Bible study on mark 1

Bible study on mark 1 DEFAULT

Commentary on Mark 1:1-8

To an observant reader, one notes that the first verse in the gospel of Mark does not contain a main verb: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1).

The significance of this observation is to see that these words do not compose a sentence; they rather serve to express the title of the gospel of Mark. Whatever story, miracle, parable, exorcism, teaching or narrative event of Jesus is in the gospel of Mark, it is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. This beginning takes place in our hearing or reading of the gospel of Mark. The words of this gospel break into our lives with the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The good news begins with the witness of two prophetic texts from Malachi and Isaiah that announce a forerunner who will go before the coming of God’s Messiah. A messenger of God will go “ahead of you” (Malachi 3:1), one who will: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3). The faith in which God’s people have lived in Messianic hope serves as the inaugural word, bringing together the anticipation and fulfillment times of God’s salvation.

The messenger, witness, and forerunner of this time of fulfillment is John the baptizer. The Second Sunday of Advent in Year B focuses on the person of John. In our text from the gospel of Mark, we hear an extensive description of John’s identity. He lives in the wilderness near the river Jordan where Jesus is baptized. The baptism he offers is for his people from the Judean countryside as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1:4).

John’s baptism is preparatory in anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. John even draws people from the city of Jerusalem, the city of religious leaders, who “were baptized by him (John) in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (1:5). John’s baptism of repentance and forgiveness is a call to the people of Judea and those in the city of Jerusalem to turn from their godless ways and receive the forgiveness that is present in God.

The description of John stretches our imagination. He is identified as a wilderness man: “John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (1:6). However, the primary intention of John was not to draw attention to himself, but to the one of whom he is the forerunner: “‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me, I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals'” (1:7). John’s role is that of a servant to the one he is called to serve.

The baptism of this one who is to come is radically different from that of John’s baptism: “‘I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit'” (1:8). This is the role that John plays out in a significant way, calling attention to the one who ushers in God’s kingdom. Jesus is the Messiah whose ministry is empowered by God’s Spirit.

The baptism of Jesus by John in the river Jordan is a baptism in which the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is evident: “And just as he was coming up out of the water, [Jesus] saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him” (1:10). The voice from heaven confirms who Jesus is: “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased'” (1:11).

John fulfills the role of the one who is the forerunner, the one who is called to make known “the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1), “the Lord” (1:3), the one who “will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (1:8), and the one who is “my (God’s) Son, the Beloved” (1:11). Within the opening verses of the gospel we are introduced to Jesus, and we see and hear for ourselves the one who is “the beginning of the good news” (1:1).

This is the one who has come, who is present, and who is to come again. We too are called to announce and make known God’s Son in this season of Advent. Like the witness of John, we too are witnesses to the one who incarnates “the beginning of the good news, the gospel” (1:1).

At the midpoint of the gospel, in the story of the transfiguration (9:2-13), we will again hear God’s voice from heaven announcing the role and mission of Jesus: “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him” (9:7). As we move into the second half of the gospel of Mark, we are called to listen to the final teachings and deeds of Jesus, along with the witness present in “the Son of Man (who) came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (10:45).

At the end of the gospel in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, we will again see the identity of Jesus made known as “the Son of God” (1:1). Throughout the gospel, the unclean and demonic spirits know who Jesus is as he has engaged in battle with them and the powers of this world. As the heavens were “torn apart” (1:10) at Jesus’ baptism, the temple curtain is “torn in two from top to bottom” at Jesus’ death (15:38). At the cross of crucifixion, we hear for the first time in the gospel of Mark the identity of Jesus as the Son of God on the lips of a human witness in the words of the Roman centurion: “Truly this man was God’s Son” (15:39).

From “the beginning,” the evangelist Mark leads us through the pages of the gospel with the intention and goal of seeing Jesus Christ as the one who is the crucified and risen Lord. This is not only the beginning of the good news, the gospel, but in Jesus’ death and resurrection we have the fulfillment of all the aeons of time in Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist leads us in this Advent season to the one who is our Lord, whose birth we await and whose reign in eternity will never end. This is “the beginning of the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1).


Mark 1:1-11

Outline of Mark 1:

I. John the Baptist Prophesied (1-3)
II. John the Baptist Preaching (4-8)
III. John the Baptist Baptizes Jesus (9-11)

I. John the Baptist Prophesied (1-3)

Background Discussion Questions On Mark

  • What do we know about the author?
  • Who was the book specifically written to?
  • What evidence is there in the book that it was written to Gentiles (and not Jews)?
  • What kind of different things might be recorded when reported to these two groups of people?
  • What differences have you noticed between the gospel of Mark and other gospels?
  • What do you hope to learn as we study this book?
  • What goals do you have for yourself as we study it?

Discussion Questions on Mark 1:1-3

  • Why does Mark start with this prophecy from Isaiah?
  • What was the role of this “messenger?”
  • How do you think this person could “prepare the way for the Lord?” and “make His paths straight?”


John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.”

James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Teaching Points

1. Background

A. Author – The title of the book ascribes it to Mark. He is not actually mentioned by name in the book. Yet a historical study of the early church, shows that they ascribed this gospel to Mark. Many believe that the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 is Mark since this is the only gospel that records this incident.

Mark participated in the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but for unknown reasons gave up in the middle (Acts 13:13). This led Paul to refuse to take him on the next journey. Barnabas, however, took him under his wing and forgave him and went together with him (Acts 15:37-39).

Mark is then mentioned a number of other times as being close with both Paul (Colossians 4:10-11, Philemon 24) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13). This tells us that Mark learned from his mistakes and followed God faithfully later on during his life. It could be said that we have the gospel of Mark largely due to Barnabas being willing to giving Mark a second chance when others wouldn’t.

B. Audience – Most scholars agree that the gospel of Mark was intended for Gentiles, likely those residing in Rome. There is a lot of internal evidence for this. For example, Mark uses almost no Old Testament quotes (1:2-3 being the only one in the book). If his audience was Jewish, like in the Gospel of Matthew, he probably would have peppered references to the Old Testament in his gospel.

In several cases Mark, finds it necessary to explain certain aspects of Jewish tradition and geography (7:2-4, 13:3, 14:12) This would not be necessary if his audience was Jewish. He also spends less time on Jesus’ controversy with Jewish leaders, since this would have been less important for Gentiles. This is another reminder that difference in the gospels does not show contradictions. Rather it shows that the authors understood their audiences and included information that would be more useful and helpful to those they were writing to.

C. Mark is the shortest gospel. As a result, Mark moves through the life and actions of Jesus very quickly. He focuses much more on what Jesus did than on what Jesus said.

2. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God – In keeping with Mark’s fast paced style, what important truth does he reveal in verse 1?

In the very first verse he reveals Jesus as the Son of God, deity. This could be considered his thesis. He immediately shows the essence of who Jesus is, the Son of God. The rest of the book is then devoted to showing the proof, evidence, and result of this truth.

3. I send my messenger before your face – This quote in Mark 1:2-3 is the only time in the entire book he quotes the Old Testament. And it is an important one.

Mark identifies John the Baptist as this promised “messenger.” The role of the messenger is to prepare the way for the Lord and to make his paths straight.

Suggested Study: John the Baptist Character Study

Isaiah also refers to his geographical location of ministry as being primarily in the wilderness, which is where John served.

The verse clearly identifies John’s role. His purpose is to prepare the way of Christ. It is not about John. It is not about his fame, his numbers, his popularity, or his position.

Later in his ministry, John’s own followers came and complained to him that Jesus was getting more attention and that John’s disciples were starting to follow Jesus. John’s reply is seen in John 3:30.

John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.

John did not complain. His disciples thought this was a problem that needed to be dealt with. But John knew this was the goal. His entire job was to prepare people and send them to Jesus. And he did it well. Several of Jesus’ key disciples were disciples of John the Baptist first.

We would do well to learn from John’s humility and deference.

Application: When we serve Christ, our entire purpose should be to bring glory to Him and not to ourselves. Do you do ministry in order to get credit for yourselves? Are you disappointed if no one sees you and expresses appreciation? If you find yourself disappointed, then this is a sign that perhaps the motivation is a wrong one. John served without any need for appreciation. His whole focus was on the Messiah. Ours should be as well. He must increase and we must decrease.

II. John the Baptist Preaching (4-8)

Discussion Questions

  • What was John the Baptist’s main task?
  • What character qualities did he need to accomplish this?
  • What was the main content of his message?
  • What do we learn about him as a person from this passage?
  • How about from other gospels?
  • In what ways do you think you need to be more like John the Baptist?
  • What was the purpose of water baptism?
  • What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?


Luke 3:19 – Now Herod the tetrarch had been rebuked by John because he had married his brother’s wife Herodias and because of all of the other evil things Herod had done.

2 Kings 1:8 – They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Acts 28:31- Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Ephesians 3:12 – In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Matthew 24:38 – For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.

Teaching Points

1. John the Baptist’s ministry– He did not go the biggest cities or the capital city Jerusalem to take his message. Instead he preached in the wilderness. Why? The Bible does not give us the answer to this question. This is where God had called him to do ministry. And it highlights his humble character.

He relied upon the power of God’s Word to draw people. He never used gimmicks. There were no pizza parties or bowling nights. He simply preached the truth to whoever would listen. The message he preached was anointed by God and this drew many people out from the city to listen to him.

Application: A lesson for us is that wherever God has called you to share His words, do it faithfully and He will use it to accomplish His purposes. He doesn’t call all believers to serve in a big church. Many labor for him in rural areas and in small churches. They are out of the limelight, but they are faithful and God sees. Neither does He call all of His servants to serve on the stage, in up front and visible ministry. Many labor behind the scenes. Wherever God has called you to ministry, do it humbly for Him.

2. John the Baptist’s lifestyle – John wore camel’s hair, a leather belt, and ate locusts and honey. Clearly this clothing and diet was special or Mark would not have mentioned it. John led a very rustic and simple life. His clothing would probably be considered out of fashion and too simple. Let’s just say that John wasn’t going to start any new fashion trends in Jerusalem.

His diet was also abnormal to most people. Not many people find a diet of bugs to be very appealing. The point is that he didn’t need luxuries. He didn’t focus on “eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage” like most people. His food was just a means to sustain him, nothing more. He lived a simple life and was not distracted by the things of this world.

What can we learn from this?

John was goal-driven. He wasn’t easily distracted. He put the top priority on the most important things, namely his service to God. It was almost like John’s entire life was a fast (cutting out everything extraneous) so that he could devote himself 100% to serving God.

Application: Is there anything you need to cut out of your life in order to focus on serving the Lord? Have any earthly things become a distraction, soaking up your time, energy, or money? Perhaps like John, you need to simplify and focus on the right place.

5. John the Baptist’s message – John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His message was simple: repent. If they were willing to do so, they could be baptized as a public symbol of their faith in God and the new direction in their life.

According to verse 8, this baptism was just with water, not the Holy Spirit. Just like for Christians now, this water baptism was only an outer sign.

For us it is a sign of what the Holy Spirit has done in our hearts. For them it was a sign of their repentance and God’s forgiveness. John’s message was simple. It wasn’t complicated.

But he preached this simple message with boldness. He was bold to call the Pharisees what they were. He was also bold to warn Herod about living with his brother’s wife. Basically John was a truth speaker. He didn’t sugar coat things and had no desire to tickle people’s ears or make them feel comfortable. He said what needed to be said.

Luke 3:7 – He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John spoke strong words against the religious establishment. He wasn’t afraid because God was on his side.

Application : John’s simple message is very refreshing. Today most sermon’s, Bible studies, messages, etc. are knowledge based. Too often Bible teachers or preachers may even feel a sense of pride when they can rattle off all kinds of obscure facts about a passage that most people don’t know.

George Muller is famous for his orphanage ministry in the 1800s. But before he started this he was an evangelist and preacher. He had just finished seminary and was invited by a church to preach one Sunday morning. He prepared diligently and gave what he thought was an excellent message. After he finished a young farm lady came up and thanked him for his message. She told him, “That was a great sermon. Didn’t understand a word. But a really nice message.”

At that point, George Muller knew that fancy words might sound nice, but they didn’t help anybody. And he decided to ditch the seminary sounding sermons and speak directly to the common person.

Knowledge has the tendency to puff up. Would you say John’s message was focused on knowledge? If not, what?

In Matthew 28:18-20, what did Jesus command the disciples? He commanded them to teach their disciples to obey all that He commanded.

Obedience is what God is looking for, not knowledge. Most of the time, we know what we should do as believers. If someone doesn’t know what to do, it is normally a simple matter to read a few verses which are easily understood and then we know what to do. The question is, are we going to obey it or not?

6. John the Baptist’s character – John was simple, humble, and bold. It is interesting when we view his humility and boldness together. Nowhere do we see that John’s humility made him weak. He willingly spoke out against sin wherever he saw it. Yet he did not do so in a prideful, self-righteous way. Rather it was his humility in realizing that God’s truth alone should govern our lives that forced him to speak about these things. He was bold not because of any power of his own, but because he recognized that he didn’t have power while God’s Words do.

Many people have the wrong impression that humble people are weak. But this is not so. A humble person can be bold, standing firm in the truth. He does so not in his own power, but in the power of Christ.

III. John the Baptist Baptizes Jesus (9-11)

Discussion Questions

  • Did Jesus need to be baptized?
  • Why did He do this?
  • What does this show us about Jesus’ character?
  • How significant are verses 10-11?
  • Why do you think God the Father said this?
  • How do you think the people may have reacted?


John 1:29-34 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Teaching Points

1. Verse 9 – He we see that at the start of His ministry, Jesus went to John to be baptized.

Reflect: Since baptism was associated with repentance, why did Jesus do it?

There could be several reasons, though since Jesus didn’t tell us we can’t know for sure.

  • To identify with us as a man – Jesus’ was not an elitist. He didn’t come as a master, a boss, or a noble. He came as one of us. Many of the things he did demonstrated his humanity for all to see.
  • To connect with John’s ministry – This was a way to show respect for John for his service and make a connection for John’s disciples to begin following Jesus.
  • To make a public statement that He intended to follow God – While there was no repentance shown since He didn’t sin, His baptism was a public statement of His submission to God and plan to follow God fully.
  • To be an example to us – If even Jesus, who never sinned, was baptized, how much more should we!

2. Verses 10-11 – God the Father put a public stamp of approval upon Jesus and His ministry. This would be a pleasant reminder to Jesus of His Father’s approval. But more than that it was evidence to all the people that Jesus was truly the Son of God. They couldn’t very well claim that Jesus was just a man when God said this out loud in front of so many people.

It wasn’t the only time God would speak.

John 12:28-29 – Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

Here God also speaks. In that case many people found excuses not to believe it was God talking. Many people claim that “if only God would show me a sign I would believe. If only I could see Him or hear His voice, I would follow Him.” But for most, this statement is not true. Many heard His voice and still did not believe, instead choosing to believe it was the random sound of thunder. They accepted any other explanation besides the one staring them in the face (that God had spoken.)

3. The Trinity – At the baptism of Jesus, we see each of the members of the Trinity. The Son came as a man. The Father reigned from heaven. The Spirit anointed Jesus’ ministry.

Application: How can obey what you have learned from John in your life? Write down one specific way you can apply what you have learned in this lesson in your life this week.

Suggested Study: John the Baptist Character Study

STUDY MARK 1:12-34

  1. Heart tail lights for car
  2. 1 peter 2 13 kjv
  3. Calories in an antipasto salad
  4. Free printable gift exchange games

Mark 1 Commentary

John Mark
Acts 12:12+


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll-right side of page


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Hiebert explains that "Mark does not lend itself easily to a satisfactory outline. Its contents are largely composed of a succession of events which do not readily fall into a climactic sequence. However, a roughly geographical organization of its contents is clear; therefore, after the introductory section, the material is geographically grouped—Galilee, Galilee and surrounding areas, journey to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem. The theme may be stated as “The Servant of Jehovah.”

  • Coming of the Servant, Mark 1:1-13
    1. Title of the book, Mark 1:1
    2. Ministry of the baptist, Mark 1:2-8
    3. Baptism of Jesus, Mark 1:9-11
    4. Temptation by Satan, Mark 1:2-13
  • Ministry of the Servant, Mark 1:14-13:37
    1. Ministry in Galilee, Mark 1:14-4:34
      1. Summary of the preaching, Mark 1:14-15
      2. Call to four fishermen, Mark 1:16-20
      3. Ministry in Capernaum, Mark 1:21-34
        1. Excitement in the synagogue, Mark 1:21-28
        2. Healing of Peter's mother-in-law, Mark 1:29-31
        3. Healing ministry at sundown, Mark 1:32-34
      4. Tour of Galilee, Mark 1:35-45
        1. Departure from Capernaum, Mark 1:35-39
        2. Cleansing of a leper, Mark 1:40-45 (An Introduction to the New Testament - Hiebert)

John MacArthur's Outline - Mark Introduction

I. Prologue: In the Wilderness (Mark 1:1–13)

A. John’s Message (Mark 1:1–8)

B. Jesus’ Baptism (Mark 1:9–11)

C. Jesus’ Temptation (Mark 1:12, 13)

II. Beginning His Ministry: In Galilee and the Surrounding Regions (Mark 1:14–7:23)

A. He Announces His Message (Mark 1:14, 15)

B. He Calls His Disciples (Mark 1:16–20)

C. He Ministers in Capernaum (Mark 1:21–34)

D. He Reaches Out to Galilee (Mark 1:35–45)

Mark 1:1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


This first sentence summarizes the contents of the Mark's entire Gospel and serves as the title. Mark 1:1-13 serves as "prologue" much like the prologue in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-18) and gives us give us certain information about Jesus which enables us to understand the significance of the events that follow beginning in the heart of the Gospel Mark 1:19-13:37.

Ralph Martin says it this way - The page of a modern book that first catches our interest is the title page. We want to know what the book is all about. Ancient books had no dust covers or words printed on the spine to arrest attention. So the first page—or even, as here in Mark 1:1, the first sentence—had to convey the writer’s main message. This is exactly what Mark’s opening verse is trying to do: to alert the reader to what is to follow. It is both his “table of contents” and title page brought together in a bold statement.  (Mark Commentary)

Ray Stedman has an interesting comment - I have just spent two weeks in Mexico with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and I have realized anew that the Gospel of Mark is the most translated book in all the world. No other book appears in as many languages. Almost all Wycliffe translators, after they have reduced a language to writing, begin their translation of the Scriptures with this gospel. I am sure that the fact it is the shortest of the gospels has something to do with that decision! Bible translators are human beings like the rest of us, and no one wants to start with a gospel as long as Matthew or Luke. But it is also a fact that Mark is particularly suitable for introducing to the Scriptures people of all backgrounds, classes, and tribes. It is the one gospel of the four which is aimed at the Gentile ear. Mark was written for the Roman world, for the Gentile, for those who do not know the background of the Old Testament. Therefore it is a very instructive and helpful gospel to use in the initial approach....Mark is very easy to outline, because the author gives us certain natural divisions, as we will see as we go along. It falls readily into two halves. The first, Mark 1:1-8:26, is The Servant Who Rules -- the authority of the servant. The second, from Mark 8:27 through to the end, is The Ruler Who Serves.

Hooker compares the prologues of Mark and John - John speaks of the Logos, and Mark of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, but both explain who Jesus is by comparing him with the Baptist, and by stressing Jesus’ superiority. John speaks of his activity in creation, and Mark of the fact that the creative spirit of God rests on him. In both, Jesus is Son of God, and his relationship to the Father is described in similar terms—‘beloved’ (ἀγαπητός, used especially of an only child) in Mark, ‘only’ (μονογενής) in John. (Black's NT Commentary)

J C Ryle - THE Gospel of St. Mark, which we now begin, is in some respects unlike the other three Gospels. It tells us nothing about the birth and early life of our Lord Jesus Christ. It contains comparatively few of His sayings and discourses. Of all the four inspired histories of our Lord’s earthly ministry, this is by far the shortest. But we must not allow these peculiarities to make us undervalue St. Mark’s Gospel. It is a Gospel singularly full of precious facts about the Lord Jesus, narrated in a simple, terse, pithy, and condensed style. If it tells us few of our Lord’s sayings, it is eminently rich in its catalogue of His doings. It often contains minute historical details of deep interest, which are wholly omitted in Matthew, Luke, and John. In short, it is no mere abridged copy of St. Matthew, as some have rashly asserted, but the independent narrative of an independent witness, who was inspired to write a history of our Lord’s works, rather than of His words. Let us read it with holy reverence. Like all the rest of Scripture, every word of St. Mark is “given by inspiration of God,” and every word is “profitable.” (Mark 1 Commentary)

Stier adds that "St. Mark has the special gift of terse brevity, and of graphic painting in wonderful combination. While on every occasion he compresses the discourses, works, and history into the simplest possible kernel, he on the other hand, unfolds the scenes more clearly than St. Matthew does, who excels in the discourses. Not only do single incidents become in his hands complete pictures, but even when he is very brief, he often gives, with one pencil stroke, something new and peculiarly his own.” (Stier’s Words of the Lord Jesus)

J C Ryle - The Gospel of Mark, which we now begin, is in some respects unlike the other three Gospels. It tells us nothing about the birth and early life of our Lord Jesus Christ. It contains comparatively few of His sayings and discourses. Of all the four inspired histories of our Lord's earthly ministry, this is by far the shortest. But we must not allow these peculiarities to make us undervalue Mark's Gospel. It is a Gospel singularly full of precious facts about the Lord Jesus, narrated in a simple, terse, pithy, and condensed style. If it tells us few of our Lord's SAYINGS, it is eminently rich in its catalogue of His DOINGS. It often contains minute historical detail of deep interest, which are wholly omitted in Matthew, Luke and John. In short, it is no mere abridged copy of Matthew, as some have rashly asserted, but the independent narrative of an independent witness, who was inspired to write a history of our Lord's WORKS, rather than of His WORDS. Let us read it with holy reverence. Like all the rest of Scripture, every word of Mark is "given by inspiration of God," and every word is "profitable." Let us observe, in these verses, what a full declaration we have of the dignity of our Lord Jesus Christ's person. The very first sentence speaks of Him as "the Son of God." These words, "the Son of God," conveyed far more to Jewish minds than they do to ours. They were nothing less than an assertion of our Lord's divinity. They were a declaration that Jesus was Himself very God, and "equal with God." (John 5:18+.) There is a beautiful fitness in placing this truth in the very beginning of a Gospel. The divinity of Christ is the citadel and keep of Christianity. Here lies the infinite value of the atoning sacrifice He made upon the cross. Here lies the peculiar merit of His atoning death for sinners. That death was not the death of a mere man, like ourselves, but of one who is "over all, God blessed forever." (Rom. 9:5.) We need not wonder that the sufferings of one person were a sufficient propitiation for the sin of a world, when we remember that He who suffered was the "Son of God." Let believers cling to this doctrine with jealous watchfulness. With it, they stand upon a rock. Without it, they have nothing solid beneath their feet. Our hearts are weak. Our sins are many. We need a Redeemer who is able to save to the uttermost, and deliver from the wrath to come. We have such a Redeemer in Jesus Christ. He is "the mighty God." (Isaiah 9:6+.) (Commentary)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God - Mark gets right to the point. The gospel is good news, the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Notice that Mark says this is not the beginning of his book, but the beginning of the message of good news. The word beginning implies that there will be a continuation of this good news and certainly we see that the book of Acts which itself is in a very reals sense being written daily as lost souls hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and believe and are saved. 

Lenski on beginning of the gospel - Mark considers this beginning of the gospel to start with the work of the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus and to extend to his resurrection and glorification....Mark uses "beginning" in the stricter sense, as starting with Jesus' assumption of his Messianic office. Hence he leaves out the birth and the childhood of Jesus, which Matthew and Luke include. (The Interpretation of St. Mark's Gospel)

Hiebert - In Galatians 4:4–6+, Paul viewed the gospel story as in two parts, God’s sending “his Son” and the sending of “the Spirit of his Son.” The full apostolic message thus included the sending of the Holy Spirit. Mark covers the first of these two sendings. The story of the sending of the Son of God had its historical beginning with the coming of John the forerunner. (Mark Commentary)

NET Note on beginning - The first verse of Mark's Gospel appears to function as a title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is not certain, however, whether Mark intended it to refer to the entire Gospel, to the ministry of John the Baptist, or through the use of the term beginning (arche) to allude to Genesis 1:1 (in the Greek Bible, LXX). The most likely option is that the statement as a whole is an allusion to Genesis 1:1 and that Mark is saying that with the "good news" of the coming of Christ, God is commencing a "new beginning." (ED: AN INTERESTING THOUGHT CONSIDERING GENESIS 3+ BROUGHT A "BAD BEGINNING"!) 

THOUGHT - Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, once said “Life is made up of new beginnings." Considering the fact that we daily sin and should die, because of our being safe in Christ we can confess, repent and experience a "new beginning." And once you commence that "new beginning," don't replay the tapes of your sin against God. If you have genuinely confessed and repented (not just regretted) then you are "white as snow" and ready for your "new beginning!" The enemy will try to shoot flaming missiles like "You're not even saved!," "You don't deserve to have personal communion with a holy God." "What if everyone knew about your sin?" and on and on and on. Beloved, by God's gracious and great Spirit may we be enabled to take every one of those thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5) grasping our shield of faith to deflect the lies of the roaring lion (Eph 6:17, 1 Pe 5:8)! 

Ralph Martin commenting on Whyte's quote about new beginnings wrote "This is true because God is always starting something fresh—in history, in his church, in human lives. Mark 1:1 can be linked with Gen 1:1; and themes such as “God’s new work,” “Life’s new beginnings,” “A fresh start—with God” are suggested as sermon topics. (Mark Commentary)

Beginning (746)(arche) refers to the commencement of something as an action, process, or state of being. Here in Mark it is used without the definite article which is felt to indicate it was intended as a title. Arche is used 4x in Mark - Mk. 1:1; Mk. 10:6; Mk. 13:8; Mk. 13:19;

Other books in the Bible begin with the words, “The beginning” or “In the beginning.”

  • Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” “In the beginning” of what? Time. Time began when God created the heavens and earth. Before TIME began is known as “Eternity Past.”
  • John 1:1-2+: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Here, John takes Jesus back to the beginning of
  • Eternity Past. That is, Jesus always was. He had no beginning and He will have no end.
  • 1 John 1:1+: “That which was from the beginning.” In the context of verses 1-4, the phrase refers to the beginning of gospel preaching when the readers first heard about Jesus. (See 1 John 2:7, 24+)

The "time phrase" beginning of the gospel conveys the sense that more is coming, which indeed proved the case at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit promised in the OT (e.g., Ezekiel 36:37+) was bestowed on believers, which would indeed empower them to proclaim the Gospel "both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8+)

Gospel (2098)(see below on euaggelion). Euaggelion originally meant a reward for good news, then simply the good news itself. Mark begins with a "royal pronouncement" proclaiming the arrival of the King and His Kingdom. (See notes on Mark 1:15) It is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. By the time Mark wrote this book, the word gospel had become a technical term referring to the announcement of the Christian good news, the preaching about Jesus Christ and God’s saving power accomplished through him for all who believe. It wasn’t until much later that the church began to refer to the four books that dealt with the life and teaching of Jesus as the ‘Gospels’. Note that we commonly use the word “gospel,” to refer to a book, like the Gospel of Matthew, Mark,  Luke, or John, but the NT never uses Gospel to refer to one of these 4 books but only to refer to the message of salvation.

Utley has an interesting note -  With Mark probably being the first written Gospel, this is the first use of the term euangelion (cf. 1:14, 15; 8:35; 10:29; 13:10; 14:9) by a Gospel writer (Paul’s use in Gal. 2:2 and 1 Thess. 2:9 would be chronologically earlier).

Of Jesus Christ, the Son of God - Note this Name, Jesus identifying Him as Man, then Christ as the One Who fulfilled prophecies of the Messiah and Son of God as the One Who is God. Fully Man, fully God, described in over 300 Messianic prophecies. This prophecy fulfilling God-Man is the Centerpiece of Mark's book. This is the message from Jesus but even more is about Jesus Christ (Robertson says is objective genitive - but see NET Note below). Hiebert agrees that of Jesus Christ is "not here as the herald of the good news but as the subject of the good news." As one writer said "He is thinking not so much of the Gospel Jesus preached, as of the Gospel Hewas." I like that. In short, the good news is centered on One Person here given a three-fold designation. First, Jesus, which in Hebrew is Joshua and which means Jehovah is salvation, the One through Whom salvation is made possible. Jesus also speaks of His humanity because it was the Name given by His human parents. (Angel spoke to Joseph in Mt 1:21, and an angel spoke to Mary in Lk 1:31+)

Related Resources:

NET Note - The genitive in the phrase tou euangeliou Iesou Christou, "the gospel of Jesus Christ" could be translated as either a subjective genitive ("the gospel which Jesus brings [or proclaims]") or an objective genitive ("the gospel about Jesus Christ"). Either is grammatically possible. This is possibly an instance of a plenary genitive (see ExSyn 119–21; M. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, §§36–39). If so, an interplay between the two concepts is intended: The Gospel which Jesus proclaims is in fact the Gospel about Himself.

Note: In an objective genitive, the genitive noun is the object of the verbal idea contained in the noun it modifies; e.g. “the love of music” – where “music” is the object of the love. She loves the music. In a subjective genitive, the genitive noun is the agent of the verbal idea contained in the noun modified; e.g. “the love of her father” – where the love is exercised by the father. Her father loved her. (Chris Engelsma)

Jesus (2424)(Iesous) means Savior (Mt 1:1, 16, 21) The angel declared to Joseph "you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) And to Mary the angel said "you shall name Him Jesus." (Lk 1:31+) and later said He "shall be called the Son of God."  (Lk 1:35+)  Jesus is a transliterationof the Greek Iesous (In Septuagint = "Joshua" - Josh 1:1). In fact Iesous is the transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua (Jehoshua) or Jeshua(Yeshua) and means Jehovah is help or Jehovah is salvation. Stated another way the Greek Iesous corresponds to the OT Jehoshua which is contracted as Jeshua(Yeshua). 

GotquestionsThe name Jesus, announced to Joseph and Mary through the angels (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31+), means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Transliterated from Hebrew and Aramaic, the name is Yeshua. This word is a combination of Ya, an abbreviation for Yahweh, the name of Israel’s God (Exodus 3:14); and the verb yasha', meaning “rescue,” “deliver,” or “save.” The English spelling of the Hebrew Yeshua is Joshua. But when translated from Hebrew into Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the name Yeshua becomes Iēsous. In English, Iēsous becomes Jesus. Thus, Yeshua and, correspondingly, Joshua and Jesus mean “Yahweh saves” or “the Lord is salvation.”

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Christ(Anointed One)(5547)(Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) describes one who has been anointed with oil, one who has been consecrated, symbolizing appointment to a task. It is the "Anointed One" and is the Greek synonym for "Messiah." Christos is used in the Septuagint on one anointed with the holy oil, especially the priests (Lev. 4:5+, Lev 4:16+) and in Daniel 9:25+ in a Messianic Prophecy giving the exact time of the Messiah's arrival on the scene in Israel - "So you are to know and discern (THE DOUBLE EMPHASIS INDICATES THIS IS IMPORTANT AND "KNOWABLE") that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (CLICK FOR DETAILED ANALYSIS OF THESE CRUCIAL TIME PHRASES); it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress." Christ is a clear synonym of the name Messiah and in a few Bible translations "paraphrase" Christos as "Messiah" (NLT, NEB, REB, GNB) which is reasonable as both names mean "anointed."

John Grassmick adds on Christ - It was used specifically of the Deliverer anticipated in the Jewish world who would be God’s Agent in fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (e.g., Gen. 49:10; Ps 2; Ps 110; Isa. 9:1–7; 11:1–9; Zech. 9:9–10). (BKC)

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Ryle - These words, “the Son of God,” conveyed far more to Jewish minds than they do to ours. They were nothing less than an assertion of our Lord’s divinity. They were a declaration that Jesus was Himself very God, and “equal with God.” (see discussion below)

Hiebert comments on Son of God - Mark’s use of the designation Son of God in the very title of his book serves to draw immediate attention to his high Christology. It is his testimony to the unique nature of the subject of his story and is the counterpart in Mark to the nativity story in Matthew and Luke.

Son of God - Jesus is God and has always been God so He is not the Son of God in the sense a human father begets a son. This title for Jesus (Yeshua) is not found in the Old Testament (there He is called "Son of Man" in Da 7:13+). The Gospels give multiple witnesses to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, that His is indeed divine! The Father’s voice gave testimony that Jesus was indeed the Son of God at His baptism (Mk 1:11) and then reaffirmed this truth at His transfiguration (Mk 9:7+). As noted below it was because Jesus was the Son of God that He was condemned and crucified, but it was by His resurrection that He was vindicated as the Son of God! 

The first use of Son of God is interesting because in this use Satan acknowledges Jesus deity tempting Him "If (= SINCE = FIRST CLASS CONDITION = ASSUMED TRUE) You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread" (Mt 4:3, Lk 4:3+)  A T Robertson comments that Satan "deftly calls on Jesus to exercise his power as Son of God to appease his hunger and thus prove to himself and all that he really is what the Father called him."  And then he tempts Jesus again saying "If (SINCE) You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down." (Mt 4:6, Lk 4:9+) The demons in Mt 8:29 (cf Mk 3:11, Lk 4:41+) recognized Jesus crying out "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” And then in His trial "the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Mt 26:63) to which Jesus in effect answered "Yes" (Mt 26:64, Lk 22:70+ = "Yes, I am"). A Roman centurion watching His crucifixion declared "Truly this was the Son of God!" (Mt 27:54, Mk 15:39) He was only half correct, for the "was" is really an "is". To His mother Mary, the angel declared He "shall be called the Son of God."  (Lk 1:35+) John the Baptist declared "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (Jn 1:34+). Nathanael likewise answered Jesus declaring “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” (Jn 1:49+) Martha testified "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (Jn 11:27+)

Ultimately it was the title Son of God which resulted in His false conviction by the Jewish leaders (see Lk 22:70, 71+, Lk 23:1+, Mt 26:63-66, Jn 19:7+). John gives us the background writing Jesus

"answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, (cf Son of God) making Himself equal with God. (Jn 5:17-18+)

In the last use of Son of God in the Gospels John summarizes the ultimate purpose of his entire Gospel:

These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (Jn 20:31+)

ESV Global on Son of God - Mark emphasizes the divine Sonship of Jesus. In NT times the Roman emperor was worshiped by many as a god or as a “son of god.” (ED: SATAN ALWAYS HAS COUNTERFEITS!) It was essential, then, for Mark to make it clear that Jesus was the Son of the one true God. Jesus is not a tribal deity only for Jews, but is to be received by all peoples and cultures as Lord of all.

Son of God - Used  3x in Mark - Mk 1:1, Mk 3:11, Mk 15:39. 

Son of Man is used far more often than Son of God - Mk. 2:10; Mk. 2:28; Mk. 8:31; Mk. 8:38; Mk. 9:9; Mk. 9:12; Mk. 9:31; Mk. 10:33; Mk. 10:45; Mk. 13:26; Mk. 14:21; Mk. 14:41; Mk. 14:62;

Mark Eastman - Messiah Son of God - excerpt

One of the most contentious issues between modern day Jewish and Christian scholars is whether the Messiah would be the "Son of God." The Christian New Testament clearly indicates that Jesus believed he was the Son of God, and that the disciples believed this as well. However, most 20th century rabbis claim that the Messiah is simply a man.

In 1992 I had a discussion about the Messiah with a Jewish physician, a man who was a Torah scholar as well. He told me that virtually all modern rabbis believe the Messiah is going to be just a man. He will be great in wisdom and stature, but he will be just a man. He will not be the Son of God, nor will he be God in the flesh. He then went on to tell me that the belief that the Messiah is the Son of God was a Christian fabrication. He told me that there is no evidence from the Old Testament or the writings of the ancient rabbis that the Messiah would be the Son of God. Even today, when one asks a modern rabbi why they reject the Messiahship of Jesus, they will often say, "Because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God!"

This denial among virtually all of modern Judaism of the "Sonship" of the Messiah, is widely held. However, this has not always been so. There is abundant evidence in the writings of the ancient rabbis, as well as the Apocryphal books, that the Messiah would indeed be the Son of God.

In 1992, powerful new evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls was published that reveals the belief among first century mainstream Judaism that the Messiah was indeed the Son of God. Before we look at that evidence, let's look at the claims of Jesus, his disciples and the leaders of the Jewish nation who rejected him as their Messiah. (Messiah - Son of God) (Index to book Search for Messiah- 12 chapters)

J Vernon McGee - There are three beginnings recorded in Scripture. Let us put them down in chronological order.

1. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). This goes back to a dateless beginning, a beginning before all time. Here the human mind can only grope. It is logical rather than chronological because in my thinking, I must put my peg somewhere in the past in order to take off. If I see an airplane in the air, I assume there is an airport somewhere. I may not know where it is, but I know the plane took off from some place. So when I look around at the universe, I know that it took off from somewhere and that somewhere there is a God. But I don’t know anything about that beginning. God comes out of eternity to meet us. I just have to put down the peg at the point where He does meet us, back as far as I can think, and realize He was there before that.

2. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). This is where we move out of eternity into time. However, although many people have been attempting to date this universe, no man so far knows. Man’s guesses have ranged from six thousand years to three billion years. We know so little, but when we come into His presence and begin to know even as we are known, then we will realize how we saw through a glass darkly. I’m sure we will marvel at our stupidity and our ignorance. Our God is a great God. He has plenty of time.

3. “The beginning of the gospel …” (v. 1) is the same as “That which was from the beginning …” (1 John 1:1). This is dated. It goes back to Jesus Christ at the precise moment He took upon Himself human flesh. Jesus Christ is the gospel!

Lowell Johnson - The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” is what Mark is going to share. He is going to share with his readers the good news concerning who Jesus is and what He did while He was here. Mark calls the Lord, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The name “Jesus” comes from the Hebrew word Joshua: “Jehovah is Salvation” and declares His Person.

He is “Christ,” the Jewish Messiah, the Anointed One. Christ declares His Position. He is the One who will deliver His people from their enemies.

He is “the Son of God” – who is no ordinary man. The name “Son of God” declares His Power!

  1. He is truly human – He has a human name – Jesus.

  2. He is truly divine – He is the promised Messiah. He is the Son of God.

  3. He is truly unique – He is both humanity and deity in One Person.

  4. He is the true source of Good News – Jesus alone is the Source of salvation. (The Man Who Introduced Jesus As The Messiah Mark 1:1-8)


  1. Jesus Christ, Son of God (1:1)
  2. Jesus, Son of the Most High God (5:7)
  3. Jesus, Son of David (10:47-48) 4. Christ (1:1; 8:29; 9:41; 12:35)
  4. Christ, the Son of the Blessed (14:61)
  5. Christ, King of Israel (15:32)
  6. Son of Man (2:10, 28; 8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62)
  7. Holy One of God (1:24)
  8. Lord of the Sabbath (2:28)
  9. Lord (5:19; 7:28; 10:51 [Gk]; 11:3; 13:20 [16:19-20])
  10. King of the Jews (15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26) (Christ-Centered Exposition - Exalting Jesus in Mark)

Brian Bill has a summary of the The Peculiarity of Mark

1. Mark focuses more on the works of Jesus and less on His words.

Mark records nineteen miracles, but only four parables. Interestingly, each of these parables has serving as its key theme. 

2. The language Mark uses is emotive and often abrupt.

We read in 8:12 that Jesus “sighed deeply” and that He was “moved with compassion” in Mark 6:34. He “marveled at their unbelief” in Mark 6:6 and in Mark 3:5 He looked “around in anger.” At the same time, when He saw the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 we read: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”

We also see that people had strong reactions to Jesus. I count over 15 individuals who decided to follow Christ when coming face-to-face with Him. People were never passive about Jesus or bored with Him. There’s no way to just ignore Him. He either made people angry or astonished or amazed or in awe. People fought against Him or they put their faith in Him. The same is true today. You will reject Him or you will receive Him. There’s no middle ground. Check out these 12 reactions that people had to Jesus and see if you can remain neutral.

1. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves (Mark 1:27)
2. And they were filled with great fear (Mark 4:41)
3. He ran and fell down before Him (Mark 5:6)
4. And they were overcome with amazement (Mark 5:42-43)
5. And many who heard Him were astonished (Mark 6:2)
6. And they took offense at Him (Mark 6:3)
7. For they all saw Him and were terrified…and they were utterly astounded (Mark 6:50-51)
8. The people ran about the whole region (Mark 6:54-55)
9. And they were astonished beyond measure (Mark 7:37)
10. And they were amazed…and afraid (Mark 10:32)
11. For they feared Him because, because all the crowd was astonished (Mark 11:18)
12. And they marveled at Him (Mark 12:17)

So here are some questions for you. What’s your response to Jesus? Have you made the decision to follow Him? What’s your reaction to what He has done for you?

3. Jesus acts quickly to meet needs.

We see this in the use of the word “immediately” or “straightway.” Used 42 times, this conveys a sense of vividness and excitement! Let’s just look at a few examples from chapter one (Mark 1:10, 12, 18, 20, 21, 23). The Gospel of Luke, which is much longer, only uses “immediately” seven times. We also see that 2/3 of the verses begin with “and” to communicate the speed at which the Savior ministered (notice Mark 1:29, 35, 40, 2:1). Mark has been called “a moving picture of the ministry of Jesus.” Don’t you love that Jesus is all about forward motion?

This week I talked to Jerry Patterson, who retired from the Navy. He helped me understand that aircraft carriers are all about “forward deployment” and “presence.” He described their purpose to defend and to go forward and also be ready to help during catastrophes. We see clearly in Mark that Jesus was all about “forward deployment.” How about you? Are you on mission to respond immediately to needs or is there some “mission drift” going on in your life?

4. Mark uses the historical present tense over 150 times.

In the original, instead of writing, “Jesus came” Mark wrote, “Jesus comes.” Mark’s all about, “Jesus says,” not “Jesus said” and “Jesus heals” instead of “Jesus healed.” Jesus did all those things in the past but He’s still doing them in the present! He saved then and He still saves now! Tim Keller writes: “Jesus is not merely a historical figure, but a living reality, who addresses us today.”

5. Mark holds up the cost of discipleship even though the disciples fall short.

In Mark 8:34 we read, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus continually calls his followers to complete commitment and when they cave, He comes alongside and urges them to get back on mission. Sometimes the disciples question and complain like in Mark 4:38: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” We have met the disciples, and they are us, right? 

Here’s the deal. We will never water down the message. Jesus is calling us to take up our cross, which means to go as condemned criminals to our death. Randy Alcorn writes,

“Following Christ means taking up your cross daily, which means little sacrifices made repeatedly.”

But aren’t you glad that Jesus gives us grace and mercy when we fall down? If God can use a denier like Peter and a deserter like Mark, He can use flawed disciples like you…and like me.

6. Mark is a missionary book.

Mark omits language that someone living in Rome would not understand. He explains Aramaic words and Jewish customs (see 7:3-4). The bottom line is that Mark is all about making the gospel message accessible to those considered “outsiders.” We must do the same because it’s so easy for us to just focus on us insiders. We must remember that the church is the only organization in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members!

Churches tend to count their seating capacity. I think a better metric is to count our sending capacity. Mark’s account opens with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and closes in Mark 16:15 with, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

7. Mark’s emphasis is on the last week of Jesus’ life.

The events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ make up 40% of Mark’s manuscript. Someone has described Mark’s gospel as “a passion-narrative with an extended introduction.” Jesus was born in order to die. His death was not a tragic accident but part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Jesus is our Selfless Servant and He is our Suffering Savior.

ILLUSTRATION OF THE POWER OF THE GOSPELS - Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Mark, tells about a world-renowned scholar of classic literature, Dr. E .V. Rieu. He is known for a fantastic translation of Homer’s Odyssey into modern English for Penguin Classics. An agnostic his entire life, Penguin publishers approached him at the end of his career and asked him to translate the gospels. That raised some eyebrows because people wondered how an agnostic classical scholar could translate Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When Rieu’s son heard about it he had a great reaction: “It will be interesting to see what father will make of the four Gospels,” then he paused, “It will be even more interesting to see what the four Gospels make of father.” He didn’t have to wonder very long - when he translated them he came face-to-face with Christ, and became a committed Christian. His story is a testimony to the transforming power of God’s Word.

Mark 1:2  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY;

NET  Mark 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way,

GNT  Mark 1:2 Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου·

NLT  Mark 1:2 just as the prophet Isaiah had written: "Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way.

KJV  Mark 1:2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (THE WORDS IN BOLD ARE NOT ACCEPTED AS ORIGINAL)

ESV  Mark 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way,

ASV  Mark 1:2 Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way.

CSB  Mark 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way.

NIV  Mark 1:2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"--

NKJ  Mark 1:2 As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You."

NRS  Mark 1:2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;

YLT  Mark 1:2 As it hath been written in the prophets, 'Lo, I send My messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee,' -

  • written: Ps 40:7 Mt 2:5 26:24,31 Lu 1:70 18:31 
  • Behold : Mal 3:1 Mt 11:10 Lu 1:15-17,76 Lk 7:26, Lk 7:27,28 
  • Mark 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


As (kathos) conveys the idea that just as it was written down in the past it is now being fulfilled. In other words what happens or happened is in perfect accord or perfect agreement with what was predicted to happen. For example, Mark 14:21 says "the Son of Man is to go JUST AS it is written of Him."  The NLT paraphrase has "JUST AS the prophet Isaiah had written" speaking in context of His death which had been prophesied in the Old Testament (esp Isaiah 53:1-12+). So JUST AS it was written, so it is now fulfilled.

Definition of  JUST AS.
(1) to an equal degree as; In precisely the same way as - Examples = "He's signing his name just as he's always done it."  Our house is just as nice as theirs. This one is just as good as that one. She performs just as well as he does.
(2) in the same way as, to the same degree as. Examples = Just as we hope to be forgiven, so we should forgive others. JUST AS is used for emphasizing that something is equally large, good, bad, etc.

All the uses of Kathos in Mark - Mk. 1:2; Mk. 4:33; Mk. 9:13; Mk. 11:6; Mk. 14:16; Mk. 14:21; Mk. 15:8; Mk. 16:7

It is written - This was the typical way to identify a specific quote from an Old Testament prophecy or an allusion to a prophecy (cf allusion in Mk 14:21 alluding to Ps 22:1-31 and Isaiah 53:1-12+). In the present section, Mark quotes from two prophets, first from Malachi (who he does not name) and then from Isaiah, who he names first (see below for explanation). 

As it is written in the NT - Matt. 26:24; Mk. 1:2; Mk. 7:6; Mk. 9:13; Mk. 14:21; Lk. 2:23; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 6:31; Jn. 12:14; Acts 7:42; Acts 15:15; Rom. 1:17; Rom. 2:24; Rom. 3:4; Rom. 3:10; Rom. 4:17; Rom. 8:36; Rom. 9:13; Rom. 9:33; Rom. 10:15; Rom. 11:8; Rom. 11:26; Rom. 15:3; Rom. 15:9; Rom. 15:21; 1 Co. 1:31; 1 Co. 2:9; 1 Co. 10:7; 2 Co. 8:15; 2 Co. 9:9

Written  (1125)(grapho from root graph- = primarily means to scratch on or engrave as on an ornament, reports, letters, etc; English = graph, graphic, etc) means to engrave or inscribe with a pen or stylus characters or letters on a surface which can be wood, wax, metal, leather, stone, parchment, dirt (John 8:6+), paper, etc. The perfect tense indicates it was written down in the Old Testament and it stands written. This speaks of the permanence of the Scriptures even as Jesus declared in Mt 24:35  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away."

THOUGHT - May the absolute certainty of this truth uttered by He Who is Himself Truth (Mt 24:35) stir your hearts and motivate you to desire to treasure God's precious, permanent Word of Life in your hearts during your short sojourn on earth (Ps 119:9,11)? What a blessed but passing privilege we now have to memorize His Word. Don't miss this golden opportunity, the opportunity of a lifetime! You will not regret it throughout eternity! To help start you on this journey see Memory Verses by Topic. As they say when they serve your filet mignon in the restaurant "Enjoy!"

In Isaiah the prophet (prophetes)- Now don't get upset by the mention of Isaiah and then a quote from Malachi. Yes Mark mentions Isaiah first and then immediately quotes from Malachi. However in no way was Mark ascribing to Isaiah a prophecy written by Malachi! Critics and commentaries love to argue over this, but Mark did not make a mistake. He simply wanted to stress what Isaiah said by naming him, and then quote what Malachi said agreed with Isaiah's message. So in these two verses Mark combines the quotes. Malachi begins and then Isaiah chimes in. 

Hiebert explains that "Jerome (on Mt. 3:3) records that Porphyry, the early enemy of Christianity, seized upon this “mistake” by Mark and hurled it into the face of the Christians. Some ancient scribes sought to remove the difficulty by substituting “in the prophets” (KJV), but the manuscripts are decidedly in favor of “in Isaiah the prophet” as the original reading....Some inexactness is obviously involved, but it need not be attributed to carelessness or ignorance. Mark’s wording at once indicates that his real interest centered in the Isaiah prophecy. The quotation from Malachi served as the passageway through which his mind rapidly passed, to fix attention on the more specific prediction in Isaiah. The point of the whole quotation is that John’s preparatory ministry, in fulfillment of prophecy, authenticated Jesus’ messiahship and  prepared for the beginning of His official ministry as the Messiah.  (Mark Commentary)

Behold(Pay Attention!)(2400)(idou) is the second person singular aorist middle imperative of eidon which means to see, perceive, look at. In the NT idou is used as a demonstrative particle that draws attention to what follows. Idou in the middle voice means "you yourself look, see, perceive!" The aorist imperative is a command emphasizing "Do it now! Don't delay!" Spurgeon reminds us that "Behold is a word of wonder; it is intended to excite admiration. Wherever you see it hung out in Scripture, it is like an ancient sign-board, signifying that there are rich wares within, or like the hands which solid readers have observed in the margin of the older Puritanic books, drawing attention to something particularly worthy of observation." I would add, behold is like a divine highlighter, a divine underlining of an especially striking or important text. It says in effect "Listen up, all ye who would be wise in the ways of Jehovah!"

I (GOD THE FATHER) send My messenger ahead of You (GOD THE SON) - "Some thought that God stopped sending prophets because He had nothing more to say, but John shows this wasn’t the case at all." (Guzik) "I" is God the Father speaking to His Son (YOU) through His prophet Malachi. The verb send is in the present tense which speaks of the imminence of the messenger's coming. The NLT and CSB accurately reflect the sense of the Greek by rendering it "I am sending." Over 400 years had passed since Malachi had recorded his prophecy (and over 700 years for Isaiah's portion), but the coming of this messenger was imminent (always "overhanging," always on the verge of happening) and it had now come to fruition with the arrival of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.

THOUGHT - Note the possessive pronoun "MY messenger" which indicates that John belonged to God to be used for His holy purpose (cf what may have been John's "life verse" = Jn 3:30+). The same "TITLE" could be written across every believer's forehead - MY MESSENGER! Paul asked "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For (EXPLAINS WHY WE ARE NOT OUR OWN) you have been bought with a price (1 Pe 1:18-19+): therefore glorify (aorist imperative = only possible as we are enabled by the Spirit) God in your body (WHICH WE DO IF WE CARRY OUT HIS GOOD WORKS - Mt 5:16+)." (1 Cor 6:19-20+) Peter adds we are "A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that (HERE IS OUR PURPOSE) you may proclaim (exaggello) the excellencies of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light! (1 Peter 2:9+) Again Paul writes that Jesus "gave Himself for (AS THE "SUBSTITUTE" FOR) us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous (derived from zeo - to be hot and so we are to be "ON FIRE") for good deeds."  (Titus 2:14+) (MY Messenger reminds me of the biography of Oswald Chambers I read years ago aptly entitled "Abandoned to God!" I would recommend reading it at your leisure and at your own "risk" [it is so convicting as Chambers models for us total abandonment to God!]. See reviews).

Send (649)(apostello from apo = from, away from + stello = to withdraw from, avoid) means to send off, to send forth, to send out. To send out; to commission as a representative, an ambassador, an envoy. The idea is to send forth from one place to another. But the meaning of apostello is more than just to send because it means "to send off on a commission to do something as one’s personal representative, with credentials furnished" (Wuest) Apostello conveys the basic idea of one on mission, one sent to do a job and associates the necessary authority to accomplish the assignment and in John the Baptist's case he was clearly empowered by the Holy Spirit (even from birth! Lk 1:15, 41+)

THOUGHT - Dearly beloved of God, follower of His Son, you are also a "sent one" and you also have the power of the same Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8+) to accomplish the good works God has prepared for you to walk in from eternity past (Eph 2:10+). Are you walking in them? Are you fulfilling His calling on your life? Or are you entangled by the wiles and wooings of the wanton, wanderlust filled world? Repent and turn "about face" as they say in the military and began the incredible journey of a lifetime. You will have only one chance to fulfill your purpose. You may have largely "blown it," but God is the God of the second (and third, etc) chance. Take 5 minutes and ponder your existence in eternity. Now is the day for you to begin to fulfill your purpose, a privilege that is even associated with a prize (cf Mt 6:20-21+). Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for (and in) Christ will last!!! Redeem the time for the days are evil! 

Messenger (32)(aggelos/angelos) literally means a messenger, an envoy, one sent, and was used of messengers who were divine (Lk 1:26+), human (Lk 7:24+), demonic (Mt 25:41) and figurative (2 Cor 12:7). In Lk 7:24+aggelos describes human messengers sent from John to Jesus and in Lk 7:27+ (cp Mt 11:10, Mk 1:2) Jesus uses aggelos to describe John the Baptist who was sent to prepare the way for Messiah. Jesus sent human messengers (aggelos) in Lk 9:52+. James 2:25+ uses aggelos to describe the human messengers sent from Israel to Rahab. Most of the NT uses of aggelos refer to heavenly angels (messengers) who are supernatural, transcendent beings with power to carry out various tasks. All uses of aggelos that refer to angels are masculine gender (the feminine form of aggelos does not occur.)

Here is the Malachi passage...

Malachi 3:1+ “Behold (Lxx - idou), I am going to send (Lxx - exapostello) My messenger (Lxx - aggelos), and he will clear (Lxx = epiblepo - look at, to help) the way before Me. And the Lord, Whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the covenant, in Whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts (of Sabaoth).

Grassmick thinks Mark blends Malachi 3:1 with Ex 23:20 and comparing the Greek text of each passage below would support his contention. Note that the verb for "send" in the Septuagint of Malachi 3:1 is exapostello not apostello as in Mark's quotation of Malachi, so that this first portion is in fact closer to Exodus 23:20. In any event Mark also quoting from Malachi 3:1 as that passage fits the context of the prediction of a "messenger" much better than the passage in Exodus.

  • Ex 23:20  Greek Septuagint = "ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ  (Exo 23:20 BGT)
  • Mark 1:2 Nestle-Aland Greek =  "ἰδοὺ  ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ  (Mark 1:2 BGT)
  • Malachi 3:1 Greek Septuagint = "ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου" (Mal 3:1 BGT)

Ahead of You (MESSIAH) - Note that in the original quote in Malachi 3:1 it reads "before Me," which Mark records literally as "before thy face." Thus Mark's quotation is "interpretative." Hiebert comments that "The New Testament rephrasing makes prominent the truth that the coming Lord, “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1), was the historical person Jesus Christ. It interprets the divine promise made to the people of Israel as addressed to the Messiah Himself. It is another instance of the New Testament practice of applying to Jesus what in the Old Testament related to Jehovah." 

J C Ryle - Let us the beginning of the Gospel was a fulfillment of Scripture. John the Baptist began his ministry, "as it is written in the prophets." There was nothing unforeseen and suddenly contrived in the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. In the very beginning of Genesis we find it predicted that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." (Ge 3:15+.) All through the Old Testament we find the same event foretold with constantly increasing clearness. It was a promise often renewed to patriarchs, and repeated by prophets, that a Deliverer and Redeemer should one day come. His birth, His character, His life, His death, His resurrection, His forerunner, were all prophesied of, long before He came. Redemption was worked out and accomplished in every step, just "as it was written." We should always read the Old Testament with a desire to find something in it about Jesus Christ. We study this portion of the Bible with little profit, if we can see in it nothing but Moses, and David, and Samuel, and the prophets. Let us search the books of the Old Testament more closely. It was said by Him whose words can never pass away, "These are the Scriptures that testify about Me," (John 5:39+.)  (Commentary)


Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry of preparing hearts. And as Ray Stedman remarks "the prophet Isaiah said John's message would be like a great bulldozer, building a highway in the desert for God to come to the isolated stranger in the midst of the wilderness. Without a road you cannot drive out into the desert in order to help somebody. You must have a road, a highway in the desert. John was God's bulldozer to build that highway. You know how roads are built -- exactly as Isaiah describes in Chapter 40. "Every mountain shall be brought low, and every valley shall be lifted up; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain," {cf, Isa 40:4a}. That is what repentance does. It brings down all the high peaks of pride that we stand on and refuse to admit are wrong. It takes the depressed areas of our life, where we beat and torture and punish ourselves, and lifts them up. It takes the crooked places, where we have lied and deceived, and straightens them out. And it makes the rough places plain. Then God is there, at that instant of repentance. Beautiful imagery, is it not?" (The Place to Begin  Mark 1:1-8)

You (face, presence) (4383)(prosoponfrom pros = towards + ops = eye, the part around the eye and so the face) means literally toward the eye or face. This is a great picture of the ministry of John the Baptist -- right in front of the face of the Messiah! 

THOUGHT - John’s ministry was performed in the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! But is this not in a sense true of all our Spirit enabled ministry for the Lord? Is not all we do, performed Coram Deo, before the face of God? And what a difference it makes if enabled by the Spirit, we will maintain this "Coram Deo" approach to everything, in these last days which are filled with variegated temptations and trivial trifles! 

Who will prepare Your (MESSIAH'S) way- This is the Father's promise to His Son that John would prepare Messiah's way. The "forerunner" would run before (so to speak) the coming King, preparing the way for the Way (John 14:6+)! Tragically few in Israel would recognize and receive Jesus into their hearts as their King (John 1:11-13+; Mt 21:42, 43; Mt 23:37; Lk 19:43,44+).  Hiebert adds that "The point of the whole quotation is that John’s preparatory ministry, in fulfillment of prophecy, authenticated Jesus’ Messiahship and prepared for the beginning of His official ministry as the Messiah. . . Roads in the East were generally poorly maintained. A coming king would send ahead of him a representative to assure that the roads had been adequately prepared. Spiritually, this was John’s advance task. He was to remove hindrances in the hearts of the people so that they would be ready to receive “the coming One.” (Paul Apple comments "Cf. work by advance team of Secret Service agents on behalf of the President.")

John records the Baptist's arrival on the scene and specifies the purpose of his preparing the way for Jesus "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, SO THAT (JOHN'S ULTIMATE PURPOSE WAS THAT)  all might believe through him. (Jn 1:6-7+)

Prepare (2680)(kataskeuazo from kata = intensifies the meaning of + skeuazo = prepare, make ready) means to prepare, make ready, put in a state of readiness (Mk 1:2+). It is used of persons who are mentally and spiritually prepared - "make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Lk 1:17+). To build, construct, erect, create (Heb 3:3-4+, Heb 11:7+, 1 Pe 3:20+). To furnish or equip (Heb 9:2, 6+).  Kataskeuazo means to make, construct or erect with idea of adorning and equipping with all things necessary. Kataskeuazo was used in the papyri with reference to the visit of a Roman senator to the Fayum. Directions are given for his welcome; “take care that at the proper places the guest-chambers be got ready." (Moulton and Milligan) Kataskeuazo is used 10x - builder(2), built(1), construction(1), prepare(3), prepared(4). Mt. 11:10; Mk. 1:2; Lk. 1:17; Lk. 7:27; Heb. 3:3; Heb. 3:4; Heb. 9:2; Heb. 9:6; Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20

Guzik - "We often fail to appreciate how important the preparatory work of the Lord is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry."

Luke quotes from Malachi 3:1+ " -  “This is the one (Lk 7:26) about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE (kataskeuazo) YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’ “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Lk 7:27,28+, cf almost identical passage in Mt 11:10-11)


  • G J Goldberg - John the Baptist and Josephus
  • Who was John the Baptist in the Bible? 
  • Was John the Baptist really Elijah reincarnated? - (Excerpt click link at left for full explanation) - John did for Jesus what Elijah was to have done for the coming of the Lord, but he was not Elijah reincarnated. Jesus identified John the Baptist as Elijah, while John the Baptist rejected that identification. How do we reconcile these two teachings? There is a key phrase in Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist that must not be overlooked. He says, “If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah.” In other words, John the Baptist’s identification as Elijah was not predicated upon his being the actual Elijah, but upon people’s response to his role. To those who were willing to believe in Jesus, John the Baptist functioned as Elijah, for they believed in Jesus as Lord. To the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, John the Baptist did not perform this function.
  • Did John the Baptist lose his faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19)?
  • In what way was John the Baptist the greatest (Matthew 11:11)?
  • What was the meaning and importance of the baptism of John the Baptist?
  • Why did John the Baptist refer to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers?
  • Whyte's Dictionary of Biblical Characters - John the Baptist
  • Baker Evangelical Dictionary John the Baptist
  • Easton's Bible Dictionary John the Baptist
  • Fausset Bible Dictionary John the Baptist
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible John the Baptist
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the NT John the Baptist
  • Watson's Theological Dictionary John the Baptist
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia John the Baptist
  • Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia John the baptist
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia John the Baptist

A number of passages concerning John the Baptist can be somewhat enigmatic or confusing. So here is a good summary by William Simmons...

Apart from Jesus Christ, John the Baptist is probably the most theologically significant figure in the Gospels. As was the case with Jesus, his birth was meticulously recorded (Luke 1:5-25+). His entrance into the world was marked by angelic proclamation and divine intervention (Luke 1:57-80). John's birth not only parallels that of Jesus, but echoes the momentous occasion of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 ; 21:1-7). John is clearly a pivotal figure in the salvation history of God.

Although his formative years were lived in obscurity in the desert (Luke 1:80), his public ministry ended nearly four hundred years of prophetic silence. John was that voice crying in the wilderness preparing the way for the coming Messiah (Isaiah 40:3 ; Matthew 3:3+ ; Mark 1:2-3+; Luke 3:3-6+). In this sense his message and ministry marked the culmination of the law and the prophets, but heralded the inbreaking of the kingdom of God (Matthew 11:12 ; Luke 16:16+). So John was truly a transitional figure, forming the link between the Old and New Testaments. He spans the ages with one foot firmly planted in the Old Testament and the other squarely placed in the New.

The central theme of his ministry was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:2+). He was called "The Baptist" because his practice was to baptize those who responded to the message he proclaimed and sincerely repented of their sins (Matthew 3:1+; Mark 6:14; Luke 7:20+).

John was an end-times prophet. He conducted his ministry with an eschatological authority that demanded immediate action. He taught that judgment is at hand. The axe is laid to the roots and God will thoroughly purge his threshing floor (Matthew 3:10-12 ; Luke 3:9,17+). And the authenticity of repentance was evidenced in very practical terms: share with those in need, eliminate graft, and prohibit extortion (Luke 3:11-14+).

John's lifestyle was as austere as his message. He was an ascetic living in the wilderness, clothed in camel hair and subsisting on locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4+ ; Mark 1:6). Unlike Jesus, he expected people to come to him, rather than he going to them (Matthew 3:5).

John was no "crowd pleaser." He willingly confronted the hypocrisy of the religious establishment (Matthew 3:7+ ; Luke 3:7+). He did not hesitate to expose the immorality of Herod and chose to die a martyr's death rather than compromise his convictions (Matthew 14:3-12 ; Mark 6:17-29+).

All of these characteristics portray John as a fiery prophet proclaiming the apocalyptic message of God. Indeed, Luke says that John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17+) (ED: see Was John the Baptist really Elijah reincarnated? ). He goes on to allude to Malachi 4:5+, which states that Elijah will return "before that great and dreadful day of the Lord." In fact, some contemporaries of John inquired if he were Elijah (John 1:21+). The belief that Elijah would return and prepare the way of the Lord can be traced to Malachi 3:1+, Malachi 4:5+. Such belief is also found in the extra-biblical accounts of Sirah 48:10,2 Esdras 6:2 f. The Gospels also indicate that many believed that Elijah would come first, and then the Christ (Matthew 11:14 ; 17:10 ; Mark 6:15 ; 9:11 ; Luke 9:8+). John flatly denied that he was Elijah reincarnated (John 1:21,25+). Nevertheless Jesus affirmed that Elijah must come first and that he had come in the person of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:11-13 ; Mark 9:12-13). John fulfilled Malachi's prophecy in a spiritual sense, rather than in a literal way.

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON JOHN'S RELATION TO ELIJAH FROM JOHN MACARTHUR - The question about his being Elijah introduces some important truth. At every orthodox Passover ceremony even today a cup is reserved at the table for Elijah. At the circumcision of orthodox Jewish baby boys a chair is placed for Elijah. The anticipation is that, if Elijah would ever come and sit in the chair or drink from the cup, the Messiah’s arrival would be imminent. That belief is based on Malachi 4:5–6, in which the prophet predicts, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”....The Elijah prophesied by Malachi was not to be a reincarnation of the ancient prophet. Rather, as the angel of the Lord told Zacharias regarding his son, John the Baptist, the prophesied forerunner would come "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17+). John would not be the ancient prophet come back to earth but would minister in much the same style and power as had Elijah. In that way, as Jesus had told the disciples at least once before, "[John] is Elijah, who was to come" (Matt. 11:14).Why then, some wonder, did John himself disclaim being Elijah? When the priests and Levites from Jerusalem asked him, '"Are you Elijah?'... he said, "I am not'" (John 1:21). He denied being Elijah because, though he knew of the prophecy of Luke 1, like Jesus, he realized the question was about a literal, reincarnated Elijah. And, though John did not share Jesus' omniscience, he doubtlessly also realized that the questioning of the priests and Levites originated from unbelief, not sincere faith. They were not interested in learning the truth but of finding a way to discredit John, just as they would later seek ways to discredit the One whose way he came to prepare. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Matthew)

ADDITIONAL NOTE FROM HENDRIKSEN on the meaning of in the Spirit and power of Elijah asking "Does this mean that John was Elijah? The answer is both "No" and "Yes." Not literally, as is clear from the fact that when John was asked, "Are you Elijah?" he truthfully answered, "I am not" (John 1:21+). But figuratively, so that Jesus even calls him Elijah (Mt. 11:13, 14; cf. Mt 17:12; Mark 9:12, 13). The solution is given here in Luke 1:17+: The "spirit and power of Elijah" was going to be clearly displayed in John the Baptist. Cf. Elijah's boldness, "I have not troubled Israel but you [Ahab] have" (1 Ki 18:18), with the Baptist's (Mt. 14:4), "It isn't right for you [Herod Antipas] to have her [your brother Philip's wife Herodias]." And see also Mt. 3:7+; Lk 3:7+, Lk 3:19+. (Baker New Testament Commentary – Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke)

In this way Jesus acknowledges the central role that John played in God's plan of salvation. He was the greatest born among women because he had the privilege of pointing to the Lamb of God (John 1:29-34+). Yet as the last great prophet of the pre-Christian era, he was the least in the kingdom of God (Matthew 11:11 ; Luke 7:28+).

John fully accepted his subordinate role to Christ. He denied that he was the Christ and repeatedly emphasized that he was simply a witness to the Light (John 1:19-23+; cf. also John 1:6-9+ ; John 3:27-30+ ). John stated that Jesus was greater than he, and that Jesus had a more powerful ministry and baptism (Mark 1:7-8 ; Luke 3:16+ ; John 1:26-27+). He did not want to baptize Jesus, but rather desired to be baptized by Jesus (Matthew 3:13-14). John allowed his disciples to leave his own leadership and follow after Jesus (John 1:35-39 +).

But for all of his greatness, John was merely human. In this sense he too joined in the popular speculations about the identity of Christ. It may be that John's vision of the Messiah varied so much from what he heard and saw in Jesus, that he came to question if Jesus were really the Christ (Matthew 11:1-2 ; Luke 7:1+). The fact that Jesus was not an ascetic, and that he actively sought the fellowship of publicans and sinners may have been an offense to John and his disciples (Matthew 9:9-17 ; Matthew 11:18-19 ; Luke 7:33-34+). Jesus may have rebuked John in this regard when he said, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Matthew 11:6 ; Luke 7:23+).

Finally, even though John was merely a witness serving as a transitional figure, the impact of his life and ministry should not be underestimated. During his lifetime he had a following of disciples who shared common practices such as fasting and prayers (Matthew 9:14 ; John 1:35-37+ ; Jn 4:1-2+). John's disciples survived his death and spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Apollos was from Alexandria in North Africa and at one point knew only of the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-25 ). Similarly, upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul encountered about a dozen disciples of John. They too had only experienced the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-7). These instances indicate that the Baptist's movement may have had more influence than what we are able to glean from the New Testament....

In conclusion, John the Baptist is of great theological importance in the New Testament. He ended nearly four hundred years of prophetic silence and paved the way for the Messiah. In the spirit of Elijah, he preached a message of repentance and baptism. In his darkest hour he questioned if Jesus was the One who was to come, or whether there would be another. He inaugurated a spiritual movement that had influence long after his death and extended throughout the Mediterranean world. (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)



Mark quotes the dramatic words of Isaiah 40:3 "A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God." Luke's Gospel gives the longer quote from Isaiah


The voice of one crying in the wilderness - Voice of one is a description of John the Baptist which alludes to his specific mission and the place where his mission was to be accomplished. John was not prepared by God to pastor a church, to write theology books, to compose religious music, etc, but was called to call, to cry out! The present tense indicates this was John's pattern -- continually crying out. John the Baptist was not whimpering, crying softly and quietly! He was crying out like the HERALD (see below) he was born to be (Lk 1:15, 16, 17+), as one who had a strong voice, a clear message and a Spirit enabled bold demeanor giving public witness concerning the Messiah Jesus Christ.  Imagine the Jewish people who walked up and heard John crying out this message at the top of his lungs! It would have been a striking scene. 

A T Robertson on voice of one crying - When the committee from the Sanhedrin came to ask John who he was, he used this very language of Isaiah (John 1:23+). He was only a voice, but we can still hear the echo of that voice through the corridor of the centuries.

THOUGHT - Just as God had a plan for John even in the womb of his mother (Lk 1:15, 16, 17+ and from eternity past) to be the forerunner to prepare the way for God's "invasion" of planet earth to accomplish redemption, so too God has a plan for your life. Paul wrote "For we are His workmanship (His "masterpiece"), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10+). Not our works, but His pre-planned works, prepared for us from eternity past! How foolish we are to seek to walk in our puny works when we could join God in His great work by walking in those works which He has prepared for us and prepared us for in Christ Jesus (cf Jn 15:5+)! In tennis when I used to hit the backhand, it was so satisfying to hit the ball in the "sweet spot" of the racquet and it flew effortlessly across the net. God has a "sweet spot" for each of His children and His desire is to fling them like that tennis ball into the lost world doing His good and acceptable and perfect will (Ro 12:2+). Are you in God's "sweet spot?" Don't you long for a sense of "divine destiny" a God given desire to be connected to something with a higher purpose, something "other worldly" (so to speak) rather than the worldly way of just surviving the "rat race?" Ask God and keep asking (Mt 7:7+ - ask, seek, knock all present tense = keep on asking, etc) until He reveals His purpose for your life. I was in my late 50's (and had been a believer for almost 20 years) before He revealed His plan for my life (or perhaps before He opened my eyes to see it!) and I began working on the website you are reading. Now I work on it daily and the only way to describe it is pure joy, made even more joyful when I receive letters from men and women who say they are beginning to learn how to truly walk with Christ enabled by His Spirit and are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen (2 Peter 3:18+). Dear reader following in the footsteps of the Messiah, I pray you will soon find your "sweet spot" and one day in eternity future we can share wonderful fellowship discussing how God gave us the privilege to participate in His good works which brought glory to His Name (Mt 5:14-16+).

Crying (994)(boao from boé995) means raise a cry, crying out loud with unusually high volume as a manifestation of feeling. John's preaching was undoubtedly passionate and full of emotion and feeling. He had been preparing his entire life for this purpose! And so he cried out from the depths of his heart in hopes that his message would reach the hearts of his Jewish hearers.  And lest we miss it, we should emphasize that John was simply a divine mouthpiece, so the One Who was really crying out to Israel was Jehovah Himself. Remember that Israel was the wife of Jehovah  and had gone astray from the Mosaic covenant, "My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD." (Jer 31:32+). Now after 400 "silent years" God was using His mouthpiece, John the Baptist, calling them "Return, O Israel." (Hos 14:1, Jer 3:14, Joel 2:12-13+). 

Wilderness(2048) see map of Judean Wilderness and also the note on eremos. (Used 9x in Mark - Mk. 1:3; Mk. 1:4; Mk. 1:12; Mk. 1:13; Mk. 1:35; Mk. 1:45; Mk. 6:31; Mk. 6:32; Mk. 6:35). In a way this word is a double entendre because John was himself in a literal wilderness crying and pointing out to the Jewish nation the way out of the spiritual wilderness and darkness which had enshrouded the nation of Israel for centuries.


Make ready the way of the Lord - Make ready is a command in the aorist imperative calling for his hearers to do this now and not to delay or procrastinate. Their need is urgent! As Wuest says "That was the character of the preaching of the Baptist. His was no pussy-footing, no beating about the bush, no smooth, oily, namby-pamby preaching. The Baptist was a man among men, and his preaching was straight from the shoulder." He is speaking figuratively of course and not calling for them to make a literal path but to make their hearts ready to receive the Lord Jesus.

Literally the idea was to fill in the holes, remove the rocks and debris and knock down the hills, to make the king's passage pleasant and easy. In this context of course the commands (make ready and prepare) convey a figurative meaning. So how were John's Jewish hearers to accomplish what he was commanding? John is calling for heart work! As Guzik says "Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer." If we compare the parallel passages in Matthew, we see that this quote from Isaiah 40:3 followed John's call to the people to "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt 3:2-3+) It follows that the way to make ready the way of the Lord is by personal repentance! And ultimately the only way natural men and women could obey these supernatural commands was by being enabled by the Spirit (See discussion of the Need for the Holy Spirit to obey NT commands or "How to Keep All 1642 Commandments in the New Testament!"). 

ESCHATOLOGICAL THOUGHT - It is interesting that in the Last Days, at the end of the Great Tribulation (Jer 30:7+), the Jews will (belatedly) obey this call of John with national mourning and repentance, Zechariah 12:10-14+ recording "I (JEHOVAH) will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." And at that time when Israel recognizes and receives her King, Jehovah goes on to declare "I will bring the third part (OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL) through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God (THESE STATEMENTS BY ISRAEL AND BY JEHOVAH ARE THE LANGUAGE OF COVENANT, specifically the FULFILLMENT OF THE NEW COVENANT TO ISRAEL AND TO JUDAH - see  Jer 31:31-37+)’” (Zechariah 13:9+, cf Ro 11:26-27+)

J D Jones on make ready - We are not to suppose that John was the only one who prepared the way. In a very deep and real sense all history prepared the way for Jesus. The Jewish nation, with its unconquerable hope of a coming Redeemer; the Greek nation, with its incomparable language; the Roman nation, with its system of law and its unifying of the peoples—all prepared the way for Jesus. And the preparation that we see on the broad field of world history, we see still more clearly when we concentrate our attention on sacred history. What is the Old Testament? It is just a record of how God had been preparing the way. Begin in Genesis with the first promise of the “seed of the woman” who is to bruise the serpent’s head, and read on till you come to Malachi with his announcement, “The Lord … shall suddenly come to His temple” (Mal. 3:1), and you will see how by means of prophet and psalmist and seer, God had been preparing the way. In this respect John only comes at the end of a long line. And yet John was in a very special sense our Lord’s forerunner...How did John prepare the way for Christ? By preaching the baptism of repentance. John’s preaching was terrible preaching. Sin was his theme, and repentance his call. And by this terrible preaching he made straight the way of the Lord. It was sub-soil ploughing. He broke through the hard crust of conventionalism and self-righteousness, and made the ground of the heart soft and ready to receive the good seed of the Kingdom. And it is noticeable that it was from the ranks of those who had been baptised by John that our Lord gathered His first disciples. John had created within them a genuine sorrow for sin, an eager expectation of Messiah, and so when Jesus appeared they were ready to leave all and follow Him.

Luke alsoalludes to John's mission while he is still in the womb writing "It is he (JOHN THE BAPTIST) who will go as a forerunner before Him (MESSIAH) in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Lk 1:17+) NET Note comments that "These two lines (in Lk 1:17) cover all relationships: Turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children points to horizontal relationships, while (turn) the disobedient to the wisdom of the just shows what God gives from above in a vertical manner." 

Make ready(2090)(hetoimazo from heteos = fitness - see study of related word hetoimasia) means to make ready, specifically to make ready beforehand for some purpose, use, or activity. Mark's uses of hetoimazo - Mk. 1:3; Mk. 10:40; Mk. 14:12; Mk. 14:15; Mk. 14:16. This same verb is used by Paul who charges us to do some spiritual housecleaning that we might be useful vessels in the hands of the Lord "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared (hetoimazo) for every good work." (2 Ti 2:21+) Thayer says when it is used as here to prepare the way (hodos = road) of the Lord, it is used as a figure “drawn from the oriental custom of sending on before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable,” thus, “to prepare the minds of men to give the Messiah a fit reception and secure His blessings.” The verb is plural and is thus addressed to Israel.

Lord (master, owner)(2962)(kurios from kuros= might or power, related to kuroo = to give authority) primarily means the possessor, owner, master, the supreme one, one who is sovereign and possesses absolute authority, absolute ownership and uncontested power.  Kurios is used literally 1000's of times in the Septuagint for the name Jehovah or Yahweh. 

THOUGHT - Edwards comments that "The imagery given in verse 3 from Isaiah 40:3-5 is also very pertinent for us. If Christ is going to continue His advance in our lives, then many things must be cleared away. The hills and mountains of pride and unrighteousness must be leveled. The valleys of things we lack must be filled up. Rough spots must be smoothed out until all which hinders us from reflecting God's glory is removed. Then our lives will no longer be a wilderness, but a highway upon which the King of glory may be clearly seen." 

Make His paths straight -Make (poieo) is in the present imperative, a command in the present tense and in the plural thus calling for this to be continuously obeyed by the people of Israel. As Wuest says this obedience "should be a habit with Israel, a constant attitude, not a formal. abrupt welcome and that is all, but a welcome that would extend on and on, an habitual welcome that would be the natural expression of their heart."  A T Robertson comments that"Automobile highways today well illustrate the wonderful Persian roads for the couriers of the king and then for the king himself. The Roman Empire was knit together by roads, some of which survive today. John had a high and holy mission as the forerunner of the Messiah." 

Straight (2117)(euthus) when used as an adjective as it is here in Mark 1:3, euthus literally means straight or a straight line and figuratively to what is proper or right. For example, in Acts 9:11 euthus described a literal roadway "the street called Straight (euthus)" which was literally straight through Damascus. The use of euthus in Mark 1:3 is figurative calling for "straight paths" (so to speak) in one's heart and life (cf Mt 3:3+, Lk 3:4+). Euthus is used again in Luke 3:5+ (quoting the Septuagint reading of Isaiah 40:4), where we read "the crooked (skolios - "crooked" lives) will be straight (euthus)" which speaks of heart change, moral/ethical transformation.  Euthus is also used as adverb meaning immediately which is a key word in the Gospel of Mark as evidenced by 11 uses in the first chapter!



Before long, friends will be asking, “Are you ready for Christmas?” For people of the Advent, there is more to that question than most of us realize. Throughout the history of the church Christmas has been referred to as the Advent of Christ. The word advent means “coming,” and there has never been, in the history of the world, a more strategic coming than His. The Old Testament heralds His coming, and John the Baptist fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet when he called Israel to prepare the way for the arrival of their King.

While He has already come and conquered, the celebration of Christmas is a perfect time to make a highway for our Lord in the confused and often difficult wilderness of our own lives. What better time than Christmas for us to focus on the gifts and profound grace that surround His coming and to “strike up the band” of our hearts to celebrate Him as our King; to renew our desire to make a way for Him in our relationships, wills, plans, hopes, and dreams.

And while we are thinking of Advent, it’s hard to escape the thought that He is coming back again and will once and for all put away sorrow, pain, failure, and confusion; and take us to His home, where there is joy forever in His presence. Advent people purify their lives to prepare for this glorious event (1 John 3:1–3).

The next time you are asked, “Are you ready for Christmas?” remember that being “ready” is about much more than your “to do” list. So set down those packages and that tangled string of Christmas lights. Fix your heart on the wonder of God’s visiting our planet, and remember that the tiny baby who entered the world so quietly on that first Christmas Day will one day come again triumphantly to take you home at last. What can you do to make ready the way of the Lord in the wilderness of your life? Be specific.

Mark 1:4  John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

WUEST  Mark 1:4 There arose John, the baptizer, in the uninhabited region, making a public proclamation of a baptism which had to do with a change of mind relative to the previous life an individual lived, this baptism being in view of the fact that sins are put away.

HENDRIKSEN Mark 1:4 So John the Baptist came, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of conversion (“of a complete turnabout in mind and heart”) for the forgiveness of sins

NET  Mark 1:4 In the wilderness John the baptizer began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

GNT  Mark 1:4 ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης [ὁ] βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.

NLT  Mark 1:4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins.

KJV  Mark 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

ESV  Mark 1:4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

NIV  Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

ASV  Mark 1:4 John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins.

CSB  Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

NKJ  Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

NRS  Mark 1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

YLT  Mark 1:4 John came baptizing in the wilderness, and proclaiming a baptism of reformation -- to remission of sins,

  • a baptism: Mt 3:1,2,6,11 Lu 3:2,3  Joh 3:23 Ac 10:37 13:24,25 19:3,4 
  • repentance for the forgiveness of sins : Ac 22:16 
  • Mark 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

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John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness (See Summary of John the Baptist above) - John the Baptist is not the best translation for the Greek reads more literally "the one who baptizes" (ho baptizon). In other words, John was identified as a baptizer! Baptist is not the same word baptistesused most often by Matthew as a title as in Mt 3:1+, but is the verb  baptizo which in the present tense (participle = "-ing" = baptizing) describes what John was doing, which was continually baptizing! Baptizing (and preaching) was his life! ESV, NIV, CSB, NKJV translate the Greek more literally as "John appeared, baptizing." The verb appeared means to arrive and is conceived of as his appearing or in a sense "coming into existence" in the wilderness. And so in keeping with Mark's style, he has John suddenly coming into existence so to speak, abruptly showing up on the scene in the wilderness.

Preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins - Preaching or better proclaimingis in the present tense depicting this as John's lifestyle, indeed his life purpose! He was fulfilling his role as herald of the coming Messiah. A herald had a message to announce by his lord and was responsible to convey the message clearly, accurately, and authoritatively. Hendriksen says "Now what was new and startling was not that he baptized, for the people were already acquainted with the baptism of proselytes, but rather that this rite, being the sign and seal (Rom. 4:11; cf. Col. 2:11, 12) of a fundamental transformation of mind, heart, and life, was required even of the children of Abraham! They too must be converted...a radical change of mind and heart leading to a complete turnabout of life." (Ibid)

Hiebert notes that “The baptism of repentance”—a baptism characterized by repentance. His baptism was not intended to induce repentance but rather was administered to those who were repentant (cf. Mt 3:7–10). Repentance is more than grief or regret for sin; it is a deep change of mind, an altered attitude toward sin which has its proper fruit in a deliberate change of conduct for the better. Their failure to manifest such a change in their conduct disqualified the Jewish leaders for John’s baptism. (Mark Commentary)

Wuest - Robertson quotes Broadus as saying that this is the worst translation in the New Testament. “Repent” he says, “means to be sorry again.” John did not call on Israel to be sorry, but to change their mental attitude and conduct. The word for “sorry” in Greek is metamellomai (μεταμελεομαι), and is used of Judas (Matt. 27:3). The word used here (metanoia (μετανοια)) means “a change of mind and thus of action consequent upon the realization that one has sinned and that sin is wrong.” Metamellomai (Μεταμελομαι) is sorrow for sin because of its evil consequences. This is remorse. Vincent, commenting on this phrase, says, “A baptism the characteristic of which was repentance, which involved an obligation to repent.”

Note that John's baptism in the Jordan River did not in and of itself result in forgiveness of one's sins (see comments by Bock, et al below). Paul explains this in Acts

"Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling (present tense = continually telling) the people to believe (pisteuo) in Him Who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” (Acts 19:4+)

And so as John baptized the Jews, he was also continually telling them they must believe in Jesus and (by implication) not in the physical act of baptism. They were not to put their faith in the fact that they were physically, literally baptized but were to put their FAITH in the MESSIAH, Who Alone could save them from their sins. Cp Mk 1:7+, Lu 3:16+. As best I can discern, none of the synoptic accounts give us a record of any Jews who repented, then believed in Jesus and were saved. This has always confused me but Darrell Bock (see below) gives a relatively satisfying explanation of what transpired at John's baptism of repentance.

Preaching(proclaiming, heralding) (2784)(kerusso from kerux/keryx = a herald = messenger vested with public authority who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand; kerugma =  thing preached) means to proclaim (publicly) or to herald or act as a public crier - the town official who would make a proclamation in a public gathering.  Kerusso was used of the official whose duty it was to proclaim loudly and extensively the coming of an earthly king, even as our gospel is to clearly announce the coming of the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16+)!  Kerusso is used frequently by Mark - Mk. 1:4; Mk. 1:7; Mk. 1:14; Mk. 1:38; Mk. 1:39; Mk. 1:45; Mk. 3:14; Mk. 5:20; Mk. 6:12; Mk. 7:36; Mk. 13:10; Mk. 14:9; Mk. 16:15; Mk. 16:20;  Thayer says, kerusso always means preaching "with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and authority which must be listened to and obeyed.”

Certain qualities were required of heralds. They must have powerful voices, so voice auditions were often held. Also they had to be capable of calming down an unruly mob, in order to faithfully communicate the command. An honest disposition was also required, as a protection against the exaggeration of a royal decree. Furthermore, they could make no additions or subtractions from the received message. Later these heralds were also used to declare the message of a Greek deity or a religious oracle.

The Imperial Herald would enter a town in behalf of the Emperor, and make a public proclamation of the message which his Sovereign ordered him to give, doing so with such formality, gravity, and authority as to emphasize that the message must be heeded! (Think about this in regard to the Gospel of God instead of the decree of a man! cf 1Th 2:13+). He gave the people exactly what the Emperor bade him give, nothing more, nothing less. He did not dare add to the message or take away from it.

Wuest - The English word “preach” brings to our mind, a minister of the gospel in his pulpit expounding the Word of God. But the word Mark uses here, pictures John as a herald with an official proclamation from a coming King, the Messiah of Israel. He acted as one, making a public proclamation of the news of the advent of the Messiah with such formality, gravity, and authority as must be listened to and obeyed. The coming of the forerunner and then of the King, had to Israel the atmosphere of the words kērussō (κηρυσσω) and kērux (κηρυξ) about them (Matt. 21:1–11).

Baptism(908)(baptisma from bapto = dip as in dye to color) is the result of the act of dipping, plunging, immersing, washing. something or someone. The suffix -ma indicates the result of dipping or sinking or baptizing while baptismos is the act of baptizing.BDAG - (1) Ceremonious use of water for purpose of renewing or establishing a relationship with God. (2) An extraordinary experience akin to an initiatory purification rite - a plunge, a baptism. Metaphor of martyrdom ( Mk 10:38-39; Lk 12:50+; Mt 20:22f).  Mark uses baptisma 4x -- Mk. 1:4; Mk. 10:38; Mk. 10:39; Mk. 11:30

Repentance(3341)(metanoia from meta = after + noéo = to understand) literally means "afterthought" or "to think after" and implies a change of mind. From the NT uses, it is clear that metanoia means much more than merely a change of mind but also includes a complete change of heart attitude and a result a full "about face" change in direction of one's life. This is Mark's only use of metanoia, but he has 2 uses of the verb metanoeo (Mk 1:15+, Mk 6:12+).

PRESBYTERIAN SHORTER CATECHISM: REPENTANCE is a saving grace whereby a sinner out a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ doth with faith and hatred turn from it to God with full purpose of an endeavor after new obedience.''

As discussed above, while John's baptism of repentance does not necessarily indicate that all who were baptized also genuinely believed in the Messiah, clearly metanoia is part of conversion for Jesus' teaches

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (metanoeo), than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (metanoia). (Luke 15:7+)

Bishop Ryle offers this descriptive definition of repentance - Repentance is a thorough change of man's natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming. There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride, and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man. Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls "repentance." The man in whom the change is wrought is said to "repent." (Repentance)

One of the best illustrations of genuine repentance is found in Paul's description of the saints at Thessalonica…

For they themselves (other believers in Macedonia and Achaia) report about us (Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1:10-See notes1Th 1:9; 1:10)

In Acts 20:21+ Paul declares that he was "solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

C H Spurgeon wrote that "Repentance and faith must go together to complete each other. I compare them to a door and its post. Repentance is the door which shuts out sin, but faith is the post on which its hinges are fixed. A door without a doorpost to hang on is not a door at all, while a doorpost without the door hanging on it is of no value whatever. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder, and these two he has made inseparable—repentance and faith)

J C Ryle wrote… There can be no true repentance without faith. You may cast away your old habits, as the serpent casts off his skin—but if you are not resting all upon the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and looking to be saved by simple faith in Him, you may be wise in your own eyes—but you are just ignorant of the root and fountain, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, in all true gospel religion. You may tell us you have repented—but if you have not at the same time laid hold on Christ, you have hitherto received the grace of God in vain.

Related Resource

Forgiveness(859)(aphesis from aphiemi = action which causes separation and is in turn derived from apo = from + hiemi = put in motion, send) literally means to send away or to put apart, a letting go, a leaving behind, a removal.  Aphesis refers to a remission as when one remits (pardons, cancels) a debt, or releases then from an obligation. To release from captivity. Remission (see definition of English word) of sins means once and for all taking them away, removing the guilt, punishment and power of sin. And so to release one’s sins, is not just release from the ("legal" or forensic) charge and the just penalty of sin but also release from the power and dominion of sin (and in Heaven the release from the presence of sin and the pleasure of sin). And so we see that Wuest translates Col 1:14+ as "the putting away of our sins" (Wuest) There are 2 uses of aphesis in Mark - Mark 1:4, Mark 3:29+.

The picture of God "putting away our sins" or sending our sins away was beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament by the scapegoat being sent away on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur):

Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. (Lev 16:21, 22+).

Sins(266) (hamartia) literally conveys the idea of missing the mark as when hunting with a bow and arrow (in Homer some hundred times of a warrior hurling his spear but missing his foe). Later hamartia came to mean missing or falling short of any goal, standard, or purpose. Hamartia in the Bible signifies a departure from God's holy, perfect standard of what is right in word or deed (righteous). It pictures the idea of missing His appointed goal (His will) which results in a deviation from what is pleasing to Him. In short, sin is conceived as a missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is the Triune God Himself. As Martin Luther put it "Sin is essentially a departure from God."

Ray Stedman asks "What is sin? Well, basically and fundamentally, sin is self-centeredness, that's all. We commit sins because we are thinking of ourselves, loving ourselves, indulging ourselves, looking out for ourselves, taking care that no one get ahead of us. That is the essence of sin -- self-centeredness. We are all victims of it. There is not one of us who does not struggle in this area. We find ourselves trapped in it constantly. That is the curse which hangs over our whole human race. We were made by God to be vessels to convey his outgoing love, to reach out with it to everyone around us. Somehow that has become twisted, so that now -- instead of reaching out -- we reach in, and we love ourselves first." And sin always produces guilt. Guilt is dislike of ourselves. We do not like the fact that we hurt others -- and we know we do. We feel responsible because we see the damage we do in other people's lives by our self-centeredness, and we feel guilty about it. We learn to hate ourselves to a considerable degree. That is why psychologists say that the great problem humanity wrestles with is self-hatred. Carl Menninger wrote a book, Man Against Himself, in which he documents that this is what we do. We hate ourselves. We do not like ourselves. We lose our self-respect. That is guilt. Guilt is always accompanied by fear, because fear is self-distrust. Fear is feeling unable to handle life anymore, being aware that there are forces and powers we are unable to control, and which eventually are going to confront us. We are not able to handle them, and so we run from them. Even in the Garden of Eden, as soon as Adam and Eve sinned they felt guilty, and they hid in fear. It has been the history of the race ever since. Fear looms up, that uncertainty about the future, and we become fearful, timid people, afraid of what will happen next. We are walking on eggs all the time, afraid of being accepted or rejected, afraid of what people will do to us -- and especially, finally, afraid of what God is going to do to us. That is an inner torment the like of which there is no equal. (Mark 1:1-8 The Place To Begin)

J C Ryle has a few words of warning regarding repentance - We must carefully bear in mind that no repentance can make atonement for sin. The blood of Christ, and nothing else, can wash away sin from man's soul. No quantity of repentance can ever justify us in the sight of God. "We are accounted righteous before God, only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings." It is of the utmost importance to understand this clearly. The trouble that men bring upon their souls, by misunderstanding this subject, is more than can be expressed.

But while we say all this, we must carefully remember that without repentance no soul was ever yet saved. We must know our sins, mourn over them, forsake them, abhor them, or else we shall never enter the kingdom of heaven. There is nothing meritorious in this. It forms no part whatever of the price of our redemption. Our salvation is all of grace, from first to last. But the great fact still remains, that saved souls are always penitent souls, and that saving faith in Christ, and true repentance toward God, are never found asunder. This is a mighty truth, and one that ought never to be forgotten.

Do we ourselves repent? This, after all, is the question which most nearly concerns us. Have we been convinced of sin by the Holy Spirit? Have we fled to Jesus for deliverance from the wrath to come? Do we know anything of a broken and contrite heart, and a thorough hatred of sin? Can we say, "I repent," as well as "I believe?" If not, let us not delude our minds with the idea that our sins are yet forgiven. It is written, "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3+)

Mark 1:5  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.

  • And all the country of Judea was going out to him: Mt 3:5,6 4:25 
  • they were being baptized by him Joh 1:28 3:23 
  • Confessing their sins: Lev 26:40-42 Jos 7:19 Ps 32:5 Pr 28:13 Ac 2:38 19:18 1Jn 1:8-10 
  • Map of ministry of John the Baptist
  • Mark 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

John the Baptist


And all the country of Judea was going out to him - While John was indeed in the wilderness, he was not a hermit or recluse, but was fully willing for the crowds come out to see and hear him. Why did John elicit such a response? As Matthew says in his Gospel the people "all regard John as a prophet." (Mt 21:26) And Israel had been without a prophet since Malachi, and so many responded because they knew that a prophet came with a message from God. Who wouldn't want to hear a man with a message from God? Little did they know that this message would be a call to repent from their sins! The country does not refer to the land of Judea but to the people of Judea as the context clearly shows -- it would be difficult for "the country" to go out to John if it were land. Country is therefore a figure of speech known as metonymy which is when one uses the name of one object or concept for that of something else with which it is associated (e.g., "I spent the evening reading Shakespeare." You read his writings not Shakespeare himself so you have used Metonymy is a figure of association.) The verb going out is imperfect tense which vividly pictures a steady stream of men and women going out to him. While we cannot know how many in Israel came out, some commentators have estimated that at least a million people came to see and hear him!

And perhaps John became a bit too popular for the likes of jealous King Herod. The Jewish historian Josephus writes "Now, when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were greatly moved by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod’s suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death." (Antiquities 18.5.2).

Hiebert - "Although located in Judea, Jerusalem is distinguished from the province. This is a common practice in the Gospels." (Mark Commentary)

And all the people of Jerusalem - Although Mark says "all" this is hyperbole, but in any event indicates that this strange "hairy" prophet was quite the attraction and many journeyed from the city to the river!

And they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River - Were being baptized is in the imperfect tense which indicates that John was repeatedly baptizing Jerusalemites - one can picture them coming one after another! It would have been quite a scene! He was not simply baptizing all comers, performing a mechanical act, but was baptizing those who confessed their sins. Were they are saved? I don't think so, although those who confessed, repented and believed in Jesus were saved. Faith as always is the key that opens the door into the Kingdom of God. 

John Phillips comments "John's baptism focussed on repentance. John did not want proselytes; he wanted penitents. His baptism could not wash away sin, but his preaching could produce conviction of sin. Those who repented under John's preaching simply, and in a most public way, signified their repentance by being immersed in the Jordan. Cleansing would have to await the ministry of the Messiah."

William Lane has an interesting perspective on John's baptism in the wilderness - The summons to be baptized in the Jordan meant that Israel must come once more to the wilderness. As Israel long ago had been separated from Egypt by a pilgrimage through the waters of the Red Sea, the nation is exhorted again to experience separation; the people are called to a second "exodus" in preparation for a new covenant with God ... As the people heed John’s call and go out to him in the desert far more is involved than contrition and confession. They return to a place of judgment, the wilderness, where the status of Israel as God’s beloved son must be re-established in the exchange of pride for humility. The willingness to return to the wilderness signifies the acknowledgment of Israel’s history as one of disobedience and rebellion, and a desire to begin once more. (The Gospel according to Mark, New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974], 50-51)

J C Ryle addresses John's popularity in Israel and how great were the effects of his ministry at least for a time in the nation of Israel. 

We are told that, "People from Jerusalem and from all over Judea traveled out into the wilderness to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River." The fact here recorded is one that is much overlooked. We are apt to lose sight of him who went before the face of our Lord, and to see nothing but the Lord Himself. We forget the morning star in the full blaze of the Sun. And yet it is clear that John's preaching arrested the attention of the whole Jewish people, and created an excitement all over Palestine. It aroused the nation from its slumbers, and prepared it for the ministry of our Lord, when He appeared. Jesus Himself says, "He was a burning and a shining light--you were willing to rejoice for a season in his light." (John 5:35.) We ought to remark here how little dependence is to be placed on what is called "popularity." If ever there was one who was a popular minister for a season, John the Baptist was that man. Yet of all the crowds who came to his baptism, and heard his preaching, how few, it may be feared, were converted! Some, we may hope, like Andrew, were guided by John to Christ. But the vast majority, in all probability, died in their sins. Let us remember this whenever we see a crowded church. A great congregation no doubt is a pleasing sight. But the thought should often come across our minds, "How many of these people will reach heaven at last?" It is not enough to hear and admire popular preachers. It is no proof of our conversion that we always worship in a place where there is a crowd. Let us take care that we hear the voice of Christ Himself, and follow Him. (Commentary)

Were being baptized (907)(baptizo from bapto = cover wholly with a fluid; stain or dip as with dye; used of the smith tempering the red-hot steel, used of dyeing the hair; of a ship that "dipped" = sank) has a literal and a figurative meaning in the NT. The literal meaning is to submerge, to dip or immerse as in water. A study of the 77 NT uses reveals that most of the uses of baptizo in the Gospels and Acts are associated with literal water baptism. Mark uses baptizo 4x in this section (Mk 1:4, 5, 8, 9 - twice in v8). All of Mark's uses - Mk. 1:4; Mk. 1:5; Mk. 1:8; Mk. 1:9; Mk. 6:14; Mk. 6:24; Mk. 10:38; Mk. 10:39; Mk. 16:16

The Greeks used baptizo to describe the dyeing of a garment, in which the whole material was plunged in and taken out from the element used. Baptizo was used of the act of sinking ships. Baptizo also meant to bathe of a boat which had been wrecked by being submerged and then stranded on the shore. Figuratively, baptizo pictures the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition. In this sense baptizo means to be identified with. In some contexts baptizo meant to wash ceremonially for purpose of purification (washing of cups - Mk 7:4, Lk 11:38+ = This custom before meals, prescribed by the Pharisees, was not required by the original Mosaic law. See Ritual Washing in Judaism). Jesus used this verb figuratively to alert his disciples to a coming baptism of suffering ("They [disciples] said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized." (Mk 10:39+). This describes them in a sense as “immersed” or “covered over” with suffering (cf Lk 12:50+)!

The baptism of John the Baptist was for repentance and was associated with John calling for the people to believe in Jesus (Acts 19:4+) (cf, Mt 3:6, Mk 1:4, 5). In Lk 7:29+ "When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John." This suggests that they were saved. Contrast those in Lk 7:30+  "But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected [atheteo] God’s purpose [boule] for themselves, not having been baptized [baptizo] by John." Note that it was not the fact that John baptized in water that they were saved but those who were in fact saved were saved based on their repentance and their belief in Jesus (Who was coming). Those who were genuinely saved  exercised faith in the truth they knew of Messiah (before the Cross), which is how all Old Testament saints were saved. (See comments by Bock and MacArthur below)

IDENTIFICATION - James Montgomery Boice helps understand this figurative meaning of baptizo writing that "The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism... mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with Him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!" (Bolding added)

Warren Wiersbe - When you read about “baptism” in the New Testament, you must exercise discernment to determine whether the word is to be interpreted literally or symbolically. For example, in Romans 6:3, 4+ and Galatians 3:27, 28+, the reference is symbolic (Ed: and figurative) since water baptism cannot put a sinner into Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that (Ro 8:9+; 1Co 12:13; see Acts 10:44, 45, 46, 47, 48+). Water baptism is a public witness of the person’s identification with Jesus Christ, while Spirit baptism is the personal and private experience that identifies the person with Christ.

Confessing their sins - To confess one’s sins, as they were being baptized, is to agree with God about them. John baptized no one who did not confess and repent of his sins. The word “confess” (below) is a compound word meaning “to speak the same thing that another speaks,” thus, “to agree with.” Thus, confession of sin is more than a mere acknowledgment of sin in one's life. It is agreeing with God as to all the implications that enter into the fact that one has sinned. It is looking at sin from God’s point of view, and acting accordingly (repenting of it!) -- putting away of the sin, determining to be done with that sin, something that can only be done in reliance on the Holy Spirit. Our natural man does not truly want to confess or repent. We have to submit to the energizing effect of the indwelling Spirit to give us the desire (to confess) and the power (to follow through) (Php 2:13NLT+).

Hiebert - “Confessing their sins”—confession of sins at the time of their baptism marked the reality of their repentance. The original, “confessing out,” indicates the openness and fullness of the confession. It was a public acknowledgment of sins, although certainly not in full, colorful detail. Confessing basically means “speaking the same thing.” They openly agreed with the divine verdict concerning their deeds. True confession implies our willingness to call our sins by the name that God gives them. (Mark Commentary)

Confessing(present tense) (1843)(exomologeo from ek - wholly out from or ex = out or intensify meaning [implies full, frank, open confession, openly or publicly] of homologeo - to say the same thing about from homos = same + lego = speak) means to speak the same thing that another speaks, to fully agree with someone else in this case agreeing with God that they missed the mark (sinned). 

Gary Hill - Exomologeo = fully agree, and acknowledging that agreement openly (whole-heartedly) for a particular outcome: confessing ("openly declaring") without reservation (no holding back)… Agreeing with God is everything! 

The question arises as to whether those being baptized by John were genuinely saved? The short answer is not necessarily. See the following explanations.

Darrell Bock helps us understand John's baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

The final characteristic mentioned about this baptism is its goal. It is directed toward, (eis, for), the forgiveness of sins. This statement could be read to suggest that some type of total forgiveness and efficacy is found in John’s baptism that makes the experience one of “becoming saved.” However, this understanding reads back more into the event than the time of the event and the presentation of Luke will allow. John is a preparatory figure (Lk 1:17+ ="It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”, Luke 1:76–77+; Schürmann 1969: 154–57). He prepares a people for God. Most importantly, John says that his baptism is nothing compared to the baptism that the Mightier One brings (Lk 3:16+). So John’s baptism is a prophetic eschatological washing; that is, it is a baptism of promise that looks to the greater baptism of the Spirit (Schürmann 1969: 158–60). It points forward to the cleansing that comes to those who respond to Messiah’s offer with faith. This association of Spirit and cleansing was mentioned in the OT (Ezek. 36:25–27+; Zech. 13:1+). The washing in the Jordan adds symbolism, picturing either repentance (Isa. 1:16–17+; Jer. 4:14) or divine cleansing (Ps. 51:7–9+; Isa. 4:2–6+; Ezek. 37:23+; Jer. 33:8+) or, perhaps, both (Nolland 1989: 141). If there be any doubt that Luke understands John in this prophetic and eschatological fashion, a glance at Acts 19:1–10+ ends any such uncertainty. Disciples who know only of John are to accept immediately the baptism tied to Jesus. Acts 19:4+ makes it clear that John’s baptism is not complete in itself, but points to faith in Jesus (also Acts 13:24+). Thus, John’s baptism represented for its precross Israelite audience a commitment to a new approach to God resulting in a life of fruitfulness for God and expectation of the eschaton....In short, John’s baptism was a step on the way to the Promised One’s forgiveness. The repentance in view here will not only make one alter the way one lives, but also will cause one to see “the Mightier One to come” as the promise of God. To submit to this baptism is to confess one’s commitment to this perspective. This is the essence of John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Baker Exegetical Commentary-Luke)

John MacArthur adds that

"while there were various ceremonial washings in Judaism (cf. Heb. 6:2+), there was no baptism of Jews. But while there was no baptism of Jews in Judaism, the Jews did baptize Gentile converts to Judaism (Gentile proselytes). Thus, those who “were being baptized by [John] in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins” (Mt. 3:6+), were publicly acknowledging that they were no better than the Gentiles. Their sins had separated them from the true and living God (cf. Isa 59:2) and cut them off from covenant blessings. For Jewish people to place themselves on the same level as the despised Gentiles was astonishing, and demonstrates the power of John’s preaching. Unfortunately, few being baptized by John were truly repentant. The nation would later reject Jesus when He failed to meet their expectations of a political Messiah, who would deliver them from the Romans. Others were superficial from the start....But those few (Mt 7:13–14+) who acknowledged their sinful condition and alienation from God and turned to Him in repentant faith were saved. (Luke Commentary)

Comment - While there were not many who were saved as a result of John's baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, there do appear to be some, and below are some examples to consider:

  • Acts 18:24-25+ records "Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John." (COMMENT: So either directly or indirectly he had been instructed by John the Baptist. From Luke's description Apollos was clearly saved. Unlike the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19:1-7 there is no evidence that Apollos needed to be re-baptized.)
  • Another possible example is two of John the Baptist's disciples, Andrew and John, who became Jesus' disciples. John records "Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples (ANDREW AND JOHN) heard him speak, and they followed Jesus." (John 1:35-37+) (COMMENT: So obviously Andrew and John believed in Jesus, although exactly when they truly believed is difficult to state dogmatically.)
  • In addition Jesus alludes to some who believed - "For John came to you ("the chief priests and the elders" - Mt 21:23) in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse (metamellomai) afterward so as to believe him." (Mt 21:32, cf Mt 21:25)
  • In a similar allusion by Jesus we read - “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice,having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves (Ryle = "they rejected God’s offer of salvation"), not having been baptized by John. (Lk 7:28-30+)

MacArthur on Mark 1:4 - Multitudes from Jerusalem, Jericho, and all the country of Judea came to hear John, to confess their sins, and to be baptized by him. By confessing their sins, the people agreed with God that they had broken His law and needed to be forgiven. But in the end, this revival proved to be largely superficial. Sadly, the nation that flocked to John at the peak of his popularity would later reject the Messiah to Whom his whole ministry pointed. (MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Mark 1-8)

John Martin - John’s baptism was associated with repentance, that is, it outwardly pictured an inner change of heart. The word “for” (eis) refers back to the whole “baptism of repentance.” The baptism did not save anyone, as is clear from what follows (Lk 3:7–14+). Repentance was “unto” (literal rendering of eis) or resulted in sins forgiven. Since John’s function was to be Christ’s forerunner, so also his baptism prefigured a different baptism (Luke 3:16+) (Bible Knowledge Commentary - Luke)

J. Oswald Sanders lists the following characteristics of the ministry of John the Baptist, characteristics that every believer should seek to imitate (cf Heb 6:12): 

1. GENUINE HUMILITY - true humility is not putting ourselves down but lifting other up. John's life was utterly oriented towards lifting up the person of Christ (Mk 1:7-8). "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

2. BURNING CONVICTIONS - an opinion is something we hold, a conviction is something which holds us. We may argue our opinions, but we must be willing to die for our convictions. John's convictions about sin, righteousness, and judgment ultimately cost him his freedom and life (Mk 1:14).

3. TRANSPARENT SINCERITY- The crowds saw something in John which was markedly absent in the religious leaders of the day - utter sincerity. "He was the burning and shining lamp" (John 5:35). At every turn he denounced hypocrisy and shallow commitment, and used his life to call attention to the person and work of Christ.

4. DAUNTLESS COURAGE - John's preaching was never warped by seeking the praise of men. When confronted by Herod, John's message never deviated - "It is not lawful for you to have her (his brother's wife)" (Matt 14:4).

5. RIGOROUS SELF-DISCIPLINE - His clothing, housing, and diet were a sharp rebuke to the soft and easy lifestyles of the religious leaders of his day. John's was a ministry which cost him, and we must not be deluded into believing that we can serve without sacrifice (Mal 1:6-8, 12-14; 2 Sa 24:24).

Gotquestions addresses the question of the meaning of John's baptism - 

Though today the word baptism generally evokes thoughts of identifying with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, baptism did not begin with Christians. For years before Christ, the Jews had used baptism in ritual cleansing ceremonies of Gentile proselytes. John the Baptist took baptism and applied it to the Jews themselves—it wasn’t just the Gentiles who needed cleansing. Many believed John’s message and were baptized by him (Matthew 3:5–6). The baptisms John performed had a specific purpose.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist mentions the purpose of his baptisms: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Paul affirms this in Acts 19:4: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” John’s baptism had to do with repentance—it was a symbolic representation of changing one’s mind and going a new direction. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Being baptized by John demonstrated a recognition of one’s sin, a desire for spiritual cleansing, and a commitment to follow God’s law in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival.

There were some, like the Pharisees, who came to the Jordan to observe John’s ministry but who had no desire to step into the water themselves. John rebuked them sternly: “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’” (Matthew 3:7–8). Even the religious leaders needed to repent of their sin, although they saw no need of it.

Christian baptism today also symbolizes repentance, cleansing, and commitment, but Jesus has given it a different emphasis. Christian baptism is a mark of one’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is representative of a cleansing that is complete and a commitment that is the natural response of one who has been made new. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross completely washes away our sins, and we are raised to new life empowered by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17–21; Romans 6:1–11).

With John’s baptism, a person repented of sin and was therefore ready to place his faith in Jesus Christ. John’s baptism foreshadowed what Jesus would accomplish, much as the Old Testament sacrificial system did. John prepared the way for Christ by calling people to acknowledge their sin and their need for salvation. His baptism was a purification ceremony meant to ready the peoples’ hearts to receive their Savior.

Mark 1:6  John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.


John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist - He was outfitted for survival in the wilderness—like a desert monk." (Barton) In the parallel description in Mark 1:6+ the verb "clothed" is in the perfect tense that indicates John's garb was not his occasional dress when he preached (like a pastor might put on a suit), but his permanent attire. He probably would not make the front cover of "GQ Magazine!" John's attire was in striking contrast to that of the religious leaders in Israel, whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in their position and their desire to be noticed by men (Mt 23:5) Broadus writes that the "clothing of camel’s hair was a coarse cloth made by weaving camel’s hair, and such cloth is still often worn in the East by the poor." The wealthy of John's day wore girdles of costly linen or silk, often wrought with silver or gold. John scorned such embellishments preferring instead a simple leather beltA leather belt is referred to in the KJV a girdle of skin which "was a necessary and almost universal part of an Oriental’s dress (Mt 10:9,  Acts 21:11+), being required to bind the long, loose robe (Mt 5:40), in order to active labor, or rapid locomotion, and it was often very costly and showy (cp. Rev. 1:13). John’s girdle was made of leather, cheap and rude, as was Elijah’s, (2 Ki 1:8)" (Broadus) "A camel hair garment bound with a leather belt might suggest poverty in another context, but here it is suggestive of John’s prophetic role and stern message of repentance....All in all, John’s clothing and diet modeled the message he preached. He was unconcerned with the niceties of wardrobe and food (Mt 11:8, 18), and he called Israel away from preoccupation with such things and toward the Kingdom." (David Turner) As D A Carson said "Both Elijah and John had stern ministries in which austere garb and diet confirmed their message and condemned the idolatry of physical and spiritual softness.” (EBC) Undoubtedly John's father had told him of the prophetic pronouncement over his life and ministry that he would "go as a forerunner before Him (MESSIAH) in the spirit and power of Elijah." (Lk 1:17+).

THOUGHT - Would such an uncouth figure be welcome today in any pulpit in our cities? In the wilderness it did not matter. It was probably a matter of necessity with him, not an affectation. (Robertson) Also consider that some Jews undoubtedly came out of curiosity and heard a call to repent. Are unbelievers curious about your Christian lifestyle and values? As Peter exhorts the believers in his first epistle "Sanctify (aorist imperative) Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pe 3:15+, cf Ro 11:11NLT+).

John was in the mold of the powerful prophet Elijah -  

They answered him (THE KING OF SAMARIA - 2 Ki 1:1-7), “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”  (2 Ki 1:8)

And his diet was locusts and wild honey - Click the locust above to make him big and somewhat intimidating. I wonder if John ate "kosher locusts?" Leviticus had put the stamp of approval on locusts declaring "These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds." (Lev 11:22+) One commentator says modern Bedouins still wear camel hair garments and eat locusts (grasshoppers). Honey is mentioned several times in the OT  (Gen 43:11; Exod 3:8; Deut 32:13; Jdg 14:8; 1 Sam 14:25; Ps 81:16; Ezek 27:17)

Broadus - The law of Moses (Lev. 11:22) allowed locusts, at least of certain kinds, to be eaten; and a treatise in the Talmud copiously discusses the marks by which ‘clean’ locusts might be distinguished. To eat these is still common in the East among the poor. The heads, legs, and wings being removed, they are boiled, stewed, or roasted, and sometimes dressed with butter. They are eaten both fresh, and dried, or salted. They are very different from what we call locusts. 

THOUGHT - And just in case you are wondering wild honey is basically devoid of protein, so John would have had to depend solely on his locust intake.  "The protein content in fresh weight is between 13–28 g/100g for adult locust, 14–18 g/100g for larvae, as compared to 19–26 g/100g for beef."  So let's say an average male needs about 60 grams of protein per day and the average locust weighs 2 grams which means John would have had to eat about 100 fresh locusts each day to achieve his minimum daily requirement for protein! 

Wikipedia on locusts as food - Locusts are edible insects. Several cultures throughout the world consume insects, and locusts are considered a delicacy and eaten in many African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. They have been used as food throughout history. They can be cooked in many ways, but are often fried, smoked, or dried. 

Bruce Barton - BEING WEIRD - John’s appearance and lifestyle dramatically contrasted with the people of his day. He looked and lived as he did both out of necessity and to further demonstrate his message. Some people go to great extremes today to demonstrate their loyalty to sports teams: They buy jackets, license plates, ties, and collectibles. Since the days of the early church, faithful Christians have shown loyalty in many ways. Some have adopted clothes and eating habits similar to John’s. Some have tried to imitate Peter or other early Christian leaders. Today, with so much loyalty evident on any city block (just count the baseball caps), Christians need “caps” to show their commitment to Jesus. And the Bible suggests the most important emblems: attitudes like loving others, being hopeful under stress, and trusting in God for daily needs. Badges like these show others how faith in the living God makes a difference in your life. What loyalties does your life portray? (Life Application Commentary)

Related Resource:

Mark 1:7  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.

  • Mt 3:11,14 Lu 3:16 7:6,7 Joh 1:27 3:28-31 Ac 13:25 
  • Mark 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


And he was preaching - Preaching is in the imperfect tense indicating over and over, again and again. John understood his purpose for existence and stuck with the divine plan for his life. 

THOUGHT - Do you know God's plan for your life? Paul writes of every believer that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. " (Eph 2:10+). So clearly our goal is to discern the "goodworks" Gos has pre-prepared for us to walk in! 

Preaching(proclaiming) (2784) see previous discussion of kerusso used 6x in chapter 1 - Mk. 1:4; Mk. 1:7; Mk. 1:14; Mk. 1:38; Mk. 1:39; Mk. 1:45

And saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I - John never sought (like so many do) to take center stage, but always pointed men to the only One Who rightly deserved center stage in the great drama of redemptions. This description is clearly important for it is repeated in the other synoptic Gospels (Mt 3:11+, Lk 3:16+) Henry Morris writes that "From the very beginning of John's ministry, he was preaching Christ. Thus, he was surely the first Christian preacher and the first Christian prophet." 

Mightier (2478)(ischuros from ischuo = to be able) is an adjective which means strong, powerful, mighty (usually referring to inherent physical strength), able, forcible.Ischuros denotes places “stress on the actual power that one possesses rather than on the mere principle of power." It is notable that ischuros is used in the Septuagint to refer to God in Jer 32:18 which says "O great and mighty (Lxx = ischuros) God. The LORD of hosts is His name."  And in Jeremiah 33:3 He invites Israel to "Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty (Lxx = ischuros) things, which you do not know.’  Mark uses ischuros to describe the "strong man" in Mk 3:27+, who in context is Satan (or Beelzebul - Mk 3:22), and the One Who binds him is Jesus Himself, which shows Jesus to be mightier than John the Baptist.

The apostle John records John's memorable words that parallel this passage “He must (dei =not "might" or "should" but in present tensemust continually) increase (present tense), but I must (mandatory) decrease (present tense)." (John 3:30+)

THOUGHT - Note the ORDER is CRITICAL - I have heard so many say I must decrease so He can increase. That is not correct! It is not John first decreasing (or "humbling himself") but Jesus first increasing! When Jesus is magnified in our naturally prideful heart, we see our proper place as creatures in the immense shadow of our mighty Creator. The more we see Jesus lifted higher in our heart and mind as we read of Him in the Scriptures, the more humble we will become. The experience of Mary should be ours, when she said: "My soul doth magnify (make great, exalt) the Lord" (Luke 1:46+). Spurgeon wrote "As fades the morning star when the sun himself arises, so was it the joy of the herald of Christ to lose himself in the supreme radiance of his Lord’s appearing." O, to be able to imitate John's maxim in our lives! As Tozer said "John condensed into that one final sentence (Jn 3:30) the secret of his own spiritual greatness."

And I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals - To untie the thong was a task for a slave, so John emphasizes his inferiority compared to the Messiah. This is the first direct mention of Jesus by John. John's baptism was minor compared to what was coming from Jesus. 

Hughes says to untie the throng was "A rabbinic saying, dated after Christ but very likely contemporary to Christ, stated that disciples ought to do everything for their masters that a slave does, except for one thing—untie his sandals. That was simply too much to ask any Jew to do for another Jew. But John had it right in relationship to Christ. He affirmed that he was not worthy of doing the most personally degrading task for the Messiah. (Preaching the Word - Luke)

ILLUSTRATION -  I once heard E. V. Hill, the pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, tell of the ministry of an elderly woman in his church whom they all called 1800 because no one knew how old she was. 1800 was hard on unsuspecting preachers because she would sit in the front row, and as soon as the preacher began she would say, "Get Him up!" (referring to Christ). After a few minutes, if she did not think there was enough of Christ in the sermon, she would again shout, "Get Him up!" If a preacher did not "Get Him up!" he was in for a long, hard day! Here John the Baptist's response to misplaced adulation was to "get Him up"—a noble task because it is the chief purpose for our existence....John was the greatest of all men, he was having the greatest of all ministries to date, multitudes were at his feet, but he knew that he wasn't worthy to perform even the humblest act for Christ. If we aim to "get him up," we need to "get ourselves down." (Kent Hughes)

Mark 1:8  "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."​​​​

  • I baptized you with water: Mt 3:11 
  • He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit: Pr 1:23 Isa 32:15 44:3 Eze 36:25-27 Joe 2:28 Ac 1:5 2:4,17 Ac 10:45 11:15,16 19:4-6 1Co 12:13 Tit 3:5,6 
  • Mark 1 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries


I baptized (see baptizo) you with water - "John could only drench them externally with water; but One was coming that could drench them internally with the Spirit. In water baptism every part of your body is completely soaked. Thus when we are baptized/immersed into the body of Christ at salvation we are drenched head-to-toe with Him." (Bell)

But He will baptize (see baptizo) you with the Holy Spirit - ​John was a prophet for here he gave a prophecy summarizing the ministry of Jesus. See commentary describing the fulfillment of this baptism by the Spirit in Acts 2. John baptized them in the Jordan River symbolizing their outward confession of repentance. One can be water-baptized without being baptized with the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. Thus John's baptism would only be external if it were not accompanied by faith in Jesus. The Messiah's baptism however would be mightier, the result of supernatural power which could only be performed by God. Messiah's "baptism" would be an internal, for when one entered the New Covenant in Messiah's blood (Lk 22:20+), they would receive the gift of the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit (see Paul below). This had been promised in the OT in Ezekiel 36:27+

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes (God's part), and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Man's responsibility, only possible as enabled by God's Spirit)..

Paul writes 

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1Co 12:13)

And to be clear, as Paul also taught EVERY believer today has received the Holy Spirit and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit contrary to what some falsely teach. Here is what Paul taught, so it is best to believe Paul then to believe false teachers!

Romans 8:9+ However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

Comment: Could Paul be any clearer? If a person does not have the indwelling Spirit, he or she is absolutely not a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. This should settle all arguments about who has and who does not have the Holy Spirit! 

In Matthew 3:11+ John adds that

"He (JESUS) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." 

Comment - See commentary on Luke 3:16+ for interpretation of the phrase "with fire." 

J C Ryle -  Let us observe, in the last place, what clear doctrine characterized John the Baptist's preaching. He exalted CHRIST--"There comes one mightier than I after me." He spoke plainly of the HOLY SPIRIT--"He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit." These truths had never been so plainly proclaimed before by mortal man. More important truths than these are not to be found in the whole system of Christianity at this day. The principal work of every faithful minister of the Gospel, is to set the Lord Jesus fully before His people, and to show them His fullness and His power to save. The next great work He has to do, is to set before them the work of the Holy Spirit, and the need of being born again, and inwardly baptized by His grace. These two mighty truths appear to have been frequently on the lips of John the Baptist. It would be well for the church and the world, if there were more ministers like him. Let us ask ourselves, as we leave the passage,

  • "How much we know by practical experience of the truths which John preached?"
  • What do we think of Christ?
  • Have we felt our need of Him, and fled to Him for peace?
  • Is He king over our hearts, and all things to our souls?
  • What do we think of the Holy Spirit?
  • Has He wrought a saving work in our hearts?
  • Has He renewed and changed them?
  • Has He made us partakers of the Divine nature?
  • Life or death depend on our answer to these questions. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Ro 8:9+) (Commentary)

Question: What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Answer: The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the body of Christ at the moment of salvation. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was predicted by John the Baptist (Mark 1:8) and by Jesus before He ascended to heaven: “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4); for the first time, people were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the church had begun.

First Corinthians 12:12–13 is the central passage in the Bible regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Notice that we “all” have been baptized by the Spirit—all believers have received the baptism, synonymous with salvation, and it is not a special experience for only a few. While Romans 6:1–4 does not mention specifically the Spirit of God, it does describe the believer’s position before God in language similar to the 1 Corinthians passage: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

The following facts are necessary to help solidify our understanding of Spirit baptism: First, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly states that all have been baptized, just as all been given the Spirit to drink (the indwelling of the Spirit). Second, nowhere in Scripture are believers told to be baptized with, in or by the Spirit, or in any sense to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that all believers have had this experience. Third, Ephesians 4:5 seems to refer to Spirit baptism. If this is the case, Spirit baptism is the reality for every believer, just as “one faith” and “one Father” are.

സുവിശേഷം പഠിക്കുന്നവർക്കുള്ള സമ്മാനം Mark 1/1-7 - Fr. Daniel Poovannathil

v1-13: A theme of preparation; John prepared the people for the coming of the Lord (v2-8), and Jesus Himself was prepared for His ministry (9-13).

v1: The gospel portrays Jesus Christ as the servant of God, but also the Son of God; this is Mark's introduction and conclusion. The gospel, as with Matthew, Luke, and John, is primarily about Jesus Christ.

The implication is clear; since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we must believe in Him; and since the gospel if the message of Jesus Christ, we must believe the message.

v2-3: The Lord came fulfilling prophecy; in particular, the "messenger", John Baptist came before the Lord, to prepare the way for Him. John was the voice in the desert.

Here is an immediate link with divine authority and prophecy. God had spoken, and now He moves to fulfil His word. Words from Isaiah indicate the wonderful rescue by Christ the Saviour, with the freedom into which He brings His people. The words from Malachi reflect God's justice and holiness, perfectly manifested by Christ.

v4: John's base was the desert, not a city. His method was preaching, which was followed by the Lord, and the apostles. And John's message was one of repentance, and baptism and forgiveness of sins. The implication of his message was that the people were sinners needing to repent.

John had a responsibility to fulfil his calling; his hearers had the responsibility to obey; Hos 10.12.

v5: John's impact; large numbers of people went to John, were baptised, confessing their sins. "All" means "all kinds of people"; even so, there were clearly large numbers, since the Pharisees were disturbed by his work (John 1.19).

It is no surprise that Paul met some of John's disciples (Acts 19); not all who were baptised by John quickly believed in Jesus, although that was the intention. In John 4.1, we read that more followed Jesus than John; this was what should have happened. Since John's calling was to prepare the people for the Lord, he should not have continued after the Lord had begun His ministry. Nevertheless, John and the Lord had a significant impact upon the nation; Luke 23.8; John 11.48.

v6: John wore austere clothing, not rich clothes; see Luke 7.25. We see also Mark's eye for detail, which indicates an eye-witness account, probably Peter's.

v7-8: Although John attracted many people, his burden was to point many to Christ (John 1.20). John was called by God, but he was clear of his message.

John was also the son of the High Priest (Luke 1.5), who had authority to declare sins forgiven, hence his authority to baptise, so that sinners might be cleansed. This is not the same as Christian baptism; in Acts 19.3-5 those who had been John's disciples were also baptised as Christians.

v9-13: Mark turns our attention to Jesus Christ; the glorious theme of the gospel. We read of His preparation, as He is baptised, and then suffers temptation. The details here are brief compared to the other gospels.

v9: Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, a place despised by men (Matt 4.12-16), but now a place of great privilege. Soon it would become a place of blessing, as Jesus toured that area teaching and working miracles.

v10-11: The Lord Jesus was baptised by John;

The Spirit of God rested upon Him, for there was no sinful nature in Him. The Spirit had hovered (Gen 1), but had never rested. Although Noah came to bring rest and comfort (Gen 5.29), this was only temporary, as the dove did not return to him (Gen 8.12); for during the intervening centuries, no perfect man walked the earth. Jesus Christ is the rest from God (Heb 4).

The voice of the Father testified of the Son's perfection. He was the beloved Son from the bosom of the Father. All that Jesus did pleased the Father.

Jesus was baptised, He said, to fulfil all righteousness. He identified with the people, and He also pre-figured His own death.

At this point, the heavens parted. Stephen and John later saw heaven opened, and saw something there, and Jacob had seen a ladder up to heaven. Here Heaven opened, not so much that men might see in, but that the Lord God might send blessing out, through His Son and through His Spirit. Heaven had opened before for the revelation of God, and the greatest message was the Son of God (See Heb 1.1-2).

v12-13: Mark briefly speaks of Christ's temptation. Matthew and Luke provide more details. Jesus had already identified with men by His baptism, now He identified by enduring temptation. He became our priest, chosen from among the people, Ex 28.1; Heb 2.17-18; 4.14-16.The 40 day period indicates a period of testing. The wild beasts, like the devil, came to destroy and frighten. The angels, like the Holy Spirit, came to strengthen and help. He suffered being tempted, so He can now sympathise with us in our weakness, and strengthen and help us in our temptation. But He was without sin, so He can give us victory in the trials and temptations of life; see v23-26, Song 3.6.

The Spirit sent Jesus into the place of temptation. It was the Father's will to demonstrate the perfection of Christ, to provide evidence of His manhood, and to provide qualification for His priesthood. All this was achieved through the temptation.

v14-15: This section, through to 4.34, may be headed 'Declaration'; the incidents established the credentials of Christ, the servant of God. They describe the opening part of His ministry, following His return from Jerusalem (John 2-5).

John's message was, 'The time is coming'; Jesus' message was, 'The time is fulfilled', now was the time to get right with God. John's ministry was complete, and he was removed to prison. There was a period of some months between the temptation of Christ and the calling of the fishermen; we understand the early chapters of John describe this period.

Christ's message was one of repentance, as in v4. This was the message of authority. The test of belief in Christ was, and is, obedience to His call. The "good news" of the kingdom of God is Jesus Christ.

v16-20: Jesus called His disciples to Himself; only Christ had such authority to call men to follow Him. Brothers were called to serve together; the existing relationship was sanctified for God. They left regular work and income (Simon and Andrew), material security, and family and friends (James and John), for the sake of Christ. If we really put Him first, then we may have to leave other things, even 'important' things. None of these four, nor the other eight (except Judas) regretted the decision to serve Christ.

The four had already met Jesus, as described in John 1, and believed in Him. This is now their call to permanent discipleship, involving the cost of leaving their livelihood.

v21-34: These verses describe the servant of the Lord at work, perhaps a typical day during this period of His ministry. He taught in the synagogue, cast out demons, and healed; all these different works reflecting His perfect character. The gospels relate what "Jesus began both to do and teach" (Acts 1.1); and so we see the disciples involved; "they"(v29), "let us go"(v38); even at this early stage, the Lord Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would leave them.

Mark records the healing of many different diseases; unclean spirit (v23); sick with a fever (v30); sick (v32); demon-possessed (v32); sick with various diseases (v34), leper (v40). There were many different environments, synagogue (v21-24); house (v29-31), and in the street (v40-42); the Lord was at work anywhere, He did not need a controlled environment. There was no limit to Christ's power, either in depth or in extent; any type of condition, and any seriousness of condition. He was "willing" (v41). He healed by word (v25), by touch (31), by both (v41-42); He spoke and it was done. We note also that, in chapter 1, there is no reference to the faith, or lack of faith, of the person being healed; Mark is writing to demonstrate the power and compassion of Christ. The chapter begins the pattern of Christ's ministry, which continued up until the transfiguration (9.2-10), when the emphases of His ministry changed.

v21: Synagogue worship was a key aspect of Jewish religious life, which commenced after the exile in Babylon. Christ frequently worshipped in the synagogue, and the early Christians used opportunities in the synagogue (e.g. Acts 13.14); it seems also that the synagogue pattern was followed in the churches.

v22: Jesus' teaching was different from the teachers of the law. He taught with authority. This was noted even before He cast out the demon.

v23-24: The demons knew who Jesus was; they believed and tremble!(James 2.19) The demons cried out (as in v26 also); in contrast, the servant of God is self-controlled (Is 42.2). The demons had no doubt about the Lord's ability to "destroy" them.

The actual term 'demon possession,' in the sense of a permanent in-dwelling, comes from Josephus, not the Bible, and was not the more magical view held by Jewish teachers; and it is these non-Biblical views that seem to have distorted our view of what Mark describes here.

v25-26: Jesus' method in dealing with evil spirits was to silence them, gagging their confessions. They may have spoken the truth, for He is the Holy One of God, but with hostile motive. He wants His Messiah-ship to be declared by sanctified lips and lives. In 'departing,' the evil spirit brings out a paroxysm, leaving those looking on amazed. No one could deny that something powerful was happening.

v27: The people were astonished (v22) and amazed; Christ stood out as a man of authority; He had showed Himself to be different from Jewish religious teachers, by both His words and His works.

v28: Very quickly, people heard about Jesus, as news of Him spread, v32-33, 37, 45. In one man was truth with authority and compassion; here was someone utterly unique. Yet, there was a long way to go, and the Lord had not just come to become a popular preacher and miracle worker.

v30: The Hebrew word describes a 'burning fever,' which was apparently quiet common in the area.

v31: At the home of Peter's mother-in-law, Jesus showed simple compassion, yet great power. She was healed immediately, and began to serve the twelve, there being no need for a period of recuperation. This, like other healings, pictures spiritual healing in our lives; we receive total and immediate salvation, for we receive Christ by His Spirit.

v32: After sunset, i.e; after the Sabbath, many came to be healed. This continued Jesus' popularity, and also avoided the offence that would come later regarding healing on the Sabbath.

v33-34: Again, Jesus Christ had power over demons, as He cast them out (or "drove", as in v12).

v35: A late night followed by an early morning. The Lord shows that prayer is more important than sleep. We do need to maintain a close relationship with the Father. Jesus found a solitary place, a place without interruption, and that is a good example for us.

v36-37: Simon (Peter) was leading the twelve; in 3.16, he is named first. It seems likely that he was the oldest, and, after Christ's resurrection, he was certainly the leader amongst the twelve.

Simon seemed to want Jesus to carry on healing; it is understandable that they misunderstood Christ's ministry; He was not just a healer. Healings were a sign of the Messiah (Matt 11.3-5), and gave authority to His teaching.

v38-39: As a gentle lesson, Jesus spoke of moving on to other places, see 1 Sam 7.16-17. He became an itinerant worker. Mark (and Matthew and Luke) record a number of places He went to, in and around Galilee. [It is helpful to have a map of first century Israel.] It seems that synagogues were open throughout the week, and not just on the Sabbath.

v40: The incident of the leper was important; the Jews had a dislike of any form of uncleanness, and "leprosy" may have referred to any one of a number of similar conditions. The leper would not have expected a Rabbi to come near him; Rabbi's increased the burdens (as in Matt 23.3-4) for lepers, by making more rules than those of the OT, and they treated them harshly.

We note too that, even in a busy ministry, the Lord Jesus had time for one leper. Jesus loved the outcasts, and this is a theme in His ministry (especially in Luke).

v41-42: Jesus was moved with compassion He did care deeply for those He met. Jesus touched Him; under Jewish law this would have spread the contamination, but here Jesus' power to cleanse was dominant. Mark records that the leper was immediately clean.

v43-45: The instruction to go to the priest was to fulfil the law, Lev 14.1-9. Again, the Lord is showing proper respect for the law.

The healed man actually disobeyed the Lord, since he did not go to the priest. He spread a misleading message. We cannot spread the truth of Christ if we are disobedient. The effect was that the Lord Jesus could not enter the towns openly.

It seems that Christ sought to avoid the fame of a miracle worker; miracles were proof of His credentials, rather than the primary intention of His ministry.


Mark 1 bible study on

Mark 1 – The Beginning of the Gospel

A. Introduction: The unique character of the Gospel of Mark.

1. Revelation 4:7 describes the cherubim around God’s throne as beings with four faces: a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle. By long tradition, the church has attributed one of these “faces” to each of the Gospels, according to the character and message of the particular Gospel. In the cathedrals of Europe this motif is repeated again and again by carvings or paintings of each one of these creatures, typically with a book. Over the centuries, different traditions have connected these four faces of the cherubim in different ways. One way of thinking has connected the Gospel of Mark with the ox, because the Gospel of Mark shows Jesus as a servant, just as an ox is an animal of work and service. The Gospel of Mark shows Jesus as the Servant of God, as a Workman of God.

a. For this reason, the Gospel of Mark is a “busy” book. In this Gospel, Jesus seems the busiest, quickly moving from one event to another. One of the key words in the Gospel is immediately, occurring more than 40 times in Mark. We see Jesus as a servant – busy meeting needs and busy being God’s Messiah.

b. In the Gospel of Mark, the emphasis is on the deeds of Jesus more than on the words of Jesus. “The Gospel of Mark pictures Christ in action. There is a minimum of discourse and a maximum of deed.” (Robertson)

2. Strong church tradition says that the Apostle Peter is the main source of Mark’s gospel. Some think of Mark as “The Gospel According to Peter.”

a. One indication of Peter’s influence is that Peter speaks very affectionately of Mark, referring to him as Mark my son in 1 Peter 5:13. He also wrote that Mark was with him in 1 Peter 5:13.

i. Mark (who is also called John-Mark in passages like Acts 12:25) was a failure in ministry as pictured in the book of Acts with Paul (Acts 15:36-41). His relationship with Paul was restored in the end (2 Timothy 4:11).

ii. Like Mark, Peter also knew what it was like to be a failure in following Jesus after having denied Him three times. He too was restored in the end.

b. Another indication of Peter’s influence is the vivid, eyewitness detail of this Gospel. It is “fullest of striking details that apparently came from Peter’s discourses which Mark heard, such as green grass (6:39), two thousand hogs (5:13), looking round about (3:5,34).” (Robertson)

i. “Mark’s Gospel throbs with life and bristles with vivid details. We see with Peter’s eyes and catch almost the very look and gesture of Jesus as he moved among men in his work of healing men’s bodies and saving men’s souls.” (Robertson)

c. A third indication of Peter’s influence is that “Peter usually spoke in Aramaic and Mark has more Aramaic phrases than the other, like Boanerges (3:17), Talitha cumi (5:41), Korban (7:11), Ephphatha (7:34), Abba (14:36).” (Robertson)

3. Many believe Mark to be the first of the four Gospels written, and that it was written in Rome.

a. Most scholars agree that the Gospel of Mark was the first of the four written, though some believe that Matthew was perhaps first.

i. “One of the clearest results of modern critics study of the Gospels is the early date of Mark’s Gospel. Precisely how early is not definitely known, but there are leading scholars who hold that A.D. 50 is quite probable.” (Robertson)

b. Mark was not one of the 12 disciples. Perhaps the only mention of him in the Gospel is a shadowy reference in Mark 14:51-52. As a youth, he perhaps was part of the larger group that followed Jesus.

c. The early church met at the home of Mark’s mother, Mary, in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).

d. To the hard-working and accomplishment-oriented Romans, Mark wrote a gospel that emphasized Jesus as God’s Servant. Because no one cares about the pedigree of a servant, the Gospel of Mark has no genealogy of Jesus.

i. Another indication that Mark wrote his Gospel for the Roman mind is that he uses more Latin words than any of the other Gospels. “There are also more Latin phrases and idioms like centurio (15:39), quadrans (12:42), flagellare (15:15), speculator (6:27), census (12:14), sextarius (7:4), praetorium (15:6), than in the other Gospels.” (Robertson)

ii. When Bible translators go to a people who have never had the Scriptures in their own language, they usually begin by translating the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the most translated book in the entire world. One reason is that it is the shortest Gospel, but the other reason is that this Gospel was written for people unfamiliar with first century Judaism. Mark wrote it for the Romans.

B. John the Baptist and preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

1. (1-5) The place and ministry of John the Baptist.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets:

“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.’”

John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

a. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God: Every great story has a beginning, and Mark takes us to his beginning of the gospel. The ancient Greek word for gospel means “good news,” so this book is the good news ofJesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the good news concerning Jesus.

i. Every word in Mark’s description of Jesus is important. First, this is the good news of Jesus, a genuine, historical person who walked this earth like other men. It is the good news of the Christ (which simply means “Messiah”), the promised, anointed Savior of men. And it is the good news of the Son of God, and a Son in more than a sense that we think of all men coming from God. Jesus is the unique Son of God, who is also God the Son.

ii. Lane on the word gospel: “Among the Romans it meant ‘joyful tidings’ and was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, attainment to majority and accession to power were celebrated as festival occasions for the whole world. The reports of such festivals were called ‘evangels’ in the inscriptions and papyri of the Imperial Age. A calendar inscription from about 9 B.C., found in Priene in Asia Minor, says of the emperor Octavian (Augustus): ‘the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings which have been proclaimed on this account.’ This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: an historical event which introduces a new situation for the world.”

b. As it is written in the Old Testament: The first thing Mark says about the ministry of John the Baptist is that it was prophesied in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3). Those passages predicted this forerunner who would prepare the way of the LORD, this forerunner whom God would call My messenger.

i. My messenger is important because this is the first authentically prophetic voice to Israel (with the slight exceptions of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2) for 300 years. Some thought that God stopped sending prophets because He had nothing more to say, but John shows this wasn’t the case at all.

ii. If we wondered what Mark meant when he called Jesus the Son of God, here he clarified it. Mark says the ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the LORD, and he prepared the way of Jesus. In Mark’s mind, Jesus is LORD.

c. Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight: The passage Mark quoted from (Isaiah 40:3) had in mind the building up of a great road for the arrival of a majestic king. The idea was to fill in the holes and to knock down the hills that are in the way.

i. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer.

ii. Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist was the one crying in the wilderness. Through his message of repentance, he worked to prepare the way of the LORD. We often fail to appreciate how important the preparatory work of the LORD is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. John wonderfully fulfilled this important ministry. “John was God’s bulldozer to build that highway.” (Steadman)

d. John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins: This describes how John prepared the way. He came baptizing, offering a ceremonial washing that confessed sin and did something to demonstrate repentance.

i. Baptism simply means to “immerse or overwhelm.” John didn’t sprinkle when he came baptizing. As was the custom in some other Jewish ceremonial washings, John completely immersed those he baptized. “Naturally, therefore, the baptism was not a mere sprinkling with water, but a bath in which his whole body was bathed.” (Barclay)

ii. Baptism was already practiced in the Jewish community in the form of ceremonial immersions but typically it was only among Gentiles who wished to become Jews. For a Jew in John’s day to submit to baptism was essentially to say, “I confess that I am as far away from God as a Gentile and I need to get right with Him.” This was a real work of the Holy Spirit.

iii. John’s baptism might have been related to the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts or to some of the ceremonial washings practiced by the Jews of that day. Though it may have some links, at the same time is was unique – so unique that John simply became known as “the Baptizer.” If a lot of people had been doing what John did, it wouldn’t be a unique title.

iv. Christian baptism is like John’s in the sense that it demonstrates repentance, but it is also more. It is being baptized into Christ, that is, into His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3).

e. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem: John’s ministry met with wonderful response. There were many people who recognized their sinfulness and their need to get ready for the Messiah. They were also willing to do something about it.

i. John’s main message wasn’t, “You’re a sinner, you need to repent.” John’s main message was “The Messiah is coming.” The call to repentance was the response to the news that the Messiah was coming.

2. (6-8) John the Baptist: the man and his message.

Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

a. Clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt: In his personality and ministry, John the Baptist was patterned after the bold Elijah (2 Kings 1:8), who fearlessly called Israel to repentance.

b. There comes One after me who is mightier than I: The message of John the Baptist was simple. John preached Jesus, not himself. John pointed to Jesus, not to himself.

c. Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose: This might sound like spiritual exaggeration on John’s part. But John said this because in his day, the rabbis taught that a teacher might require just about anything of his followers, except to make them take off their sandals. That was considered to be too much. But John said that he was not even worthy to do this for Jesus.

i. Babylonian Talmud, Ketuboth 96a: “All services which a slave does for his master a pupil should do for his teacher, with the exception of undoing his shoes.” (Cited in Lane)

d. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit: John recognized that his baptism was only a prelude to what Jesus would bring. The Messiah would bring an immersion in the Holy Spirit that was greater than the immersion in water as a demonstration of repentance.

i. John’s baptism could demonstrate repentance, but it could not truly cleanse one from sin, nor could it impart the Holy Spirit in the way Jesus would after His work on the cross was completed.

3. (9-11) The baptism of Jesus.

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

a. Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan: Jesus was not baptized because He needed cleansing from sin; He was sinless, as John himself understood (Matthew 3:14). Instead, Jesus was baptized in keeping with His entire mission on earth: to do the will of the Father and to identify with sinful man.

i. Jesus didn’t have to be baptized. He also didn’t have to die on a cross in our place. He did both things to express His solidarity with fallen man.

b. Immediately: The ancient Greek word is euthus, and this is the first of more than 40 times this word is used in the Gospel of Mark.

c. You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: When this voice of God the Father spoke from heaven, everyone knew that Jesus was not just another man being baptized. They knew Jesus was the perfect (in whom I am well pleased) Son of God, identifying with sinful man. By this, everyone knew that Jesus was different. Jesus was baptized to be identified with sinful man, but He was also baptized to be identified to sinful man.

i. This strange scene displayed a humble beginning:

· Jesus: A common, unremarkable name.

· From Nazareth: An unremarkable, despised village.

· Of Galilee: The unspiritual region, not the “Bible belt” of the area at that time.

· Was baptized: Identified with sinful man.

· In the Jordan: An unremarkable – often even unpleasant – river. “Early rabbinic tradition explicitly disqualifies the River Jordan for purification, [according to] The Mishnah, Parah VIII. 10.” (Lane)

ii. The scene also displayed great glory:

· The heavens parting: Heaven opened wide for this. The ancient Greek for this phrase is strong. It has the idea that sky was torn in two, “being rent asunder, a sudden event.” (Bruce)

· The Spirit descending: The Spirit of God was present, and in some way His presence was discernable.

· Like a dove: Luke 3:22 puts it like this: And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him. In some way the Spirit was present and “flew down” on Jesus like a dove.

· A voice came from heaven: It’s rare in the Bible when we read that God speaks audibly from heaven, but this is one of those glorious occasions.

· You are My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: What could be more glorious than to have God the Father praise and affirm you publicly?

d. And the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove: This wasn’t just a fluttering cloud hovering above Jesus; it had the actual appearance of a dove. Luke 3:22 says, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him. It doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit was a dove, but appeared like a dove. We also know that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit coming down on Jesus (John 1:32).

i. The Holy Spirit is associated with a dove because of Genesis 1:2, where the brooding of the Spirit over the waters at creation suggested to some ancient rabbis the action of a dove. Also, doves are gentle, non-threatening birds, they do not resist, and they do not fight back. It represents the gentle, faithful work of the Holy Spirit.

ii. This is one of the familiar passages of the New Testament that shows us the entire Trinity in action. God the Son is baptized, God the Father speaks from heaven, and God the Holy Spirit descends like a dove.

iii. So far in the Gospel of Mark we see four witnesses, each testifying to the identity of Jesus. What more evidence do we need?

· Mark said Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).

· The prophets said Jesus is LORD (Mark 1:2-3).

· John the Baptist said Jesus was the One after me who is mightier than I (Mark 1:7-8).

· God the Father said Jesus is the Beloved Son of God (Mark 1:10-11).

4. (12-13) Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, among the wild beasts.

Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

a. Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness: After the dramatic appearance of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, the work of the Spirit in Jesus was to lead Him – rather, to drive Him into the wilderness.

i. “Mark has used a strange word. ‘The Spirit driveth Him forth’; quite literally, ‘the Spirit casteth Him forth.’ It is the very work afterward employed of the casting out of demons by Christ.” (Morgan)

b. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan: Jesus was identified with sinners in His baptism. Here He was also identified with sinners in their temptations. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

i. Forty – as in the forty days of Jesus in the wilderness – is a number that often shows a time of testing or judgment. In Noah’s flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Israel was in the wilderness 40 years. Moses kept sheep in the wilderness for 40 years. This is Jesus’ time of testing.

c. Forty days, tempted by Satan: Matthew and Luke detail three specific temptations Jesus suffered in these days and how Jesus resisted Satan each time by standing on the Word of God. Mark tells us that Jesus faced more than the three dramatic temptations described by Matthew and Luke. This entire period was a time of testing.

d. Was with the wild beasts: Matthew and Luke make no mention of this, but it is significant. In the ancient Greek grammar, the emphasis is on with. In other words, Jesus was at peace with the wild beasts. This shows two things:

· Jesus is the Second Adam, and like unfallen Adam, He enjoys a peaceful relationship with all the animals.

· Jesus remains the unfallen, sinless one despite all the temptation, with authority over the wild beasts.

i. “These fell creatures saw in Christ the perfect image of God; and therefore reverenced his as their Lord, as they did Adam before his fall.” (Trapp)

e. And the angels ministered to Him: The sense in Mark is that the angels ministered to Him at the end of this time of intense temptation. This shows Jesus’ authority, not only over the wild beasts, but also over the angels. They are His servants.

i. “Morally victorious, He was Master of the creation beneath Him, and the angels ran upon His errands, for such is the real suggestiveness of the word. Thus He is seen as God’s Man, perfect in spite of the temptation!” (Morgan)

C. Four disciples are called.

1. (14a) The Galilean ministry of Jesus begins.

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee,

a. After John was put in prison: There is a detailed description of John’s fate in prison in Mark 6:17-28.

b. Jesus came to Galilee: Jesus spent most of His time in the region of Galilee, usually only going up to Jerusalem for the appointed feasts. Galilee was a large, populated area north of Judea and Jerusalem, where Jews and Gentiles lived together, though usually in their own distinct cities.

i. Galilee was not a small backwater region. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, Galilee was an area of about 60 by 30 miles and had 204 villages, with none less than 15,000 people. This means there were more than 3 million people in the extended region.

2. (14b-15) What Jesus did in His ministry.

Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

a. Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God: Jesus was a preacher and He brought the message of God’s rule on earth, though not in the manner that was popularly expected or desired. Most people wanted a political kingdom that would replace the oppressive occupation of the Romans.

i. Contrary to the expectations of most people in His day, Jesus brought a kingdom of love, not subjugation; of grace, not law; of humility, not pride; for all men, not only the Jews; to be received voluntarily by man, not imposed by force.

ii. The Gospel of Mark – and the rest of this chapter – will stress the work of Jesus and His wonderful miracles. But with this opening statement, Mark reminds us that the focus of Jesus’ ministry was preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus was a preacher who did wonderful miracles, not a miracle worker who sometimes preached.

b. Saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know that it was near – as close as your hand. It wasn’t as distant or as dreamy as they had imagined. Now was the time for them to encounter the kingdom of God.

i. The time is fulfilled: There are two ancient Greek words that can be translated time. One is chronos, meaning simple chronological time. The other is kairos, meaning “the strategic opportunity, the decisive time.” Jesus used this second word when He said, “the time is fulfilled.” His idea was, “The strategic time for the kingdom of God is now. Now is your time of opportunity. Don’t let it pass you by.”

c. Saying… “Repent”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know what entering that kingdom was like. They could not enter the kingdom going the same way they had been going. They had to change their direction to experience the kingdom of God.

i. Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a “feelings” word. It is an action word. Jesus told us to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what we have done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not a sorrow in the heart.

ii. Repentance does not describe something we must do before we come to God; it describes what coming to God is like. If you are in New York, and I tell you to come to Los Angeles, I don’t really need to say “Leave New York and come to Los Angeles.” To come to Los Angeles is to leave New York, and if I haven’t left New York, I certainly can’t come to Los Angeles. We can’t come to the kingdom of God unless we leave our sin and the self-life.

d. Saying… “Believe”: When Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He wanted people to know what it was like to live in the kingdom. The kingdom Jesus preached was not just about a moral renewal. It was about trusting God, taking Him at His word, and living a relationship of dependence on Him.

i. The ancient Greek word Jesus used for believe (pisteuo) means much more than knowledge or agreement in the mind. It speaks of a relationship of trust and dependence.

ii. “There are many people who believe the Gospel, but they do not believe in it. It was an appeal not only to accept it as an intellectually accurate statement; but to rest in it, to repose in it. It was a call to let the heart find ease in it.” (Morgan)

3. (16-20) Four disciples are called.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

a. He saw Simon and Andrew: This was not the first time Jesus had met this group of men. John 1:35-4:54 describes their previous meeting.

b. For they were fishermen: These were common men, without theological credentials or status in the world. Jesus met them as they labored as common men. Jesus chose these disciples not for who they were, but for what Jesus could do through them.

i. “Surely the good qualities of successful fishermen would make for success in the difficult ministry of winning lost souls: courage, the ability to work together, patience, energy, stamina, faith, and tenacity. Professional fishermen simply could not afford to be quitters or complainers!” (Wiersbe)

c. Follow Me: With this invitation, Jesus shows what Christianity is all about: following Jesus. At its root, Christianity is not about theological systems, rules, or even helping people – it is about following Jesus.

i. “Nevertheless it is true, by New Testament times, the phrase ‘to follow’ had added to itself an ethical aspect, for it is always the superior who walks ahead, and the inferior who follows: therefore, at the least, a rabbi-disciple relationship was implied.” (Cole)

d. I will make you become fishers of men: Jesus said He would make them fishers of men. If these men received something wonderful in following Jesus, it was only right for them to give it to others, and to “catch” men into the same kingdom of God.

i. When Jesus called them to be fishers of men, He called them to do what He did. He was the greatest fisher of men ever. But He wanted others to do the work He did; first these four, then twelve, then hundreds, then thousands and thousands upon thousands through the centuries.

ii. I will make you become: “Implying a gradual process of training.” (Bruce)

e. Mending their nets: “Mark’s term means properly to put in order, or to make ready, and so includes cleansing, mending and folding the nets in preparation for the next evening’s fishing.” (Lane) Significantly, a derivative of this same word is used in Ephesians 4:12 where Paul describes the work of equipping the saints. As Strong’s definition relates, to equip therefore means to complete thoroughly, to repair or adjust, to fit, frame, mend, to make perfect, to perfectly join together, to prepare, or restore.

D. A busy day in Galilee.

1. (21-22) Jesus teaches in the synagogue.

Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

a. They went into Capernaum: One can go to Capernaum today and see the remains of an ancient Jewish synagogue, which still has the foundation of this same building Jesus taught in.

b. Immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught: Typically, the synagogue had no set teachers. Instead they had the custom of “the freedom of the synagogue,” where learned guests were invited to speak on the Scripture reading for that day. This custom gave Jesus the opportunity to preach.

c. They were astonished at his teaching: We are not told what Jesus taught, but we are told of the effect the teaching had on His audience. They had never heard anyone teach quite like this before.

d. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes: The scribes of Jesus’ day rarely taught boldly. They would often simply quote a variety of Rabbis as interpreters. Jesus taught with boldness.

i. Jesus taught with authority because He had authority. He brought a divine message and was confident that it was from God. He wasn’t quoting from man, but from God.

ii. Jesus taught with authority because He knew what He was talking about. You can’t teach with authority if you aren’t familiar with your material.

iii. Jesus taught with authority because He believed what He taught. When you believe what you teach, it comes through to your audience with authority.

iv. We first saw the submitted Jesus – submitted to His Father in baptism, submitted to the Holy Spirit in going out to the wilderness. Now we see the authority of Jesus. Authority flows from submission. We aren’t safe with real authority from God unless we are also submitted to God.

· Jesus showed authority when He was with the wild beasts.

· Jesus showed authority when the angels served Him.

· Jesus showed authority announcing the presence of the kingdom of God and commanding men to repent and believe.

· Jesus showed authority calling disciples after Himself.

· Jesus will show many more striking displays of authority.

2. (23-24) An outburst from an unclean spirit.

Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are; the Holy One of God!”

a. A man… with an unclean spirit: In describing the man who was demon possessed, Mark used the same grammar Paul used to describe the Christian’s being “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30). This unclean spirit was the evil lord of this poor man’s life.

i. The similarity in the wording between the Christian having Jesus and this man having a demon demonstrates that He is in us, and we are in Him. We are “Jesus possessed” in the right sense, because His filling and influence is only for good.

ii. Even as Jesus can live in us, so one uninhabited by Jesus can be inhabited by a demon if the invitation is extended, either consciously or unconsciously. Exposure to things such as spiritism, astrology, occult practices and drugs are dangerous. They open doors to the demonic world that are better left closed.

b. I know who You are; the Holy One of God! The demon himself testified that Jesus was holy and pure. The demons admitted that their wilderness temptations failed to corrupt Jesus.

3. (25-28) Jesus rebukes the spirit and gains great acclaim.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.

a. Jesus rebuked him: Jesus didn’t need to rely on hocus-pocus or ceremonies. He simply demonstrated the authority of God.

b. Be quiet: Jesus often told demons to shut up. Today, many self-styled deliverers from demon possession encourage the demons to speak, or even believe what the demons say. Jesus avoided such theatrics and merely delivered the afflicted man.

c. Be quiet, and come out of him! There were other exorcists in Jesus’ day. He was not the only one who tried to cast out demons. But there was a huge difference between Jesus and other exorcists. They used long, fancy, elaborate, superstitious ceremonies and they often failed. Jesus never failed to cast out a demon, and He never used an elaborate ceremony.

i. Lane describes an ancient account from Josephus about the work of an ancient exorcist named Eleazar, around the time of Jesus: “He put to the nose of the possessed man a ring which had under its seal one of the roots prescribed by Solomon, and then, as the man smelled it, drew out the demon through his nostrils, and, when the man at once fell down, adjured the demon never to come back into him, speaking Solomon’s name and reciting the incantations which he had composed. Then, wishing to convince the bystanders and prove to them that he had this power, Eleazar placed a cup or foot-basin full of water a little way off and commanded the demon, as it went out of the man, to overturn it and make known to the spectators that he had left the man.”

ii. “The people were accustomed to the use of magical formulae by the Jewish exorcists (Matthew 12:27; Acts 19:13), but here was something utterly different.” (Robertson)

4. (29-31) Peter’s mother-in-law is healed.

Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

a. They entered the house of Simon and Andrew: Jesus came into this humble house in Capernaum and met a sick woman. Jesus didn’t only “perform for the crowds.” Here, He ministered to one person in a private home. Jesus’ interest was in meeting the needs of individuals and not in promoting Himself. He didn’t need the power of crowd dynamics to help His ministry.

b. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her: In this healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus showed both simplicity and power. Jesus healed with the same authority that He used to cast out demons.

i. “Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from what the Talmud called ‘a burning fever.’ It was, and still is, very prevalent in that particular part of Galilee. The Talmud actually lays down the methods of dealing with it. A knife made wholly of iron was tied by a braid of hair to a thorn bush. On successive days there was repeated, first, Exodus 3:2, 3; second Exodus 3:4; and finally Exodus 3:5. Then a certain magical formula was pronounced, and thus the cure was supposed to be achieved. Jesus completely disregarded all the paraphernalia of popular magic, and with a gesture and a word of unique authority and power, he healed the woman.” (Barclay)

c. And she served them: Peter’s mother-in-law responded the way we should when Jesus blesses us. She immediately served Jesus out of gratitude.

5. (32-34) Healing among a multitude.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

a. When the sun had set: Jesus was ministering after sundown, ending the Sabbath day (Mark 1:21). Free from the Sabbath restrictions on travel and activity, the people came to Jesus to be healed.

b. Then He healed many: It was a busy day, and then Jesus ministered after nightfall to the whole city that had gathered together at the door. Jesus worked very hard to serve the needs of others and always put their needs before His.

E. Preaching and healing in Galilee.

1. (35) Jesus prays in a solitary place.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

a. Now in the morning: After a long day, we would certainly excuse Jesus for sleeping in. Yet He, having risen a long while before daylight, made less time for sleep and more time for prayer.

i. “Look no man in the face till thou hast seen the face of God. Speak thou with none till thou hast had speech with the Most High.” (Spurgeon)

b. He prayed: Jesus did not need to pray because He was weak but because He was strong, and the source of His strength was His relationship with God His Father. Jesus knew that pressure and busyness should drive us towards prayer, not from prayer.

i. We don’t know exactly what Jesus prayed for, but as much as anything, Jesus used this time of prayer for that close, intimate communion with God the Father that He longed for, which nourished and strengthened His soul. We can also surmise that Jesus prayed for Himself. He prayed for His disciples. He prayed for those He met and ministered to the previous night. He prayed for those He would meet and minister to that coming day.

c. A solitary place: Jesus knew the importance of solitary time with God. While it is good and important for us to join with others in the presence of God, there is much in our Christian life that can only be learned and experienced in a solitary place with God.

i. “Woe unto that man whose devotion is observed by everybody, and who never offers a secret supplication. Secret prayer is the secret of prayer, the soul of prayer, the seal of prayer, the strength of prayer. If you do not pray alone, you do not pray at all. I care not whether you pray in the street, or in the church, or in the barrack-room, or in the cathedral; but your heart must speak with God in secret, or you have not prayed.” (Spurgeon)

ii. “There is in public and private prayer a more united strength and interest, but in secret prayer an advantage for more free and full communication of our souls unto God. Christ for this chooseth the morning, as the time freest from distractions and company; and a solitary place, as fittest for a secret duty.” (Poole)

iii. This passage shows us many things about the prayer life of Jesus.

· For Jesus, fellowship with God was something for more than just the Sabbath.

· Jesus wanted to be alone to pray.

· Jesus wanted to be alone, so He could pour out His heart to His Father.

2. (36-39) The tour through the Galilee region.

And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.

a. Searched for Him: This was early in Jesus’ relationship with His disciples. As they got to know Him, they learned that whenever they could not find Him, He was probably off in solitary prayer.

b. Everyone is looking for You: The disciples probably thought Jesus would be pleased at His popularity and would want to spend more time with the crowd He gathered and impressed the day before.

c. Let us go into the next towns: Jesus did not stay in that town and “ride” the crest of His popularity there. He knew His ministry was to preach all across Galilee. His ministry was not being famous or enjoying the fame.

i. The clear emphasis on Jesus’ ministry is preaching: for this purpose I have come forth. The healing and miraculous ministry of Jesus was impressive and glorious, but it was never His emphasis.

3. (40) A leper comes to Jesus.

Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

a. A leper came to Him: Leprosy was one of the horrific diseases of the ancient world. Today, leprosy afflicts 15 million across the world, mostly in third world nations.

i. Leprosy begins as small red spots on the skin. Before too long the spots get bigger and start to turn white, with a shiny or scaly appearance. The spots soon spread over the body and hair begins to fall out – first from the head, then even from the eyebrows. As things get worse, fingernails and toenails become loose; they start to rot and eventually fall off. Then the joints of fingers and toes begin to rot and fall off, piece by piece. Gums begin to shrink, and they can’t hold the teeth anymore, so each tooth is lost. Leprosy keeps eating away at the face until the nose, the palate, and even the eyes rot – and the leper wastes away until he or she dies.

ii. As horrible as the physical suffering was, the worst part of having leprosy might have been the way people treated the leper. In the Old Testament, God said that when there were lepers among the people of Israel, they should be carefully quarantined and examined (Leviticus 13-14). Lepers had to dress like people who were in mourning for the dead, because they were considered to be the living dead. They had to warn the people around them by crying out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever people were near them. This was not because leprosy was highly contagious. It was because God used this disease as a striking example of sin and its effect on us.

iii. The people of Jesus’ day went further than the Old Testament told them to. Back then, they thought two things about a leper: you are the walking dead and you deserve this because this is the punishment of God against you. Jewish custom said that you should not even greet a leper. Custom said you had to stay six feet (two meters) from a leper. One Rabbi bragged that he would not even buy an egg on a street where he saw a leper, and another boasted that he threw rocks at lepers to keep them far from him. One other Rabbi didn’t even allow a leper to wash his face.

b. Imploring Him, kneeling down to Him: Knowing how terrible the disease was, it does not surprise us that the leper was so desperate in his approach to Jesus.

c. You can make me clean: The leper really believed in the power of Jesus, and had confidence that Jesus could heal him. This shows that the leper had great faith because as far as we know, Jesus had not yet healed a leper in His ministry.

i. In that day, everyone knew only God could heal a leper. There was no cure, and no one just got better. A leper could never get better without a direct healing from God.

d. Make me clean: The leper knew what he needed from Jesus. He didn’t ask to be healed, but cleansed. The leper needed much more than healing.

i. Whatever you think you need from God, what you most need from Jesus is cleansing – to be cleansed from sin and a life lived for self.

4. (41-45) Jesus cleanses the leper.

Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once,and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.

a. Jesus, moved with compassion: We are often moved with compassion when we meet sick people, but lepers usually did not arouse compassion. Their whole appearance was too repulsive, and they usually made people feel disgust instead of compassion.

i. Luke says this man was full of leprosy (Luke 5:12), meaning that the disease was in the advanced stages. This man’s whole body and life was rotting.

b. Put out His hand and touched him: Jesus healed many people many different ways, but here He chose to heal this man with a touch. He could have spoken a word or even just thought a thought and the man would have been healed, but Jesus used a touch.

i. This was important because people were forbidden to touch this man on account of his leprosy. Since his disease was in the advanced stages, he was a leper a long time. It was a long time since he had felt a loving touch.

ii. It was against Jewish ceremonial law to touch a leper. Yet Jesus did not break that law, because as soon as He touched the man, he was no longer a leper.

c. Show yourself to the priest: Jesus told the former leper to go to the priests to carry out the ceremony the law required when a leper was cleansed. Jesus did this first to honor the law of God, but also as a testimony to the priests that an incurable disease had been cured.

i. The elements used in the Levitical ceremony for the cleansing of a leper (cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet) are the same elements used in cleansing someone who was defiled by a dead body (Numbers 19:6, 19:13, 19:18 and Leviticus 14:4-7).

ii. Since lepers were never healed, these priests had never conducted this ceremony. When they had to look up the procedure for this ceremony and had to carry it out for the first time, it would be a strong witness that the Messiah was among them.

d. Say nothing to anyone… But he went out and began to proclaim it freely: The man may have meant well and might have thought he was helping Jesus, but his disobedience hindered the ministry of Jesus. Jesus could no longer openly enter the city. It’s best to always obey Jesus, and we should never think that we have a better plan than He does.

©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Mark Bible Study - Introduction and Background of Mark (1 of 9) - Mike Mazzalongo -

Mark 1: The Living Paradox


Most biblical scholars agree that the Gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, whom the Apostle Peter affectionately calls "my son" in 1 Peter 5:13. Because of their close relationship and many internal clues, we can surmise that the Holy Spirit used Peter's first hand accounts in shaping this gospel. It was probably written between A.D. 64 and 70, to a mostly Gentile audience. Mark likely wrote from fast-paced Rome, which may account for his condensed and action-packed approach, often employing words like "immediately". In any case, Mark is anxious to unveil to us who Jesus is, what His mission was, and how we are to respond to Him. In the first eight chapters, Mark focuses our attention on the power and authority of "the Son of God" who performs many mighty works. The second eight chapters reveal a Jesus with no less authority, but who is determined to take the lowly route of suffering and death, in order to fulfill His saving mission. As to our response, Jesus calls us to "repent and believe the good news" (1:15) and to endure suffering along with Him.

How would your friends describe you to someone who's never met you?

Well, Mark wastes no time getting to the "real deal" about Jesus. He skips any mention of Christ's birth or childhood and gets immediately to scenes from His ministry which reveal who He is.

Read verses 1-41.

[Optional: As the students read, sketch a map of Palestine on newsprint or eraser board, indicating the locations of the events described in the chapter.]

How long does it take Mark to get to the central message of his gospel?

[Rephrase if necessary: What monumental truth does Mark reveal in the first sentence of his book?] (The deity of Christ. Mark pulls no punches!)

Reread verse 2.

In the Isaiah quote:

Who is "I"?

(God the Father)

Who is "my messenger"?

(John the Baptist)

And who is "you"?


Someone rephrase it for us with names instead of pronouns.

(The Father will send John ahead of Jesus.)

For clues to John the Baptist's role, let's look at his wardrobe.

What was the brother wearing?

(A camel's hair coat and a leather belt.)

What do his clothes reveal beyond his lack of fashion sense?

(That's exactly what Elijah the prophet wore. John also ministered in the same area as Elijah had – in the desert near the Jordan River! He was obviously making a statement since he and everyone else was familiar with the Old Testament prophesy that Elijah would return before the Messiah came. Read Malachi 4:5-6 and Mark 9:2-5,11-13. Other parallels to mention if there is time and interest: Elijah passed on authority to his successor, Elisha, who received a double portion of his spirit. Christ's ministry obviously eclipsed his predecessor's as well. And Elisha's ministry didn't begin in fullness until after Elijah passed from the scene. The same was true of Christ and John.)

According to verses 4-5, what was John's ministry all about?

(Repentance and forgiveness of sin.)

Since baptism is associated with cleansing from sin, why in the world did the sinless Jesus get baptized?

(To identify himself with sinners, to be involved with God's work through John, and to be revealed by John as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.")

Name the persons involved in verses 10-11.

(Father, Son, Spirit. Once again, Mark is hard-hitting as he reveals the Trinity in his opening lines.)

What does the presence of all three persons of the Trinity at the baptism reveal about this event?

(The involvement of the Godhead accentuates its importance.) What was so important about it? (It's at this point that He received the Spirit's empowerment for the public ministry He was about to begin.)

Skim the passage and list every action which shows the power and authority of Jesus.

[Give verse numbers as hints if necessary.]

v.7 – John says Jesus is "more powerful than I". John also felt unworthy to even untie Christ's sandals, and that He would bring them a superior baptism.
v.10 – He saw the heavens open and the Spirit descend on him in the form of a dove.
v.11 – A voice from heaven spoke glowingly about Him.
v.13 – He overcame temptation, was unharmed by wild animals, and was attended by angels.
v.15,17,20,25,41 He gave crisp commands to people and demons, who all obeyed Him. Four fishermen dropped their nets to follow Him.
v.22 He taught in the synagogue without a degree and without permission. People were amazed at the authority with which He spoke.
v.34 He healed many diseases, cast out and shut up demons.

Although He had all power and authority, He was also humble.
Where do you see His humility in this passage?

[Give verse numbers as hints if necessary]

v.9 – He underwent baptism.
v.13 – He allowed Himself to be tempted for forty days, during which time He fasted. (We know this from Matthew and Luke.)
v.14 – He did not preach until John's ministry was completed. v.16 – He reached out to lowly fisherman.
v.35 – He got up very early after a late night healing service.
v.35-38 – He was not enticed to bask in the popularity of the crowds, but moved on instead.
v.41 – He touched a leper, and didn't say "Of course I can!"
v.45 – He stayed in "lonely places", not in plush accomodations.
v.48 – He told a man not to tell anyone that Jesus had healed him.

Reread verses 35-39, looking for ways we can emulate Jesus.

So how are Christ's actions (in verses 35-39) an example to us?

1. He sacrificed sleep to spend time with the Father.
2. He didn't skip prayer when tired or busy.
3. He listened to the Father in prayer, seeking direction for the day.
4. He obedient submitted to the Father's direction.
5. He didn't give into pressure from others.
6. He realized that an "open door" doesn't always reveal God's will.
7. If Jesus so needed time with the Father, how much more do we.
8. He spent considerable time in prayer, beginning "while it was still dark."

When do you ever see people who are both powerful AND humble? And he not only possesses both qualities, but infinitely so. Let's respond in prayers of worship to the Servant-King. Let's also ask for help to follow his example of spending time with the Father.


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Authority of Jesus
Lesson 1

Jesus lived almost 2000 years ago, but even today people all over the world serve Him. We know this man primarily through four Bible books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. First-hand acquaintance with these writings will help us understand Jesus and His message.

This course surveys Mark's narrative of Jesus' life. As you study each lesson, please keep a Bible at your side so that you can verify what you are learning by the Scriptures. You will notice that Mark is divided into sixteen major sections (chapters), each of which contains small divisions (verses). When a notation like 5:12 is used in these lessons, you should look at the fifth chapter of Mark and the twelfth verse.

A couple of items before we get started: to profit most from these lessons, you need an open heart to receive what Jesus taught and did. Allow His words to direct you as you read. A prayer for God's guidance at the beginning and end of each study is recommended. If you don't understand something mentioned in this course or in your reading of Mark, please feel free to write your question down and send it to us along with your completed lesson. We'll be happy to answer it if we can.

John Prepares the Way

>>> Read Mark 1:1-8. <<<

Please read Mark 1:1-8 in your Bible before continuing the lesson. In the very first verse, Mark announced that he would write about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is surprising, therefore, that he did not start out by telling about Jesus Himself; instead, he described the work of John the Baptist. This was because John was to prepare the way for Jesus. John fulfilled this mission by preaching to get people ready for the coming of the Lord.

John's message focused on two themes that will help us get ready to receive Christ. First, he preached about repentance. To repent means to decide to change. John was telling his hearers that they had to reverse their life's direction to get ready for Christ; those unwilling to change could not come to Him. Second, John declared the greatness of Jesus. He said Jesus was so great that he himself was not even worthy to stoop down and untie His shoes. This was an amazing declaration because one does not have to have much worth to untie somebody's shoes. In fact, in John's day, untying shoes was considered to be a slave's lowest duty - John wasn't worthy to be Jesus' humblest slave! So, for us to be ready to receive Jesus, we must repent (change our lives) and recognize His awesome greatness.

*1* John came to prepare the way for whom? (a) Moses, (b) Mohammed, (c) Jesus, (d) Peter. Answer: (put the letter of the correct answer in the blank) ______.

*2* What word in our study means "to decide to change"? Answer: The word is (put the correct word[s] in the blank) ______ .

*3* John said he was unworthy to: a) untie Jesus' shoes; b) carry Jesus' bags; c) stand beside Jesus; d) talk to Jesus. Answer : ______.

Early Events in Jesus' Career

>>> Read Mark 1:9-15. <<<

Just like thousands of others, Jesus came to John to be baptized. But as He emerged from the water, something startling occurred: The Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." God was showing His approval of Jesus in a dramatic way.

Then Jesus entered the wilderness where the devil tempted Him. While Matthew and Luke provide more specific information about the temptations (Matthew 4; Luke 4), Mark's brief account shows two things. First, Jesus experienced temptation as all men do. Second, doing what pleases God, as Jesus did when He was baptized, does not exempt one from temptation. Satan often intensifies his efforts when a person begins to serve God.

*4&5* What two amazing things happened when Jesus was baptized? Answer: The ______ came on Him in a form like a dove, and a voice spoke from ______ saying, "This is my beloved Son."

*6* Where was Jesus baptized (v9)? Answer: He was baptized in the ______ River.

*7* For how many days was Jesus tempted by Satan in the wilderness (v13; cf. Luke 4:1,2)? Answer: ______ days (give a number).

*8* What message did Jesus preach (v15)? Answer: He told people to repent and believe in the ______.

Jesus Calls Four Fishermen

>>> Read Mark 1:16-20. <<<

As Jesus walked along, He saw two of His friends, Peter and Andrew, who were professional fishermen. He asked them to follow Him and become fishers of men. At once, they quit their jobs and began following Christ. He next found James and John, and requested that they do the same. With no hesitation, they left not only their occupation but also their father, and began to accompany the Lord. Clearly, these men recognized Jesus' greatness. He was the one whose shoes John was unworthy to untie. God had specially acknowledged Him by His own voice from heaven. So when Jesus demanded radical action (to drop everything and follow Him), they responded immediately.

Note -- Characteristics of followers of Jesus: These fishermen demonstrated the meaning of discipleship. When Jesus called, they: 1) acted immediately, 2) left both job and family, and 3) started following Him.

Christ calls today through His Word. When we perceive His greatness, we too will: 1) obey immediately all He says, 2) put Him ahead of everything, including our job and family, and 3) follow Him, allowing His example to direct every step.

People who know that Jesus wants them to change, but put it off, are not like these four fishermen.

*9* Which of these things did the disciples not do when Jesus called them? a) decide immediately; b) leave family and job; c) follow Jesus; d) go to school for training. Answer: ______.

*10* What did Jesus say He would make these men (v17)? Answer: He would make them fishers of ______.

Jesus Amazes the Crowds

>>> Read Mark 1:21-28. <<<

Jesus' teaching astounded the multitude in the synagogue (a synagogue was like a church among the Jews). He taught with authority. He issued His commands as if He had the right to tell others exactly what to do!

Jesus' actions showed that He really had the authority that He claimed. In this paragraph, He cast out a demon. How? By His words! Nothing more. When Jesus merely said, "Be quiet and come out of him," the demon left the man. His words had authority even over demons. The calmness with which Jesus expelled demons reflected His power: He never argued or struggled or created a scene. He simply ordered the demons to leave and they left. No wonder people were amazed. He had demonstrated the credentials to prove His authority.

Note -- Need for authority: In every area, authority is essential. To determine distance, it is necessary to have a yardstick or standard of measure by which to calculate length. Thus, if someone wishes to know how long a room is, he measures it. There is no other way to know for sure. God has provided a yardstick in religion: Jesus and His words. When we wish to know whether something is right or wrong, we should evaluate it by the standard of the Scriptures. This should be done with every teacher and teaching - even this correspondence course. Therefore, you need to have a Bible at your side while you are studying, and continually refer to it to be sure that what is taught in these lessons is true. The Bible is our yardstick.

*11* What amazed the multitudes about Jesus? a) physical appearance; b) intelligence; c) wealth; d) authority in teaching. Answer: ______.

*12* How did Jesus expel the demon? a) by conducting a seance; b) by a magical formula; c) by a simple command (rebuke); d) by taking up a collection. Answer: ______.

*13* What purpose did Jesus' miracles serve? a) they made Him rich, b) they demonstrated His authority and proved He was from God, c) they proved people today can do miracles, d) they served no purpose whatever. Answer: ______.

Jesus Heals Many

>>> Read Mark 1:29-34. <<<

Jesus came into Simon Peter's house and found his mother-in-law sick in bed with a high fever (see Luke 4:38). He spoke to her, raised her up, and the fever left her. She then began waiting on Jesus and the disciples. He also healed many others who were brought to Him.

Several features of Jesus' healings are noteworthy:

* He healed immediately, with no delay.

* He healed everyone who came to Him regardless of their disease. (Compare Matt. 8:16,17; Luke 4:40,41.)

* He healed so completely that Simon's mother-in-law was able to get up and start waiting on them. After a fever breaks, it normally takes a few days for a person to recover his strength. Jesus' healings put people back as if they had never had their maladies in the first place!

* Jesus sought to avoid publicity. He ordered the demons not to announce who He was.

*14* Whom did Jesus heal in this story? Answer: He healed Simon Peter's ______.

(Thought question: If Peter had a mother-in-law, what does this tell you about Peter? Note that "Simon" is just another name for Peter -- Matt. 4:18; 8:14,15.)

*15* Which is not characteristic of Jesus' healings? a) He healed many (i.e., all of the many who came); b) He healed completely; c) He healed immediately; d) He healed so He could become rich and popular. Answer: ______.

Jesus Continues His Journeys

>>> Read Mark 1:35-39. <<<

Jesus frequently sought solitude for prayer. Prayer during the daytime was nearly impossible since the crowds continually pressed on Him, so He skipped sleep to be able to talk with His Father that He missed so much. After finally finding Him that morning, the disciples reported that everybody in the town where He had been was seeking Him. Nevertheless, since He wanted to be able to get the message to as many people as possible, He insisted on moving on to other towns.

*16* Jesus arose early in the morning for what purpose? Answer: He arose to ______.

Jesus Heals a Leper

>>> Read Mark 1:40-45. <<<

Painful open sores caused everyone to dread leprosy. Those who contracted it were quarantined because the disease was highly contagious. In this story, Jesus did what no one else dared do - He touched a leper. When He did so, the man was healed immediately. His sores were instantly transformed into smooth skin. The Lord then instructed the cleansed leper to report his healing to the priest (a requirement of the law of Moses - Leviticus 13-14), but to tell no one else. The man, however, went out and told everyone - the exact opposite of what Jesus had said. Undoubtedly he was thrilled that he had been healed and probably imagined that spreading the news about Jesus would honor Him. But the fact remains that he did just what Jesus had said not to do. As a result, the Lord was thronged by such large crowds that He could no longer publicly enter into cities, but had to remain in unpopulated areas. We should learn a lesson: All disobedience, even well-intentioned, hurts Jesus' work.

*17* After Jesus spoke, how long was it till the leprosy was healed? a) several weeks, b) several days, c) immediate, d) the Bible does not say. Answer: ______.

*18* After Jesus had healed the leper, He told the man to show himself to whom? Answer: He was to show himself to the ______.

*19* What result occurred because the leper disobeyed Jesus' orders? a) he became a leper again; b) Jesus was thronged by crowds so large that He couldn't enter a town; c) Jesus praised his evangelism; d) he became an apostle. Answer: ______.

Summary: This chapter shows the greatness of Jesus: John was unworthy to untie His shoes; God spoke from heaven endorsing Him; He expelled demons by a mere word; He healed the sick immediately regardless of the nature of their infirmity. This chapter also indicates how we should respond to His greatness: immediately obey everything He says no matter what sacrifice is required; respect the authority of His message; and, obey Him even when His command seems unreasonable.

When you have carefully studied this lesson and written down answers to all the questions, click on this link to submit your answers.

(c) Copyright 1999, Gary Fisher

These lessons used by permission. Adaptations in the questions have been made by David Pratte with the permission of the author.

To contact the author, write to
Gary Fisher, 1063 Palomino Place, Bargersville, IN 46106

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