Invitation from the Worthy One

Posted: July 29, 2013 in Mark

Mark 1:9-20, “Invitation from the Worthy One”

Have you ever encountered something so good that you just had to try it out for yourself?  Perhaps a restaurant that all your friends raved about – perhaps one of those gadgets advertised in the airplane catalogs.  It just seems so good, you’ve got to find out more by personal experience.  That’s the way it is with Jesus.  Jesus is so good – Jesus is so worthy – Jesus is so magnificent – there is no way to truly understand everything about Him until we personally experience Him for ourselves.  He’s so worthy that there must be a response to Him.

That’s what we see as Mark wraps up his introduction of Jesus.  We’ve been shown John the Baptist & heard the message of the expected Messiah-King who is rapidly approaching.  John already spoke of the King’s immense worth.  Even the greatest of prophets was not worthy enough to untie the shoes of the Messiah.  And now (in Mark’s typical brief, but dramatic fashion), the Messiah-King is revealed, shown to be truly worthy of everything that had been said of Him.  Jesus was presented in baptism, and the entire Triune Godhead shows His approval of the Son of God.  Jesus was tested in temptation, sent out by the Spirit, attacked by Satan, and came out unscathed.  His worth demonstrated, this same Jesus went out and preached the gospel, and people responded to His invitation.

Jesus is the worthy One, to Whom we must respond!

Mark 1:9–20
9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

  • In which “days”? In the days of John’s baptizing. Luke actually narrows down the timeframe for us, being the historian that he is.  He writes that it was the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar that John cam baptizing – and he goes so far as to list out the various officials who were in public office (Luke 3:1-2). Mark doesn’t give us too much detail about it. For him, the focus is on the transition between the forerunner and the King. As the herald and forerunner of the King Messiah, John spoke of a greater Man and a greater baptism. Immediately our attention is drawn to this greater Man as He is presented for the first time (since His birth) to the nation as His ministry begins.
  • Jesus would have travelled a long way to see John.  It’s possible Jesus was already in the area, but Nazareth was certainly His hometown, from which He was known.  At some point He had made the ~75 mile journey south to where John was baptizing in Bethany/Bethabara beyond the Jordan (Jn 1:28)  Nazareth was a small village of little importance, seemingly despised in the eyes of the rest of the nation.  Just before Nathanael was called as a disciple of Jesus, he was incredulous that anything good could come out of Nazareth (Jn 1:46).  For that matter, John’s place of baptism in the Jordan river was viewed much in the same way.  It was (and is) a dirty river & apparently the Jewish custom generally prevented the Jordan from being used for any sort of ritual purification (though John ignored this tradition). This sets up a profound contrast. This should have been just another baptism of a generic guy from a Podunk town out in the middle of nowhere in a Podunk dirty river. But that wasn’t what happened at all. This was the ministry of John the Baptist – the first prophet in Israel for 400 years. And this was no ordinary man who came to him. This was Jesus – the prophesied Messiah, promised since the days of Adam and Eve. Quite a humble site for such a marvelous historic event.
    • Isn’t that the grace of God in a nutshell? Jesus’ whole incarnation is about infinite almighty God coming to earth in humility. The magnificent Creator came to Podunk Earth to do something truly historic. He would divide history in half, and reconcile the creation that had rebelled against Him back to Himself.  He would set right what went wrong at the beginning of time, and make it possible for all condemned humanity to be forever saved!
  • Notice that Jesus submitted Himself to be "baptized by John." Mark doesn’t go into the details here, but even John realized how absurd this was. John was the one who needed the ministry of Jesus; not the other way around (Mt 3:14). Yet this was the will of God. Jesus was baptized because this is what God the Father wanted.  Remember that baptism for the Jews was sign of a new beginning, but for us it is identification with the Lord Jesus.  For Jesus, it was all of this.  It was the beginning of His public ministry – the formal start to His call to the people of Israel.  It was an illustration of what His ministry was all about, showing in pictures His death, burial, and resurrection.  AND it was also identification. Jesus was identifying Himself with sinners…with us.  Jesus had no sin from which to repent from, but He became sin on our behalf when He died upon the cross.  Because He identified Himself with us, we can be identified with the Sinless One in His righteousness when we put our faith in Him.

10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.

  • Note the "immediately." Mark is going to use this word a lot! In fact, he already used the same basic word when quoting Isaiah 40:3 in reference to John’s proclamation of Jesus (1:3). To "make His paths straight" is to make His roads immediate, or passable. But here, the usage is as an adverb and it’s something that Mark is going to come back to time and time again. For him, Jesus is an active Servant-King, always on the move.
  • This particular "immediately" is in regards to Jesus’ baptism. Everything seemed to be normal when Jesus was lowered into the water (though it was anything BUT normal, and both John and Jesus knew it, even if no one else did). Yet as soon as Jesus was raised up, something spectacular happened: the sky was ripped in two.  “The heavens parting” doesn’t really give the idea from the language.  There was a schism – a tearing of the heavens.  This was a momentous event as heaven bore witness of Jesus.
    • This is a perfect precursor of what would happen when Jesus was crucified. At that point, the curtain of the temple was torn, as were many rocks that shut up graves around Jerusalem. As Jesus went into death, the earthly things were torn, but as He symbolically comes into life, the very heavens are torn!
  • What happened when the heavens were split? The Holy Spirit came out of those same heavens, "descending upon Him like a dove." Keep in mind, this wasn’t a vision that John had…this actually happened. God the Holy Spirit took on bodily form and came as a dove upon Jesus. Reminiscent of creation, when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Gen 1:2).
    • This tells us something about the Holy Spirit: He is a full-fledged Person within the Godhead. Sometimes people think of the Holy Spirit as an essence or force. (Some heterodox churches actually teach erroneous doctrine along these lines.). This cannot be. A force cannot take on bodily form and descend. A force does not have a specific will and motive (such as will be seen in vs. 12). Think about it: electricity is just electricity…nothing more, nothing less. The same with gravity. We might think of these things as forces – inanimate objects that have certain effects. This does not describe the Holy Spirit at all. The Holy Spirit has a will, has ministries, has emotions, has words…and here, He actually has a presence that is visibly demonstrated when He briefly took an incarnate form for the moment of Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit is fully God, just as much as God the Father and God the Son.
  • Why did the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus? It was a declaration – a proclamation that the Man who was just baptized was different than everyone else getting baptized that day. This Man was chosen by, and anointed by God the Holy Spirit. He truly is the "Messiah" – God’s anointed One.

11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

  • The proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah did not just come from God the Holy Spirit, but also from God the Father. As the Spirit descended as a dove, a voice came and miraculously spoke in the hearing of those who were present. This was immediate verification from God the Father of what was happening.
  • What did the Voice say?
    • "You are…My Son": This identifies both the Speaker and the One spoken about. This supernatural voice that came from the heavens could be none other than God the Father. Angels do not have children, nor do they normally speak in the OT sans body. Only Almighty God could be known as a Father, and only He consistently spoke to His people throughout the ages. (And this is the first time that the actual voice of God the Father had been heard in centuries!). Of course, it also identifies Jesus as being the Son of the Father. To be sure, any one of God’s people could claim in some way to be a child of God, but this was a unique identification of a unique Son. Jesus referred to Himself as the "only begotten Son" or the uniquely begotten Son (Jn 3:16). There is only one like Him!
    • "You are My beloved Son": Not only did God identify His one and only Son, He also spoke of the relationship they have with each other. Like any Father, God loves His Son. He LOVES Him! Pay attention to that fact. Sometimes we think of broad theological ideas as being staid and stoic and academic-only. But that isn’t the case at all. There is real relationship between two living beings here. There is emotion and attachment and family within the members of the Trinity. When God the Father thinks of Jesus, it’s not in a far-off detached sort of way…He truly loves the eternal Son who is begotten of Him.
      • The Father loves the Son…and at the same time He was also willing to sacrifice His Son for you and me! That fact doesn’t take away from God’s love for His Son, but it certainly does speak of His love for the world.  John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." []  God gave the highest price for your salvation because He gave what He most values in all the universe: His beloved, uniquely-begotten Son.
      • The Father loves His Son in a unique way, but He also individually loves you and me. Anyone who is a born-again Christian has become a child of God (by spiritual birth and adoption), and He loves us!  God loves the world generally, but He loves His children specially and specifically.
    • The Father is "well pleased" in His Son. The original word is “to have a good opinion – to delight – to think well of.” The idea here is that the Father delights in His Son because of who Jesus is and in what Jesus has done. The Father loves His Son simply because the Son is HIS Son…and the Father is also perfectly pleased with the actions and obedience of His Son. The Father is proud of Jesus (in a good way). Specifically in terms of Jesus’ life leading to this baptism (which is the launching of His public ministry – Jesus hadn’t done anything yet that was recorded for us in the Scripture), God was already pleased with all that His Son had done. Already the eternal glorious Son had humbled Himself in incarnation, and lived a perfect sinless life as a Jewish boy. Jesus had succeeded in every way that the Father had planned for Him, and was well-pleasing to God.
      • That didn’t change throughout Jesus’ life. Everything He did was well-pleasing to God! Back through the eternal past, right up until the cross and resurrection…even to this day!  God is always well-pleased in His Son.  Jesus never does anything to displease His Father, and His Father always thinks the best of Jesus.
        • This makes the cross of Christ even more devastating in its impact.  God is always well-pleased with Jesus, but there was one brief moment in time in which the Father had to forsake the Son as the wrath of God was poured out upon sin.
      • We were not always well-pleasing to God, but through the work of Jesus, we are made to be so!  We can look back on our lives and see all kinds of areas where we have been displeasing to God, fully deserving of the worst that God can throw at us.  But in Christ, all of that changes!  In Christ, God doesn’t see us in our sin; He sees us in His Son.  Because He is well-pleased with Jesus, He is well-pleased in us.  Amazing grace!

12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

  • Here’s the 2nd "immediately" in the passage. Immediately following Jesus’ baptism was His temptation. Here was this incredible supernatural trumpet-sounding event: a celebration of the Son of God and His ministry by the other two members of the Trinity…and no sooner it ends than that same Trinity thrusts Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and tested.
    • The pleasure of God does not mean exemption from trials.
  • "The Spirit" did this. He drove/cast/threw Jesus into the wilderness. The will of God the Holy Spirit was that Jesus endure this time of trial. Jesus needed to be tested, and God was willing to have His Son do it. (Also emphasizes God’s sovereignty during the whole event.  Jesus was not left alone to the whim of Satan & chaos; this was the will of God at work.)
  • Out of the three gospel accounts that mention this, Mark gives the least details of all three. Both Matthew and Luke go into the three various temptations that the devil presented to Jesus, as well as Jesus’ response to all of them – but Mark doesn’t say a word about them. All he writes of is the place (the wilderness/desert/abandoned area), the time (40 days), the basic event (tempted by Satan), and what happened after the fact. It’s not the details of the trials that strike Mark, but rather the loneliness of it all. After this very public event of baptism, in which Jesus has the acclaim of the Trinity, and the company of John the Baptist and all watching, Jesus is now alone for well over a month. Just as Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days, so did Jesus go off into a deserted place. Only the beasts and other wild animals were there to keep Him company, which surely would not be very comforting for any ordinary man. Who would want to be alone in the American wilderness with coyotes and cougars for 40 days? After a while (especially while fasting from food), any one of us would feel less a person, and more of prey. It’s in the midst of all that that the grand Accuser comes and tempts Jesus. Surely Jesus would be at His weakest – physically and emotionally. If Jesus were to be susceptible to temptation at any time, surely it would be during this time (as well as on the cross). And that’s when Satan hit (precisely according to the allowance and will of God).
    • When is it that Satan hits you the worst in temptation? Jesus knows what it’s like!
  • Jesus may have been alone from other people in the hour of His temptation, but He had not been forgotten by God. Perhaps through the entire process, but especially after it was all over, "angels ministered to Him."  They served Him and His needs, which would have been many after 40 days of abstaining from food & drink!  (BTW, theologically this introduces an important idea which is dealt with in more detail by the writer of Hebrews: Jesus is greater than the angels.  The angels, who are glorious beings of a slightly higher order than humans are still servants unto Jesus.  They are His messengers, and when He commands, they respond.)
    • Like Jesus, we will also face temptation.  And as with Jesus, God will allow these things to come our way.  God does not tempt us to sin, but He will allow us to be tempted & face the attacks of the enemy.  The good news for us is that God never leaves us alone during our temptation. (And neither was Jesus for that matter; though it surely seemed that way.) He is available to help us endure and experience victory!

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

  • Mark continues on, officially launching his narrative of Jesus’ ministry. Time seems to have passed after the wilderness temptation, though Mark doesn’t say how much.  There was a wedding in Cana, and other events that took place before John was imprisoned, and Jesus went north again to Galilee. 
    • Note that John suffered, but God did not deliver him.  Mark’s narrative is moving past John here (though he’ll get into the details in Ch. 6), but Jesus does not march into Herod’s palace and demand John’s release.  He doesn’t send angels to get John out of prison, as would later happen with Peter (Acts 12).  John is not forgotten by Jesus, but he is not immediately delivered from his trial by Jesus, either.  Sometimes God allows us to endure hardships.  It does not mean God loves us any less, nor that God is not capable of delivering us – but sometimes He has something different in mind for us than what we might have in mind for ourselves.  We need to make the decision to trust God, no matter what He allows us to face.
  • Jesus had gone down to where John was in Bethany, had gone into the wilderness, and now returns to His home area in Galilee. There, He preached "the gospel of the kingdom of God."  Before Mark shows us a single miracle of Jesus, he shows Jesus as the Preacher.  Jesus preached the gospel!  Remember what the gospel is: Jesus. (Mk 1:1) It’s the good news of Jesus Himself.  He has come, He dwelled among us, He died, He rose again, He lives today, and more.  Jesus IS the gospel.  The gospel is the good news about Him, His glory, His work, and His presence.  Question: If Jesus is the gospel, how could Jesus preach the gospel?  Easy…He preached the Scriptures, and the Scriptures all testify of Him (Jn 5:39).  What Jesus preached in vs. 15 was the message that was given throughout the Scriptures about the Kingdom of God, the King, the time, and man’s response to God.  All of that testifies of Jesus – all of it points to Him.  Jesus proclaimed Himself in His preaching, even if He never said His own name.  All He needed to do was proclaim what the Bible said, and that would testify of the One who was preaching.
    • There is power in the word of God!  The Bible is the testimony of Jesus Christ, from Genesis to Revelation.  When we learn the Scripture, we learn of Jesus.  When we rightly proclaim it to others, we tell them of the words and the person of Jesus Christ.
  • What exactly was Jesus’ message?  Apparently it was the same as John’s.  Mark only gave a summary of John’s preaching, but he also proclaimed this same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2)  As Mark records Jesus’ words, we’re told 3 basic things:
    • The time is right!  For Jesus to say “the time is fulfilled” is for Him to say that all of the seasons that the prophets declared had now come to fruition.  Every promise about the Messiah that had been given were brought to completion in Jesus.  The Messiah stood before them, and the time all Jews everywhere were waiting for had arrived.
    • The kingdom is here!  Not only were the prophecies fulfilled, but the kingdom had arrived.  It was “at hand” – it was at the door.  There was no more time to wait – there was no more time to put things off.  If people had been waiting to “get right with God,” the time for waiting was over.  The glorious promised kingdom of God was staring them in the face because the King stood before their eyes.  To be sure, the literal millennial kingdom is even yet still in the future, but the dawning of the kingdom was right at the door.
    • People must respond!  There must be a response to the fulfillment of the prophecies and the dawning of the kingdom.  People cannot enter into the kingdom of God doing the same things that they always did – they had to respond.  And Jesus tells them how: “repent and believe in the gospel.”  (Remember what repentance is: a change of mind & direction…)  Jesus called people to respond, they were to respond in repentance & faith.  It sounds like two separate things, but we can think of them as different sides of the same coin.  The one response to the arrival of the King of Kings is repentance and faith (belief).  When it is real, one always accompanies the other.  True faith in Jesus as Messiah shows itself in accompanying action.  Lip-service isn’t faith.  Words can be just words.  Just because someone mouths a “sinner’s prayer” doesn’t mean that Jesus is obligated to save him/her if that prayer isn’t borne out of true faith.  (To think otherwise is to treat prayer as an incantation, which is most certainly is not!)  Likewise, someone’s life simply cannot truly change if it is not accompanied by true faith in the Lord Jesus.  After all, anyone can change their actions for a short time, but no one can change their nature.  That is a work of God alone.  Repentance and faith always go together.

16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

  • We shouldn’t get the idea that as soon as Jesus arrived in Galilee, He saw Simon Peter & Andrew for the first time, stopped them from fishing, and then called them.  This was not their first meeting.  Apparently some time has passed – John’s gospel actually shows Andrew to be a disciple of John the Baptist, who left John to go follow Jesus.  Andrew ran and told his brother Simon about Jesus, and as soon as Simon met Jesus, Jesus prophesied of his new name Cephas (Peter).  Seemingly they all went back to Galilee, and although Simon & Andrew knew Jesus, they weren’t yet following Him as “full-time” disciples.  They were engaged in their family business, doing what they always did: fish.
  • This tells us a couple of things about the original disciples: (1) They were just normal guys.  Certainly they were devout Jews who loved the Lord (why else would Andrew have been a disciple of John?), but they weren’t guys who spent their lives in the equivalent of Jewish seminaries preparing for the day they might meet the Messiah.  They were fisherman.  They weren’t the cultural elite or the politically connected – they were just normal, everyday men.  Yet God saw them & God knew them…  (2) Our relationship with Jesus doesn’t always immediately hit us like a ton of bricks.  Simon & Andrew had a period of knowing the Lord Jesus, and growing in their knowledge of Him.  They may have had an inkling of faith, but it took time for a foundation to be laid, and Jesus did not rush the process with them.  Jesus would call them when He (and they) were ready.
  • When the time was right, Jesus did indeed call them.  See vs. 17…

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

  • Jesus’ call is so simple, we’re left wondering if that’s ALL He said.  Scripture doesn’t record much, but it records this – and obviously this was enough.  The Creator spoke, and His called creation listened & obeyed.  He gave the invitation, and the people He invited responded.  What did He say?  Two basic things:
    • Follow Me”: Apparently the phrase Jesus used was a technical phrase used of rabbis calling their disciples.  There would have been no doubt in the minds of Simon Peter & Andrew of what Jesus was asking them to do.  They were to leave their lives behind fully & completely, and come after Jesus in His life & ministry.
      • We’re not invited to follow a system or a religion – we’re invited to follow a Person: Jesus.
    • I will make you…”: For these two fishermen, Jesus used their profession to make a great analogy.  They had been catching fish, but now they would cast out the nets of the gospel and catch men and women for the glory of God.  They had been doing one thing, but Jesus would give them something different to do.  That much is easy to understand, but don’t miss the crucial part in all of it: this was a work of Jesus.  It’s not that Simon & Andrew would make themselves fishers of men, but Jesus told them that HE would make them fishers of men.  They would indeed change, but their change would come as a result of the work and grace of Jesus Christ.
  • And the glorious thing is, they followed!  They heard the call of Jesus, and they responded to His invitation in faith and obedience.  Objection: “Hold on now, the Scripture doesn’t say anything about their faith!”  Oh yes, it does.  Their faith is shown IN their obedience.  They didn’t say “Yes, Jesus,” and go back to casting their nets over the side of the boat; they “immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (Notice the “immediately” again!)  There was no hesitation in their response.  They followed through on what Jesus asked them to do, even if they didn’t say a word (which we don’t know from the silence of Mark).  They showed their faith BY their work of obedience. (James 2:18)
    • This is always the right response to the invitation of Jesus!  Faith & obedience: belief in who Jesus is, and what He said & did, and then actively following Him upon His word.  That’s what the initial disciples did, and that’s what all the world is invited to do as well.
  • Jesus wasn’t done calling disciples – see vs. 19…

19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

  • It wasn’t only Simon & Andrew.  There were other fishermen in the area (partnering family businesses), and Jesus called them as well.  It was virtually the exact same scenario: here are a couple of regular guys just doing what they always did at their work, and they have an encounter with Jesus.  Jesus calls them, and they leave what they’re doing to go follow Him.  Faith & following – belief & active obedience.  They responded to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Please note that they (as well as Simon & Andrew) left what was comfortable and secure.  James & John had a good job.  Their father Zebedee did well enough for himself to not only have his sons in the family business, but have “hired servants” as well.  They had a stable future ahead of them.  Yet when Jesus called, they left what they knew to go take a step of faith. …
  • Notice that what Simon, Andrew, James, and John did was exactly what Jesus had said to do when He was preaching the gospel of the kingdom.  Look back at what Jesus said in vs. 15: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  The four fishermen repented, in that they turned away from what they were doing (sinful or not), and they put their faith in Jesus and His falling.  They actively believed in the words and person of Jesus, and their lives forever changed as a result.
    • Jesus is still calling!  The invitation is still there!  How will we respond?

Conclusion:
Jesus is the Worthy One!  He humbly submitted Himself to the will of God in His baptism, identifying Himself with sinful man, and demonstrating what He came to do.  And God was pleased!  The Spirit descended upon Jesus from the rent heavens, signifying how Jesus was anointed by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit in a unique way for a unique purpose.  The Father spoke and definitively claimed Jesus as His beloved, pleasing Son.  And during His temptation, Jesus demonstrated exactly why He was well-pleasing to the Father.  Left to the worst of circumstances & at His weakest, Jesus endured the onslaught of Satan and prevailed.  It was in this victory that Jesus began His ministry, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

The call was clear: the time is right, and people needed to respond in repentance and faith.  And at least 4 did exactly that.  They believed Jesus at His word, and left the life that they had to go follow Him as disciples.  These were normal guys doing their normal things, yet they heard the extraordinary invitation of the Messiah-King, and they had to respond and experience Jesus for themselves.

How will you respond to the Worthy King Jesus?

  • For some, Jesus is calling you to take a step of faith.  You’ve believed upon Jesus as Lord, and your trust is in Him, but you’ve been hesitant to step out at His calling.  Jesus is worthy!  You can trust Him at whatever He’s called you to do.
  • For some, there’s a change that’s got to take place.  There’s repentance that is necessary in response to Jesus.  The time is now – the kingdom is at hand.  Stop messing around with the sins of the past…stop giving into the temptations of your flesh.  Fully entrust yourself to Jesus, confessing your sins to Him, and receive what He offers you as you live for His glory.
  • For still others, you need to make the decision to follow Christ Jesus for the first time.  You’ve heard His voice calling you – you’ve heard the invitation from the worthy God who loves you and gave Himself for you – and now the time has come for you to respond.  Don’t be one who watches what Jesus does from the sidelines.  Simon Peter & the others would never have truly experienced the salvation of Jesus if they never left their nets behind to follow Him.  That’s what Jesus is inviting you to do today.
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