Back to the Wilderness
I. A Cry in the Wilderness (vv. 2-3)
1) Prophetic Anticipation: Isaiah and Malachi
- A New Exodus from Captivity (Isaiah 40:1-5)
- Partially fulfilled (539 BC) when Israel was delivered from Babylon
- Israel was still experiencing the pain of ‘exile’ back in their land – 400 years of enemy occupation and silence from God
- John’s cry in the wilderness signaled that a New Exodus was about to begin!
- A New Messenger (Malachi 3:1-4)
- Expectation of a Prophet who would prepare the way for Israel’s King
- Expectation that Elijah would return shortly before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6)
2) Prophetic Fulfillment: John the Baptist
- Gospels declare John’s ministry to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-5
- Gospels present John as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah
- Although John was not literally Elijah (John 1:21), he came in the ‘spirit and power’ of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy (Matthew 17:12-13)
- John’s unusual dress and diet confirm his identity as the new Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:8)
- John was immensely popular (v. 5)
II. A Cleansing in the Wilderness (vv. 4-8)
The Significance of John’s Baptism in the Jordan
- A Symbol of Repentance and Forgiveness
- Water cleans us up on the outside
- Only God can make us clean within!
- A Sign to Israel –New Exodus from Captivity!
- Most likely based on the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts
- John’s baptism indicated that Jewish people needed to be converted too!
- John was calling his Jewish brethren to come back to the wilderness and to cross the Jordan a second time – A New Exodus for a New Covenant
- The Precursor of Christian Baptism
- Baptism of believers – not of infants
- Full immersion in water (cf. John 3:23)
- Physical sign of the spiritual reality – Spirit Baptism!
Application: John’s call for Israel to repent and be baptized reminds us that nobody is saved by physical birth or by the faith of our parents – we must come to God as individuals who acknowledge our sin and look to Him for salvation
III. A Coronation in the Wilderness (vv. 9-11)
1) An Unlikely Baptismal Candidate – Jesus Christ!
- John recognized his inferior role – v. 7
- Like many of us, John was confused by Jesus’ request to be baptized – Matt 3:14-15
2) Reasons for Jesus’ Baptism
- Identification with sinful humanity
- Starting point of Jesus’ ministry (Acts 1:21-22)
- Coronation Ceremony for Israel’s King!
- Tearing open of the heavens – Isaiah 64:1
- Father’s testimony to the Son– Psalm 2:7
- Empowerment of the Spirit – Isaiah 11:2
Who do you believe that Jesus is? A good man? An enlightened teacher?
Mark wants us to know and to believe that He is the Son of God!