Confession, Repentance, and John’s Baptism | Mark 1:4–5

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness 
and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 
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.”

Like any good Baptist, John came preaching and baptizing.  And what a humbling response we see from God’s people!  Typically, Gentiles wishing to become Jews would be dipped in the ritualistic waters to symbolize the washing of their sins and immersion into the covenant community.  Those under the Mosaic Covenant who had become unclean would also be baptized—clothes and all (Lv 17:15; 22:4–6; Nm 19:11–12).  So, for all who came to John and were baptized were confessing and repenting of sin in a visible and humiliating display.

Contrast this to Matthew 3, where we read of “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism (v. 7).  John calls them to repent (vv. 7–8), warning them not to presume their status with God based solely upon their lineage (vv. 9–10).  Unfortunately, not everyone who came to John humbled themselves and repented at his message.

How would you respond?  God provided John, whose name means, “The Lord is gracious,” at the right time, ensuring that the people would be ready for the forgiveness found in Christ.  He wanted the people to experience true repentance, where they changed their minds concerning sin, agreeing with Him that it is sin and wrong and desiring to turn from sin to Himself.  He didn’t want them merely feeling sorry about sinning or about the consequences of sin; God wanted them to have godly sorrow that leads unto salvation (2 Cor 7:9–12).  He had them baptized as their public confession of their contrition, sinfulness, and desire to change, foreshadowing the fact that God’s people are now cleansed “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph 5:26).

Only Christ can forgive your sins.  John and his baptism can’t forgive or wash away sins—only Christ can.  Like the people we read about in Scripture, your heart is unclean with sin.  Repent of your sins, turning to and trusting in Christ Who bore your shame on the cross, was buried, and raised again on the third day. 

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