The Expository Files

 
  Mark’s Gospel Begins

 Mark 1:1-8

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. 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.” – Mark 1:1-8


Preachers know well, you have to begin somewhere. We commonly call it “the introduction” and we often labor carefully over just how to get a sermon off the ground or an article started. We want to get the attention of the audience/readers and direct that attention to the portion of God’s Word we have decided to present for their thought and application.

Mark starts with this simple, almost abrupt introduction: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” With this brief statement it is immediately clear – this is about the good news we can hear and personally receive because of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. If you want to know more; if that simple statement draws you in – just keep reading. “Every word, sentence, event, story and conversation reported [by Mark] leads ultimately to that conclusion,” that man born to Mary is Jesus Christ, “the Son of God” (L.A. Stuaffer, Truth Commentaries, Edited by Mike Willis, p.#1).

What Mark reports was actually signaled by God long before Mark was born. Both Isaiah and Malachi were prophets who – long before Christ came – were enabled by God to speak and write of Christ’s coming. Mark wanted his readers to know what Scripture said: “As it is written in the Prophets…”

God said, through the prophets, He had a “messenger” who would prepare the way. This messenger and his voice would come from “the wilderness,” and would announce: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.” This was a call from God through John the Baptist to get ready! The people needed to sit up and listen up and receive the message of repentance.

John’s preparatory work is well described by Luke: “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedience to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Lk. 1:16,17).

So John came as God willed, “baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Within the first few words of Mark, we see and know something clearly: God expects people to respond to Him, to accept His provisions by changing, obeying, living as He directs.

Actually, would you consider, the book of Mark begins and ends with this essential concept of responding to God! Hearing the message of the forerunner, the people were to respond. After Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, as the good news was announced – once again – people were to respond: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved!” (16:16). While the baptism of John and the baptism of the “Great Commission” are different – the point here is – God expects people who hear about what He provides to respond; to believe and obey! What’s more is, the people understood this! “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,” (v.5). There is no evidence nor any reach of possible implication, that anyone said, “I believe John fulfills prophecy; I believe God is speaking through him, but I have a real problem with this baptism
and repentance.” There is no evidence anyone entertained this kind of doubt. The message the prophets said would be delivered by John, was delivered and those with good and honest hearts simply responded – responding to God – which can be called the right response, the activity of faith! They wanted to be ready for the One who was coming. It all makes sense doesn’t it.

They came “confessing their sins.” Doesn’t this show sincerity? They wanted to be right with God, and part of their response was to confess – to openly acknowledge their sins, agreeing with any charge against them from God. “This identifies the scope of repentance preached by John. The Judeans confessed openly the sins that in their minds and hearts they had by repentance purposed to forsake.” (L.A. Stauffer)

John was unconventional. His clothing and menu was rural, not aristocratic or pretentious, like Elijah. He portrayed his “prophetic predecessor,” while at the same time – pointing boldly to the future, to One who “is mightier,” and who would be the ultimate sent One of God.
 

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.11; November 2012

 

 

 

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