Mark 1:4–8 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
When John the Baptizer appears on the scene, he is a confusing and rapidly polarizing figure. In his appearance and manner, John is acting out like a man who is responding to extreme conditions. He is challenging the prevailing status quo. Most especially he challenged the way the Pharisees ignored the fact that if Israel was occupied by a foreign power it is for only one reason – because of its national sin. The Old Testament had made this abundantly and indisputably clear. God had promised His people that if they remained faithful they would also remain free. And that if they became unfaithful to Him, then invasion and subjugation by foreign powers would be the result. This same principle carries out in the human condition as well. When we fail to be faithful to God, we also find ourselves bound by sin and unbelief of all kinds. But we cannot tease that out in more detail here.
What we need to see here is how John is showing that they are in extreme circumstances spiritually, although they do not perceive it. Sin is the problem. The current condition is dire. But they are acting as if all is well, they just need a political adjustment.
This then makes it all the more important that the Gospel take its proper place. And among one of the more interesting ways of pressing Gospel truth home to John’s hearers, is how he speaks of the coming Christ in verses 7-8. Once again, the “message” is no message, apart from the person. Look at his key phrases here.
a. “After me come HE WHO”: Once again, the gospel is about a person – Jesus Christ.
And what about Him, the one who is to come?
b. He is “mightier than I”: The gospel is about One who surpasses prophets. In John’s case, as Jesus would explain – “What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “ ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (Matthew 11:9–10) Jesus is mightier than the forerunner of the Messiah Himself.
Not only is this one mightier, but
c. “The strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie”: The gospel is about one who worthy of supreme honor. The highest and holiest honor.
And what does His might and honor consist in?
d. “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”: The gospel is about one who will bring the Holy Spirit to us in a wholly unprecedented way – He will baptize us with Him, and make us new creatures. He will make us vessel prepared to be indwelt by God in cleansing us from our sin, and then give the Spirit to us.
Beloved, do not let anyone sell you a Gospel that is less than this about Jesus. Do not forget the wonder of the Gospel you have believed, and what has been done for you and by Whom it has been done. This is THE Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.