Mark 1:2-13

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds - January 12, 2012)

 Preparation for the Public Ministry of Jesus (1:2-13) – Four key events

1.      The announcement of the prophets (2-3) – As stated in the previous session, for Mark the beginning of the gospel was the ministry of John the Baptist as foretold by the Old Testament prophets.  The intent of these verses is to remind us that the Christ event was not an accident or fluke of history.  It didn’t just happen.  It was part (actually, the heart!) of God’s grand redemptive plan for humanity. 

[APPLICATION:  We do not live in an “accidental universe.”  God is the Source, the Mover, the Director of our world.  He has a great plan—a redemptive plan—and is actively carrying it out!]


“As” - kathōs (καθως), “according as, even as, just as;” the Greek word is stronger than the English adverb, emphasizing an accurate reproduction of what one has spoken or written.[1]

“it is written” - gegraptai (γεγραπται); the perfect tense, speaking of an act completed in past time having present results, is used here to emphasize the fact that the Old Testament records were not only carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation to the first century, but that they are a permanent record of what God said. They are, in the language of the Psalmist, “forever settled in heaven.” One can translate, “It has been written, with the present result that it is on record,” or, “it stands written.”[2]

“in Isaiah the prophet” – Actually the quote that follows is from both Isaiah and Malachi.  Verse 2 is from Malachi 3:1 and verse 3 is from Isaiah 40:3.  It was not uncommon for ancient writers to combine quotes from the prophets and site only one of the prophets being quoted.

“behold” – This word is designed to add weight to what is about to be said.  It is much like the way Jesus often used the word “Truly” or the phrase “Truly, truly” to preface a saying He wanted to stress as important.  The word truly is the Greek word from which our word amen comes.  This word and the word Jesus often used is designed to get our attention.

“I send My messenger who will prepare Your way” – The verb translated “I send” was often used to describe an envoy or ambassador representing the king.  In ancient times, such a person always was sent to a town before the arrival of the king to make sure everything was in order of his arrival, similar to what is done today with the advance team of the President of the United States.  The primary role of John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the coming King!  “Messenger” is angelos from which our word angel comes.

[APPLICATION:  As the Lord sent John the Baptist into the world, there is a sense in which all Christians are God’s “messengers” to the world.  God has chosen to communicate to the world primarily through His people.  The very nature of the Bible demonstrates that.  God did not create a book and drop it from the sky and then from the book produce a people.  He called to Himself a people and through those people created a book—a record—of His activity toward them.]


“The voice” -…no definite article in the Greek text. The Baptist was not the only mouthpiece of God sent to Israel. John only claimed to be “a voice,” not “the voice” (John 1:23)[3] 

“Of one crying” - “to cry aloud, to shout, to speak with a high, strong voice.” Kaleō (Καλεω) in classic usage meant “to cry out” for a purpose, boaō (βοαω) “to cry out” as a manifestation of feeling. The preaching of the Baptist was full of emotion, of feeling.[4]

[APPLICATION:  There are some things that are worth being passionate about!  The problem is we have a tendency to be passionate about the things that are temporary and apathetic about the things that have eternal consequences!]

“wilderness” – The word simply means a desolate, uninhabited place. 

“Make ready the way of the Lord…” - Whenever notable people were to come to a city, the roads were repaired so their journey would be easier.[5]


2.      The Ministry of John the Baptist (4-8) - John the Baptist’s ministry bridged the gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Mark points out several significant things about the ministry of John the Baptist.

·         The place of his ministry – The "wilderness" where John ministered was the rugged desert wasteland along north and western shore of the Dead Sea.  John may have chosen this location as symbolic reminder to the people of his day that apart from genuine repentance they were living in a "spiritual wilderness."

·         The message of John’s ministry – John was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  It is very important not to misread that statement.  The grammar is not saying that the baptism results in forgiveness of sins.  The preposition translated “for” (eis) is better translated at or because.  The baptism doesn’t produce forgiveness; it is the result of forgiveness.  John’s message was one of repentance.  The word “repentance” (metanoia) is one of the great words of the New Testament. The word is metanoia (μετανοια), made up of a preposition which when prefixed to a word signifies a change, and the Greek word for “mind.”[6]  It does not merely mean feeling sorry, but to change ones attitude and conduct.

[APPLICATION:  Genuine repentance always requires a change.  It is an oxymoron to continually “repent” (i.e. change) from the same thing!  Repentance is not an emotion that fades or a total sinlessness, but a new relationship with the Holy One that transforms the believer progressively into a holy one.”[7]

·         The response to John’s ministry “And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem…” – Obviously not every single person in Judea and Jerusalem went to the wilderness to hear John preach.  Mark is using hyperbole to show the widespread impact John’s ministry was having. 

·         The style of John’s ministry - His dress and diet (“clothed in camel hair…leather belt….locusts…wild honey”) were in the tradition of Elijah and other rugged OT desert prophets who thundered a message of repentance.  Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 indicates that God would send one like Elijah to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  It is certainly obvious John was not a weak person, either physically or in temperament.  He did not vacillate between one thing and then another.  He was not afraid to stand his ground.  John could stand before the best of them and thunder, "Thus saith the Lord!"  But it's also obvious that he was characterized by a contrite spirit.  “Contrite" is one of those wonderful words we don't use much anymore.  It means the opposite of proud or puffed up.  To be contrite is to be lowly and humble.  Look at what John says in verse 7.  "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."  In that day it was the job of the lowest slave to untie the dirty strap of the master's shoes.  In effect John is saying, “I am not even fit to be His slave!" And what I want you to see in that is there was no inconsistency between what John preached and how John lived.

[APPLICATION:  God calls His people to a life of consistency between what they profess to believe and how they live.  That does not mean that Christians will be perfect, but it does mean that we will not profess one thing and then consistently deny our profession with our lives.  To do so is to undermine the message of the Gospel.  For example, how can people believe that God is gracious, merciful, and forgiving toward them if God’s people are ungracious, judgmental, and unforgiving?]


3.      The Baptism of Jesus (9-11) - Why Jesus was baptized has always been a concern for believers because John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus did not need forgiveness for He was sinless (cf. II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; I Pet. 2:22; I John 3:5). The theories have been:

a.      It was an example for believers to follow

b.      It was His identification with believers’ need

c.       It was His ordination and equipping for ministry

d.      It was a symbol of His redemptive task

e.       It was His approval of the ministry and message of John the Baptist

f.        It was a prophetic foreshadowing of His death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).[8]

Three things set Jesus apart from all others who had been baptized.

·         First, He saw heaven being torn open. The forceful verb, “being torn open” (schizomenous, “split”) reflects a metaphor for God’s breaking into human experience to deliver His people (cf. Pss. 18:9, 16-19; 144:5-8; Isa. 64:1-5).

·         Second, He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove, in a visible dovelike form, not in a dovelike way (cf. Luke 3:22). The dove imagery probably symbolized the Spirit’s creative activity (cf. Gen. 1:2). In Old Testament times the Spirit came on certain people to empower them for service (e.g., Ex. 31:3; Jud. 3:10; 11:29; 1 Sam. 19:20, 23). The coming of the Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (cf. Acts 10:38) and the task of baptizing others with the Spirit, as John predicted (Mark 1:8).

·         Third, Jesus heard a voice … from heaven (cf. 9:7). The Father’s words, expressing His unqualified approval of Jesus and His mission, echoed three verses: Genesis 22:2; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1.

Jesus’ baptism did not change His divine status. He did not become the Son of God at His baptism (or at the transfiguration, 9:7). Rather, His baptism showed the far-reaching significance of His acceptance of His messianic vocation as the suffering Servant of the Lord as well as the Davidic Messiah. Because He is the Son of God, the One approved by the Father and empowered by the Spirit, He is the Messiah (not vice versa). All three Persons of the Trinity are involved.[9]  If you'll look carefully at Mark 1:9-11 will see references to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A t the baptism of Jesus, God the Spirit in the form of a dove and God the Father in the form of a voice from heaven bear witness to God the Son.

There are many similarities between God's activity in relation to Jesus' baptism and His activity in the creation account in Genesis 1.  One writer put it this way:  "As in the book of Genesis God created by His word and through the Spirit, so it was fitting that, at the very commencement of God's new work of re-creation in the hearts of men, there should be the same operation of the whole Godhead.  Here, on Jordan's banks, God speaks His word again, and again the Spirit is brooding over the waters."[Tyndale, p.58]

[APPLICATION:  Just as Jesus’ baptism was a key moment in His life that set the stage for what was to follow, there are key moments in our lives when we are called upon to make commitments that have far reaching consequences.]


4.      The Temptation of Jesus (12-13) – Marks account of Jesus’ temptation experience is by far the shortest of the three synoptic gospels.  He just basically states that Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness. 


“impelled” – A very strong verb meaning to drive out or expel or send away

“forty days” – Used both literally and symbolically in Scripture to mean an indefinite period of time

“tempted” – A present tense verb denoting continuous action.  The verb means to be put to a test or trial.  From the other gospel accounts we know that Satan was testing Jesus commitment to be the suffering Messiah God had planned.

“wild beasts” – Mentioned only by Mark.  A reminder of both the physical and spiritual danger Jesus faced during this period.

“angels were ministering to Him” – The verb tense implies that throughout the temptation experience and beyond, angels were giving Him aid and assurance.

[APPLICATION:  If the Son of God had to struggle with temptation, we should certainly expect no less in our lives.  The Bible warns us in I Peter 5:8 - "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  If lose sight of that and began develop mentality that temptation not a problem for me, then we become the most susceptible to it.  The reason Christians need to be careful about the influences in our lives--the places we go, the things we allow in our minds, the peer group we choose--is not any of us are so strong as to be immune to temptation.]


[APPLICATION:  Jesus' temptation experience came at rather surprising time.  No doubt His baptism, when God the Father publicly endorsed His ministry, was a moving experience.  No sooner had that wonderful event occurred than was Jesus compelled to go into the wilderness for a time of temptation.  While both Matthew and Luke indicate the temptation experience followed Jesus' baptism, Mark very closely ties the two events together.  Notice the phrase "and immediately" at beginning of v.12.  As told last week the word "immediately" is one of Mark's trademarks.  He used 41 times in this gospel.  And in this case Mark uses it to closely link Jesus baptism and His temptation experience.  And what I want you see from that is that temptation may well come when we least expect it.  And one of the times when we may be most vulnerable to temptation is after some moving spiritual experience when we feel we're safe.  Scripture often warns us about the danger of spiritual arrogance and pride.  For example, Proverbs 18:12 says, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor."]

[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 1:2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 1:2). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 1:3). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[4] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 1:3). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (105). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[6] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 1:4). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[7] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (10). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[8] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (12). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[9] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 1:11). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.