This morning we continue our series in Mark. Turn with me to Mark 1:7-13.
In this passage we are introduced to Jesus. It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of these five words in verse 9: in those days Jesus came.
If we understood the full significance of those words, we would be jumping and shouting before I could finish the verse. If we had experienced the fullness of what is available to us because of those 5 words, we would break into spontaneous worship.
And everything has changed.
I want to focus on three words this morning: authentication, substitution and identification.
First, let’s look at the authentication of Jesus. In those days Jesus came from Nazareth. There is a revival breaking out in the countryside, in the Jordan valley. The people of Israel had not heard from God in 4 centuries. It was as if a covering had settled over the earth, separating the people from their God. And suddenly, John the Baptist appears out of nowhere. In a short time hundreds of thousands of people are coming out to the river to experience his preaching. Many who came out of curiosity found themselves standing in the water, confessing their sins and being baptized. It was an extraordinary, electric time.
One day the crowds are gathered, people are lining up for confession and cleansing. Unseen and unknown, a traveler from the small village of Nazareth steps up to the line. He approaches John and there is a flash of understanding. This is the one. This is the one I’ve been preparing you for. He initially refuses to baptize Jesus, but is overcome. Jesus goes under the water and rises to the surface.
In that moment something extraordinary happens. Mark tells us that a visible presence, in the form of a dove, descends on Jesus. Then a great tear appears in the sky and a voice is heard, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
That word tear is used twice in the gospels. It describes the opening of the heavens here and it describes the tearing of the curtain in the temple the moment Jesus dies. Both have massive significance. A curtain of separation has been removed.
There are three signs associated with the end times that appear in this moment: the rending of the heavens, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on earth and the sound of the voice of God. A new day has dawned. Everything is going to change.
And it all begins with a homeless field preacher and a manual laborer from Nazareth. The town is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. To all observers, this Jesus is just another guy.
So the voice of God comes from heaven to authenticate this Jesus.
What does this mean to us? It means that from the beginning, the announcement of the Christian message came with signs. The Old Testament was filled with prophetic announcements, covering a wide range of details about the life of the Messiah to come. Written hundreds of years before the first century. In Jesus, they all converged in one life. Statistical analysis shows us the fingerprint of God in Jesus arrival.
There are many religions and many “gods”. Why should we listen to Jesus? Because he is absolutely unique in history. The claims of the Christian message are historical. They are verifiable. They are supernatural.
Jesus comes with the authentication of heaven.
Now, let’s look at the word substitution.
John’s gospel adds some detail to this scene. When Jesus approaches John, the Baptist cries out, “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
That statement became clear after the death of Jesus. One of the great purposes of his coming was to fulfil the sacrificial system of the ancient Jewish religion. Beginning with the Exodus from Egypt, the theme of a substitutionary sacrifice became central to the practice and imagination of the Old Testament times. God, in his mercy, made a way for sinful people to escape the judgment of justice. A lamb, without spot or blemish, could be slain on the altar – giving its life as a substitute for the sins of the one making the sacrifice.
Those of us who have been around church understand this concept fairly well. Jesus died as the last and ultimate sacrificial lamb. He lived a perfect life, he fulfilled all the demands of righteousness in order to present himself as a spotless sacrifice. When he died he took your sin and mine on his shoulders and received with that sin the full judgment of God.
Through his sacrifice he takes away our sin.
The baptism of Jesus, the temptation in the wilderness, everything Jesus did was carried out to fulfil the requirements of a blameless sacrifice.
“Here already he indicates how he will become our savior; my standing in the river in whose water penitent Jews had symbolically washed away their sins, and allowing that water, polluted by their sins, to be poured over his perfect being.” -Sinclair Ferguson
By entering into the temptations of the wilderness, by enduring agonizing days of hunger, loneliness and spiritual attack without surrendering to sin – Jesus demonstrated perfect righteousness. And he was nailed to the cross as a perfect, spotless sacrifice.
His sacrifice takes away our sin, but there is more to it than that.
It’s not just that we are neutral in the eyes of God. It’s not just that our debt is canceled. There is a positive transaction in the substitution of Jesus.
Theologians call it imputed righteousness. We never use that word outside of theology. It means “a quality ascribed to a person by virtue of a similar quality in another.”
Through his sacrifice, Jesus took away our sins and God credited Jesus’ righteousness to our accounts.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Every perfect act, every moment of resistance to temptation, it belongs to us who are in Christ. We are now the righteousness of God. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see a sinner whose account is now empty. He sees all of the righteousness of Christ. Do you see it?
The final word is identification.
When Jesus got in line with the sinners at the Jordan river, he began the work of identification with sinners. In his wilderness temptations, he stepped into a sharing of our human experience.
The full meaning of that identification is explained in the book of Hebrews.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus became like us sinners. He had to be made like us.
So that he might make a merciful sacrifice.
Because he himself suffered in his temptations, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
How does Jesus feel about you when you are in the thick of temptation?
He feels mercy. He feels understanding. He has been there.
How does he feel when you fail in the face of temptation?
He feels mercy. He knows what it’s like.
Your failure is not the end, because Jesus was successful.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
It’s wonderful, isn’t it?
Some of us know temptation too well. We are in the thick of it today.
What does God want you to know?
1. In temptation you are never alone.
Jesus has been there. Jesus is with you. The angels who comforted Jesus.
2. In temptation you are never trapped.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13
3. In temptation you are never without mercy.
When you face temptation, remember that you are never alone, you are never trapped and you are never without mercy. Stand strong, come to the throne of grace and let the righteous mercy of Jesus carry you through.
“if he was to reverse when Adam had done, he needed to enter into the world not as Adam found it, but as Adam had left it. So when he was tempted, he was not in the garden, like Adam. He was not, like Adam, surrounded by the animals over which he exercised dominion. (Genesis 1:28) He was in the desert, surrounded by wild beasts. It was in a fallen, broken, sinful, disintegrating world that Jesus faced temptation and the powers of darkness, in order to win for his people a way back to the tree of life.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown