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Summary: Who is this Jesus? That is the question that underlines the gospel of Mark. He is a man like us and yet so much more. Throughout his gospel Mark raises that question and he begins in his opening passage about John the Baptist.

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Introduction

Who is this Jesus? That is the question that underlines the gospel of Mark. He is a man like us and yet so much more. Throughout his gospel Mark raises that question and he begins in his opening passage about John the Baptist.

The Prophecy

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way”—

3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.’”

Immediately, in Mark’s dramatic fashion, we are taken to prophecy. To use the movie image, the movie director Mark would have had this prophecy scrolling up the screen as the first image we see as is done in the Star Wars movies.

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: Actually the whole quote is not from Isaiah. The first two lines are from the prophet Malachi, chapter 3, verse 1. Mark makes a slight change. The Malachi verse reads: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” The “me” is God, the Lord Almighty. Mark’s modifies the pronouns to show that the prophecy is about the Messiah. The Lord Almighty is coming, to be sure, but he is the Messiah, the Son of God.

This opening serves as an introduction to the Isaiah verse (40:3):

3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.’”

Then John’s introduction: And so John came. Now, what is it that Mark has accomplished with these two verses? He has established that John is himself the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. Furthermore, it is the prophecy related to the hopes of Israel – the coming of the Messiah. Both the Malachi and Isaiah passages were understood as pertaining to the Messiah’s coming. Let me read the larger context for each quote:

Malachi 3:1-4: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Isaiah 40:1-5: Comfort, comfort my people,

says your God.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:

“In the desert prepare

the way for the LORD;

make straight in the wilderness

a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,

and all mankind together will see it.

For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”


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