Gospel: Mark 1:4-11
Epistle: Romans 6:1-11
Lesson: Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm: Psalm 29
CLB Commentary – Rev. Bill Helland
You may be thinking; “Wait a minute, didn’t I just preach on this text (or part of it anyway)?” Well, if you spoke on the gospel lesson for the Second Sunday in Advent, yes, you very likely spoke on verses 1-8, where the emphasis would have been more on the man, John the Baptist, and his God-given ministry of preparing the way for the Lord. So there is an overlap between that text and this one.
Perhaps the first 5 verses of this text are necessary to set up the contrast between John the Baptist and our Lord, since John was adamant that he was NOT the Messiah! There was One coming after him who was much more powerful than him. He went on to further describe the difference in mission and power in verse 8; I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. That then sets the stage for this great Epiphany event where, in verse 9, Jesus came walking into John’s arena of ministry (the wilderness by the Jordan River) and insisted on being baptized by John. (Matthew 3:14-15)
There are at least two epiphanies in this text, and by epiphany I defer to Funk and Wagnalls’ definition; any bodily manifestation of a deity. It is important to preach on these mysteries, for young and old alike struggle with their understanding of them (what can be understood of a mystery that is) and their faith in these vital doctrines of the Christian faith.
The first is the doctrinal fact of the Trinity. All three persons of the Trinity were there. Jesus walked on the scene, the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven; You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. Jehovah’s Witnesses and others can deny the doctrine of the Trinity until they are blue in the face, but this passage fully supports that vital Christian doctrine which we confess in the Apostles Creed.
The second is the doctrinal fact that Jesus is the Son of God. This may well be the most important truth revealed in this Epiphany event, for it became the point of contention with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law throughout Christ’s ministry and the one thing that basically got him killed (from a bystander’s perspective that is), for the truth of scripture is that Jesus laid down his life – no man took it from him.
This truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, is to be front and center in our conversations with unbelievers. Those who are intelligent enough to know that Jesus walked on this earth 2000 years ago may attempt to relegate him to a place in history that is little more than that of a good man, who did and taught good
things. They might further postulate that the unfortunate thing, which got him killed, was to claim oneness with God the Father, to be from God the Father, and to be the Son of God, Savior of the world. If he hadn’t attempted to convince people of those things then he would have had a long life and “successful” ministry.
Pastors, we need to be very clear to our people who Jesus was and is. Many people are living in spiritual darkness today, even some who profess to be Christians, for they make ignorant statements like “Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same God.” They deny John 14:6 by saying that Jesus is “a way” to the Father, not THE way, as he clearly taught.
If we join our Heavenly Father’s words, in verse 11, with our Lord’s words, in John 3:16, we have a powerful gospel message to proclaim on this 1st Sunday after Epiphany! And it will be a message through which the Holy Spirit can create faith in the hearts of our listeners to believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.