November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 1:1-20: Getting Ready for Royalty!

103 days left until the Athens Olympic Games. And no-one except the organising committee thinks they’ll be ready on time.

People joke that THE ATHLETES THEMSELVES could help with the construction. The shotputters could train by throwing bricks to the bricklayers.

The weightlifters should lift something USEFUL for a change. Like bags of cement, or steel girders.

And they reckon that the triathlon this will consist of swimming, running, and pouring concrete.

From the moment Athens was announced more than seven years ago as the venue, they’ve been frantically getting ready. Some people would say “Not frantically enough”

And no doubt there’ll be plenty of VISITING ROYALTY. Kings and queens and princes and counts. All sorts of VIPs. From all sorts of different cultures.

And I guess they’ll have ADVISORS helping them to get ready. Cultural attaches. Experts. Making sure that no-one is insulted.

That all cultural considerations are met. That no-one is seated beside an enemy. That no-one is given offensive food, or gift, or accommodation.


1. John gets people ready for royalty (1:1-8)

And here in Mark Chapter 1 that’s exactly what’s happening. ISRAEL is getting ready to meet royalty. And they need someone to help them. Because it’s important to PREPARE PROPERLY when royalty comes to visit.

And so Mk starts by telling us about GETTING PEOPLE READY. Have a look at verses 2 & 3

(Mark 1:2-3 NIV)  “{2} It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”– {3} “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way (get it ready) for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'””

And those words are about to be fulfilled. Because God sends John the Baptist to PREPARE the people for Jesus. His job was to SMOOTH THE WAY for the arrival of the King. Just like the cultural attaches for the Olympics.

John’s job is to get people ready for the King. But how do you do that? How do you get ready for Jesus – the King of the universe?

Do you teach manners? Do you teach what things you should DO? Things you SHOULDN’T do?

Look at what John’s message is all about. Look at how he smoothed the way for the king. Verse 4.

(Mark 1:4 NIV)  “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

The way to get ready for the king of the universe is to repent!

To repent is to recognise that you’ve rebelled against Jesus. That you’ve lived your life as a rebel against the king. And to do a U-turn.

And we ALL live like that, don’t we? We all hate people telling us what to do, and when to do it. We’d rather be our own boss, than recognise Jesus’ right to rule.

A friend of mine went to visit a dying man. He was waiting for a heart-lung transplant, and his life consisted of a ten foot long tube attached to a large oxygen bottle. He’d sit in a chair sucking on this mouthpiece for all he was worth. This was all that was keeping him alive. And he waited for someone else to die so that he could live.

Over the course of a few weeks my friend did Christianity Explained with the man. And he was confident that if ANYONE would become a Christian – THIS MAN would!

But at the end of the course, there was no response. And the reason? HE DIDN’T WANT TO LOSE CONTROL OF HIS LIFE!

He was in charge of his life, and he wouldn’t submit to anyone!

He died a few weeks later… completely in control of his own life… a life that consisted of a 10 foot length of plastic tube!

We all love to control our own lives. And we’ll love to do that even to our dying breath!

But John’s message is “That’s got to stop!” “You need to recognise Jesus’ right to rule over you as king”. To bow the knee to him, and to let HIM be boss.

That’s what it means to get ready for royalty!

And if you AREN’T recognising that authority, then John’s message is to YOU! YOU need to get ready for Jesus – YOU need to repent!

So what about John’s hearers? How ready were THEY?

They had HUNDREDS OF YEARS to get ready, so you’d think they’d be KEEN! And they were!

John’s running his “royalty-preparation courses” at his desert retreat. And people are flocking to hear him.  His services are in HOT DEMAND. His speaking calender is BOOKED SOLID. See what it says in v5

(Mark 1:5 NIV)  “The WHOLE JUDEAN COUNTRYSIDE and ALL THE PEOPLE OF JERUSALEM went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

Now it would be easy for John to get carried away by all the excitement. To let all the attention go to his head.

But it’s important for a signpost to remember its place. And it’s important for the SUPPORT ACT to remember that the crowd haven’t come to see him. They’ve come to see the main attraction. The headline act.

I’ve been to a few concerts in the Sydney Entertainment Centre. And every time I go I can’t help feeling sorry for the POOR SUPPORT BANDS. They come out to a half full arena. Noone knows who they are, and what’s more noone cares!

They finish their set on a high, and it’s followed by a deathly silence. Or even worse  – by noisy conversation.

The only time they get any cheers is when they’re going off because then everyone knows that the REAL BAND is about to come on.

It’s not hard for A SUPPORT BAND to remember it’s place. (There’s plenty of people to remind them). Harder for John though, because he’s so POPULAR.

But remembering his place is just what he does. His job is only to PREPARE PEOPLE FOR THE REAL THING. Someone is coming who is WAY more important. That’s what he says if you look at v7-8

(Mark 1:7-8 NIV)  “And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. {8} I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.””

John was only the FORERUNNER. He was the ENTREE, The MAIN COURSE was still to come. And John says, “I’m not worthy to LICK HIS BOOTS”

And so here we are, the stage is set, the houselights are dimmed, the curtain is drawn back, the audience is hushed. Who is this one who is greater than John?

2. Jesus arrives: (1:9-13)

It’s now that Mk introduces the star of the show. The one John’s been preparing for. The one the people are waiting for. ROYALTY’S ARRIVED!

I wonder if people were expecting someone special? A royal figure on a chariot? A mighty leader like Moses?

I reckon that you’d be looking around you, checking out likely people. Perhaps it’s him… or him!

But my guess is that Jesus was among them WITHOUT THEM EVEN KNOWING. ‘Cause just like lots of others he was baptised by John in the river. Verse 9

(Mark 1:9 NIV)  “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee … and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

IMAGINE, a king, doing something that humble, just like you or me!

I was waiting at the airport once. (Waiting’s something you seem to do a lot of at the airport.) And a huge black limousine pulled up. A guy in a snappy suit got out and walked quickly into the terminal.

As people came out of customs, he held up a sign “Bill Thomson – IBM”. I just couldn’t help checking out the people coming through the door. What must Bill Thomson from IBM look like? What sort of person has a limo at his disposal?

Was he that tall distinguished man in the black suit?

That older man with the grey hair carrying the expensive briefcase?

Or perhaps he was the young executive in the dark blue pinstripe?

I COULD HARDLY BELIEVE MY EYES when a short, unassuming, older looking man walked up to the guy with the sign. He was wearing a lairy Hawaiian shirt, baggy shorts, and casual shoes. He looked about as much like a high powered business executive as I do!

And it’s THIS TYPE OF REACTION that the people at the river have. “WHAT SORT OF A KING waits his turn in line to be baptised in the muddy water of the river just like all the rest of us?”


And it’s only as he comes up from the water that we see his true credentials. His secret identity is revealed. His true occupation.

Read v 10 and 11. See what happens

(Mark 1:10-11 NIV)  “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. {11} And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.””

Heaven is split apart. (Something special is coming from God). He declares Jesus as HIS SON. A son he loves, and who he’s pleased with!

THIS IS THE KING we’ve been waiting for! THIS IS THE ONE John’s been getting people ready for!

And yet there are questions about his kingship, aren’t there? WHAT SORT OF A KING cues up to be baptised like all the rest?

And the mystery continues. Because rather than the king putting together a procession to escort him up to Jerusalem. Rather than finding a golden chariot, horses, and soldiers. Rather than establishing a palace, and a royal treasury.

He heads off into THE DESERT… By himself – Just like Israel who’d been tested in the desert, This king did just what they did. Look at v 12

(Mark 1:12-13 NIV)  “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, {13} and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”

It’s a STRANGE sort of kingship. It’s a kingship of CONTRADICTIONS.

Jesus: God was PLEASED with him, but wild animals still threaten him and he needs the comfort of angels.

He’s God’s SPECIAL SON, yet he stands in line to be baptised with sinful people, and goes out of his way to be tested just like us.

In some strange way, that’ll be explained later in the story, the King of the Universe has come to stand in the place of sinners.

We don’t have all the pieces yet, but it’s enough to get us to ask the question. What SORT of king is Jesus?

And that’s what Mark’s gospel is all about. This is the question we ask ourselves over and over as we read through the book. What sort of king is Jesus?

3. Jesus wants us to get ready (1:14-20)

And so we move onto Jesus himself. We’ve heard from JOHN about Jesus. And we’ve heard from GOD about Jesus.

And now we hear from JESUS HIMSELF.

He comes proclaiming good news from God. And His message is that something exciting is about to happen.

The good news is that the time is nearly here. The coronation is just around the corner! The time Israel’s been waiting for. The time when God would show his rule over the world IN A MIGHTY WAY.

But Jesus does more than just DECLARE IT.  He’s about making sure that people are READY FOR IT!

And he gets people ready with the same message as John’s. Remember? You get ready for the king by repenting.

Read what Jesus says – his first recorded words – in v 14 & 15.

(Mark 1:14-15 NIV)  “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. {15} “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!””

To believe the good news was to recognise what time it was. That the wait is over. That the king had come.

The message of Jesus, and the message of John, was “Repent and believe the good news”.

“Big things are just around the corner! The Kingdom of God is nearly here! A time when the king is crowned!” It’s coming! It’s coming! Get ready! Get ready!

And in Mark’s story, he leaves that part right to the end.

Because the crowning doesn’t happen on a throne, before thousands of noisy and adoring subjects.

The final, victorious moment happens before a group of petrified women on a quiet Sunday morning. It’s the very last episode in the original story Mark wrote. Chapter 16: verses 1 to 8.

King Jesus defeats the greatest enemy. DEATH ITSELF.

He’s raised from the dead to prove who he was. He shows once and for all that the first verse of the story was right.

(Mark 1:1 NIV)  “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus – CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD.”

He shows that JOHN THE BAPTIST was right.

(Mark 1:7 NIV)  “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”

And he shows that GOD was right.

(Mark 1:11 NIV)  ” You are my SON, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.””

The response of the women on that Sunday morning was FEAR. Fear at the awesome power of King Jesus who defeats DEATH.

It’s a pretty appropriate response actually.

And so is REPENTANCE. Because repenting is about bowing the knee to the one who deserves it, rather than being king of our own lives.

THAT’S how we get ready for Jesus – by REPENTING!

But what about Jesus’ hearers? How did THEY respond? Were THEY ready for kingdom time.

Mark tells us how SOME people responded to Jesus’ message. There were SOME AT LEAST who were ready to meet royalty. Pick it up in v16.

(Mark 1:16-20 NIV)  “As Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee, he sees Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. {17} “Come, follow me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fishers of men.” {18} At once they leave their nets and follow him. {19} When he had goes a little farther, he sees James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. {20} Without delay he calls them, and they leave their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and follow him.”

The starting pistol of Jesus’ message had fired. And these guys LEAP OF THE BLOCKS. THEY’RE ready for the kingdom! THEY’RE ready to follow the king!

Jesus’ call has come to them. A call to repent and believe. A call to follow him. And they answer straight away.

It’s a call which still rings loudly to US. A call to be ready for royalty.

1. A call to repent – to repent from ignoring the kingship of Jesus.

2. A call to believe – to recognise his right to rule over us.

3. A call to follow – to go where Jesus wants, and to do what Jesus wants.

If you aren’t sure who Jesus is, and exactly what He’s asking of you, then keep checking him out! The book of Mk is a great place to start. Because as we read more, the strange kingship of Jesus becomes clearer.

And what it means to get READY for him also becomes clearer.

So keep checking him out! Keep getting ready for Jesus!

But this isn’t just a call to NEW PEOPLE. It’s a call to those of you who’ve known Jesus for YEARS,  or even DECADES.

Being ready for Jesus is a decision we need to make over and over. To recognise Jesus’ kingship is a conscious act in every part of every day. In each choice we make, we decide to follow King Jesus or not.

To repent … …  or continue doing our own thing.

To believe ……   or to trust that we know best instead.

To follow ……  or to turn our backs and ignore him.

Or what about us as a CHURCH? What can WE be doing to be ready for royalty? How can church be a place WHERE PEOPLE ARE ENCOURAGED TO REPENT?

1. First, We need to keep making sure we’re giving non-Christians the opportunity to repent. To keep presenting the good news about Jesus, and about how they can have peace with God through him.

2. This church needs to be a place where repenting is on the agenda. And one of the ways we can do that is to make sure part of our prayer during the service is repentance.

For 2000 years church services have changed hugely, but lots of things HAVEN’T changed. And one of them is that we begin church by APPROACHING GOD. By recognising who HE is. And recognising who WE are in comparision. And that will always cause us to confess how sinful we are. To REPENT. And to recognise our need for Jesus.

Let me encourage you SERVICE LEADERS. Let me encourage you who are ROSTERED TO PRAY. THINK about what things you pray for. PLAN and PREPARE what things you ask forgiveness for. Because as you confess certain things on behalf of all of us, it’s one of the ways God can show US things we need to change. And it’s one of the ways we make sure that REPENTING stays on our agenda.

3. Church also needs to be a place where, INDIVIDUALLY, people are changing. Repenting. Turning from what they ONCE were like, and becoming more like Jesus. A continual, gradual process. A journey of repenting. Of getting ready.

This needs to be a place where we can SEE each other becoming more like Jesus.

4. It also needs to be a place where it’s OKAY TO FAIL. We need to be transparent with each other. To not pretend that we’ve got everything together.

I don’t have everything together. I struggle with sin. I argue with my wife. I make mistakes with my children. I REPENT.

This needs to be a place where we can be HONEST. Where we can SUPPORT each other. Without being judgemental. And help each other to repent, and to become more like Jesus.

5. And if repentance is going to become part of the culture. Then FORGIVENESS needs to as well. If we want to encourage repentance, then we need to make sure that if someone hurts us, that we FORGIVE them.

Repentance is encouraged by PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL.

Repentance is encouraged by PEOPLE REPENTING and becoming more like Jesus.

Repentance is encouraged by being OPEN.

Repentance is encouraged by being SUPPORTIVE.

Repentance is encouraged by being FORGIVING.


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