Firstly, an apology to anyone expecting to see a blog post about Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. I was finding it very difficult and, after prayer, I believe I am being called to study Mark’s gospel instead.
So here is the first post about Mark’s gospel. I pray that both reader and writer will grow closer to Jesus through this study.
Mark 1: 1 – 8 John the Baptist prepares the way
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’ –
‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” ’
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt round his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: ‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
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In the Greek, Mark’s gospel starts with the words “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The word “Christ” is not a name but a title, and it means “Anointed One”. The translators of the NIV have chosen to render that as “the Messiah, the Son of God”. While this may be slightly misleading, it makes it easier to see Jesus as being the fulfilment of Jewish expectation for a Messiah.
Mark starts by setting Jesus in the context of Jewish history. He says that the prophet Isaiah foretold that God would send a messenger to prepare the way for his Messiah, and he tells us that the prophecy was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist. John taught people to confess their sins, repent of them, and be baptised. This was a development of the Jewish practice of “tvila”, immersion in water in a “mikvah” (a bath of natural spring water) to remove ritual impurity.
People flocked to John. His message of repentance and forgiveness must have been very attractive, drawing people from the Judean countryside as well as from Jerusalem. It was an important ministry, but John knew that it was not the final answer to sin. He knew that he was just the messenger. And so he proclaimed:
‘After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
I am struck by the early mention of the Holy Spirit. Mark is telling us, through the words of John the Baptist, that the Holy Spirit is of central importance. The hallmark of the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of God, is that he baptises us with the Holy Spirit.
When we have been baptised in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is through his guidance that we are led into truth. It is through him that we can know Jesus.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit when we are baptised. Help us to listen to him, help us to obey him, help us to draw closer to Jesus, in whose name I pray.