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Mark 1a

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Mark 1:1-5… The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send My messenger before you, who will prepare your way; 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

Commentary

            The author of Mark’s Gospel, literally “good news,” was a man named John Mark. He was an evangelistic companion of the Apostle Paul and a cousin of Barnabas who was also an evangelistic companion of Paul. Mark, not one who walked with Christ on earth and, hence, not a true apostle, is believed to have received his entire account of Christ from the Apostle Peter.

            The account of Jesus Christ in Mark’s Gospel is said to be the “beginning of the good news.” After over 400 years of prophetic silence (the last prophet being Malachi in 430 BC) and with no word from God, the silence was broken with the coming of John the Baptizer. In Malachi 3:1 the prophet said that God would send His messenger ahead of Him to clear His way. The final words of Malachi the prophet were, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (4:5). Jesus himself would later confirm that John the Baptist was in fact Elijah who had come to prepare the way for him (Matt. 17:13). So when Mark speaks of “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” he speaks of the fact that God’s silence had ended. Jesus Christ, the Son of God had come, and as proof that he was in fact the Messiah, Mark quotes not only from Malachi’s final prophetic words, he also quotes Isaiah 40:3 which speaks of the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” – one that “clears the way for the Lord and makes his paths straight.” Ancient kings would always send a messenger before them to announce their coming. They would sometimes even repair the streets where the king would travel. John, in calling the Jews to repentance, prepared the way for Jesus. Isaiah uses “Yahweh” to speak of the coming One, so in fulfilling his role John prepared the way for Jesus Christ who is actually one and the same as Yahweh – the One Holy God.

            Verse 4 introduces John the Baptist immediately after quoting from Malachi and Isaiah, so it’s clear that Mark was showing how those prophecies were fulfilled in John. He appeared in the wilderness, and he preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. First, it is noteworthy that Malachi’s prophecy spoke of a “messenger” who would prepare the way for Christ. This word in the Greek text means “angel,” and angels, like preachers and prophets, are clearly messengers of God. The second-century church father Tertullian commented, “It is not a novelty that the Holy Spirit would call those he has appointed ministers of His power ‘angels.’”

            Second, John preached the repentance for sins. Repentance simply means “to change one’s mind,” and John, preparing the way of the Lord, encouraged repentance from wicked ways. This was the message of every OT prophet. This baptism didn’t  save, it prepared the way for the Lord. Multitudes came to John “the baptizer,” and he baptized them in the Jordan.

             

Food for Thought

            All obedient Christians are prophets if they boldly preach the necessity for repentance. A person repents when they realize their lives, because of sin, are an abomination to God. In the same way that John the Baptist prepared those of his day for the coming of the Lord Jesus through the call to repentance so too must we as modern-day believers prepare others for his return. God does all the saving, and He even causes people to repent. We must prepare the way!

Mark 1:6-8… And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Commentary

            In Mark 1:4 John is said to have “appeared.” Eusebius, a third-century church historian, speaks of John’s sudden appearance: “He emerged from the desert clothed in a strange garment, refusing all ordinary social intercourse. He did not even share their common food…. It is understandable that they should have been alarmed when they saw a man with the hair of a Nazarite of God, and a divine face, suddenly appearing from the lonely wilderness dressed in bizarre clothing. Must they not have suspected that he was a little more than human? And so they understood him to be a divine messenger, the very angel foretold by the prophet.”

            The significance of John’s clothing and the belt he wore is seen in the fact that Elijah the prophet wore the same garb (cf. 2 Kings 1:8). This distinguished him from all others of his day. The fact that John looked just like Elijah is further proof that John was Elijah, and this is a fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy in 4:5… “Behold, I am going to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Jesus even attested to the fact that John the Baptist was in fact Elijah who had come to prepare the way for him (Matt. 17:11-13).

            The diet John chose was one of locusts and honey. Those who lived in the desert in those days at such things, for they were simple foods that were oftentimes used as an outward protest against self-indulgence and luxuriant lifestyles. Locusts were not only eatable they were also kosher (cf. Lev. 11:21-22), so John was in keeping with his own Jewish upbringing. But John’s upbringing is notable in that he was the son of Zecharias who was a priest. So John gave up a life of high standing and honor in favor of humility and the more excellent priesthood in Christ.

            As John preached repentance v. 7 reveals that he was indeed preparing the way of the Lord in predicting His coming. He baptized the many who came to him, but he made it very clear in his preaching that his baptism was inferior to the One who would follow him. He was only using water to baptize so as to prepare the hearts of those who would listen to the news of the coming Messiah who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Of course this is exactly what Jesus did following his resurrection from the dead and subsequent ascension into heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit who baptized those who believed in him for salvation. This is the same Holy Spirit that baptizes all believers in Christ at the moment they first believe (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13). It is this very same Spirit that guarantees their future redemption and keeps them for eternity (Eph. 1:13-14).

John revealed his own humility in that even though he was a prophet foretold by the prophets of old, and even though Jesus would later comment on the fact that John was the greatest of those born of women (cf. Luke 7:28), he himself did not even consider himself worthy to untie the thong of the sandals of the One whose way he paved in v. 7. His humility and obedience to God made him the greatest of men, and his example to all should be mimicked.

Food for Thought

            Humility is one of the most attractive qualities a person can possess. Of course this is at odds with worldly the “wisdom” we see so often. If you want to be great take a look at John the Baptist. He was a Levite of the priestly line of Aaron, and he was prophesied as the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. But he protested against fame and fortune by living the life of a humble servant. Jesus called him the greatest man who ever lived. How about that?

Mark 1:9-11… And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in you I am well-pleased.”

Commentary

            Immediately after John the Baptist’s proclamation about his water baptism vs. the coming Messiah’s baptism with the Holy Spirit in v. 8, Jesus is introduced in v. 9. It is clear from the text that Mark introduced John the Baptist, not only as the voice crying in the wilderness from Isaiah 40:3, and not only as the messenger to be sent ahead of the coming Messiah from Malachi 3:1, but as Elijah (Mal. 4:5) who would precede the coming Christ. So it lines up perfectly that Jesus would be introduced in v. 9 as the One whose way had been successfully paved by John.

            It is said in v. 9 that a man named Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee to place where John was and was baptized in the Jordan River. Mark’s gospel account excludes the birth narrative of Jesus, but Matthew and Luke reveal that Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee after being born in Bethlehem of Judea. It is a known fact that Jesus grew up as a carpenter’s son, and the fact that he grew up in Nazareth only solidifies his humble origins. Nazareth was somewhat of a hick town, and a first-century Jewish Rabbi once wrote concerning Galilee: “Galilee, Galilee you hate the Torah, and your end will be seizure by the Romans.” When the Jewish Sanhedrin later realized that Jesus had come from Galilee they despised him even more, for they believed the Messiah would come from a more noble district. In other words, Jesus’ hometown was as humble an origin as the feeding trough (manger) in which he was placed at his birth.

            Jesus’ baptism by John was questioned by John himself (cf. Matt. 3:13-15), but Jesus told him in Matthew’s gospel that it was in route to fulfilling all righteousness (3:15). Basically, Jesus’ baptism was a public proclamation that he was officially set apart and sanctioned by God. Verse 10 reveals that after being baptized Jesus came up immediately out of the water, and the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him “like a dove.” If that wasn’t enough, God the Father’s voice from heaven, in v. 11, cried out, “You are My beloved Son, in you I am well-pleased.” It’s not known if anyone but Jesus and John actually heard the voice, but if it was heard by all at the Jordan that day there would be no question in their minds that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. All three members of the Trinity were there in one accord: God the Father sanctioning, God the Son obeying the Father’s command, and God the Spirit anointing.

            So Jesus’ baptism not only fulfilled all righteousness, it also worked as a public announcement of Jesus’ ministry that followed John who paved his way. Also, one might conclude that Jesus’ baptism identified him completely with man’s sin – the original sin that all men are born with as a result of Adam’s fall in Eden. Of course Jesus had no need to repent of sins because he was born sinless and lived sinless. But he identified himself with man through baptism so as to become our eventual substitute sacrifice on the cross for the remission of sins.

Food for Thought

            When the heavens (literally the “sky”) opened after Jesus’ baptism man’s communion with God was opened. Jesus Christ came to make all things new. If he had not come, if he had not been baptized, the opening of the heavens – the way paved for God’s unhindered relationship with mankind – there would be no salvation. All that would await mankind would be the fiery ordeal of an eternity apart from God. But Jesus did pave the way, and when his ministry was launched the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended. The Kingdom had arrived.

Mark 1:12-14a… And immediately the Spirit impelled him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

Commentary

            After being baptized Jesus came directly out of the water. He had a mission to fulfill, so he got straight to it. He had been the son of a carpenter for about 30 years, and when the day was at hand he made his way from Nazareth in Galilee to the Jordan River in Judea. He was baptized by his prophesied predecessor, John the Baptist, a voice from heaven confirmed his identity, the Holy Spirit anointed him, and now he was walking out of the river to begin his ministry.

            Mark says in v. 12 that Jesus was “immediately” taken into the wilderness by the Spirit. The very same Spirit that descended on Jesus as a dove now takes Jesus to the place where he would be tempted by Satan (literally “the accuser”). The wilderness Jesus entered is paralleled to the Garden of Eden. It was in the Garden that Eve was tempted by the devil and where Adam later sinned and took the entire human race with him. The parents of mankind failed their test in the wilderness, so Jesus went back out to accomplish what they failed to achieve. Matthew’s gospel account says that Jesus, while in the wilderness, did not eat during that time. This of course would make him physically, emotionally, and spiritually weak and considerably vulnerable to the temptations of the devil. But Jesus came to reverse the curse of mankind and bring salvation to sinners, so his obedience to God the Father was of utmost importance. Mark’s gospel makes no mention of the specific temptations Jesus underwent, only that he was with the wild beasts and that angels were ministering to him. Jesus’ hunger and isolation left him open to temptation, and the devil apparently preyed upon that because he was right there. It is striking that Satan did not miss an opportunity to seize upon Adam and Eve, and he didn’t miss his chance to tempt Jesus either. It seems as if Satan is very well aware of those who are most important in God’s Kingdom. He knows who to prey upon, and those he preys upon are always those who pose the greatest threat to him and his earthly kingdom. In the same way that Satan confronted Eve in the Garden alone and apart from her husband, so too does he prey upon Jesus – alone, hungry, and seemingly vulnerable to attack. But Jesus overcame all the temptations.

            Moses was on the mountain of God for forty days and nights without food (Ex. 34:28). Elijah too spent forty days and nights without food (1 Kings 19:8). Both of these men were being tested by God and molded into the men He wanted them to be. Jesus, on the other hand, had nothing to prove to God in his forty days of temptation by the devil. But he did come to prove himself as the Messiah of God to mankind. God wasn’t testing him for His Own frame of mind, rather He did it for us. All the while Jesus was attended by angels who served him, for this is their ministry to all of God’s chosen ones: to serve those who will inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14).

Food for Thought

            Gregory the Great said, “Temptation is brought to fulfillment by three stages: suggestion, delight, and consent. And we in temptation generally fall through delight and then through consent; for being begotten of the sin of the flesh we bear within us that through which we suffer conflict. But God, incarnate in the womb of a virgin, came into the world without sin and so suffers no conflict within himself. He could therefore be tempted by suggestion, but the delight of sin could never touch his mind. So all these temptations of the devil were from without, not from within Him.” Christ endured temptations so as to sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 2-4). Our identification with Christ is our victory in Christ because Christ overcame all. 

Mark 1:14b-20… And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And they immediately left the nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

Commentary

            Mark states, in v. 14, that John the Baptist was taken into custody, and it was after that event that Jesus went into Galilee to preach the gospel of God. John was arrested because he accused the Galilean tetrarch, Herod Antipas, of having an unlawful union with his brother’s wife. Herod had taken a woman named Herodias as his companion, but she was the wife of his brother Philip. John spoke out against it, so Herod had him arrested and later beheaded.

            Jesus, after John’s arrest, went into Galilee where John had been arrested and began his preaching ministry. In v. 15 Jesus spoke in accordance with his arrival and preached that the “time is fulfilled.” The time he spoke of was the time of the long awaited Messiah. The Jewish people had been waiting for the “prophet” that Moses spoke of for centuries. In bondage once again to a pagan nation (Rome) they were eagerly awaiting a deliverer. Jesus preached that the time had arrived because he was here. He didn’t mince words, and it was very clear what he meant because v. 15 says that he claimed the “kingdom of God was at hand.” He himself was the kingdom. In order to receive the message, however, he preached that everyone must “repent and believe the gospel.” To repent is to literally change one’s mind. To believe is synonymous with repent. They were to change their hearts by believing in God’s kingdom found in Jesus Christ.

            Verse 16 says that Jesus began to accumulate disciples as he preached in Galilee. While walking by the sea of Galilee he observed Andrew and his brother Simon (also called Peter) who were fishing in the lake. He called out to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This was obviously a call for them to drop their earthly pursuits and their livelihood of fishing in Galilee and begin a preaching ministry with Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah, the very kingdom of God on earth. The two men wasted no time leaving their fishing nets and following Jesus. They left their nets immediately. As the three of them made their way around the lake Jesus saw two sons of a man named Zebedee, James and his younger brother John who were mending their nets. He called out to them, and they too followed Jesus. They left their father and all the hired workers in the boat, and they followed Jesus. They gave up not only their jobs, they also left their father. Apparently believers in what John the Baptist told them about the Lamb of God and about what transpired at Jesus’ baptism, they were willing to leave all for Jesus.

Food for Thought

            When God appeared in the flesh on the cursed earth He went right to work preaching the good news of the kingdom having arrived. But look at who He chose to preach that message… fisherman! God isn’t interested in pompous people who believe themselves to be something when they’re nothing. He chooses common people to change the world. Jesus Christ was a humble man of Galilee, and his disciples were common outcasts. Combine that with the humility of John the Baptist, and it illustrates what it takes to change the world. Just a common man.

  1. John’s baptism… The significance of John’s baptism is important to note. It is spoken of in Acts 18:25 as a sign of repentance of sins (Matt. 3:2, 6, 8, 11; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:8). Paul told them that John pointed to Jesus Christ as the One in whom they should believe (Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17). Now in Acts 19:5 this is the only place in the NT that refers to anyone being re-baptized. Quite clearly, John’s ministry anticipated the coming of Christ and the need for repentance from sins, but Christ is the fulfillment of his message. He baptized with the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:6, the laying on of hands may have been in conjunction with the baptism or more probably afterward. As a result, the Holy Spirit came on these disciples and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. The subject of tongues in Acts confirms Paul’s statement that tongues “are a sign . . . for unbelievers.” The Holy Spirit came into believers before baptism (Acts 10:44), at the time of or after baptism (8:12-16; 19:6), and by the laying on of apostolic hands (8:17; 19:6). Yet Paul declared (Rom. 8:9) that anyone without the Holy Spirit is not a Christian. Quite obviously the transitional Book of Acts is not to be used as a doctrinal source on how to receive the Holy Spirit.
  2. The “wilderness” where John ministered is the rugged wasteland along the western shore of the Dead Sea. John was telling the people symbolically that they were in a “spiritual wilderness” far worse than the physical wilderness which their ancestors had endured for forty years. John called the people to leave their spiritual wilderness, trust their “Joshua” (Jesus), and enter into their inheritance.

I)            The Arrival of John the Baptizer (1-8)

A)    Malachi 3:1 (send my messenger)

B)    Isaiah 40:3 (voice crying)

C)    Malachi 4:5 (Elijah himself)

D)    Preaching baptism of repentance

E)     Clothed in humility

F)     Holy Spirit baptism coming w/Christ

G)   The Sufficiency of Scripture: John’s legitimacy validated by it

II)         The Arrival of Jesus Christ (9-11)

A)    From Nazareth in Galilee

B)    Baptized by John

C)    Came out straightway

D)    Announcement of Son

E)     Descending of Holy Spirit

F)     Identified himself with man in baptism to reverse the curse

III)      The Temptation of Christ (12-14a)

A)    Forty days in wilderness

B)    With wild animals

C)    Attended by angels

D)    Overcame all temptations to sympathize with His children

IV)      The Preaching of the Gospel (14b-20)

A)    John’s arrest

B)    Kingdom of God at hand

C)    Choosing of first disciples

D)    Chose common men to change the world

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