The Gospel of Mark (1:1-3)
BRIEF INTRO: We are about to begin our next adventure in the Word of God. Gospels are written differently than other genres, so we must be careful in our approach to “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” The structure of a gospel will be different than that of an epistle, and that structure is what we must let define our understanding of the text we are dealing with and that of the whole book our text finds itself in.
Gospels are more narrative-based, and so we would expect to find some form of a plot. As we make our way through this gospel, we will employ hermeneutical tactics that help us determine what the conflict is, its climax and resolution, because the text’s emphasis is often found in the area of conflict that the writer is portraying to the reader.
We will be dealing with some discourse as well, but Mark’s emphasis was more on what our Lord did rather than what He said. So, let’s begin!
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
2 just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I am sending My messenger [a]before You,
Who will prepare Your way;
3 The voice of one calling [b]out in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!'”
FOCUS ONE: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
What does Mark mean by this opening declaration? Does he mean to convey that this is where the gospel has its origin? I don’t think so. Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of the gospel, and that preceded his writing by a few thousand years. John Gill makes this observation:
“Not that the Gospel first began to be preached at this time, for it was preached by Isaiah, and other prophets before; and long before that, was preached unto Abraham; yea, it was preached as early as the times of our first parents, in Eden’s garden; and is indeed that mystery, which was hid in God before the creation of the world; and was ordained before that was, to the glory of the saints.”
So, what is Mark’s purpose in using a statement like this in opening his writing? I think it would be best understood as a title for the good news he is about to share. Mark was not an “eyewitness” to these things; as a an interpreter for Peter, he wrote down accurately all that he remembered, so these words are the beginning of his historical record beginning with John the Baptist.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Jesus Christ- expresses His humanity
Son of God – expresses His deity
This is the very declaration of John 3:16! God sent His Son, the second person of the triune godhead, into the world He created to take on humanity (Luke 2:11), to be like us, yet without sin so that He could pay the penalty we owe for our transgression of His holy law. It was only by being the God/man that such a sacred sacrifice was possible and effectual (Romans 3:25-26).
Jesus is His human name (Luke 1:31), Christ signifies His office as ruler of God’s coming kingdom (Daniel 9:25).
FOCUS TWO: As it is written
Mark quotes from two Old Testament passages, which he combines, to express that John the Baptist was Gods’ “divinely promised messenger,” This is also his way of introducing John. Matthew and Luke are clear that John the Baptist is the “forerunner “that Isaiah spoke of (Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4-5 see also Luke 1: 11-17 especially verse 17 and cross reference that with Malachi 4:5)! Jesus Himself confirms that the Elijah mentioned in Malachi is not literal Elijah, That prophecy was figuratively speaking of another that would be “like him,” and that was John the baptist (Matthew 17:1-13),
So how did he “prepare” the way? By “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins “(1:3; Luke 3: 3). “It was through the water of baptism that the people would demonstrate repentance and their commitment to a changed life in preparation for the coming Messiah” (v. 4).
Mark makes it clear at the beginning that there is ONLY one way for a person to be made right with Christ, and that is through repentant faith in the Messiah!
FOCUS THREE: The forerunner appears
“Prior to his son’s birth, Zechariah was told by an angel the child was to be named John (Luke 1:13). The angel also declared the boy would be spirit-empowered and was to be raised in the Nazarite tradition (Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:2–5)—all of which were indications of the special role this child would serve in the plans of God (Luke 1:14–15). Further, the angel related that John would minister in the spirit of Elijah, serving as a prophet and a preacher, and preparing the people for God’s intervention in history” (Luke 1:16–17; Mal 4:5).
So, John the Baptist was living in the wilderness, this wild-eyed man who dressed funny and ate unusual things like locusts, and he began to preach his message around the Jordan (Luke 3:3).
Mark and Matthew indicate that John wore unique clothing, consisting of a camel hair wrap secured by a leather belt around his waist. John’s attire speaks of his function as a prophet and suggests his poor economic status (see Matthew 3:4; 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4). He also lived on grasshoppers and wild honey, nourishment garnered from the wilderness environment where he lived and preached (Matt 3:1–4).
But where most of us in our day would be turned off by such a character, notice the people’s reaction (v. 5). Large numbers of people came out into the wilderness and listened. They began confessing their sins and even received John’s baptism.
Jesus appears (v. 9)
Part of John’s message was minimizing himself and magnifying Christ! He spoke of his subordinate role to the Messiah he proclaimed (v.7). He spoke of Christ’s greater baptism, which fills people with His Holy Spirit (v.8). And then, Jesus, the one he heralded, comes to him to be baptized. John refuses, but Jesus speaks with him and comforts John. So, John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. Mark quickly moves through this, but Matthew elaborates more (Matthew 3).
We will meditate on this more in my next post.