our mission more clearly!
God’s word reveals the king has come and you are empowered to live for Him, to…
- Repent of our sins and not simply accuse others of their failures.
- Leave behind all wrong alliances and activities.
- Know that the demands are great, but the blessings of knowing Him are greater.
5. Having dealt with the above, see yourself as a soldier for Jesus!
In this Christian life, in firmly deciding to let the king of God’s kingdom rule, we will be fighting…
- The flesh.
- Our will.
So then, how do you preach to yourself? How do I preach to myself? There’s a war out there and there will be a war within.
From the beginning of his gospel ‘… good news about Jesus…’ (Mark 1:1) to ‘He has risen!’ (Mark 16:6) the author engages us with victories of this spiritual war!
Let’s allow God’s Holy Spirit to rule and reign – and we to will win that spiritual war!
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California and will be sharing more about Mark’s gospel. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
A challenging exhortation. One song writer puts it like this: ‘We’re in a mighty conflict here, the army of the Lord, we must join forces standing tall and lean upon His Word.’