Mark Begins With John the Baptist

Mark 1:1-8

Gospel Parallels: Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-18

As you can see, Mark doesn’t get into the birth of Christ, or the genealogies or anything else, he jumps in right where the action begins with John the Baptist preparing the way. Ironically for him, he does so with his only extended quote from an Old Testament prophet, in this case Isaiah.  Notice how Mark quotes the prophet and immediately follows with “and so…” It’s almost as if God spoke through Isaiah, and bam, there was John preaching. As you will come to recognize, this is Mark’s style: action and facts, then more action and more facts.

Notice that John is preaching a baptism of “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (1:4) As you know, this revolutionary development will get the attention of the Jewish authorities, who are not only well aware of the prophecy in question, but they are also well aware of the fact that in the Law of Moses, there was no such thing as “baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

In verse 5, we encounter Mark’s first use of hyperbole when he writes that the “whole Judean countryside” and “all the people of Jerusalem” went out and confessed their sins and were baptized by John. Sounds like a big claim to me, and frankly I can’t quite imagine the Pharisees and the High Priest hopping in the Jordan with John. I think Mark was saying that many did so. You’ll see a lot of this as we go on.

In the remainder of this passage, Mark describes the eccentric costume of John and then gets to the important fact that John was only the messenger sent to prepare the way for the One who was to be sent. This is a very important detail because everybody knew that the Messiah was coming.  Not only the gospels tell us this, but also the historical sources from that time, for Daniel’s prophecies were well-known. Unlike many scholars of our own time, they could do the math in relation to Daniel’s seventy sevens in Daniel chapter 9; they knew Messiah was just about to appear and were on the lookout.

Now Mark has set the stage, and we will meet Jesus for the first time when we pick up at verse 9.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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7 Responses to Mark Begins With John the Baptist

  1. Meredith says:

    Would you comment on the passages of scripture here and in Acts 2:38, and the many that don’t have the phrase “for the remission of sin.” There is a huge divide in some denominations over baptism.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Meredith, you are certainly right about that divide. Actually I have commented on this before, and along the way I’ve learned that, if I want lots of hate mail, all I need to do is post about baptism or prophecy; a divide to say the least!

      Let me consider how I might work this in, either withing the Mark study or elsewhere in the near future.

      • Meredith says:

        I didn’t ask as entrapment or to argue, just how you reasoned this for yourself. I believe baptism is obedience and should follow one’s decision to be a Christ follower. If one should die, as I’ve heard from others, w/out baptism they are condemned. I can’t understand that rigorous condemnation from man, and certainly not my loving Father.

        • Don Merritt says:

          Oh my, I didn’t take it that way, and I see it pretty much the way you do. Here on WP, it’s just been my experience that it’s one of those subjects that doesn’t always bring out the best in everyone, which is really very sad. For me, this brings about those “teachable moments” when somebody gets a bit overly dogmatic, to try and show people an approach that is more in line with unity and less in line with fighting, a wonderful opportunity really, but a time-consuming one if you see what I mean.

  2. Hello Don! Thanks so much for sharing this very instructive post. It makes me feel like I am in Bible study class. To God be the glory! You are on a roll, my friend. Keep up the good work. God blesses.

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