At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Imagine that an older man decided he wanted to be more charitable. So one cold winter's night he loaded up an old sleigh he had with gifts, hitched up his horses and drove all over town delivering gifts to young children. If this happened, what would you think? Chances are that you immediately made some sort of connection to Santa Clause in your mind. Santa is such a well known part of our culture that I don't have to explain to you how this old man's story connects to him. We can all see how the old man is following this well known pattern from our culture.
In the above passage Jesus is doing something similar. He is following a pattern of behavior that was extremely well known to the Israelites but that is maybe not as well known to us. You see, for the Israelites the most significant event in their national history was their exodus from Egypt. It was truly the birth of their nation. They would tell their children and their children's children the story of how God rescued from Egypt much like we make sure our children are taught about the American Revolution, the Boston tea party, and Paul Revere's ride. All Israelite children should have known that after the ten plagues the people if Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea, wandered in the dessert for 40 years, and then entered the Promised Land. So it is no coincidence that Mark tells his readers that Jesus passed through the waters of baptism, was driven into the wilderness for 40 days, and then began preaching about the coming kingdom. Jesus is following a well known pattern in order to make a point. Jesus came to earth to bring about a new exodus.
In the historical exodus God saved the people of Israel, who were powerless to save themselves, from slavery to the Egyptians. In this new exodus, Jesus will save all of God's children from slavery to sin, because we are also powerless to save ourselves. By His baptism Jesus is not repenting of His own sin, for he never sinned, but he is repenting as a representative of all mankind. He is showing us that the way to salvation lies through repentance. Then the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. Unlike the nation of Israel, which fell into sin repeatedly resulting in 40 years of wandering in the dessert, Jesus overcomes the evil one and avoids sin. Then he re-enters the Promised Land and begins to preach about another "Promised Land" the coming kingdom of God.
I think Mark's original readers would have picked up on this pattern that Jesus is following right away. Jesus is leading a new exodus. He is showing them that this world is not what it was meant to be. The Promised Land was not all that they hoped it would be. They had traded slavery to the Egyptians for slavery to sin, and their sin had messed everything up. It was time for a do-over. It was time for a new exodus... one which would solve their sin problem once and for all. This is to be His mission in life: to set God's children free from slavery to sin and to bring them safely into the Promised Land (heaven). It's really rather beautiful when you step back to look at it.
The good news for us today is that Jesus was successful. He paid the penalty for all of mankind's sin on the cross. He defeated the power that sin had over us by His death and resurrection. And He has promised to return one day to take all those who believe in Him to the Promised Land. Until then God continues to rescue helpless sin-slaves. If you haven't surrendered your life to Christ, the good news for you is that there is still time to repent and believe. It is to you that Jesus is saying, "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Today is the day of salvation! Believe. If you have already made a profession of faith, then remember that you have been set free. You are no longer a slave to sin. Christ defeated the power it had over you. You are no longer a slave to shame. Your past sins have been blotted out by the precious blood of Christ, so live a life that is in line with the great grace that you have been shown and the great freedom from sin that you have been given. Live like someone who has experienced a great exodus and is waiting to enter their Promised Land. Don´t turn back to Egypt; don´t turn back to sin. Rather live for God and set your hope on the grace to be brough to you when Jesus Christ comes again (I Peter 1:13).
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