SERIES: Mark 1-3
SERMON: Glorious News: Jesus is our Substitute
TEXT: Mark 1:1, 9-15 (ESV)
It’s good to be with all of you at Gateway Church this weekend. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — one thing I want you to know is that God loves you, and I love you, too.
And we are continuing our series in the Gospel of Mark. So, if you have your Bible please turn with me to Mark chapter one. We’ll be looking at verse one and then verses nine through fifteen.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So, if you have a question during the sermon, you can text your question to the number printed on the bulletin or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
And while you’re finding Mark chapter one — here’s some quick background information about the gospel.
The book is written by Mark — who was a follower of Jesus. He wasn’t one of the original twelve disciples, but he did know some of them. In fact, many scholars believe — and I agree with them — that Mark’s gospel finds its source from Peter. Meaning that Peter told Mark the things that are written down in this gospel.
Mark’s gospel was probably the first gospel to be written, but we’re not really sure. Matthew and Luke both seem to use Mark as a resource — which is why we think Mark was written first. And, finally, Mark is the shortest gospel, which makes it very action oriented. As you read the gospel, you’ll see phrases like “immediately” or “at once” quite often because Mark is all about quickly moving us along through the life of Jesus so we get to the crucifixion — for Mark, it’s all about the cross.
So, there’s some background info on our gospel — and now let’s turn to Mark chapter one. Beginning in verse one.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And now skip to verse nine. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:1, 9-15 ESV)
Some bad news and some good news. And — we’ll start — with the bad news.
Bad news. You are far worse than you dare to believe. And so is everyone else — myself included.
Good news. Jesus is far better than you dare to believe.
Bad news. Even the best things you and I do are nothing more than blood stained, filthy rags in God’s sight.
Good news. The best thing Jesus did was shed His blood — staining the filthy rags He wore.
Bad news. You — no matter what you believe about Jesus — you will never fulfill the Law. Meaning you can’t do what God expects of you, you can’t do what others expect of you, and you can’t even do what you expect of yourself.
Good news. Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly for you.
Bad news. Though you’ll try to live as if you can fulfill the Law — your effort will only bring heartache, pain, sorrow, and regret.
Good news. You can believe that Christ fulfilled the Law for you, which will bring joy, peace, passion, and rest in your life.
Pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Oh, how many there are who are rich in their own good works and cannot therefore come to Christ!” To which I might add, “And how deceived we are to believe that our works are even good.”
Now, what I want to do today is prove to you that what I’ve just said is true — how things are much worse than we dare to think and yet God’s grace is more unbelievably good than we dare to hope.
And I’m going to do so by looking at three things our text brings to our attention. Baptism. Temptation. And ministry. I want to show you how these three things can be done under the condemning power of the Law or under the freeing power of God’s grace.
So let’s begin by looking at baptism. Read with me in Mark chapter one beginning in verse nine.
MAIN POINT 1
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 ESV)
Here we see that Jesus is our substitute in baptism. Jesus is our substitute in baptism.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus was baptized? If we go back a few verses we read that, “He (John the baptist) was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” (Mark 1:4b NLT)
Now why does this matter? It matters because this is the baptism Jesus participates in — Jesus gets baptized by John. And John’s baptism was done to show that the person being baptized had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
And this should make all of us stop and ask: “Then why did Jesus get baptized?” because our Christian faith says that Jesus never sinned? Not prior to His baptism — not after it — Jesus had no need to repent, because He never sinned. So, one could safely assume that Jesus had no reason to be baptized either.
So if baptism is — as many believe — simply an outward sign of an inward change a person has experienced, why did Jesus get baptized? He hadn’t sinned. He had nothing to repent of. He didn’t need to change.
Two things you should know about Jesus’ baptism. First, it was embarrassing to the first Christians. They knew that John’s baptism was a baptism showing a person had repented of their sins and here’s Jesus getting baptized — all while these early Christians believed that Jesus was sinless.
So you can imagine the embarrassment when their unbelieving Jewish or Gentile friends would ask, “Hey you say Jesus never sinned, right? Yes. Well why did He get baptized by John for the repentance of sins then? Answer me that one buddy.”
So why does any of this matter — what does Jesus’ baptism being an embarrassment to early Christians help us understand? It tells us that this story can’t be made up — it’s too embarrassing — and it doesn’t help defend the Christian case that Jesus was sinless when He’s being baptized as a sinner.
So, although embarrassing, it’s got to be true. No Christian author would want to put this story about Jesus in their book if they were just making stuff up. If anything, this story makes it harder for people to believe that Jesus was sinless, not easier.
But the second thing you should know is that Jesus tells us why He’s baptized. Remember, Mark’s gospel is one of action, so he’s not concerned with recording every word that’s spoken during these events in Jesus’ life. He wants to move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing so we can get to the cross ASAP.
But Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.” (Matthew 3:13-15 NLT)
God required that Jesus be baptized by John even though He had never sinned — and Jesus obeyed. He was baptized as a sinner even though Jesus never sinned and had nothing to repent of.
Now most Christians understand that we need Jesus to be our substitute. We need His perfect life in substitute of our imperfect life. His experience of God’s wrath — God’s intense hatred of sin — on the cross as our substitute so we won’t experience God’s wrath.
But here’s what we learn in Jesus’ baptism. He never sinned — He had nothing to repent of — but He was baptized because we needed Jesus to be our substitute in our baptism.
If we go back to the bad news — remember everything we do — even the good things we do — are stained with sin. Selfishness, greed, jealousy, pride…all sorts of things are always tainting even the best things we do. And that includes our baptism. What do I mean?
Part of what baptism is — is it’s a sign indicating that a person has repented of their sins and turned to God in faith — that’s part of what baptism is — that’s not all that baptism is — but part of what baptism is — is it’s a sign showing that a person has died to who they were — a sinner in rebellion against God — have turned to God for forgiveness — and are now a resurrected person who pledges their obedience to One who raised them from the dead.
And when a person is baptized, we can easily make the baptism all about the person in the water. Look at them. Look at their testimony. Look at their repentance.
And for a second — let’s stop romanticizing baptism. Can we be real? If baptism is all about the person being baptized — it would be one of the most condemning things we could do in our faith.
Let’s take someone who’s deeply flawed and have them stand before a bunch of people and say, “I’ve turned from my sin; and I’ve turned to God; and I pledge to live completely for Him from this day forward.” Let’s take someone who — probably on their way to being baptized — sinned at least a dozen times and then let’s force them to be a liar by claiming to have devoted their life completely to God and then dunk them under water, so they can dry off and sin another dozen times before they go to lunch.
Do you see what I’m saying?
If we had eyes to see what’s really going on when we baptize someone, what we’d see is that the best of us would be standing in blood-stained water that’s red from our sin. Even our baptism is nothing more than a filthy, blood-stained rag.
Which helps us understand why Jesus was baptized for the repentance of sin. Because we need Jesus’ baptism as our substitute.
If we look at verse ten, we know this must be true. In verse ten, we read, “And when he (that’s Jesus) came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11 ESV)
As Jesus comes up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends and rests on Him like a dove. And God the Father’s voice is heard — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — three Persons, One God — the Trinity — are all active in this moment — and what does God the Father say as Jesus comes up out of the water? He says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11b ESV)
You know something — in all of the baptisms I’ve performed or witnessed — including my own — not once have I ever witnessed the Holy Spirit descend on the person being baptized accompanied with the voice of God declaring that “God is pleased” with the person being baptized. It’s never happened.
Yet, God is pleased with Jesus who was baptized in our place so that when we’re baptized — God doesn’t see our filthy, bloodied rags — but instead sees His Son’s baptism in our place.
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 1
So is baptism important? Yes — it’s a command — of course it’s important. But let’s not think that our baptism is the point. Jesus’ baptism in our place is the point. Our baptism should point others to Jesus and His devotion to us — not our devotion to Him. Our baptism should remind others of what Christ has done, is doing, and will do for His people.
APPLICATION OF MAIN POINT 1
And this should be liberating news. Condemnation and guilt come from “Everyone look at me while I publicly declare my turning away from sin and absolute obedience to God” only to mess up my testimony by lunch. It’s why we hide our flaws from each other. It’s why we hide our sin. We’ve made a public declaration that puffs up our reputation, and when we fail to live up to our testimony, we’re ashamed and so we hide.
But if our baptism is a public declaration of what Christ has done for us, we’re free to confess our sins, our screw ups, our flaws, and all of our filthy, bloody ragged attempts at living for God because it’s not about us anyway. It’s about what Christ has done for us, is doing for us, and what He’s promised to do for us for all eternity.
Now that may have been a bit of a shock to your pride and heart. Maybe for some of us here — who wouldn’t claim to be a Christian — being baptized is pretty irrelevant, anyway. But I think that this idea of Christ as our substitute will be much more liberating in our next few verses. Let’s continue in verse twelve.
MAIN POINT 2
“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” (Mark 1:12-13 ESV)
What we see here is that Jesus is our substitute in temptation. Jesus is our substitute in temptation.
Once again, Mark doesn’t give us the details of Jesus’ encounter with Satan. Mark doesn’t even mention that Jesus defeats Satan — he assumes his audience knows the story — but if you’re not familiar with it — Satan meets Jesus out in the wilderness. And as Matthew tells us, Satan tempts Jesus three times. And all three times Jesus passes the temptation test.
If we were to go to the book of beginnings — Genesis — we’d see Adam and Eve being tempted by Satan, but they fail the test. But Jesus — well — He passes the test. Not faltering or failing or sinning even once.
And this is Good News — why? Because if Jesus had sinned, then He would not have been qualified to be our sinless sacrificial substitute. But He did pass — He passed the temptation test on our behalf.
And although Christians would agree that Jesus’ perfect life is the substitute for our imperfect life, we often live as if Jesus’ perfect life is only a substitute for the life we lived as an unbeliever.
Meaning, we say “yes,” and “amen,” to Jesus’ being our substitute when we were an unbeliever, but now — now that I’m a believer — His life is no longer a substitute for mine. Now it’s all about how I live for Him.
Let me give an example of how this works. Let’s take one encouraging — yet potentially condemning — verse from the Bible. First Corinthians ten verse thirteen says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he (God) will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
Now, let me say that this verse is absolutely true. It’s an amazing gift from God. Your temptations — and my temptations — are not unique. We don’t have it any worse than anyone else when it comes to the temptations we face. And God is faithful.
How amazing is that? God is faithful. In what way? In that every temptation, we face will not be more than we can stand. Again, that’s absolutely true. It’s amazing. It’s a reason to rejoice.
But then the next sentence is where condemnation can creep in because when we are tempted — and remember these are temptations God has promised we can stand against — God will show us a way of escape, so we don’t have to give into them.
And here’s why this amazing truth is potentially condemning. You and I still give in to temptation all the time, don’t we? God doesn’t allow any temptation to come into our life that we cannot overcome — not one temptation do we have to give into — yet you and I give into temptation all the time.
Doesn’t matter if it’s laziness, pornography, bitterness, gossip, greed, pride, lying, stealing, sexual immorality, a hateful attitude, or indifference. God always gives us a way out, and yet we’re utter failures when it comes to not giving in to temptation.
And to make matters worse, even when we don’t give in to temptation, we’re still displaying nothing more than filthy, bloodied rags.
A quick example. Say you’re addicted to porn, so you get some accountability partners and software to monitor what you view on the Internet. And say you don’t look at porn any more — the accountability works.
Now in most people’s eyes you’re a success. You’ve changed. You’ve fought temptation and you’ve won! But what nobody knows is that the only reason you’re not looking at porn is because you know others will get an email telling them every website you’ve visited. And you care a lot about your reputation — you care about how your friends will view you if they get that email. So you’re not looking at porn — yes — but you’re doing so to protect your reputation — you’ve gone from one sin — porn — to another — pride.
Filthy, bloody rags.
I remember one time — when I went out of my way to serve some people — and while I was serving them, I said to myself, “Now don’t go and tell anyone about what you’re doing because then— it’s like the only reason you’re doing this is so you can tell others about it.” And you know what I did? First chance I got — I told somebody what I did!
A seemingly good thing that was a filthy, bloody rag.
Now some of you might be thinking, “Josh, don’t be so hard on yourself.” But if I’m not hard on myself, I won’t rejoice in what Jesus has done for me as my substitute.
You see, Jesus defeated temptation as my substitute so that even my best imperfect efforts — are substituted with Christ’s perfect effort on my behalf.
And this does something remarkable for me. Seeing Jesus as my substitute doesn’t make me feel like trying to obey is a waste of time — it reminds me that trying is infinitely valuable, because God takes what I do and substitutes it with what Christ has done in my place. Which compels me, encourages me, and inspires me to try even more — with even greater passion and dependence upon Him — because I now live out of Christ’s defeat of temptation.
If I’m going to try and be a better person — which I think we’d all say we’re wanting to be — then try hard and try often — because through faith in Christ all of your trying is substituted with Christ’s perfection making your trying pleasing to God.
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 2
Jesus — being your substitute in defeating temptation — isn’t a reason to give up the fight against sin in your life. It’s reason to live out of the perfection that’s yours in the fight against temptation.
APPLICATION OF MAIN POINT 2
Now if you remember, Mark tells us that Jesus was sent out into the wilderness where the wild animals were — some translations say “wild beasts.” And — remember — Mark usually leaves out the details — but he’s the only gospel writer that mentions the wild animals. Now why would Mark include this detail when the other gospels don’t? What difference does it make if there are wild animals in the wilderness or not?
Well, the audience Mark’s writing to is experiencing severe persecution. In fact, many Christians were being arrested and do you know what’d happen to them? They’d be thrown to wild animals to be eaten alive as entertainment for crowds.
Now, the Christians in Mark’s time are just like us today. Many of them weren’t sure whether or not they’d really be able to die for their faith. They hoped they’d be able to, but the possibility of being fed to wild animals — to have your body torn to pieces as a source of entertainment for others — well it was a bit much for even the most confident followers of Jesus.
So, Mark wants them to see that Christ has been their substitute when it comes to facing the temptation to cower in fear — when faced with being thrown to the wild animals. It’s as if Mark is saying, “Jesus was perfectly obedient in your place, so you don’t have to waiver in your obedience. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs just to avoid the wild animals. Jesus substituted Himself for you in the wilderness with the wild beasts. And if the world persecutes you because of your faith and forces you to face death or cower in fear, know that Jesus is right there with you. He already stared death in the face and defeated it on your behalf, so you have no need to compromise.”
Good News for those of us who find ourselves facing temptation — Jesus is our substitute. He defeated temptation for us — not so we can freely give in to temptation — but so we can know that our victory over temptation isn’t ours to win — it was His to win — and He did so victoriously. And with Jesus as our substitute, we receive the rewards of His victory.
There’s one final way I want us to see how Jesus is our substitute. Let’s begin in verse fourteen.
MAIN POINT 3
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV)
What we see here is that Jesus is our substitute in ministry. We talked about ministry last week and this week we see that Jesus is our substitute in ministry.
Jesus came proclaiming — the word can mean preaching — the gospel of God. Remember, the opening words of Mark’s gospel, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1 ESV)
The Gospel. The Good News of Jesus being the substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of all who believe in Him.
Substitutionary — our substitute — Jesus doing everything in your place — in my place — in our place — so that when God looks at those who believe in Jesus — He sees Jesus.
Substitutionary sacrifice. What did Jesus’ sacrifice include? It includes His life in place of your life. His perfection in place of your imperfection. His death in place of your death. His baptism in place of your baptism. His defeat of temptation in place of you being defeated by temptation. His ministry in place of your ministry. And so much more.
And Jesus did His ministry as your substitute — because — you and I do not do our ministry perfectly. We often do not do ministry graciously. Many times we have ulterior motives — even our best ministry efforts are nothing more than filthy, blood stained rags.
What do you mean, Josh? I mean I could be up here preaching a sermon with ulterior motives. I could be wondering what you think of me? Do they think I’m good at this? Will anyone say anything positive about the sermon afterwards? Will anyone come up and immediately critique what I said? Will anyone be changed? Do they care what I’m wearing this morning? Should I have worn salmon colored pants?
And I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Some of us only do ministry to be seen by others. We may not even be aware of it, but your track record shows it’s true. And even when you do something and no one else knows — how many of you — unlike me — don’t ever tell a single person what you did?
And I bet someone’s got that one time when they did it — but of course you can’t come up and tell me about it — you can’t prove me wrong — because — in telling me about it — you’d prove my point.
Jesus is the only who person who did His ministry with no ulterior motives. He loved God and other people just as the Law required. He honored God with every word that came out of His mouth, His thoughts were always pure, His eyes never wandered, His ministry was always done in complete obedience to God’s will.
Just one example of what this looked like. In John’s gospel, Jesus finds Himself in a crowd of people who are sick, unable to walk, deaf, blind — you name it — someone’s got it. And as you’ve probably heard — Jesus could heal people.
So, what do you think Jesus did when He finds Himself in a place full of sick people all around Him and He has the power that can heal them all? What did Jesus do? He heals one guy. Goes up to one guy, heals him, tells him to stand up, and walks out with the guy as they step over and around sick people who Jesus didn’t heal.
Which was exactly what God wanted Him to do. How do I know? Because Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father’s will.
But if it was you or me — and we had the power to heal anyone at any time — would we’ve done that? Would we’ve passed up the opportunity to heal a crowd when God only wanted us to heal one guy?
Do you see why we need Jesus as our ministry substitute? So often we go after all of the wrong things in ministry. “God I’ll do this if…fill in the blank. If this many people show up. If I can run things how I want to run them. If I get a title. If I get recognition. If I get to be on the platform. If I don’t have to be on the platform.” We come with all of these qualifications.
Filthy, blood stained rags.
But the Good News is that Jesus came with no qualifications, which is liberating to everyone who believes in Him. Because He’s not just our substitute on the cross, He’s our substitute in ministry. And even when we mess up and serve out of ulterior motives, Christ takes our filthy, bloodied — sorry excuses for ministry — and substitutes it with His blood stained ministry of the cross.
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINT 3
Jesus is our substitute — in baptism — in defeating temptation — and in ministry. And believing that Jesus is your substitute is the only way to be set free from the condemnation that keeps so many Christians weighed down.
It’s freeing to acknowledge that “I can’t even do this one thing, but Christ has done everything for me.”
Jesus isn’t just your “before I believed” substitute. He’s your substitute for all of life. It’s the only way the Christian faith isn’t just as burdensome as other religions. It’s how freeing grace really is. It frees us from the burden of trying to work hard enough to make filthy, blood stained rags something that’s pleasing in the sight of God.
What’s the point of all of this? Here’s the point. God’s grace is most fully experienced when Christ is the substitute for all of your life. God’s grace is most fully experienced when Christ is the substitute for all of your life.
The Christian faith really is all about Jesus. Christ lived for you. Died for you. Rose from the grave for you. Was baptized for you. Defeated temptation for you. Did His God-ordained ministry for you. Christ substituted all of who He is, so you can be all that You are not. Perfectly obedient. Victorious over temptation. And selfless in ministry to others.
Do you want to experience more of God’s grace — His undeserved favor and blessing in your life? God’s grace is most fully experienced when Christ is the substitute for all of your life. Let’s pray.
PRAYER OF APPLICATION
Heavenly Father, remind us often that grace is most fully experienced when Christ is the substitute for all of our life. Help us to find freedom by believing this Good News. And help us to live with Jesus as our substitute for all of life. In our baptism. In our fight against temptation. And in our ministry.
Father, help those who desire forgiveness to turn to You in faith. As they trust that Jesus has done for them what they could not do for themselves. And with Him as their substitute — may they know that they’ve been reconciled with You and are a child of God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.