Posts filed under ‘New Testament’

Bible Study: Mark 1:1-15

Notes on Mark 1:1-15

The following are my notes on Mark 1:1-15 based on what I presented for United Lutheran’s Bible Study. I am using the King James Version because that’s in the public domain. Questions and corrections are welcome. I will probably edit and hopefully cite sources as I go along.

1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

The gospel or the ‘good news,’ the euangelion in Greek, from which we get the word ‘evangelical’ in English.

Jesus translates to ‘God saves’; Christ is Greek for Messiah, or ‘anointed one:’ the hoped for return of the Davidic King of Israel. Some people refer to ‘Jesus the Christ,’ thus avoiding the misconception that Christ is Jesus’ last name, but confusing a lot of other folks in the process. Jesus would have been referred to as ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ or even ‘Jesus son-of-Joseph.’

‘Son of God’ was a title used by the Roman emperors of the time. In the very first verse of the Gospel, the claim is that Jesus is King and Emperor, not Caesar.


2As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses remember Isaiah 40 and the preaching of Isaiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. In that time, they were being encouraged to return to Jerusalem by a ‘way’ that God would make through the desert. God was doing something new and restoring his people to his land. In this case, John the Baptist is preparing the way for people to receive Jesus, who will make all things new.

4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

Water-baptism was not an uncommon ceremony of the time. It sometimes was used as a part of a Gentile’s conversion to Judaism. The uniqueness of John’s baptism lay in the idea of ‘repentance’ and the location. To ‘repent’ is to turn around – from sin, towards God – and the location of the Jordan River represented a recapitulation of the return from exile. Again, God was about to restore his land to his chosen people, and those who came for baptism wanted to be in on it.
6And John was clothed with camels hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

John is reminiscent of the prophet Elijah, who was independent of the court prophets of his day. John’s call came directly from God – he was not a prophet whose words were for sale. It was an expectation that Elijah’s return would precede the coming of the Messiah.

7And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
8I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Here John makes it clear that he is not the Messiah and that his role is, again, one of preparation for the Messiah.


9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
10And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
11And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

‘Thou art my beloved Son,’ comes from Ps. 2 and Ps. 110, royal psalms. ‘In whom I am well pleased,’ comes from Isaiah 42:1, one of Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant. The king is a servant who will give everything for his people, and the servant is a king who will defeat the people’s enemies: sin, death, and the evil one.

Jesus is baptized because he shares everything with us; our flesh, the repentance needed for sin, our life, our death, so that we can share all that he has – his divine life and intimacy with the Father through the Spirit. He is attested as the Father’s Son by nature at Baptism – we are adopted as the Father’s children when we are baptized into him, and we share by grace in the Spirit shared by the Father and the Son.
12And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness.
13And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

The One on whom the Holy Spirit has descended immediately shares in our temptation. We tend to think that the ‘holier’ you are, the fewer problems you will have. ‘Godliness’ is supposed to be a ticket to success: see Joel Osteen and other hawkers of religious self-help. Here we have the antidote to such claptrap: the One in whom God is well-pleased must live by faith even in the midst of suffering and temptation.
14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

The arrest of John is a sign for Jesus; he returns to Galilee and proclaims ‘The kingdom of God is at hand,’ a Messianic claim.  A bold claim, considering that nothing has really changed, and that Caesar still claims to be king. We might look around and say it’s equally bold today: the kingdom of God seems as far away as ever. What gives Jesus the authority to make such a claim: the kingdom of God is here? Stay tuned…

January 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment


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