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The Arrival of the Servant King – Mark 1:1-13

Intro

 

Happy New Year! I am so excited to start this New Year back in the pulpit with a new series. This year will be going through the Gospel of Mark (our 8th book study) and hopefully this book will go through us. We are calling it “The Servant King.” So our prayer should be, “Take the Gospel of Mark through me, Lord. Make me into a deeper lover, quicker repenter, a closer follower and better servant of the Servant King.” I am thankful once again for the help of brothers to preach this series as well.

 

Before we jump in, let’s take a bird’s eye view of the book and then we’ll go into Mark 1 and take a worm’s eye view. First,

 

Background

a)      Author

  • John Mark. He was a Jew who became a follower of Christ. He was not one of the original 12.
  • Mark’s mother had a house where believers would meet (Acts 12:12) Peter apparently went to this house often (Acts 12:13–16).
  • Barnabas was Mark’s cousin (Col. 4:10).
  • Barnabas and Paul took Mark along with them when they left on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5). However, Mark left early and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). When Barnabas wanted to bring Mark on the second missionary journey, Paul’s refusal led to a disagreement. The result was that Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas through Syria and Cilicia to go on separate trips (Acts 15:36–41).[1]
  • Nevertheless, Paul and Mark seems to have reconciled as Paul says: “he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).  [2] What an encouragement that the Lord would recover and use those of us who deserted the Lord for His work!
  • When I Peter was written, Mark was in Rome laboring with Peter, who regarded him affectionately as his son (1 Peter 5:13).[3] It was this close association with Peter that lent apostolic authority to Mark’s gospel, since Peter was evidently Mark’s primary source of information.[4]
  • Mark mentions Peter proportionately more than any of the other Gospels. If you go through the book of Mark, you’ll see that nothing happens in which Peter is not present. The entire Gospel of Mark, then, is almost certainly the eyewitness testimony of Peter.[5]

 

b)     Location and Date: Most likely, Mark wrote from Rome[6] anywhere between A.D. 60–70.[7]

c)      Occasion

  • To encourage the Gentile Church in Rome as the insane Emperor Nero was encasing them in wax and burning them at the stake, as well crucifying others and thrown to wild beasts.[8]
  • Mark wants them to see Christ as the Suffering Servant-Savior, and so arranged his material to show Christ as One who speaks and acts and delivers in the midst of crisis.[9]

 

d)     Style

  • Mark is the oldest of the Gospels. Matthew and Luke seem to have used a lot of Mark’s gospel.
  • Mark used the historical present tense 150 times. Jesus comes, Jesus says, and Jesus heals—all in the present tense. There are more miracles recorded in Mark than in the other Gospels, despite it being far shorter. Everything is…brilliantly vivid and fast-moving.
  • Mark uses the Greek word for “immediately” some forty-two times (compared to 8 in other Gospels). The conjunction “and” is unusually frequent (beginning twelve of Mark’s sixteen chapters) and adds to the rush of action. Christ’s life is portrayed as super-busy (he even had trouble finding time to eat—see 3:20 and 6:31).[10]

e)      Key verse

  • Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He is the Messiah and King, but a King who serves, not just in theory, but in action, all the way to the cross. He is the Son of God, but also the Son of man (found 14x).[11]
  • Mark wants us to see that the coming of Jesus calls for decisive action. There is relatively little of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospel of Mark— mainly, we see Jesus doing. Therefore we can’t remain neutral; we need to respond actively.[12]

Let’s dig in. What does it mean that the Servant King has arrived? First:

I. The King’s arrival means my kingdom’s departure (vv.1-3, 6-8)

Mark begins with no genealogy or no birth narrative, but skips 30 years into Jesus life. Notice “the beginning.” Similar to the Gospel of John, but it is also similar to Genesis. God is breaking through history again, this time in Christ to make a new creation.[13] Right away, we see that God is doing a new thing. He’s intruding into the way things were going. Before earth was a formless chaos and God intruded and created something beautiful. Now our hearts and our world are a formless chaos due to sin, and now the King’s here, intruding again!

 

It’s the beginning of “the gospel.” The word literally means, “Good News.” The Gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate,” said Dr. Paul S. Rees. “It is an announcement!”[14] It’s not good advice. It’s not even a good biography and story. This gospel is an announcement! To the Romans, Mark’s special target audience, gospel meant “joyful news about the emperor.”[15] But here is a King who unlike emperors does not come to live and die, but a King who has come to die and live. This is Good News! Here is the “in-breaking of God’s kingly rule [and] the advent of his salvation.”[16] We are no longer lost in our sins because the Rescuer has come!  The real King is here and things are about to change!

 

We see this King’s identity. We see four things. First of all, He is human. He has a human name. The name Jesus literally is the Hebrew name Joshua (which is actually the origin of the name of Koshy, but don’t call me Jesus). Joshua literally means, “God saves.”[17] “Jesus” refers to His Person. Secondly, He is sent. “Christ” is the Hebrew word “Messiah” and it means “The Anointed One” and refers to a person commissioned by God for a special task. In Jewish thought, the Messiah was going to come and deliver the Jews from oppression, fulfill all of the OT prophecies and rule Israel. Mark says, “This is He!” Literally, this is Jesus the Christ. “The Christ” is not His last name, but His royal title, His position. Note that the content of the announcement is: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The gospel is the good news Jesus preached; and He is at the heart of the good news. The messenger is also the message.[18]

 

Thirdly, He is divine: “The Son of God.” Mark tells right away that He is God. He is no son of some earthly monarch, but He is the co-equal and co-eternal with God. So this is a book about the arrival of the greatest King ever, the new King. The new King who is introducing a new Kingdom and a new era for the world.

 

Remember in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, the Witch enchanted the world of Narnia where it always winter and never Christmas? It’s kind of like Illinois right now. The only hope is that, the great Lion and Christ of Narnia, would show up. There’s a great line that goes:

 

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 

 

Note that Aslan’s presence will shake up and transform everything in all of Narnia, from the weather to ethics to feelings.[19] Mark is saying, “Aslan is here!” Fourthly, He is promised. In verses 2-3, Mark combines Isaiah 40:3, Ex. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 to tell us that before the King arrives, God will send ahead of Him a messenger whose job will be to make the road ready for the King. Roads were poorly maintained in those days, so kings would always send ambassadors ahead to remove any hindrances or obstacles. We find out in v.4 that this messenger is Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. He is the first Baptist. Not really. It should be John the Baptizer. He was to spiritually remove any hindrances so people have a path to meet the Lord.[20]

 

Here is the secret of all ministry. Here is the secret of all parenting and evangelism. All ministry is preparing a road for people to meet Jesus. In other words, lift Him high enough so people can see Him. Pour salt in people’s hearts until they thirst for living water. Notice John realizes he is not the main event. He was popular for sure, the first prophet Israel had seen in 400 years. The Jews expected Elijah to come back before the Lord returned and it sure looked like he was the one!

 

He was a celebrity in his day (some say as many as 300,000 came out to John for baptism! [21]), but his ministry launching site was counterintuitive (wilderness) and a far cry from skinny designer jeans (camel hair robe). He never conformed to his culture, dressed like a prophet, lived simply and humbly and preached his heart out of the One coming. Jesus said he was the greatest person born to a woman (Matt. 11:11). His motto according to John 3:30, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

 

As popular as he was, he says he is the opening act to the main show. Notice, “He who is” which has a definite article meaning, “the One.” Not just preparing the way for an important person, but for the most important person. Actually, go down to v.7. He’s not the opening act either, he says. He’s not even the emcee. He’s a spotlight. This is an amazing statement here: “The strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” There were a lot of laws around that said that only slaves could be required to untie the thong of a sandal. To take somebody’s shoes off, their sandals, to have to wash feet, smelly, dirty, sweaty feet, was something that was so demeaning that, say, a rabbi couldn’t demand his disciples to do it. It was something that only slaves could be required to do. Yet here’s John the Baptist saying, “I’m below that.” What he’s saying is, “I am less worthy than a slave.” Or to put it in modern jargon he says, “I’m not even on the scale. I’m not even on the map.” Now that’s a pretty strong statement of personal unworthiness.[22]

 

It would have been easy to be jealous of his cousin (after all, you are envious of the people who are just like you), competitive of ministerial territory and fall into a “compare and despair” syndrome. He is always pointing to Another and at the same time fading away into the collective faith community. I am not it. I am actually one of you. All I know is that Another is coming who can truly transform you. Listen to him in v.8. I can only stick you in water, but only He can transform you inside out.

 

John gets it. When Jesus the King is coming, that automatically means I must get off the throne of my life and let Him break in as my King. When I pray, “Let your Kingdom come,” it automatically means, “Let my Kingdom go.” The problem of the world is not atheism, paganism and every other “ism,” but Christians who ask God to co-reign comfortably with the idols of our heart. Notice he’s not saying, “I’m a mess. I’m a failure. NO one likes me. I don’t like myself.” That’s false humility and pride. There is also the One in the picture. For every second he looks at himself, he spends an hour looking at the Savior. In John’s gospel he says, “Behold  the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:45). That’s true humility. I am a bad King and cannot on the throne of my life. I don’t have to be a mini-self-Sovereign King or Queen of my life anymore. The true King is here! Applications here:

 

a) Do I always want to be first?

 

John’s letter in 3 John 9-10, he talks about Diotrephes, who always wants to be first.

 

Do you want to be first in your marriage? Thinking about your needs and wants over your spouses? Wanting to be right instead of listening well? Always  proving your point rather than proving your love? Get off the throne. The true King has broken in. He must be the center.

 

Are you more preoccupied with your life, comfort and fulfillment than serving others in love? Do you go to small group only if it fits your schedule and convenient to you? Get off the throne. The true King has broken in. He must be the center of your life.

 

Are you running through life, getting your checklist done, driven by perfectionism because you want to minimize pain and shame of failing? Because it is critical you look good? Do you serve here because you think God needs you and uses you because you are skilled? The true King has broken in. He must be the Center.

 

b) A new “If Only” prayer

 

Right now with the New Year, I am sure we have a lot of “if only” prayers in our heart. If only I can find my true love this year. If only I can get that house, find that job, get that raise, get that baby, get married, etc.  Those if only prayers that are real fires of our heart are not bad, but a greater fire must be lit this year. The small fires of “if only I can see my King breaking into my life right now. If only I can taste and see that He is good. If only I can hear Him.”  I hear people say, “A new year is a new start for me.” Their hopes are in the change of a year. Paul Tripp says, “Your hope is not in the fresh start of a new year, but in the fresh starts and new beginnings purchased on the cross.”[23]

 

We don’t need a change in circumstances. We need to see the King who has broken in, when we had kicked Him out of our lives. He is the Divine Intruder, coming when we least expect Him and maybe don’t even want Him. He intrudes even in our weakest and worst moments. Lord, intrude into our small groups, our worship times, our sermons, our hangouts, our meals, our marriages, in our kids lives, in our recreation, in our sleep, etc. Let us simply live to prepare the way for you to come. Let my agendas, google calendars, ideas about how life should go, my desire for control, i.e. my kingdom go. May your Kingdom come. Secondly:

 

II. The King’s arrival means my self-salvation project ends (vv.4-5)

 

John is baptizing in the wilderness. We might think of wilderness as a forest, but really it was a desert. Why wilderness? There is an allusion here to the children of Israel. Where did they meet God after leaving Egypt? On Mt. Sinai. It was in the desert. Moses met God at a burning bush in the desert.

 

The desert is the place where you meet God. Why? Because that’s where you realize you can’t save yourself. You cannot be saved unless God intervenes. It’s where all your wells run dry. It’s the place of desperation, where you say I need God. My money can’t save me. My body image can’t save me. My grades, my looks, my job, a spouse, etc. can’t save me. So John preaching in the desert is like God saying, “God meet me again here!”

 

That’s what John’s baptism also meant. The notable Marcan scholar William Lane says no one else had ever done [this kind of baptism].[24] Up to this time, Jews would only have ceremonial washing of their hands saying, “I am unclean. I need to be washed of my sins.” However, if you were a Gentile and wanted to come to the Temple, you would have to pour water over your whole body because you were dirtier than the Jews. So they would immerse themselves in water. But whether a Jew or Gentile, you washed yourself.

 

But here is John saying to Jews and Gentiles, “We’re all the same! None of us are ready to meet this King. We all need forgiveness and cleansing and that is why I am baptizing you. I have to baptize you. All of you. Not just Gentiles, Jews … everybody. It doesn’t matter your background. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a Bible scholar or a prostitute. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Jew or Gentile. You are going to have to receive your fitness for this King from the hand of another. I’m going to have to baptize you. Later, Jesus is going to have to baptize you. I’ll do it with water; he’ll do it with the Holy Spirit. The point of the matter is you cannot save yourself.”[25]” This is why the Jewish leaders got so mad at John as he preached that the ground was level and we were all the same.

 

John’s baptism here was in preparation to meet the King. It was a looking forward to the King. The King would forgive sins, but that meant they get off their thrones of their lives, walk 180 degrees in the opposite direction into the wilderness and confess their nothingness. That’s repentance. The water didn’t magically cleanse them. It was a symbol. It was a shadow.

 

Christian baptism is different. Once you have repented and had your sins forgiven, you look back at what Jesus did for you, you go under the water saying, “The old me is gone, died with Christ and the new me (as you come up) is alive with Christ and I want to walk my life with Him.”

 

But this symbolizes that when the King arrives, we realize we cannot save ourselves. All our wells have run dry. We cannot wash ourselves clean. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “God will not give us more than we can handle.” I don’t know who started that and it is a sweet sentiment, but respectfully as my friend would say, “it’s a load of hogwash.” It’s nonsense. God will certainly give you more than you can handle. The problem of our lives is because we think we can handle life, that we have the resources to do life on our own. It’s anti-gospel. Remember Lot in Gen. 13? He eyed a piece of property that reminded him “of the garden of the Lord.” He thought moving there would be Paradise. It ended in disaster. There is no garden of the Lord without the Lord. What the world promises are all mirages. And we go running after them like children chasing bubbles. And we come back empty handed.

 

Be sure in 2014 that there will be times your shoulders will collapse with the pressures of raising or having a child, finding a job, losing a loved one. There will be times your heart is shrunken with sadness, maybe even broken into a million pieces as you are facing a horrible disease, financial trouble, marital trouble, etc. completely shipwrecked feeling helpless and hopeless.

It will be a desert. All your wells will run dry. But that’s where you’ll meet God. That’s where you will hear, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness and heavy laden. Those are who the King gladly takes.

 

Only the empty can be made full. Only the broken can be healed. Only the ones who come to and end of themselves and end their own self-salvation projects can be saved. One blogger told of a time she lost her dad to cancer:

 

I didn’t really know what needing him meant until I had no other choice. I didn’t know what it meant until I wrapped my arms around my middle so I wouldn’t fall apart–or the time I choked on tears and yelled toward Heaven. Or the times when I was utterly alone, and the silence was too much to bear. Those are the times that taught me he’s not just a want or a convenient symbol of love or a reason to do good deeds.

 

No, he’s the very air we breathe.

 

And he’s the only one who can make it bearable when life is simply anything but.[26]

 

God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who see they have no help except in God. It’s only when we realize Jesus is all we have that we realize He is all that we need. Lastly:

III. The King’s arrival means His death is my life (vv.9-13)

 

In vv.9-11, we find that Jesus himself gets baptized. Why? In Matt 3, He says, it was to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Jesus had no sin, so it wasn’t a symbol of repentance. But this King “in his baptism he associated himself with us sinners and placed himself among the guilty—not for his own salvation but for ours—not for his guilt but for ours—not because he feared the wrath to come, but to save us from it. His baptism meant the Cross!”[27] He’s going to die in our place and He is fully accepting the mission to be the Suffering Servant.

 

As Jesus gets up from the water, it’s like Genesis all over again. Heaven rips open (Heaven and earth can communicate again) as God speaks, the Spirit is fluttering like a dove and the new Adam is here. What’s happening here? Remember in Genesis God would say, “It is good” over and over again? Before sin, this is God’s benediction, His good word of appreciation and love and stamp of approval. It’s like God saying, “You’re wonderful. I love you and delight and adore you.” This was the first time since the Garden of Eden that anybody got and earned the benediction of God. He received it because He had the delight and love of God.

 

“This is my Son with you I am well-pleased” is God giving the benediction again, to Jesus, who rightly deserved it. Look what happens. Armed with this benediction, He goes to battle where? In the desert. He goes full on to battle, to experience what we experience. He’s tempted and succeeds unlike the first Adam. What an encouragement to Christians who were thrown to wild beasts in the deserts of persecution that Jesus too was with wild beasts in his desert (v.13).   

The King has broken in and entered our world not to look at the disaster like a politician and go back home. He moves in, fully identifying with us, drenching Himself into our world with all its sorrows and pain. But it gets much worse.

 

Conclusion

 

Philip Yancey writes, “In the movie The Last Emperor, the young child anointed as the last emperor of China lives a magical life of luxury with a thousand eunuch servants at his command. “What happens when you do wrong?” his brother asks. “When I do wrong, someone else is punished,” the boy emperor replies. To demonstrate, he breaks a jar, and one of the servants is beaten. In Christian theology, Jesus reversed that ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished. Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.”[28]

 

Do you know there is an interesting use of the word “way” in v.3? Every other place in the book of Mark, where the word road is brought up, it means the road to the cross. Every other place where the word road is used in the book of Mark, it’s Jesus’ road to the cross. Every place he talks about it. Every place it’s spoken about. What this means is this King does not come to go onto a throne; this King comes to go onto a cross.[29] Here we have a road to the Lord, but in order for that road to be paved and laid, the King has to take another road.

Armed with His benediction, He takes this road to the cross. He who was first became last. This King goes to be punished for his servants’ sins. He climbs on to the cross. Our smaller deserts are like gardens compared to the desert He experiences on the cross. Behold, the Water of life thirsts so you would never have to. The Heavens that once ripped open with love and approval, goes dark. The benediction is ripped from Him. He gets the opposite. The Son of God gets the silent treatment and even worse, He gets the malediction, the curse. Do you see what was happening? Jesus Christ got our malediction that we deserve for trying to be self-sovereigns and people who think they can make life without Him—we have worshipped sex, wealth and power, everything but our King. Now the curse for that is on Him, but now we can receive the benediction![30]

 

The benediction ripped from the Savior is given to us. The malediction, ripped from us, is given to the Savior. God can sing over us saying, “This is my son. This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” Some of us have been running to our parents to get this benediction. Some of us are running to sex, money or career to get that benediction that our hearts were made for. Jesus obeyed and took the road to the cross, so you can take roads, even in the deserts of life, right into the Saviors arms. Will you soak in the fuel of this love for you as we start this year? If you soak long enough in this fuel, you will find your hearts lit with a fire to long for this King to break into more and more of our lives.


[1]Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K. (1983). Talk thru the Bible (p. 319). Nashville: T. Nelson.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 22). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.

      Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4]Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K. (1983).

[5]Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and

      Death of the Son of God. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Lane, W. L. (17).

[8]MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (p. 3). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[9]Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior (p. 15). Westchester, IL:

       Crossway Books.

[10]Ibid.

[11]Hiebert, D. Edmond (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (14). Greeneville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.

[12]Keller, Ibid.

[13]Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel According to Mark (p. 23). Grand Rapids, MI;

      Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

[14]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible Exposition Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 110).

       Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[15]Ibid.

[16]English, D. (1992). The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith (p. 25). Leicester,

       England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[17]Brooks, J. A. (38).

[18]English, D. (26).

[19]The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe Transformation Quotes http://www.shmoop.com/lion-witch-wardrobe/transformation-quotes.html  Retrieved January 11, 2014.

[20]Hiebert, D. E. (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 24–

       25). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.

[21]Hughes, R. K. (24).

[22]Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer

        Presbyterian Church.

[23]Tripp, Paul David [pdtripp]. (2012, December 31). New Years Eve: Your hope is not

        in the fresh start of a new year, but in the fresh starts and new beginnings

        purchased on the cross [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from   https://www.facebook.com/pdtripp/posts/485101918198743.

 

[24]Hughes, R. K. (22).

[25]Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer

        Presbyterian Church.

[26]Lemmon, K. (2014, January 5). God will give you more than you can handle: I guarantee it. All Our Lemmony Things. Retrieved January 11, 2014, from http://lemmonythings.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/god-will-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle-i-guarantee-it/.

 

[27]Hughes, R. K. (24).

[28]Yancey, P. (2009). Where is God when it hurts/What’s so amazing about grace?

         Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[29]Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer

         Presbyterian Church.

[30]Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer

       Presbyterian Church.

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