Summary: The lessons from the wilderness are summarized in Mark 1:15. Jesus is the Son of God; the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.
Lessons From The Wilderness
Text: Mark 1:1-15
[This lesson is adapted from several sources including The Teacher’s Commentary By Lawrence O. Richards, and The New Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Testament Volume, based on the work of Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.]
Papias, about A.D. 140, expressed the view of the early church about this, the shortest of all our Gospels. He wrote: “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he recorded he wrote with great accuracy, but not however in the order in which it was spoken or done by our Lord.”
Like the other Gospel writers, Mark organized his material to achieve a specific purpose. In Mark’s case, this purpose was to introduce Jesus through a simple, vivid narrative, to converts from the Roman world. Writing in the blunt, ordinary language of the common people, Mark focused attention on Jesus’ acts (rather than His teachings). About half of the book is devoted to the last eight days of Jesus’ life.
I. JOHN’S PREACHING AND BAPTISM
A. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
• This verse (without a verb) is a comprehensive title for Mark’s Gospel; it introduces this Gospel’s theme: the good news about (or, preached by) Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
• It is abrupt, but to the point, and characterizes the writer’s energetic style. As is implicit in this title, Mark was more intent on presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ than the biography of Jesus Christ. And so he quickly moves into the public part of Jesus’ ministry.
1. The beginning
a. The Bible records several significant beginnings.
1) The first verse of our Bible tells of the beginning of God’s creation (Genesis 1:1).
2) John speaks of the beginning before all beginnings, the timeless, eternal beginning, the beginning in which the Word was before all else. (John 1:1).
3) The Gospels of Matthew and Luke commence their accounts with Jesus’ genealogy, birth, and the beginning of his life on earth.
4) Mark, foregoing Christ’s genealogy and early life, immediately focuses the reader’s attention on the beginning of Christ’s message and ministry.
b. Some have thought that Mark did not include Christ’s genealogy because he was interested in presenting Christ as a servant—and a servant does not need a genealogy. His worth is proven by his work, not his pedigree.
c. Others have thought that Mark omitted the genealogy and instead used Christ’s herald (John the Baptist) to introduce his narrative because a herald’s announcement signaled the arrival of an eminent person more effectively and more immediately than a historical pedigree. Mark’s Roman audience, familiar with the function of a herald, would have appreciated the way Mark chose to introduce Jesus Christ.
2. The gospel
a. The Greek word means “good news.” It was only as followers of Christ applied the term to him and his teachings that it took on any special meaning.
b. After Justin Martyr (2nd century) the “good news” came to mean the actual written records of Jesus’ life, including Mark’s account.
c. When Mark wrote, however, it was necessary to qualify whom the “good news” was about. This was the whole story of Jesus, the Messiah: how he lived and died, what he taught, and where he went.
d. “It is in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus identifies ‘gospel’ so closely with his own person that the two are practically one entity”—see 8:35; 10:29 (Franzmann).
3. Jesus Christ
a. His human name is Jesus, and that is the name he went by on earth. It was a common Jewish name that meant “the delivering one.”
b. The historian Josephus mentions about twenty men by the same name, and ten of them lived at the same time as this Jesus. That is why Mark makes sure his readers know which Jesus he is talking about.
c. Messiah, or Christ, meant “the Anointed One” of God. There could be only one “Jesus, the Messiah.”
d. Throughout his short book Mark adequately portrays the human side of Jesus, alongside his uniquely divine character.
4. The Son of God
a. God’s Son. Mark is completely convinced this Jesus is the Son of God and he emphatically identifies him as such in his opening statement. (See also note on 15:39.)
B. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet
1. While Matthew and Luke made their connection with the OT by tracing Christ’s lineage through OT persons to Jesus Christ, Mark makes his connection by immediately citing OT passages that predicted the coming of Christ and his forerunner.
3. It may be that he was more familiar with Isaiah, or simply felt that Isaiah’s name was the one which his readers most often associated with prophecies about the Messiah.