CHRIST’S PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY 

BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, I focused on the overall context of verses 1-8, where Mark opened his writing with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” and then introduced the “forerunner” for Christ, John the Baptist. In this post, I will place our attention on Christ’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness, not only because they follow our previous verses but because they are instructive in teaching us about how God prepared His Son for the earthly ministry that was before Him.

Mark moves through his gospel with urgency (“and it came to pass;” “and immediately,” and “just then,” are statements made throughout his writing). So we would be wise to discipline ourselves now, at the on-set, to stay focused, or we might miss his point altogether! 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens [a]opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; in You I [b]am well pleased.”

FOCUS ONE: The Baptism of Jesus (1:9-11)

Mark tells us that Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee and submitted Himself to the rite of baptism that John was performing at the river Jordan. Mark lays out Christ’s baptism in straightforward language, unlike Matthew and Luke. He does not explain anything; he quickly states what happened.

The significance of the baptism lies in God’s public approval of His Son, which I will get to in a minute. First, we need to recognize that Jesus’ baptism does have some contrast related to all of those “from the country of Judaea” coming to John and being baptized.

In contrast with all the others, Jesus made no confession of sins (Mark 1:5), since He was without sin (John 8:45-46).  Mark did not state why Jesus submitted to John’s baptism; however, three reasons may be suggested: (1) It was an act of obedience, showing that Jesus was in full agreement with God’s overall plan and the role of John’s baptism in it (Matthew 3:15). (2) It was an act of self-identification with the nation of Israel whose heritage and sinful predicament He shared (Isaiah 53:12). (3) It was an act of self-dedication to His Messianic mission, signifying His official acceptance and entrance into it” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

The Fathers public approval of Jesus (v. 11)

This voice from heaven both qualified and identified Jesus to those around Him. The words “you are my son,” affirm His unique relationship with the Father. “Beloved,” seems to stress the intensity of the love between the Father and Son but can also “be understood in the Old Testament sense of an ‘only son'” (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16). In either case or as a whole, it seems clear that Jesus “preexisted” and did not, at His baptism, become a son!

The whole trinity involved 

Don’t miss what Mark reveals in these following verses (v. 10-11). Mark states three things that set Jesus apart from all the others that he baptized:

  1. The heavens were opened or parted! The Greek uses a “forceful verb,” which signifies “being torn open, or split.” 
  2. He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. This imagery takes us back to Genesis 1:2, where we read about the Holy Spirits’ part in the creation and His creative activity. In the Old Testament, we find passages telling us that the Spirit came on certain people and empowered them for a particular service (Exodus 31:3; Judges 3:10). It appears that Mark is telling us that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (Acts 10:38).
  3. Jesus heard a voice from heaven (v.11). Words from the Father expressing His heavenly approval of the baptism that had just taken place! To put this simply:
  1. The Son submits to the ordinance
  2. The Spirit rests upon the Son
  3. The Father voices His “good” pleasure

12 And immediately the Spirit *brought Him out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving Him.

FOCUS TWO: The Temptation of Jesus (1:12-13)

Here we feel the “urgency” in Mark’s writing again (v. 10). At once or immediately, Jesus is compelled by the Spirit to “go out into the wilderness.” Mark uses a pretty strong word, from the Greek verb (ekballo), meaning to drive out or send away. Mark used this word in other places to denote the expulsion of demons (vv. 34, 39; 3:15). Here “it reflects Mark’s forceful style. The thought is of a strong moral compulsion by which the Spirit led Jesus to take the offensive against temptation and evil instead of avoiding them.” 

So, Jesus is led by the Spirit further into the wilderness region. Some commentators believe that the site of Christ’s temptation was northwest of the Dead Sea immediately west of Jericho.

Mark, in his brevity, states:

  1. The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness
  2. He was there forty days
  3. Satan tempted him
  4. He was with the wild beasts
  5. Angels were ministering to Him

Satan sought to lead Christ into sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Matthew relates just how Satan attempted to do this. The word “tempted” means “put to the test, make trial of” to discover the kind of person someone is.” As I was reminded of by my pastor this past Sunday in his sermon, and then again writing this post, Matthew’s use of such a word can be in either a “good” way or a “bad “way.

In a good sense, God’s testing (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:17). Or in a bad sense of enticement by Satan and his minions to sin. One commentator points out that both meanings are evident here! “God put Jesus to the test (The Spirit led Him), to show that he was qualified for His mission. BUT also Satan tried to draw Jesus away fro His divinely appointed mission” (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

Only mark makes use of the phrase, “he was with the wild beasts.” Most likely, he is using the words to stress the “hostile” environment where Christ was placed. Desolate, lonely, and full of danger! Pretty descriptive of Satan’s domain!

So, whereas the baptism resulted in the Spirits’ control, here the wilderness tempting, the extent of Christ’s submission to the Father’s will, we see this in the forceful guidance of the Spirit, one element of Christs’ self-humiliation, and also in His dealing with our arch-enemy, “the serpent of old.” Praise God Jesus, the God-man, put the enemy to flight (Luke 4:13) by using scriptures to expose the lies of the evil one (Luke 4: 4, 8, 12)!

Through all of these forty days, the “angels ministered to Jesus.” Whatever they supplied Christ, and to what extent they provided it, is not explicitly mentioned, but whatever it entailed, it was enough! The Fathers protecting care was ever-present in the ministry of the angels attending the Messiah.

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OH, ANANIAS

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Ananias made up the story,

His wife went along with it too;

But Peter knew he couldn’t believe it

Cause the Spirit had said it’s not true.

He said they had sold some property

And all the proceeds were at his feet;

But they kept back some of the money

Sapphira, also this lie did repeat.

Peter wisely called out Ananias,

Revealed Satan had filled his heart;

That he lied to the Holy Spirit

So the two could keep a small part.

The plot that was contrived

Was not against the people, but God;

For the money that they had kept

Came from Him whom they had robbed.

Ananias fell dead at Peter’s feet:

Great fear overcame those around;

Young men came and took him out

And then they buried him in the ground.

As it happens three hours later

His wife Sapphira did also arrive;

Not knowing the fate of Ananias

Or the failure of the scheme contrived.

Peter asks her all the same questions,

She answered in much the same way,

Testing the Spirit of the Lord

She exits the very same way.

Fear came upon the whole church,

Upon all who had heard these things;

May we also learn the lesson given

And hold fast to the truth that it brings.

The church is to be holy and pure 

different than the world, you see;

Not full of lies or compromise

But known for its love and purity.

By: Larry G. Stump Jr.

Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter about the money they received from selling some of their property.

Paul’s love and concern for the Thessalonians

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1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:10

STUDY 4

17 “But we, brothers and sisters, having been orphaned from you by absence for a [w]short while—in [x]person, not in [y]spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 18 [z]For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, [aa]more than once—and Satan hindered us. 19 For who is our hope, or joy or crown of pride, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His [ab]coming? Or is it not indeed you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.”

Brief intro: In our last study we took notice to Paul’s second note of thankfulness for these believers (1:2; 3:13). Paul was thankful for their reception of the Word of God, receiving it as such, and enduring the sufferings that they were going through as a consequence for following Christ. We also took note of Paul’s charges against his own countrymen who sought to undermine the spread of the gospel (2:15).

In this study we will again witness Paul’s love for these believers and the frustration he dealt with in not being able to see them face to face and minister to them. 

FOCUS ONE: Paul, moving on from his charges against those who seek to stifle gospel growth, now begins to express his frustration at not being able to see them face to face again. These verses (17-20) reveal Paul’s heart for this young persecuted church. He loves them. He has such a yearning to be with them again physically; to minister to them, encourage them, and strengthen them in their faith. Perhaps there are rumors circulating around that Paul has no intentions of ever coming back, but Paul with these emotional words, lay’s such rumors to rest. 

For Paul and his companions, being forced out of Thessalonica and having to leave these people behind, was equivalent to the feeling parents would have at losing their children. It was heart wrenching for him. His only comfort was in the hope that this separation would be short-lived and that he would soon be able to be with them again. 

Take notice to Paul’s switch in the plural usage of “we” up to this point, to the singular “I.” Paul desires to set himself apart from his co-laborers here and stress how he personally made every effort to to go back to them but was “thwarted” or prevented from doing so. It is of importance to notice who Paul says prevented them from going back to Thessalonica, “Satan Thwarted us” (vs.18).

It is time for a brief *SOS study. In Acts 16:6-10 Paul’s plans are frustrated as well, but there he credits the Holy Spirit for “forbidding” them to speak the word in Asia. He saw this as God’s leading of them in their missionary efforts. Now, back to our text. Here in 3:18 Paul see’s no other explanation of the opposition facing them but Satan himself. Exactly what it was that hindered them we can only speculate, he doesn’t mention anything here, so it is probably best not to surmise what it could have been.

In verses 19 and 20 Paul seems to break out in untethered joy as he thinks upon their friendship and brotherhood under the banner of Christ! These folks are the cause of his joy and confidence as he thinks upon the Lord’s coming again. To him, these believers (1)“will be a kind of victory prize. They will be his ‘crowning glory’ on that day and the source of unspeakable joy.”

3 “Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it best to be left behind, alone at Athens, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the benefit of your faith, so that no one would be [a]disturbed by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For even when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; [b]and so it happened, [c]as you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I also sent to [d]find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be for nothing.”

FOCUS TWO: Paul “cannot endure it any longer,” and so he sends Timothy to them. The constant thought of these beloved people just seems to be a pressing burden to his soul. Remember, Paul and his companions were forced to leave Thessalonica much sooner then they would have preferred, and as a result they were not able to teach them as much as they would have liked and felt necessary (Acts 17). So, after being forced out of Thessalonica they traveled to Berea, founded a church, and then under pressure again, Paul leaves and travels to Athens and from there he sends Timothy to them.

Timothy is a “brother” in Christ, and a “fellow worker’ in the proclamation of the gospel. He is a man that Paul loves and values and so trusts with the mission of traveling back to Thessalonica with the goal of strengthening and encouraging these young believers. He has great confidence that Timothy will complete that mission. This church was going through a time of suffering and facing various trials in their day to day walk of faith. Paul is concerned for their welfare and that they would stand firm and not “be deceived” by the afflictions they face. 

Paul knew that they would go through such times (3:4). He wrote Timothy some years later: “yes, all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It would be very naïve to think the world would accept those who follow Christ (John 15:18). And so, this is why Paul just had to know if their faith was genuine, if it was holding up.

6 “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we give to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice because of you before our God, 10 as we keep praying most earnestly night and day that we may see your faces, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?”

FOCUS THREE:  Timothy returns! What a joy Paul feels as his good friend and faithful co-laborer returns safely from his journey. Not only that, he brings good news with him (vss. 6-10)!  Paul’s questions are finally answered, his concerns alleviated. It seems that Paul wrote this letter rather quickly as his heart was elevated with emotions of thankfulness and praise! Their faith remained steadfast. Their love toward and kind affection for Paul remained. And imagine the joy in Paul’s heart to hear that they longed to see him again just as he did them! Paul is elated, “for now we really live, if (since) you stand firm in the faith.” 

Paul then expresses for a third time (vs. 9) his thankfulness for them. It sounds as if Paul, believe it or not, was temporarily at a loss for words in how to express his thankfulness to God. (1) “This is a rhetorical question expressing the thought that no act of thanksgiving can equal the joy Paul experiences as he thinks of the Thessalonians.” 

But even so, Paul reflects back to his desire to be with them again and minister to their needs. He knows that they are young in the faith and he desires to “complete what is lacking in your faith” (vs, 10). By that Paul means that even though they have started out well (1:3,7; 2:13,14;3:6), there is always room to grow (2 Peter 1:5-15).

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. Have you ever experienced frustration? Look up these verses in your bible and write down how they counsel us in regards to frustration: Romans 8:28; Proverbs 3:5-6; Ecclesiastes 7:9.
  2. Looking back at these verses, what statements of Paul’s help describe the “burden” he carried for these believers?
  3. Do you have a burden for the lost?  Your family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.? If not, what needs to change in your heart and life?
  4. What does it mean to be a “fellow worker” in the gospel? Who are you co-laboring with in the cause of Christ? 
  5. What pattern for prayer do you see in verse 10 that may help you in your daily prayer life?
  • David Ewert, Study on 1 and 2 Thessalonians
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