Sermon Prep in Mark 1 – Part 2 Featuring BibleWorks

“The baptism and temptation of Jesus were for the people He came to redeem.”

I’m working on a series of sermons in Mark chapter 1. And as I mentioned some time ago, I will be using BibleWorks, the premium software for studying the biblical languages, and featuring BibleWorks in a series of posts blogging through my sermon preparation. The nice folks at BibleWorks provided me with a complimentary copy of the latest version of their software, for which I am very grateful. The new features in version 8 are not only helpful but a lot of fun to discover and work with. For more on BibleWorks and where to get it, click here.
Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research 

In my first post in this series, walking through my sermon prep in the text of Mark 1, I began with what is usually my first step in studying a passage of Scripture: diagramming the text in the original language (Greek in the case of Mark 1). And I shared some of the insights I gained into the first 8 verses of Mark 1 from the diagramming process. The next thing I usually do is to take the diagram I’ve prepared and notice what all the verbs are, what all the prepositions are, etc. As I said before, BibleWorks includes a helpful diagram of the New Testament, saving a lot of time for the average pastor who just doesn’t have the enough hours in a week to laboriously prepare a thorough grammatical-syntactical analysis of every passage he preaches and teaches on. Furthermore, I have to admit, my skills in the use of Greek and Hebrew have faded quite a bit with every passing year. Thankfully, BibleWorks makes some of the hard tasks of studying the text much easier and less time-consuming. This is where the powerful search tool comes in. 

As I came to the text of Mark 1:9-13 for my second sermon in this series, I wanted to quickly identify all of the verbs in the text. So I set the search range in BibleWorks, and set the search version to a morphological version of the Greek New Testament.* This showed me, in a few seconds, that there are 15 Greek verbs in this passage, and gave me a list that I can click on to view each verse with the verb highlighted along with the parallel translations I had previously chosen (ESV, KJV, NASB, BGM, the Nestle-Aland and the Byzantine Majority Text). As I looked over the list of verbs (BibleWorks also parses each verb automatically for me) and read through verses 9-13 several times taking careful notice how the verbs are used in the text, it dawned on me that this passage is not mainly about what Jesus did—as in most of the Gospels—but about what happened to Jesus. 

In Mark 1:9-13, John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the Spirit descended on Him, the Father declared His approval of Him, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness and Satan tempted Him. 

” 9 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.”  (Mar 1:9-13 ESV) 

It’s striking that in verses 10 and 11, God the Father approves of the Son, God the Holy Spirit anoints the Son, and God the Son accepts the approval and anointing of both. Mark shows his readers the Trinity of God present in Jesus’ baptism. This is no accident. While hovering my mouse over verse 11, the cross-reference window provided a reference to Isaiah 42:1, 

” Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Isa 42:1 ESV) 

The parallels in Isaiah with Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism got my attention: God the Father, His Spirit, His Chosen. And a goal: to “bring forth justice to the nations”. I began to wonder if Mark deliberately alluded to Isaiah 42 in the way he wrote chapter 1? More to the point, I can’t imagine Jesus, coming up out of the water, seeing Heaven opened, the Spirit descending, and hearing His Father’s words, and NOT being reminded of Isaiah 42:1! Surely Jesus had Isaiah 42 memorized? It is His Word after all, right? I wonder how He felt at that moment, knowing His Father’s soul “delights” in Him, knowing that His Father was “well-pleased” with Him? So I decided to read the context in Isaiah 42 to see what I might learn. I’m glad I did. 

Isaiah 42:1-7 repeats the them of the Christ bringing “justice” to the nations (verses 1, 3 and 4). Isaiah emphasizes the Christ’s obedience (verses 2-3), and the Father as Giver and Sustainer of life and initiator of a new covenant (verses 5, 6). This covenant is personified in the sacrifice of Christ (verse 6) and is for the nations—not just for Israel. Verse 7 highlights God as the Redeemer and Saviour of the nations. So God saves and redeems the nations through the giving of His obedient Son, who is a Covenant “for the people… for the nations” (Isa 42:6). At this point in my study of Mark 1:9-13 and having cross-referenced Isaiah 42:1-7, I began to see what would be the organizing idea for my sermon: that from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, the Good News includes not just that the death and resurrection of Jesus are for the nations, but that the baptism and temptation of Jesus were for the people. 

  1. Jesus’ Baptism Was For Us – Mark sets Jesus’ baptism in the context of the ministry of John the Baptist. Verse 4 says John was baptizing people for the “forgiveness of sins”. Verse 5 says the people of Judea and Jerusalem were coming to be baptized and were “confessing their sins”. This was the context in which Jesus came to be baptized by John. But whereas the people of Israel had a need for repentance, for the forgiveness of their sins and for confession, this was not true of Jesus. He was not baptized for His own sins; He was baptized for ours. From the very beginning of His ministry, from His baptism, Jesus was already serving as a Substitute for the people He had come to save.
  2. Jesus’ Temptation Was For Us – When I’ve baptized people, there has always been a bit of celebration: the congregation surrounds the new members of the Church, embraces them, congratulates them, welcomes them. Not so with Jesus: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (verse 12). Seems a bit abrupt doesn’t it? That’s what I thought too. Again this is not something Jesus did; it is something the Spirit did to Jesus: He drove Him into the wilderness. He did it with purpose. He did it to make Jesus a Substitute for the people He would save. He did it so that standing as a Covenant for those He would redeem, He would be the one who had fulfilled all righteousness (Mark 1:6?) in the place of our disobedience.

Over and over again in Moses’ account of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, Israel is described as a nation that “went into the wilderness”. God had said to Pharaoh that He wanted Israel to “serve me in the wilderness” (Ex 7:16). But of course, once Israel was actually delivered from slavery in Egypt, once they had gone “into the wilderness”, did they serve God there? Did they obey God there? Were they righteous there? Nope. 

“2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,  3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”  (Exo 16:2-4 ESV) 

Israel, it turned out, did NOT “walk in [God’s] law”. They rebelled, they grumbled, they complained, they disobeyed, they sinned. Over and over and over again. But when the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness, He served God, He did not complain, He obeyed, He fulfilled all righteousness, He withstood temptation there in that wilderness. Where Israel had failed, Jesus succeeded. The Spirit led Him to become a Substitute for Israel in His temptation, so that through the New Covenant, His perfect righteousness would cover our unrighteousness. 

” I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;  3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.  4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.”  (Isa 42:1-4 ESV) 

” For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Co 5:21 ESV) 



* A morphological version is a Bible version plus a database including a grammatical analysis of every word in the whole text. BibleWorks comes with two proprietary morphological texts, the BibleWorks Greek New Testament Morphology (Bushell, Aletti and Gieniusz, 2001) and the BibleWorks LXX/OG Morphology and Lemma Database (a major correction and update to the CATSS / University of Pensylvania edition, developed for BibleWorks by the same scholars who worked on the BNM above). These two morphological texts, BNM for the New Testament and BLM for the Old Testament LXX, are searchable as a combined Bible version, BibleWorks Greek Morphology, or BGM for short.