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Jan 14, 2024

The Starting Gate of Submission

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Keywords: submission, righteousness, baptism, obedience, trials, temptation


Mark's snapshot of Jesus' baptism and corresponding temptation in the wilderness is just a continuation of his reminder that good things happen in God's wildernesses. This passage in Mark 1 calls us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus' life of submission from beginning to end. This message looks at how Jesus' baptism and temptation can lead us into lives of fruitful (yet sometimes difficult) submission and righteousness.


The Starting Gate of Submission

Mark 1:9-13


INTRO:  I want to show you a video that has a lot to do with the theme of today’s text—submission.  Ever been to a horserace?  (I’m not asking for a confession about betting on horses!)  Racing horses are a lot like people sometimes—jumpy, high-strung, energetic, have a mind of their own, eager to get going, rebellious, independent, etc.  Well, take a look at how one race began…and ended…right out of the gate. 


“Do simply stay as calm as you can” …as you’re about to be trampled by a raging racehorse!

What that horse was lacking was a good jockey (both one who knew how to ride and saddle it correctly) that could calm IT into submission. 

REVIEW:  Last Sunday, Bob did a great job of getting us started into the Gospel of Mark…where we plan to be for at least the first section of this year.  Remember the lessons?

  • God uses common, unlikely people to do extraordinary things in His kingdom (John the Bapt., repentant sinners).
  • God uses common, unlikely wildernesses to do extraordinary things.

Today’s passage:  more of God’s work in our wildernesses… illustrated by Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptation—and what they have to say to our own life journey.

Mark 1

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just 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.”  12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

This account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness is the shortest of all the Gospel accounts of those two events.  But all the accounts are in agreement that these two events are virtually a seamless single snapshot.

            This is the “starting gate” of Jesus public ministry.  How you finish matters.  But how you start also matters. It usually sets the pace and style of how you run the rest of the race.   

APP:  Whether it’s a life, a job or a day, HOW we start will often determine the rest of the journey.  Most of us here have already “started” with our eternal journey with Jesus.  But this passage has a lot to say to all of us about how we should start every step of the journey every day thereafter. 

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 

This is the shortest account of Jesus’ baptism in any of the Gospels.  Matthew 3, Luke 3 and John 1 all have longer accounts.  [Parallel versions on the screen.]

  • John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance”—literally “an immersion in repentance”. He knew that until people were convicted about sin—that their lives were out of order with God and that they needed a change of mind, heart and life-direction, they would never be ready for the coming Messiah.  History proved that out in that Luke makes this commentary in Luke 7:29-30—"29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
  • The way John prepared Israel for their Messiah was on the road of repentance. And in the end, the majority of Israelites refused to repent, particularly the leaders who had the power to kill a man…which they did!

APP:  Repentance must be a continual, repeated experience for us!

Back to the text.  If you were John the Baptist, what would be your objection to baptizing Jesus?  (He was better than John, actually sinless and didn’t need to repent of anything.)

Mark doesn’t record John’s direct objection.  Matthew 3 does.  13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

            John knew that even though he was calling others to repentance, he himself was a sinner who had to embrace repentance too…continually.  He knew what repentance looked like and felt like.  He’d experienced it.  He’d seen it in the eyes of thousands of people who had confessed their sins publicly before him.  He knew genuine sorrow, regret and longing to be free from sin in the people coming to be baptized. 

            That wasn’t Jesus.  Even though he probably didn’t know prior to Jesus baptism that Jesus was the Messiah, he knew that the man Jesus standing before him was not needing repentance or forgiveness.  So, he said, “I need to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me for baptism?” 

            Which brings us right to the logical question we should all be asking seeing what John knew and knowing today what we know about the sinless nature of Jesus:  WHY was Jesus baptized? Matthew tells us the reasons Jesus gave:

“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” 

Notice the little preposition “us”—“it is proper for us to do this.”  First, it is very likely that this baptism was more private than we tend to envision.  Some Gospel accounts lean towards the picture that it was just Jesus and John.  John told others about the baptism after the fact.  He told them how the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus when He was baptized and the voice of God came from heaven to affirm God’s pleasure with Jesus.  (See John 1 for how John relayed these events to others.)

            BOTH John and Jesus needed this baptism.  So, let’s ask the question, “Why did John need to baptize Jesus?”  Then we’ll tackle why Jesus needed to be baptized by John.

Why JOHN needed to baptize Jesus:

  • God had told him that he would be able to identify the Messiah by the Spirit’s anointing of one of the people he would baptize. John 1:32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

This experience happened AT Jesus’ baptism.  Jesus’ baptism was THE event that helped John identify “God’s Chosen One”, i.e. the Messiah.  So that is why John needed Jesus to be baptized. 

            But why did Jesus need to be baptized?  Matthew tells us, “…to fulfill all righteousness.”  “Righteousness” is a massive word in the Bible.  Even on just an English word search of it you will find it over 550 times in the O. & N.T.  Of course, most of us realize that righteousness refers to “doing the right and good thing.”  Right behavior. 

            But the biblical use of it is more direct.  It means “to conform to the standard” of something.  In biblical use, what standard are we to conform to?  The WILL and NATURE of God himself.  Jesus needed to conform his human life to the will or God.  He needed to demonstrate publicly what submission to the will of the Father looked like in a human being. 

            And what was the will of God in giving Jesus a human body?  Let’s go to Hebrews 10:5-7 for an answer to that. The writer of Hebrews is quoting the messianic Psalm 40 when he says,

5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

            God the Father’s will for God the Son at this moment was for Jesus to so identify with sinners that he would take on a human nature and body that would live a sinless life that could then become the sinless “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” (Jn. 1:29). 

            Just as baptism today for a follower of Jesus is a public declaration that we desire to live the rest of our lives in complete and open submission to Jesus Christ, so Jesus’ baptism was an open declaration that He was there to live a righteous life of submission to God so he could be the Savior of the world.  He was there to demonstrate what submission to the will of God would look like in a perfectly-lived-out life surrendered to the Father. 

            We don’t have time but I would refer you also to Isaiah 53, another O.T. passage shedding light on Jesus’ identification with us/humanity through baptism. 

  • “Fulfilling righteousness” for Jesus would demand that he submit to the crushing, bruising, crucifying “Lord’s will” so that he could be our Savior.
  • “Fulfilling righteousness” meant he would “justify many, and…bear their iniquities” on the cross.

ALL that was in Jesus and the Father’s view and mind when Jesus came to be baptized.  Baptism was the starting-gate of submission that would bring salvation to this sinful world.

Just in case we might miss it, Jesus used this imagery of baptism to speak about his suffering and death in both Mark 10:38-39 and Luke 12:50.  When James and John asked for the privilege of reigning with Christ in His coming kingdom, Jesus told them, “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  Jesus was speaking about his ‘baptism’ or immersion into the crucifixion and death. 

            This was the starting gate of ministry for Jesus.  As he lined up at that gate, he knew that his submission to the Father… which would involve a lot of pain, toil, hardship and suffering… needed to be officially embraced and publicly demonstrated.  Jesus’ ministry on earth started with, was sustained by and ended with submission to God the Father. 

APP:  Isn’t this how life in Christ is for us?  Repentance is an act of submission—recognizing my life is out of line with God’s nature and will for me but a deep, deep decision to change direction and get it, for the rest of my days, in-line with God’s will, Word and nature.  As we grow, God calls us into deeper and deeper submission to His will until we ultimately submit to however He chooses to end this race of submission. 

Living a life of God’s purposes will be a life of SUBMISSION! 

This is the kind of life that will always bring from God a “well done, good and faithful servant.”  For Jesus it was the Father’s voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Jesus had been living that life of submission in private for some 30 years at this point.  Now he was setting out to do so publicly…and it would cost Him everything.  But a life of submission to God the Father is always what brings anyone a reaffirmation of the love and pleasure of God over us.  This is what Jesus’ baptism and temptation call to us:

  • Always start with surrender to God’s will…even when it doesn’t make sense.
  • Always walk in surrender to God’s will.
  • Always end with surrender to God’s will. You will never regret it in eternity. 


And now things start to take a surprising turn.  Wouldn’t you think that the next thing that should happen in response to Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will would be the blessing on His ministry of large crowds, great miracles, widespread acceptance of his teachings and authority?  Doesn’t submission always bring an easier life?

  • It didn’t for John the Baptist: put in prison to rot; lost his head to an immoral, evil King Herod.
  • It didn’t for Jesus either: immediately driven into the desert; 40 days of torturous temptation and depravation; 3.5 years of homelessness, of opposition, of misunderstanding, criticism, slander and ultimately torture and death.
  • It won’t always do that for us

Living in submissive surrender to the will of God will not be easy…but it will be worth it!

            In the remaining minutes, I want us to see how Jesus’ starting gate of submission to God played out in the first lap of His race—40 days in the wilderness.  It should help all of us better live out the laps we’re going to have in this life, whether many or few. 

Mark 1:12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

          As Bob pointed out last week, submission to the will of God will involve times in the wilderness.  It was the Spirit who sent Jesus into the wilderness.  It was the call of the Father to identify with human beings and “learn obedience through suffering” that led Jesus into the wilderness, into a long period of physical hunger, deprivation and intense spiritual warfare and temptation. 

Living out a life of submission to the will of God will involve plenty of suffering, regardless of how you define suffering.

The writer of Hebrews tells us this about Jesus’ sufferings in chapter 5:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect [i.e. complete, tested], he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

            Jesus will never ask any of us to obey, to submit to His will, more than He himself “learned” to do in submission to the Father.  Jesus from eternity past lived in submission to the Father.  But he had never lived as a human, in a human body, walking through a sinful world, choosing every moment to pay the price for submission to God so that we could have a Savior.  He “learned” what that was like first-hand and up-close.  And because he did, he has become the “source of eternal salvation for ALL who obey”—all who choose that same life of submission to God by loving and serving Him as Lord. 

            Submission is the starting-gate, the race and the finish line of a life surrendered to the will of God.

You can guarantee that whenever you commit to doing God’s will, Satan and hell itself will try to turn you aside from doing that.  If Satan thought he had a chance with God the Son in human flesh, you can be sure that he will take a few shots at you along the way.  So, what will those “shots” look and sound like?  Jesus’ temptation gives us some clues.

This story of Jesus’ wilderness temptation has some basic truths about wildernesses for us:

There is usually a whole lot of stuff going on in our wildernesses:

  • God is behind them and sends us into them.
  • They can seem interminably long.
  • Satan and temptation will be in our wildernesses.
  • God will send His ministering spirits/angels/saints into our wildernesses to minister to us when we lack the strength.

ILL:  My wilderness of ministry in Spain.

Let’s briefly identify what the core transformational truths are from each temptation?

Temptation #1—Matthew 4:3--The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The temptation:  See physical desires as primary, spiritual needs as secondary. 

The Truth:  Our primary needs are not physical but spiritual.  We need the Word of God…a correct understanding of it… more than we need food itself or any other physical thing we long for.

Jesus’ response to this temptation reminds us that submission to the whole word of God is the life-long race we are called to.

APP:  What are the human needs demanding attention in your life (body and soul) that you’re tempted to satisfy in a fleshly way?  What in God’s word wants to speak to that?


Temptation #2—Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

What was the temptation?  Test God rather than trust Him.

  • Flash instead of faith; power instead of patience; human impatience over divine process.
  • NOTE: there was a rabbinic tradition that the Messiah would reveal himself from the roof of the Temple.  This temptation was man’s way of accomplishing what God wanted done over the next 3.5 years of day-by-day, beautiful but difficult ministry…and now 2,000+ years of a suffering but triumphant church. 

Testing God is the opposite of trusting God.  (ILL:   healings, power encounters, etc.  God still does many things through miracles.  But thinking that some miraculous demonstration of His power or presence is better than patient, steady, daily faith is wrong.)

Truth: God’s process is more important than my impatience.

APP:  Jesus’ response to this 2nd temptation reminds us that submission to God’s process and time is the race we are called to run.  Don’t try building a lifelong faith on momentary miracles or demands that God act in ways you want Him to.  Patient faith is always superior to impatient expectations and demands on God. 

--What expectations/hopes/desires do you need to submit to God?


Temptation #3—Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”  10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

The temptation:  something other than worship of God can deliver what I want or need most.

Truth:  only worship of and service to the true God will bring us what we need most in life.

            Will all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor belong to Jesus one day?  Yes!  But it needs to come in God’s time by God’s way…and it needed to come after the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, not before.  Jesus chose submission to the Father’s race set before him rather than grasping for what will one day rightly be His on the path of submission. 

APP:  What is it in life that you are dying to have?  It may well be the very thing God has planned to give you.  But beware of impatience.  Beware of compromise that seeks it in a different place or way or person than what God wants for you. Beware of thinking that the easier, faster route is the right route. 

Submission to God is the starting gate, the race and the finish line in the Christian life.   It is “the key to success” when it comes to experiencing the very best God has for us. 

APP:  Are you prepared to embrace complete submission to the will of God for your life even when it doesn’t make sense?  Even when it takes longer?  Even when it involves suffering? 

            God has built in submission that can accomplish this at every stage for every one of us.

  • Children—learn submission to God by embracing submission to parents.
  • Young adults—learn submission to God by choosing close friends, wise counselors/teachers and life partners who are living submitted lives to God.
  • Adults—learn godly submission to bosses, to spouses, to spiritual leaders and fellow believers, to government, to laws as God’s way of blessing you in His time with what is best.

Of course, in every century and society, unqualified submission to God must be qualified with that truth that at no time should any of us interpret submission as permission to disobey God.  When any authority over us demands that we disobey the clear law and word of God, we are bound to disobey them.  We can still do that with a humble spirit of submission that submits to whatever punishment they may choose to inflict on us.  At those times, submission to God may require disobedience to man. 

ILL:  The 3 Hebrew men in Daniel 3 who refused to break the commandments against other gods and idolatry…and accepted the punishment of the fiery furnace that Nebuchadnezzar imposed… putting their trust in God to deliver them either by life or death. 

APP:  Jesus will meet us in submission to God’s will for our lives regardless of the punishments others seek to impose on us for that.  Whether by life or by death, He will be there with us. 




Closing Song & Prayer:  I Surrender All