Our Savior’s Baptism, His Temptation, and His First Disciples
“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. (18) And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.”
These few verses are typical of Mark’s writing. They cover a great amount of matter in a very brief amount of space. Within the scope of these twelve verses, Mark relates a brief account of the baptism of our Lord, his temptation in the wilderness, his earliest preaching, and the calling of his first disciples. We will look at each of these things in the order in which they are given.
Our Lord’s Baptism
This paragraph opens with a brief record of our Lord’s baptism. — “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (vv. 9-11).
Our Lord’s public, earthly ministry began with him submitting to baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, that he might symbolically fulfill all righteousness and justify God. Baptism was not considered a light, insignificant thing by the Son of God. He walked all the way from Nazareth of Galilee to Jerusalem to be baptized by John. Why? I can give one very good reason, and only one. — He knew it was his Father’s will. It was not convenient; but it was his Father’s will. It might not be understood by his family and friends; but it was his Father’s will. He might be ridiculed as a fanatic; but none of that mattered to him. It was his Father’s will for him to be baptized by John. So he came to John at Jerusalem to be baptized. There is much to be learned from our Master’s baptism. Let me direct your attention to just four things concerning it.
Remember, this is the Son of God, the Lord of glory. He came to be baptized in that same river that Naaman despised. Not only did he submit to the ordinance; but he came to John to observe it. He did not call for John to come to him. He came to John.
He had come into this world to do his Father’s will; and part of that will was this act by which, at the very outset of his public ministry, he identified himself with God’s prophet, his message, and his people.
There are many reasons for the practice of believer’s baptism. It is the answer of a good conscience toward God. It is a picture of the gospel. It identifies us with Christ, his people, and the gospel of his grace. But there is no reason more noble than this: — The Lord commands it. Baptism is the believer’s first act of obedience to Christ as his Lord. And nothing is nobler in a servant than implicit obedience to his master.
Baptism is not an empty, meaningless religious ritual. It is now and has been from its inception a highly symbolic act. Though Mark does not give the details, both Matthew and Luke tell us the meaning and significance of baptism. Our Master’s baptism meant exactly the same thing that our baptism means.
Matthew tells us that our Savior insisted on being baptized “to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). Obviously, baptism did not make the Son of God righteous. But it did signify the means by which he must establish and bring in righteousness for his people. As our Substitute, the Lord Jesus brought in and fulfilled all righteousness as Man by his perfect obedience unto death (Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 10:5-14).
Having perfectly obeyed the law of God, he was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. When he was made sin for us, he was slaughtered under the fury of God’s unmitigated wrath. When he was slain as our Substitute, he was buried in the earth. After he had been in the earth for three days, to prove that he had indeed fulfilled all righteousness and had put away our sins, he was raised from the dead. That is exactly what was pictured in his baptism; and that is exactly what is pictured in believer’s baptism today (Romans 6:3-6).
Then Luke records our Lord’s later explanation of his baptism by John to have been an act by which he “justified God” (Luke 7:29-30). We know that baptism does nothing to make God just; but it is the symbolic confession that our God is and must be just. His justice must be satisfied; and our Savior, by his baptism, confessed that he would satisfy the justice of God by dying under the wrath of God as our Substitute.
We come to the waters of baptism for exactly the same reason: — To confess our sins and to confess our faith in him by whose blood God can be both “a just God and a Savior.”
It was an act by which he was publicly owned to be the Son of God, in whom God the Father is well pleased. At his baptism, God the Father publicly announced his full, complete acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice as our Mediator, Surety, and Substitute.
There is a great wealth of spiritual instruction in these words: — “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The text does not say, with whom, but “in whom I am well pleased.” That means that the Father is well pleased with all his people in his Son, by virtue of his obedience unto death, by virtue of his sin atoning sacrifice.
“With His spotless garments on,
I am as holy as God’s Son!”
Let every believer find comfort and assurance here. God looks on us in Christ. Looking on us in Christ, he sees no spot in us (Song of Solomon 4:7). He beholds us in Christ as being clothed from head to foot with the garments of salvation, his robe of perfect righteousness, invested with his perfect merit, “accepted in the Beloved,” and a people with whom he is well pleased”
It is at our baptism that believers are honored and publicly owned as the sons of God. Baptism does not make us the sons of God. But in the watery grave of baptism, as we there own our God when we are buried with Christ, so we are owned of God as his sons and daughters in Christ. — “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Our Savior’s Temptation
Second, Mark gives us a brief description of our Savior’s temptation n the wilderness. — “And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him” (vv. 12-13).
When trials, troubles, and temptations come upon you, do not imagine that some strange thing has happened to you. The Son of God was also tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). Here are four things in Mark 1:12-13 that are of tremendous importance. As they were true concerning our Lord, so they are true concerning every child of God. May God be pleased to inscribe these four things upon every believing heart. You may not need them now, but as sure as you belong to and follow Christ, you will soon need to know these things.
When trials, temptations, or sorrows come to us, rather than asking, “Why do God’s people suffer?”, we should be asking, “Why shouldn’t we suffer?” After all, we are sinners, like all other people. Our Lord Jesus suffered as no man ever suffered, in order to redeem and save us. If he who knew no sin was in this world a “man of sorrows,” why shouldn’t we have sorrows to endure? Yet, it is not altogether wrong for us to ask, “Why?”, when sorrows come to us, as long as our questions arise from submissive, believing hearts.
When believers suffer, it is because it is the will of God, our heavenly Father. Satan could not touch Job, but by the will of God. And sorrow does not come to your house or mine, in any form, but by the will of God. It is written, “All things are of God.” Nothing happens by “chance” in a world controlled by God (Romans 11:36).
Sorrow is intended to wean us of this world. God says to his saints, “Give me thine heart.” And he graciously sees to it that we give him our hearts. He will never allow his own to be completely content with life in this world.
God visits his saints with affliction to correct us for sin and cause us to call upon him. Read Psalm 107 and learn the mystery of providence. Blessed is that sorrow that turns our hearts to Christ in firmer faith, greater gratitude, and more loyal love.
“Who knoweth what is good for a man’s life?” (Ecclesiastes 6:12). Is it better for me to be wealthy or poor? Is it better for me to be healthy or sick? Is it better for me to be strong or weak? The fact is, only God knows. Wealth, health, and strength of life may be a great blessing or a great curse. Poverty, sickness, and weakness, the things all men seek to avoid, may be tremendous blessings from God. All these things come from him (Isaiah 45:7; Romans 11:36).
This much I know: — Whatever it takes for God to get my attention is good for me. Whatever makes me wake up and think upon my sin, my immortal soul, the brevity of life, the certainty of God’s judgment, and the eternality of heaven and hell; whatever God uses to drive me to my knees, to force me to call upon him for mercy is good for me. Whatever it takes to reconcile this rebel’s heart to God and bring me to Jesus Christ in faith, to wean me from this world and keep me looking to Christ is good for me. — “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
In verses 14 and 15 Mark describes the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. — “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
After John the Baptist was cast into prison for his bold preaching, the Lord Jesus came into Galilee preaching the very same thing that John had preached before him and his apostles preached after him. It is the message every gospel preacher is commanded of God to preach.
“Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” — The long and short of that is this: — Our Lord came pressing upon men the claims of God as their rightful sovereign, as their Lord and King, demanding that all who heard him submit and surrender to his dominion over them (Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25).
Our Savior proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.” — The fullness of time had now come (Romans 5:6-8; Galatians 4:4-5). The King of grace had now come and the Kingdom of God was at hand. The kingdom of God is that spiritual kingdom which is the church of God, the kingdom in which God rules by his Son through his Word.
The Lord Jesus commanded all who heard him, saying, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” This is what God requires of all: repentance and faith. The two always go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. This is what Noah preached in his generation, and what Paul preached in his (Acts 20:21). Repentance and faith were the foundation stones of Christ’s ministry. J. C. Ryle wrote, “Repentance and faith must always be the main subjects of every faithful ministers instruction.”
We must repent. We must believe the gospel. It is only by repentance toward God and faith in Christ that we obtain peace. Church membership will not bring us to God. Baptism will not bring us to God. The priestly pronouncement of some man that our sins are absolved will not give us peace. The only way to peace is repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. These things are not one time acts, but a continual way of life. Believers turn to God with willing hearts, surrendering themselves to him in all things, looking to Christ alone for acceptance with him.
The First Disciples
The last thing to which Mark directs our attention in this passage is the calling of our Lord’s first disciples.
“Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him” (vv. 16-20).
Mark does not describe the salvation of these men. Our text is not talking about the effectual call of grace, but about the call of believing men to the work of the ministry. Let me point out three things in these verses about our Lord’s first disciples.
The church of God began with a few, simple fishermen, not with rich, well-educated, influential men (Zechariah 4:6; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). There is an abhorrent notion among men that there is something noble about being rich and something shameful about being poor. We must never subscribe to that folly. Plain, ordinary, blue collar, working men were the men chosen of God to turn the world upside down. It is a disgrace to be proud, to be covetous, to be a drunk, a cheat, or a thief; but it is no disgrace to be poor.
The trend in religion is for a man to announce his call to preach and then go about figuring out a way to put himself in the ministry. That is totally wrong. God finds his preachers in the field tending sheep like Moses, or plowing corn like Elisha, or thrashing wheat like Gideon, or by the seaside mending nets. He never finds them sitting in a pew or Bible college waiting for a church to open up!
Fishermen have a purpose. They go out to catch fish. Fishermen must be very diligent. And fishermen must be very patient. I ask all who read these lines to pray for me and for every faithful, gospel preacher you are privileged to know. “Who is sufficient for these things?” Yet, we know that “Our sufficiency is of God.” — “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
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