Mark 1:1-13




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


Mark is going to give us a portrait of Jesus as the servant who came to give His life a ransom for many.  As such, we will see a very human picture of Jesus.   We will see him loving.  And we will see Him angry.  And tired.  And hungry.  We will see Him marveling at unbelief and sighing at opposition


Perhaps for this reason, Mark begins by emphasizing, not the humanity, but the deity of Jesus.  He is the holder of two titles.


1.         The Christ - the Messiah - the One who was anointed by God.


2.         The Son of God.


Mark’s introductory statement is somewhat reminiscent of both Genesis 1:1 as well as John 1:1.  It turns our attention to the subject of beginnings.  And it reminds us that the gospel started long before Jesus was born.





            As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; 3  the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” (Mark 1:2-3).


The phrase “it is written” is in the perfect tense, indicating a continuing result.

The quote is taken from Malachi 3:1, the very last book of the Bible.  Malachi was writing to the sinful generation in which he lived.  He was warning them of their need to repent and to straighten out their manner of living.  The reason that they needed to repent was because the Lord (Yahweh) was going to come.


John is plainly the promised forerunner.  And the Lord who he announces is JESUS.  Thus, the Old Testament passage which promises the coming of Yahweh is fulfilled in Jesus.


Mark says that this is “written in Isaiah, the prophet” (1:2).  Actually, the quote is taken from two separate passages of the Old Testament.


            “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me,,,” (Malachi 3:1a).


            A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3).


Why is only Isaiah mentioned by Mark?  Perhaps it is because Mark did not expect his Gentile readers to be familiar with the tiny book of Malachi.  Or perhaps it is because Isaiah, being the first book of the prophets, was sometimes used as the title for the entire collection of the books of the prophets.


The juxtaposition of the concept of “the beginning of the gospel” with these prophetic words is no accident.  It points to the fact that the gospel did not start with the birth of Christ.  It had its beginnings a lot earlier.  The prophets preached the gospel and told of the One who would come to redeem the world.





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


These prophetic words were fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist.  He was the messenger who was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.  He was the one whose realm of ministry was the wilderness.


What was not mentioned in the Old Testament was his ministry of BAPTISM.  John’s ministry of baptism was not explicitly foretold in the Old Testament.  Neither did baptism take place under the Old Testament economy.  And yet, the term “baptism” and its corresponding concept was not an invention by John the Baptist.


1.         The Greek word baptizw is an old word, going all the way back to the days of Homer who used it of a sinking ship.


2.         The Greeks came to use baptizw of ritual washings.  Thus, it could sometimes refer to a washing of purification.  However, the most common ritual usage came to be that of IDENTIFICATION.


The Spartan general Xenophon described soldiers BAPTIZING a sword and a spear in blood before entering into a military alliance (The Persian Expedition, Book 2, Chapter 2).


3.         This concept of IDENTIFICATION is found in every usage of baptizw in the New Testament.



Significance of Baptism


John’s Baptism

Identified people as repentant

Mark 1:4

Baptism of Jesus

Identified Jesus with preaching of John and Kingdom of God

Mark 1:9

Baptism of Believers

Identifies us with Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Acts 2:39-41

Spirit Baptism

Identifies us with Christ

1 Cor 12:12-13

Baptism of Moses

Identified Israelites as people of God apart from Egypt

1 Cor 10:1-2


John’s baptism included this concept of identification.  Those whom he baptized were identifying themselves with the coming King.  But it was also a rite of purification.  The water symbolized a cleansing washing of repentance.  And this was not a new concept.  It had been promised in the Old Testament.


            “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

            “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

            “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).


Although John had a ministry with water, it merely foreshadowed and prepared the way for Jesus who had the ability to bring a new heart and a new spirit.




            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. (Mark 1:5).


The ministry of John spread like wildfire.  All of the people of Jerusalem were a lot of people.  Added to all of the people of Jerusalem was all the county of the province of Judea.  What is more, they had a considerable distance to travel to hear John.  It was a 20 mile hike from Jerusalem to the Jordan River.


Think of this!  People walking 20 miles and more to hear a man preach.!  And it was not a one-time event.  The use of the imperfect tense indicates that they were continually going down the hear John and to be baptized.


This doesn’t coincide with most modern church-growth experts.  You don’t begin a ministry out in the wilderness if you expect it to grow.  You go where people are and you say and do things that will attract them to your ministry.  You have a “seeker’s service” with contemporary music.  And you advertise in the paper and on the radio.  You form a welcoming committee.  And you follow up with a visitation team.


When God lights a man with a holy fire, people will come to watch him burn.

John did none of this.  And yet, he met with great success.  The reason is because the Spirit of God was moving.  In our quest for growth and for significance in God’s kingdom, we need to determine which way the Spirit of God is moving and go in that direction.





            John was clothed with camel's hair and wore *a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:7).


Why are we given this description of John?  What is its significance?  Let me suggest that, in a book as short as the Gospel of Mark, nothing is written here merely by happenstance.  This description is significant.  It is significant because it takes us back to one of the prophets of the Old Testament.


That prophet is Elijah.  John was wearing the same kind of clothes that Elijah had worn (2 Kings 1:8).  He was preaching a similar message to the one which Elijah had preached.  He was ready to denounce Herod Antipas and Herodias in the same way in which Elijah had denounced Ahab and Jezebel.


John was the last of the Old Testament prophets.  His message was from the Old Testament.  His clothes were from the Old Testament.  His food is that which was associated with the Old Testament.


Jesus would later be asked about the teaching of the scribes that said Elijah must come prior to the coming of the Lord.  Jesus would refer to John and he would reply, “Elijah has indeed come” (Mark 9:13).





            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.

            “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8).


John’s ministry was not centered around himself.  He was a forerunner, announcing the coming of One to follow.


John was not the main attraction of his ministry.  He understood that his purpose was to point to another.  When we become the main attraction to our ministry, then we have lost sight of what ministry is all about.


There was an old rabbinic exhortation that says, “Every duty that a slave performs for his master, a disciple shall do for his teacher, except for the removing of his sandals.”


This was a duty that only a slave would perform.  This was the most lowly duty of all.  John says that he is not worthy to perform this lowliest of duties for the One who is coming.


Here is the principle.  You cannot comprehend the grace of God until you first come face to face with your own unworthiness.


I baptized you with WATER


He shall baptize you with the HOLY SPIRIT



It is one thing to be baptized in water.  It is a much greater thing to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  To be baptized in the Spirit means that the Spirit of God has come upon us and has identified us with the person and with the ministry of Jesus.


We have been united with Christ.  Because He has eternal life, we also possess eternal life.  Because He is the Son of God, we are also children and sons of God.  Because He is the heir to the kingdom of God, we are co-heirs with Him.  Because He died, we are considered to be death to sin.  Because He rose from the dead we will also rise - indeed, we are already risen to a new life.





            And it came about in those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

            Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;  11 and a voice came out of the heavens:  “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well‑pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11).


The Greek word which describes the heavens OPENING is the same word which is used in Mark 15:38 to describe the veil of the Temple being TORN.

The advent of Jesus is described in very matter-of-fact terms.  There were no trumpets or fanfare.  One day, He simple arrived from his home in Nazareth and was baptized like anyone else who had come to be baptized.  What made this baptism significant was what took place AFTER the baptism.


The Son rising.  The Spirit descending.  The Father Speaking.  For 400 years there had been nothing but silence from heaven.  Not only was there no word from heaven, but even the prophets stopped prophesying.  But a silence of 400 years was now broken.  What did God say?  Was He angry?  No.  He was well-pleased.  It wasn’t that we had done anything to please Him.  He was well-pleased with His Son.


The same is true today.  Do you ever feel as though God had gone away on vacation?  You wish that God were speaking today, but you also wonder if He would be angry.  There is a message of comfort here.  God is still well-pleased.  He is well-pleased with His Son.  If you have been united through faith with His Son, then He is well-pleased with you, too.

Indeed, when we come to Him in faith...

The Father declares us to be righteous in His eyes.

The Spirit descends and indwells and seals.

And heaven is made open for us.


Discussion Question:   Why was it important for the Spirit to descend upon Jesus?


1.         As an affirmation (Isaiah 42:1).


2.         Because Jesus was a true human being who required the ministry of the Spirit in order to be anointed with power (Acts 10:38).





            Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

            And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. (Mark 1:12-13).


In keeping with Mark’s preference for brevity, the entire temptation incident is described in only two verses.


1.         The Impelling of the Spirit.


The same Holy Spirit which came down on Jesus like a dove in verse 10 now impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.




Came through the Red Sea

Baptized in the Jordan River

Wandered in the wilderness for 40 years

Impelled into the wilderness for 40 days

Failed the test

Passed his test


The Greek phrase translated “impelled into the wilderness” is from the root word ekballei.  It is a compound word.


a.         Ek means “out of.”

b.         Ballw is “to throw.”


The expulsion of Jesus into the wilderness is described in forceful terms.  It is the same term that is used throughout Mark to describe Jesus “casting out” demons (1:34, 39; 3:15, 22-23; 6:13; 7:26; 16:9, 17).


Though God is not doing the actual temptation, He is nonetheless sovereign over it, for it is the Spirit which drives Jesus into the wilderness so that this temptation might take place.


The Greek text says that Jesus was tempted by tou satana - the Satan.  This is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “adversary.”

2.         The Wilderness.


The Judean Wilderness was that area between the central mountain range and the Dead Sea.  It remains today a dry, windswept land where only the Bedouin and the wild animal live.  John’s ministry was located on the northern border of this wilderness, being along the Jordan River.


3.         Tempted by Satan.


The details of the temptation are recorded elsewhere, but they are not significant to Mark’s account.  What he wishes to emphasize is that Jesus was tempted.  He faced what we face.  He was alone.  He felt the same pangs which we feel.


It is easy to be faithful in a crowd.  True faithfulness is what takes place when no one is looking.


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