Jesus Is the Son of God
So the person who wrote the “Gospel of Mark” was a guy named Mark who was a missionary and friend of both the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter. And Mark starts his Gospel for us here with a very clear, straightforward statement. Look at what he says here in verse 1. Mark starts, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
And that is a pretty basic sentence. It may not seem super profound to us, but if we were to compare Mark’s introduction to the other three Gospels, we see that this is different.
So the New Testament starts with four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of the Gospels are all about Jesus and his life, and their purpose is to tell us who Jesus is — they want us to know that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s what they’re all doing, they just don’t all say that right away.
Matthew starts with a genealogy and then the birth of Jesus;
Luke gives us a very ordered account, starting even with the birth of John the Baptist;
the Gospel of John starts way way back with the eternality of the Word;
But then with Mark it’s just like “boom!” — The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Mark just comes out and says it right away.
It kind of reminds me how my kids tell jokes. Our kids are funny, and they love telling jokes, but they are still working on the art of telling jokes. They can get so excited sometimes that they tell you the punchline in the very first question. Here’s one of my favorites: “Do you know what you call a fish without any eyes? … f-shhh.” But I’ve heard the joke: “Do you know what you call a f-shhh without any eyes?”]
Sometimes it’s just hard to save the punchline. And that’s kind of like what Mark is doing. He’s not holding back.
He wants us to know straight up, right out of the gate, that what he’s written here, what we’re about to read, this is “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ who is the son of God.”
Jesus in Your Face
And one thing I love about the way Mark does this is that it’s true to the nature of the gospel itself. Mark takes the gospel of Jesus and just puts it right there in front of us because that’s how the gospel works.
The gospel, by its nature, is an announcement that intrudes whatever it is we already had going on. That’s the way it happened back in the first century, and that’s the way it still happens today. Here we are going on with our lives, doing our own thing, and then all of sudden we are confronted with the gospel of Jesus, the Son of God, and we can’t ignore him because he’s right here! See, Mark’s Gospel is like “Jesus in your face.”
We’re not talking about ideas. This is not life advice. This is the truth of Jesus. The facts about what Jesus did are put right in front of us, and we have to do something with it. See, Jesus forces our hand.
And that’s a theme we’re going to see over and over again for the next 16 weeks, so I hope you come ready to meet Jesus, and bring your friends. Welcome to the Gospel of Mark.
Three Things We Learn About Jesus (verses 1–13)
And for today there are three things we learn about Jesus in these first 13 verses, and I’m excited to show them to you. So here they are. Three things about Jesus:
Jesus was foretold
Jesus is the Son of God, loved and delighted in by God the Father
[I’ll tell you #3 later . . . ]
[Let’s pray and we’ll get started. … Father, your church is here gathered, and your holy word is open, and this morning we ask that you would exalt Jesus for us. Work by your Spirit to show us his glory. For we ask this in his name, amen.]
1. Jesus was foretold. (verses 1–8)
And for this first point, I’m just taking it from what we see in the second verse. After Mark announces the gospel of Jesus the Son of God, he says in verse 2: “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet.” And that means, right away, we’re supposed to know that the gospel of Jesus has a backstory. Mark refers to the prophet Isaiah here, but the backstory of Jesus is actually the entire Old Testament. So if you have a Bible, that whole chunk from Genesis to Malachi is called the Old Testament, or you could just call it The Backstory. Because that’s what it is.
It’s the backstory that first tells us how the world began and then it gives us the history of Israel, and the whole thing is about the human hope for a Savior.
We need a Rescuer, who is later called in the Old Testament the Messiah, or the Christ. And the fascinating thing here about this Isaiah quote, is that Isaiah is not foretelling of the Messiah here; he’s foretelling a messenger of the Messiah. He’s talking about one who is going to come before the Messiah to tell people about the Messiah. That’s what the quote is about. It’s actually a mashup of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1. God says, look at verse 2,
Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
So who’s he talking about?
Read verse 4: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Isaiah was talking about John the Baptist, and that’s where the focus turns in verse 4.
So then, who is John the Baptist?
Well, John the Baptist was a relative of Jesus, just a little bit older than Jesus, and he was a unique man. Before Jesus was publicly known, John went around preaching that Israel should repent and be forgiven, and he was baptizing people.
And verse 5 says that all Judea and Jerusalem were going out to him, confessing their sins — which means John was effective. God was at work through him, and when it comes to how we should think about him, verse 6 is meant to give us a clue.
Verse 6 says, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.”
And I know that people dressed and ate differently back then, but wearing camel and eating bugs would have been odd. And that’s not to mention that John spent most of his time in the wild. John basically lived in a van down by the river (that he baptized people in). So he was odd. And the reason why John the Baptist was so odd is because he was pretty much an Old Testament prophet in the New Testament.
He acted like a prophet similar to the prophet Elijah. Back in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 1:8, Elijah is actually described as dressing the same way as John the Baptist does here. And that’s the point. John the Baptist is meant to stand out. He’s not like everyone else. He came preaching repentance and baptizing, and he was telling people that someone is coming after him who is much greater than him. John said in verses 7–8:
I baptize you with water, but there is someone coming after me who is going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and he is so great that I’m not even worthy to untie his shoes.
So who’s he talking about?
Read verse 9: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”
And at this point, John’s work is done. His job is complete. He came to be the guy before Jesus, and then when Jesus comes, he gets out of the way. And you can see that change in verse 9, even in just the voice. Notice the change to the passive voice. Mark isn’t talking about John anymore. He’s talking about Jesus. Jesus in verse 9 was baptized by John. Jesus is now the focus.
Learning from John the Baptist
But there’s one more thing to say about John. John was a great man. Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel that “among those born of women none is greater than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28). That means that Jesus is saying that John the Baptist was the greatest man to ever live. And that’s a big deal, right?
And that means in verses 4–8 we’re reading about who Jesus says is the greatest man to ever live, and that should make us slow down on what John says in verse 7: “After me comes one who is mightier than me, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”
The greatest man to ever live says he’s not even worthy to bend down and touch the shoelaces of Jesus.
Now can I say something to our leaders real quick? I’m talking now to all of our leader-types, men and women; all of our pipeline; all the seminarians among us; I’m talking to the pastors including myself:
We see what John the Baptist says here about Jesus, now, do we think think WE are important enough to touch his feet?
Think about this: John the Baptist, the greatest man to ever live, felt small next to Jesus’s shoestrings — and I get to stand here and talk about him?
I want you to know that we’re dealing with wonders here. What we get to do when we are involved in gospel ministry — any of us — we are in over our heads. We don’t deserve to touch his feet. And we should never forget that.
So that’s John the Baptist. Jesus was foretold, in the Old Testament, and by John who was sent before him. Now Jesus is the focus.
Here’s the second thing we learn in verses 9–13.
2. Jesus is the Son of God loved and delighted in by God the Father. (vv. 9–13)
And Mark shows us this two different ways here, and the first is most obvious in verse 10.
Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized. Just like all the others in Judea and Jerusalem, Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized, except that for Jesus something astonishing happened. Verse 10 says that when Jesus “came up out of the water.” [You know why Jesus came up out of the water? It’s because he was baptized by a Baptist. True story.] He was immersed under the water, and then he came up out of the water, and when he did, verse 10,
immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
This is a powerful moment in the life of Jesus. There were three important things that happened here: first, the heavens wore torn; second, the Holy Spirit came down upon him; and third, God the Father spoke to him. Which means this is cataclysmic.
And, going by Mark’s account here, Jesus is the only one who saw it. We infer that when Mark says Jesus saw this happen that he means only Jesus saw this happen, and what’s fascinating about that is that we as the readers get to read about it. Which means, dramatic irony is happening here. We are the readers of this Gospel know more about Jesus than the characters in this Gospel, at least at the start.
Remember, Mark already tells us in verse 1: This is “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And here he shows us an event that confirms it — and hands down, the point is clear: Mark wants us know that Jesus really is the Son of God — but not just the “son of God” in some vague way — Jesus is the Son of God loved by God and delighted in by God.
And we need to know this right away, right from the start. Because if we’re new to the story of Jesus, we need to know that whatever trouble or hardship that Jesus finds himself in later, he finds himself in that hardship as the Son of God loved and delighted in by God. We should know right away that whatever difficult circumstances Jesus might encounter, those circumstances are not a reflection of what God thinks about him. [We need to know that!]
Mark can’t make it any plainer for us when it comes to Jesus. God the Father speaks out of heaven — heaven that’s been torn open, as the Holy Spirit comes down upon Jesus — God the Father says to Jesus, “YOU are my beloved Son; with YOU I am well pleased” . . .
Eternally, before the foundation of the world, in our triune fellowship, as you have reflected the glory of the divine essence, as you have always been the object of my delight, so right now, in your human flesh, you are my son; and I love you; and I am pleased with you.
This is heaven on earth, you know. This is what we all just want to hear. To belong to God! To be loved by God! To be delighted in by God! That is Jesus. That’s what we see here.
So pop the champagne! Let’s throw a party! Let’s celebrate! This is amazing! Since this is true, let the blessings flow!
Verse 12: The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
And word there for “drove him out” means to “cast out” (same word used for casting out demons). The point is that it’s forceful. The Spirit didn’t recommend that Jesus spend a little time in the wild, he expelled him there. … for forty days. … to be tempted by Satan.
You are my son; and I love you; and I’m well pleased with you. . . . and then this.
One little practical thing I want us to see here is that divine favor does not mean you get an easy life. God being pleased with you doesn’t mean everything is pleasant. God loving you doesn’t mean you will love your circumstances. This is one thing we see here: God’s love for you and your suffering are not incompatible! And oh how Jesus taught us that!
Jesus is the Son of God loved and delighted in by the Father. Marks shows us that first in verse 11, and he shows us another way in verse 13.
Verse 13 says: “And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
And that’s kind of a strange verse. There’s no consensus among scholars on what is happening here, but I have an idea. I think the key is that last phrase that “the angels were ministering to him,” which is supposed to be seen up against the statement that Jesus was with the wild animals.
I think the wild animals are a bad thing, so don’t imagine Snow White here. (Isaiah 11 foretells of a day when all the animals get along and humans are safe, but that’s not here, not yet.) The wild animals in verse 13, I think, are alluding to something in the history of Israel — we’ve already seen that Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, kind of like Israel was in the desert forty years, so there’s already a parallel between Jesus and Israel happening here — and for Israel in their history, we see many times that wild animals were dangerous. During Israel’s sojourn in the desert, wild animals were considered a threat (Deut. 8:15); they were even considered dangerous during Israel’s conquest (mentioned in Deut. 7:22). Wild animals were also part of God’s judgment for Israel’s disobedience. God said, “I will let loose the wild beasts against you … with the venom of things that crawl in the dust” (Lev. 26:22; see Deut 32:24). So wild animals are bad. I think the mention here of wild animals is meant to sound dangerous. But — “the angels were ministering to him.” The angels were serving him.
So what’s that about? And what’s that have to do with wild animals?
Well, there’s this psalm, Psalm 91 — and in Matthew’s account of the temptation Satan actually quotes from Psalm 91 — because Psalm 91 is all about God’s care and protection for his Messiah. And that’s what is on trial here. Remember the scene of the Son of God, loved by God, delighted in by God, is immediately juxtaposed to forty days in the desert, tempted by Satan, and surrounded by wild beasts — so the question is: what’s going to happen to Jesus? Well in Psalm 91, breaking in at verse 9, we find this said about the Messiah:
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
[So says God of his Messiah!]
And Mark wants us to know that this Messiah we read about in Psalm 91 is the Jesus we meet here in Mark Chapter 1.
Jesus was with the wild animals — lions and adders and serpents — Jesus was with them, and the angels were serving him. The angels were protecting him, just like in Psalm 91. This is just another way for Mark to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God — and that God is for him and with him. God protects him and cares for him — even when he’s right in the middle of trouble and hardship.
But wait a minute. Question here: if God is for his Messiah, why is their trouble and hardship at all? Why the desert? Why the temptation? Why the danger? If Jesus is the Son of God, loved and delighted in by God, then why does he go through what he goes through?
It’s because he did it for you. (And this is the last point.)
Jesus was foretold.
Jesus is the Son of God, loved and delighted in by God the Father. [and]
Jesus is our substitute.
3. Jesus is our substitute. (verses 9, 13)
And to say that Jesus is our substitute is to say that Jesus took our place. That’s what “substitute” means. And chances are, most of you have probably heard something like that before. If you’ve been around church or been around Christians, you’ve heard that Jesus died for us. And if you’ve not heard that, I want to say it clearly: Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners like us.
Jesus died for you. And he did more than that.
See, Jesus didn’t just take our place in his death, but he also took our place in his life. Jesus died as our substitute, and he lived as our substitute. And the first time that we really see this is at his baptism.
The baptism of Jesus can be a little confusing. Mark tells us that John was preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and that people were coming to John to be baptized, confessing their sins. But then we see that Jesus comes to John and we have to hit timeout — because Jesus was perfect. Jesus didn’t need to repent. Jesus didn’t have any sins to confess. So why is he coming to John? Why is Jesus getting baptized?
And this is where I really do think the meaning of baptism as immersion is important. Baptism really means to be plunged into something. It means to go down into the depths. It means to be submerged — and that’s exactly what Jesus did to save us.
The image of Jesus being baptized is not just about him being immersed under water, but it’s about him being immersed into our humanity, into our darkness, in our chaos.
See, Jesus didn’t come to save us by just swooping in one day, all heroic, to defeat sin and death and then he’s done. That’s not how he did it.
Instead, Jesus entered into this world, and allowed himself to be surrounded by sin and vulnerable to temptation. When Jesus came here, he came all the way here, on the ground here, and he walked into the deepest, darkest back allies of what it means to he human.
Jesus was exposed to every threat that has ever come against our souls. When Jesus came here he walked into the space of depression, and the space of loneliness. Jesus walked into the space of despair and brokenness. Jesus walked into the space of addiction and sickness. Jesus walked into the space of confusion and pain. Jesus walked into the space of the carnage left by abuse and suffering. Jesus immersed himself into the worst of this world — and he did for you — and if you don’t know that, you can’t know him — because Jesus meets us in our needs, and he meets us there as the Savior! Yes he does!
See, Jesus entered into all the junk of our humanity, under the power of evil, and he conquered the power of evil — not by divine violence, but by faith and obedience as the Son of God, loved and delighted in by God, as our substitute. Jesus did it in our place!
Before Jesus overcame evil by his death, he overcame evil by his life. And the whole course of his life matters. Calvin said it this way: “the very moment that Jesus put on our flesh he began to pay the price of our salvation.”
Look, the atonement didn’t start on the cross, that’s where it ended! The whole life of Jesus was his battle in our place for our salvation, the cross was just the ultimate battle — the ultimate humbling.
Jesus humbled himself to become a human — and that was low enough. But then he humbled himself to the point of death — even death on a cross!
The cross was where evil brought the onslaught, and it was there, on the cross, when Jesus destroyed evil as it was doing its worst to destroy him.
So the cross is about a hard-fought victory, after a whole life of victory that was for you.
This is Jesus Christ, the son of God. This is what he did for you. Will you trust him? If you’re new to the Bible, or new to Christianity, you’re already trusting in something, trust in Jesus. Put your faith in him.
That’s what is happening when we come to this Table. Every Sunday when we as Christians take the bread and the cup, we remember the wonder of the cross. We remember that this is our hope, that we are united to Jesus by faith, and that all that Jesus did in his life and in his death he did for us. What a Savior!
Lord Jesus, thank you! Thank for your body broken for us, and for your blood shed for us! Thank you for the victory of your life and the victory of your cross, and thank you that your victory is our victory! We receive this bread and cup now with grateful hearts, in your great name, amen.