Mark 1:4
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
A Faithful Ministry BeneficentA. H. Currier.Mark 1:4
It is not Wise to Disregard a Faithful MinistryA. H. Currier.Mark 1:4
John the Fulfilment of ProphecyA. H. Currier.Mark 1:4
Nature's Solitude RefreshingA. H. Currier.Mark 1:4
Solitary Communion with GodR. Glover.Mark 1:4
The Age in Which the Baptist MinisteredH R. Haweis, M. A.Mark 1:4
The Baptism of JohnDean Stanley.Mark 1:4
The Baptist's TrainingR. Glover.Mark 1:4
The Ministry of John the BaptistA. H. Currier.Mark 1:4
Glad TidingsE. Johnson Mark 1:1-8
The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus ChristR. Green Mark 1:1-8
The Ministry of John the BaptistJ.J. Given Mark 1:1-8
Christ Entering JerusalemC. S. Robinson, D. D.Mark 1:1-11
Christ Entering JerusalemJ. R. Danford.Mark 1:1-11
Honouring ChristE. H. Chaplin, D. D.Mark 1:1-11
The Triumphal EntryJ. R. Thomson.Mark 1:1-11
Who is This?J. Jowett, M. A.Mark 1:1-11
A Happy TownTrapp.Mark 1:1-12
Christ in the HouseG. Rogers.Mark 1:1-12
Christ in the HouseJ. S. Exell, M. A.Mark 1:1-12
Christly Influence in the HomeC. H. Spurgeon.Mark 1:1-12
Family WorshipJ. N. Natron.Mark 1:1-12
How Christ Enters the HouseJ. N. Natron.Mark 1:1-12
It was Noised that He was in the HouseL. Palmer.Mark 1:1-12
Jesus in the House: Piety At HomeJ. N. Natron.Mark 1:1-12
Piety in the House Proved by Virtue in the ChildrenArnot.Mark 1:1-12
ShilohM. Henry.Mark 1:1-12
The General Ministry of ChristD. Davies, M. A.Mark 1:1-12
The King and His CourtAnon.Mark 1:1-12
The Ministry of JohnA.F. Muir Mark 1:4-8

I. OF WHAT IT CONSISTED. In each Gospel the descriptions are very general, and look as if they had been foreshortened in order to give due prominence to the gospel narrative that had to follow. Yet a fairly complete impression may be received of his main doctrines and rules of discipline. Generally in his ministry there are four elements discoverable.

1. Exhortation. A direct appeal to the moral sense, the chief note of which was "Repent." It is a sharp word often repeated, refinement upon it being likely only to dull its edge. It meant, primarily, "to think after another," then "to change one's mind or opinion," the faculty addressed being that of moral reflection (nous). Accordingly we read of repentance "unto acknowledgment of the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25), "toward God "(Acts 20:21), "from dead works" (Hebrews 6:1), and "unto life" (Acts 11:18), or "unto salvation" (2 Corinthians 7:10). The two last expressions correspond with that of Mark, "unto remission of sins." The idea involved is intellectual as well as moral, thought being exercised as well as feeling. The mind is to be twisted back upon itself; spiritual resolution is demanded according to new principles. "Take a right view of sin - your sin - and quit it." John thus prepared men for Christ by making them prepare themselves, casting down every imagination and every high thing that stood in the way the coming King was to use for his glorious "progress."

2. Ceremony. There was but one rite - baptism; not created for the occasion, but simply adopted out of the multiform ceremonial of Judaism. Its use is explained by its symbolic suggestiveness of the spiritual change John sought to produce. The physical purifying set forth the spiritual, and was ineffectual without it.

3. Example. He himself was what he desired others to be. His habitat - the wilderness - was a protest against the corruption of the cities, and indeed of the whole social fabric. He dwelt apart, as being thus better able to seek God and serve him. His personality, too, was eloquent of the same truth. With clothing the coarsest and least comfortable, and food the simplest and cheapest, he maintained a strong, flee, independent life, consecrated in Nazarite-like vows to God.

4. Prophecy. Not only a backward but also a forward look was implied in his teaching. It was by virtue of the coming of Another that all these moral acts were to be rendered valid and effectual. The atonement of Christ, as a prospective thing, is therefore the key-stone of all John's preaching. Not the baptism, the ascetic life, not even the "repentance," was in itself a saving principle. These only availed as they brought men to him who baptized not with water but with the Holy Spirit. His whole ministry did not confer, but simply prepared for, "the remission of sins."

II. ITS RELATIVE, SIGNIFICANCE. It was, therefore, not of absolute or independent value, but only auxiliary to the advent of Christ. He stood midway between the Lair and the Gospel. In this light, his recognition of the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" is at once the linking on of his ministry to Christ's, and its consummation and disappearance in it.

III. ITS RESULTS. Not substantive or permanent. A deep effect was produced upon Jewish life, but it did not last. Yet, in many instances, notably within the circle of the apostles, it was the preliminary stage, the "strait gate and narrow way," into the Divine life which Jesus brought. John's message exerted a far-reaching influence, thrilled the nation in all its classes and tribes, and then died away in ever fainter echoes, amidst the returning indifference or spiritual opposition to the Truth. It was not, therefore, useless; rather in the highest sense was it effectual only as it succeeded in making itself unnecessary for the further progress of those who received it. "He must increase, but I must decrease." - M.

John did baptize in the wilderness.
The age of Tiberius, spiritually speaking, was not unlike the Victorian age. Some people were still satisfied with the old religious forms. Their piety still flowed through the time-worn channels of creeds and catechisms. There will always be these survivals, what we call "old-fashioned people"; they belong to the past, let them alone, they will get to heaven in their own way. Others — in the days of Tiberius and Victoria — respectable but heartless formalists, really without religion, but apparently full of it, cling to the orthodox forms. You will always find such wooden-headed, stony-hearted supporters of things as they are, without a breath of the new life in them, boasting that they are Abraham's children. But a surging crowd of restless, eager spirits, sons of the new time, impatient of worn-out creeds, churches, establishments, orthodoxies, what shall I say of these? Ah! these are the disciples of John. These wait for the inner personal appeal, "repent;" the fresh symbol, "baptism"; the spiritual emancipation, "remission of sins"; the new Divine Man; the holy effluence; the fiery chrism.

(H R. Haweis, M. A.)

Besides baptizing, he did a good deal else there; for he was "in the deserts till the day of his showing forth unto Israel." He had the usual good education of a priest's son, and world know most of the Bible by heart. His father and mother had taught him, as only saintly hearts can teach a child, the wealth of God's mercy, the grievousness of sin, the promises of God to His people, the hope of a great Redeemer. They had told him the wonders connected with his birth in such a way as not to move his conceit, but to charge his conscience with the sense of a high calling awaiting him. They had told him of a miraculous birth of One whom Anna and Simeon and themselves had been moved by the Spirit of God to hail as the Promised Christ. He had from time to time gone up to Jerusalem to the feasts, and had thus seen and heard enough of the miseries of his people, and of the hypocrisy and worldliness of their priests and leaders, to make him long for the appearing of the promised Redeemer. So he sought calmness and strength and light in the desert with his God. The desert dangers destroyed all fear; the hardness of the desert fare, all love of ease. The writings of the great prophets of the past were the friends whose companionship moulded him. Prayer for his people arose perpetually from his priestly heart. Increasingly he felt that the one misery of man was sin; and the one need of man a Saviour, whose sacrifice would take away its guilt, and whose baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost would destroy evil and create good in them. In the wilderness the great temptations had their fiercest force, but were fought and conquered; the temptation to shrink from the tremendous task; the temptation to despair of men hearing his message or obeying his call; the temptation to fear his own breakdown in faith; the temptations of darkness and doubt, all assailed him there. He could not have come in the power of the Spirit to his work, unless victory over such assaults had strengthened him. He knew that death was the reward which the world had always given God's prophets. He faced till he ceased to fear it. So, clad in the single garment, still worn by the poorest Bedouin; living on locusts and wild honey, as the extremely poor sometimes still do in the same region; he walked and talked with God until the time was ripe for his coming forth.

(R. Glover.)

Every preacher and teacher, to do his work aright, must go into the wilderness. There would be more prophecy if there was more privacy. An ounce of truth discovered by yourself has more power in it than a pound imparted to you by someone else. Do not grudge the time you spend alone with God. He will teach all His scholars what none others can impart.

(R. Glover.)

Ablutions in the East have always been more or less a part of religious worship — easily performed, and always welcome. Every synagogue, if possible, was by the side of a stream or spring; every mosque still requires a fountain or basin for lustrations. But John needed morn than this. No common spring or tank would meet the necessities of the multitudes who resorted to him for baptism. The Jordan now seemed to have met with its fit purpose. It was the one river of Palestine, sacred in its recollections, abundant in its waters; and yet, at the same time, the river, not of cities, but of the wilderness; the scene of the preaching of those who dwelt not in kings' palaces, nor wore soft clothing. On the banks of the rushing stream the multitudes gathered — the priests and scribes from Jerusalem, down the pass of Adunimim; the publicans from Jericho on the south, and the lake of Genesareth on the north; the soldiers on their way from Damascus to Petra, through the Ghor, in the war with the Arab chief, Hareth; the peasants from Galilee, with ONE from Nazareth, through the opening of the plain of Esdraelon. The tall "reeds" in the valleys waved, "shaken by the wind"; the pebbles of the bare clay hills lay around, to which the Baptist pointed as capable of being transformed into "children of Abraham"; at their feet rushed the refreshing stream of the never-failing river. There began that sacred rite which has since spread throughout the world.

(Dean Stanley.)

I. HIS QUALIFICATIONS for his ministry. "He was in the deserts," etc. He was a meditative man. This love of retirement into nature's places of impressive solitude is good for the soul. The fountains of thought and religious feeling are best filled thus. The best poems, speeches, sermons, are born under such condition, s. John possessed another good qualification for his ministry in the simplicity of his tastes and habits. "A man who has no wants," says Burke, "has obtained great freedom and firmness, and even dignity."

II. The DOCTRINE of his ministry. He proclaimed the need of repentance. Where one man objects to the preaching of searching truth, ten will approve it. Confession of sins is humbling but salutary. He told them of Christ who was about to come and complete his imperfect work. Without Christ repentance is superficial.

III. The CHARACTERISTICS of his ministry. From its extraordinary effect, that mysterious influence of the Spirit, which gives the unction characteristic of all mighty preachers, must have distinguished John's ministry. The tones of the Holy Christ, with which he was filled from his mother's womb, were heard in his preaching. Joined to this supreme quality of the preacher, John had other qualities of a remarkable kind. He was a direct preacher. He was a plain and faithful preacher. He magnified Christ to the forgetfulness of himself.

(A. H. Currier.)

There is something in nature's solitudes most congenial and refreshing to souls of the larger mould. Of William the Conqueror it is said that "he found society only when he passed from the palace to the loneliness of the woods. He loved the wild deer as though he had been their own father."

(A. H. Currier.)

Such plainness of dealing may appear, at first thought, harsh and repulsive. But before this judgment is given, it is well to inquire whether plainness and fidelity on the part of the preacher are any proof of unkindness. Is the keeper of a weather-signal station unkind, who hoists the storm signal, that the shipping may stay in the harbour, or fly to its shelter, when word comes to him from his chief that a storm is at hand? Let him fail once to do his duty. Instead of a plain and truthful signal, let him put out an ambiguous or an unmeaning one, and let the ships, which fill the harbour or cover the adjacent sea, sail forth and go on in entire security, until the tempest comes and catches them in its irresistible grip and scatters their wrecks along the shore. Then see the widows wring their hands and wail, and their fatherless children cry over the lifeless dead, which lie stark and cold on the sand, and say whether it was kind and good to keep back the warning that might have prevented such ill. A child may complain of the robin whose boding note prognosticates the rain which interferes with its play, but a man, able to understand that God sends the rain, will thank the bird for the warning.

(A. H. Currier.)

They had the good sense to perceive that the truth, though sometimes severe and painful, is nevertheless truth, and not to be run away from. As wisely might the sailor on a dangerous coast, befogged in mist and uncertain of the way, close his ears to the fog bell which warns him of the rocks, as for a sinful man to find fault with and avoid the messenger of God, who proclaims that truth by which his soul is saved. Better is it to charge the messenger to hold back nothing. A reasonable soul fears nothing so much as those false delusions of the mind which soothe men's alarms and lull concern to sleep — at last to destroy them.

(A. H. Currier.)

The Old Testament is full of prophetic intimations and clear predictions concerning the coming Saviour. Beginning faintly and far away, they grow in distinctness and fulness, until John ushers in the long-expected Redeemer. Like the chorus of bird songs which herald the dawn, which, beginning with the soft chirp of a half-awakened songster, gradually increases and swells till the whole air throbs with melody, so the prophetic strain which tells the coming Christ rises in strength until He appears.

(A. H. Currier.)

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