Sermon Outline On Mark 1:1-16:20
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark was an engineer. Mark, at least, had the thinking of an engineer.
Matthew gives us an account that beginnings with the genealogy of Jesus. It was important to show that he was of the lineage of David. We hear news about a virgin birth, but Matthew focuses on Joseph and his reaction. There is the visit by the wise men, and ultimately the escape of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to Egypt. There is the massacre of all the infants, and finally the return from Egypt. It is then at Chapter 3 that we are told about a strange man named John the Baptist.
Luke begins with the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth, followed by the revelation of the birth of Jesus. Luke tells us about a visit between Mary and Elizabeth. John the Baptist is born. His father, Zachariah prophesies through the power of the Holy Spirit about the birth of a savior. It is Mary’s reaction to the virgin birth that concerned Luke. He tells us of the birth of Jesus, the visit by shepherds, the naming of Jesus, and the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Luke shares that story about the boy Jesus being left behind at the Temple as he discusses theology. It is then at Chapter 3 that we are told by Luke about the man named John the Baptist.
Mark thought like an engineer. He asked what’s important? He would say to you and me, “Let’s get down to the brass tacks.” Mark was pragmatic. He wanted to get down to the point.
No need for lineage to prove Jesus was related to King David. No need to discuss a virgin birth. No angels, wise men or shepherds in Mark’s story. No manger, inn keeper, or taxation for Mark.
Mark doesn’t like to waste words. He covers in 16 chapters in 22 pages what takes Matthew 28 chapters and 34 pages. Luke requires 24 chapters and 36 pages. Mark writes like an engineer, always thinking, “What’s the point?”
Scholars agree that Mark’s words were available to Matthew and Luke, and they relied on them extensively. Matthew and Luke were more like preachers. They embellished the words of Mark.
He writes, “The beginning of the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. Mark wants us to know from the very beginning that he is bringing good news. Fred Craddock tells us that Mark was the first to use the word for good news, gospel.(1) The word gospels was later applied to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The beginning is “good news.” It is news about Jesus Christ. While that sounds like two names, you will recall that Christ is a title. Mark begins with the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. That would have been important to Mark’s Jewish listeners, but mean nothing to his Gentile audience. Mark adds, Jesus is the son of God. Now that meant something to the Gentiles.
So the beginning is Jesus. Before Jesus was born there was the prophecies found in Isaiah and Malachi. “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness; ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” We begin with one who is preparing the way. There is no doubt that the one preparing the way for Jesus is John the baptizer.
John can be found in the wilderness-the place where Israel traditionally finds salvation, the place where people sin, and the place where they repent to restore their right relationship with God once again.(2)
John is in the wilderness preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John was preparing the way in the wilderness by preaching repentance and forgiveness, and the people came. The people came. Why would the people choose to go into the wilderness to hear a wild man preach on repentance-turning away from sin and toward Jesus?
A few years ago, when then Chrysler president Lee Iaococa gave the commencement address at Duke, he stood behind his lectern (which he had brought with him from Detroit), looked at the graduates, and they looked at him, and he said, “Now, the only thing standing between you and your Duke graduation is me!”(3)
Willimon suggests, the only one standing between us and the Christ child at Bethlehem is John the Baptist. In order to get to Christmas, we must first get by John. So does it begin with John’s call to repent? Does it all begin with sin? Is sin the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ?
To get to the Christ child in Bethlehem, we must first get by John. And yet John tells us there is one coming more powerful than him. There is one coming who is not even in the same class as John. He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.
Why all those people would come to hear John the baptizer. Why did they all come? I think they came to hear John for the same reason people come to Jesus today. They came because the Holy Spirit begins working in our lives even before we know it. Some choose to follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Some choose to ignore the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit will continue working on us.
John said, “One will come who is more powerful than me.” John preached repentance for the forgiveness of our sin. Jesus would die for our sin. Jesus would pay the price once and for all.
Mark wrote, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” John wrote in his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ]. So is Mark telling us that Jesus Christ is the beginning?
OR could it be that Mark is telling us that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were, for all their central importance, but the beginning of the mission to bear the good news to every nation under heaven.
For Mark, stories of shepherds, angels, wise men, mangers, and a virgin birth are not as important as the salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ. Mark doesn’t waste words. Jesus saves!
1. Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, B (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993) 12.
2. Richard Donovan, SermonWriter for Advent 2B.
3. William Willimon, Pulpit Resources, Vol. 30, No. 4, 44.