Jackie Joyner-Kersee is ranked among the all-time greatest athletes. Sports Illustrated for Women voted her the Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals. She wrote, “It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.”
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the Way …No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14.6). Why is Jesus the Way? It is because there is no other way. The way which leads to life is narrow. Few find it (see Matthew 7.14). There’s always a starting point on the Way …a beginning. This is how the Gospel of Mark opens: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1.1).
Gospel means “good news”. The beginning of the good news starts in Chapter 1 and ends in Chapter 16. It is good news concerning Jesus Christ. The good news begins with the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth over 2,000 years ago. Narrowly focused, the good news is Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried (He really died upon the Cross), rising again (not staying in the tomb), and many saw Him.
John the Baptist was His messenger. He prepared the way for the Lord Jesus. He was a voice in the wilderness crying, “Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight” (Mark 1.3). He baptized those who identified with his teaching. He preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1.4). John taught us that the way of Jesus is the way of God. John prepared Jesus’ way to the cross by teaching three very important concepts: 1) The Baptism of John; 2) The Baptism of Repentance; 3) The Remission of Sins.
Baptism of John
The terms baptizing and baptism in this verse are transliterations not translations. The word baptize means to immerse. So, John baptized by immersing people in the Jordan River. But of course, the baptism was a picture of preparation. Jews were accustomed to baptizing God-fearing non-Jews. John was asking that Jews receive his baptism. The baptism prepared them for what was to come in the ministry of Christ, their Messiah.
Baptism of Repentance
A baptism of repentance is a repentance-baptism. To repent means to change one’s mind which leads to a changing of one’s direction, the changing of one’s course in life. We must ask ourselves what would happen if one of these disciples of John had died before the life-work of Jesus Christ. Would this repentance save them? The answer is “Yes, certainly!” How? It would save them because they responded by changing their mind and turning away from self-trust and believing in what God had thus far revealed to them. That is saving repentance! Repentance and believing go hand-in-glove.
Remission of Sins
The word for sins in this verse means “missing the mark” – a mark that we not only miss but are commanded to hit. All of us fall short of this mark. Therefore, we are guilty. Remission carries the idea of a clearing or sending away of the guilt we have incurred for failing to hit God’s mark. It is the dismissal of sin. The Bible teaches that “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps 103.12). God “will not remember your sins” (Isa 43.25). “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7.19).
The way to eternal life begins with an understanding of saving repentance. While the disciples of John the Baptist did not have the whole story as Mark did or as you and I do, they responded to what they knew, and thus experienced saving repentance. We have full knowledge of this doctrine.
The way of eternal life begins when you understand and acknowledge that you have been going the wrong way. Many people believe that their way is right. They keep the Golden Rule, they attend church, they have moral and upright families, they do this and they do that. That is the problem. They do it when Jesus has already done it!
You repent by turning away from that old bankrupt way of doing and turning to the only Way, Truth, and Life. Jesus paid it all and all to Him you owe! Saving repentance means you stop trusting in yourself and rely only on Jesus Christ for your eternal life!
This is important. You cannot turn from individual sins in your life. The Bible teaches that before we come to Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Since that is the case, those without Christ only sin – they are slaves to sin. Saving repentance is a turning from your way to God’s Way in Christ. Once you are saved, then you may begin to turn from individual sins. This is sanctifying repentance.
So, the Way to Life begins with saving repentance. This is the beginning. It is a preparatory event. It leads to the second seminal concept in this passage: that of baptism or of identifying with the Way.
It is better to look ahead and prepare. Many look back at their lives and are filled with regret. Eternal life is something we live now. It is a condition of life which demonstrates righteousness for the glory of God. May God grant that whatever we do, we do to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31).