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Text: Mark 1:1-13

 

Proposition: God, in everything that He does, does that which we’d least expect, to the point that Scripture could be called, ‘The Paradox of Grace’.

 

 Introduction:  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways says the LORD.” , it was an old portion from the scroll of Isaiah and John knew it well. As they gathered in his mothers’ house they all wondered how things would work out. That was when they heard the banging at the door. Quickly Rhoda the servant girl went to answer it. John would never forget what happened next, Rhoda came bursting back into the room telling everyone that Peter was no longer in prison but was standing outside at the gate. They were all shocked and some even thought she was joking at first, but realizing that it was true they ran to let Peter in. In the days that followed John saw many incredible things, there was a tremendous excitement in the church in those days as people were healed and even Gentiles were welcomed into the church. Then his cousin Barnabas, along with a rather intimidating fellow named Paul, invited him to travel with them to Antioch, Cyprus and beyond. John was bilingual and a skilled writer and served the team as their interpreter. Years later people still recalled how John, or John Mark as he was also known, ended up quitting the team and left Paul and Barnabas in Perga. It took Paul a long time before he was willing to trust John Mark again. Barnabas was much softer, for less than a year later he again took young John Mark with him to Cyprus. It was sometime before AD 63 that Mark was asked to travel to Rome to be with Peter and his wife. He would stay with Peter for next few years, together giving direction to the church in that area. Perhaps it was during this time in Rome that John Mark heard first hand from Peter the many details and events of the early days with Jesus. Mark the interpreter was privy to much and God had placed this failed evangelist in the key position of being nearest to Peter in these last days of Peters’ life. Mark was urged by the church to write down all that he had heard and sometime before the death of Peter he did so. It was the first account ever written of the life of Jesus Christ and as he wrote the Spirit of God inspired Mark to write with such clarity and recall and detail that his chronological account became the landmark by which all others were weighed. It was the Gospel of Mark that the Holy Spirit inspired, a Gospel that recalled perfectly the humanity of Jesus and the wonder of Him also being God. Of all the gospels, Mark’s is the shortest. Its language is dynamic and full of action and is directed toward a Gentile audience. He translates Latin, Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek for his audience, calling all to a living faith in Jesus Christ. Turn with me to the gospel of Mark as we discover the paradoxes that abound in the grace of God in Jesus.

I. This Gospel Begins With the Paradox of Majesty and Poverty.

Mark emphasizes the actions of Jesus as a conqueror, a warrior that overturns the hopelessness of Israel and proclaims peace on His terms. To this end he says nothing of the birth of Jesus. Instead he begins by describing the herald of Christ. A herald was one who went before the victor and announced his arrival, he called the people to order just as the king was about to enter. Mark makes reference to Isaiah and Malachi as speaking about this herald, a herald who had the most important role that any man could imagine, the one whom God had chosen  to prepare the way for Messiah. It’s here that we see the first paradox that the majesty of the moment is carried out by a voice crying in the wilderness. Its messenger is not a high priest or political leader, he is a man who appears destitute, whose preaching is done in the desert not the city square, who calls the people to a ritual of baptism and confession of sin rather than righteous works. Perhaps the clothing and the life style of John reminded people of Elijah. The same Spirit and power behind Elijah literally drew people down the steep and rocky slopes into the arid, snake ridden lands of the Dead sea. In the Jordan River he baptized them, a small muddy stream in places, hardly a place that seemed worthy of such life transformation. Was it that the Jordan signified the boundary of the promised  land, was the Jordan a symbol of humility that readied people to see and know Jesus? John the Baptist made sure that people knew he was not the Messiah, in fact he uses stark contrasts to make this clear. “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”  William Hendriksen points out that a disciple in Jewish tradition was a devoted servant who was willing to perform every menial duty for the master except the task of untying and removing his sandals and then cleaning them. That was a job for the slave because of the filth and defilement it might mean. John says that when it comes to Jesus, he is so far beneath Christ that he is not fit or worthy to even do what the slave would have done. Not only is Jesus more majestic than John, His work is incomparably greater, “I baptize you with water, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Baptism marks the moving of a person from the camp of self sufficiency, pride to the camp of a poverty of spirit that sees Jesus the way that John saw Jesus. To baptize with water meant a person had moved from pride to humility in regard to sin. It readied them to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit that moved them from the camp of being spiritually dead in their sin to the camp of being spiritually and eternally alive in Jesus Christ. It is the poverty of spirit, the humility that is embodied in John that God was using to prepare the way for people to see and know Jesus. It is the same today, if there is not a humbling of self, if there is not a willingness to agree with God not only about the existence of your sin but your desire to turn from it, then we cannot see or know the reality of Christ in our lives.

II. There is the Paradox of the Baptism and the Anointing of Jesus.

When you begin withthe understanding that Jesus is fully God and you come to this portion, it presents a paradox as to why sinless Christ submitted to a baptism of repentance. It presents a paradox of why the Second person of the Trinity should have the Holy Spirit come upon Him when He was already in the unity of the Trinity with the Holy Spirit. Though some have sought to answer this by saying the example of Jesus in baptism becomes our example to follow, which is true and valid, it may not be all of the issue. Was it possible that Christ was also demonstrating that He as the sin bearer of the world would in fact have sin imputed or charged to Him? Is it possible that Jesus was signifying to us that He had already moved from the camp of heaven into the camp of sinful humanity and that He was now identifying Himself with sinful mankind as the One who would bear their sin to death for their release from its eternal penalty?  When Jesus came up out of the waters of baptism that signify death, burial and resurrection, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the likeness of a dove. The humanity of Jesus is what is being anointed and strengthened for the  ministry of being a perfect peacemaker. Mark will point out again and again the humanity and the deity of Jesus, the humanity of Jesus is part of Christ that hungered, thirsted, wept, learned, struggled and believed. The deity of Jesus is that He knew always the will of the Father and moved in perfect obedience to that will. He moved always in an abhorrence to sin as being perfectly holy, “Tempted in all things as we are yet without sin…” (Heb. 4:15). This is the dynamic tension of deity and humanity in Christ that is the root of the paradox of grace. It is in the baptism and anointing of Jesus that we see clearly the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit.

III. There is the Paradox of the Temptation of Christ.

 

The high point of the baptism of Jesus is immediately followed by the Spirit of God impelling or driving Jesus into the deeper regions of the Judean wilderness. The paradox here is that of the power and holiness of Jesus as the Son of God being subject by the Father to a time of severe testing. Did not the Father already know the desire of the Son to serve and obey? What was the temptation of Christ meant to accomplish, why did Jesus need to be impelled into this, was it somehow against His will? As Satan tempted Jesus, likely at the end of 40 days of fasting, it was a stark contrast to the testing of the first man Adam. There Adam had the abundance of Eden, here Christ had the wilderness, there Adam had consolation of other people, here Christ had no human contact, there Adam had the cool of the garden and the creatures he had named, here Christ is among the wild beasts. The temptation of Jesus is Eden, fallen Eden, revisited and the new Adam, Jesus Christ enduring the test of obedience. The human mind of Jesus experienced the tempting thoughts of Satan but the pure mind of God did not lust and could not sin and thus refused to join into the temptation. As Eden was the beginning point for Adam, the temptation of Jesus is the beginning point of His ministry. This was not the Father testing the Son, this was the Father proving to all creation that Jesus was indeed worthy to be called the Son of Man and the Son of God, the great paradox of grace

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