?March 1, 2009
First Sunday in Lent (B)
John the Baptist, the charismatic revivalist, was exhausted. His disciples were concerned because of how tired he appeared lately. His daily schedule was purpose-driven, challenging him to be up early praying, thinking and meditating before His God. While he was praying, the crowds gathered close by, waiting for him to make his entrance. His appearance was unique-long, unkempt hair waving in the wind, his black beard untrimmed, and wearing clothes made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He looked much older than his 30 years. John had a wild, wide-eyed demeanor that captivated his listeners’ attention on the hillsides of Judea.
It was in this setting one morning while John was preaching that a man unnoticed by the crowd appeared. Though the crowd paid no attention to the man, John noticed Him immediately. The stranger fit into the crowd well with His normal clothing, behavior and appearance; there was
nothing out of the ordinary that would draw attention to Him.
As He stood in the crowd listening, John preached his regular theme of repentance, beckoning all who would repent of their sins to come and be
baptized in the Jordan River. Surprised, John watched as this ordinary man with an un-ordinary mission moved forward to be baptized by him. The preacher knew that this “ordinary” man was anything but ordinary. He was well aware that his relative was from the small town of Nazareth and that He was a common laborer-a carpenter by trade. Even His name, Jesus, was fairly common among the men’s names. John realized that
there was much more in this man than met the eye.
David McKenna writes, “Whether or not He is fully conscious of His deity is an issue of scholarly debate. Certainly, He does not need to be baptized for His sins, but Mark puts the event in such a sequence with His common name and His common town that the baptism becomes an experience in which He shares our common humanity.”1
This ordinary Jesus was anything but ordinary. He was God with them, and He is God with us!
This short section of Scripture provides us a glimpse of this uncommon man with His uncommon mission.
I. His uncommon mission began with a baptism of determination (vv. 9-11).
John’s baptism was meant for those determined to turn from their ungodliness and sin. As the Baptist’s crowds gathered to be baptized, he suddenly realized that Jesus was standing in line. Here was the One of whom John had said he wasn’t worthy to stoop down and unlatch His sandals. He knew the Messiah when he saw Him, and this Jesus was the man he was looking for all his life. What in the world was He doing standing next in line to be baptized with the sinners?
Jesus was standing in line as a signal of His decision. Jesus had been waiting for a sign to emerge in His messianic mission. This was the moment for Him to launch out and accept the Father’s commission of going into the heart of the world.
Jesus was ready to identify Himself with the God-ward movement that had begun in Israel and would culminate in His death and resurrection. Jesus beckons those who would be His followers to identify themselves as His disciples in this God-ward movement called Christianity.
His baptism was also a moment heralding His approval from the Father. At the baptism Jesus submitted His decision to God, and that decision was unmistakably approved by the Father when He said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). This was followed by the appearance of a dove, symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christian identification today is given witness to by the presence of that same Holy Spirit!
His baptism was also a moment of equipping. This equipping by the Spirit of God is that of divine love. Jesus would need courage, faith, hope and strength; but the greatest need would be love, and in this moment of baptism God gave Him the symbol of love in the form of a dove. The greatest gift anyone can have is love!
II. His uncommon mission continued with a test of His humanity (Mark 1:12-13).
No sooner was the glory of the baptism over, the mountain-top experience of mission, than the valley of testing appeared. The battle of temptation for Jesus was what to do with His tremendous power. Satan on one shoulder was saying, “Take this power and rule with force.” The Father on the other shoulder was saying, “Take this power and rule with love.” Jesus made a decision that day that would continue His mission for the Father, for He chose love’s way.
Satan would take our humanity out of our hands and use it for everything that is destructive and useless. God wants to let us keep our humanity and work through it that we might be conquerors of life through love!
III. His uncommon mission resulted with uncommon development (Mark 1:14-15).
Jesus’ mission is to spread the Good News that life in the present and in the future develops as we allow Him to enter our hearts. He is the reason for our repentance. Compared to Him everyone needs to be saved, and He has come to offer us a deal for an eternity. As we repent in earnest, He enters with a cleansing brush to scrub the sin from the lining of our hearts. This uncommon man with His uncommon mission stands in the crowd of our life waiting for us to invite Him to the front of the line. Will you do so today?
?1. David McKenna, The Communicator’s Commentary (Waco: Word Books, Publisher, 1982), 33.