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Introduction of Mark
Mark appears to be written for an audience in Rome. A Roman centurion’s declaration near the end of the book — Surely this man was the Son of God!—models the witness to Jesus this gospel calls for.
The opening half of this fast-moving drama keys on the question: Who do you say I am? An episode at the end of the first half shows Jesus healing a blind man in two stages, so that he slowly comes to see. In the same way the disciples have only gradually come to recognize who Jesus is. Then in a key moment in the story, between its two halves, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah.
Now the conflict moves out into the open. Jesus has come to introduce a radical new way of life that will undercut existing power relationships. The second half of the drama depicts this in three acts:
- First, Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem.
- Next, Jesus teaches in the temple and clashes with the established leadership.
- In the final act, that leadership executes its plan and has Jesus arrested and crucified, seemingly overturning all he has done. But then God overturns their deed and raises Jesus to life. So Mark’s readers are called to be faithful to Jesus, even in suffering, because this is how God continues to overturn the existing order and establish the way of life that Jesus taught.
Mark 1 English Standard Version (ESV)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The Baptism of Jesus
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
- This opening section of Mark sets the stage for the presentation of Jesus Christ as the unique Servant of the Lord, Mark identified as the Son of God.
- Mark recorded two events that preceded Jesus’ public ministry, His baptism and His temptation. Jesus underwent John’s baptism to identify with man and man’s sin, not because He needed to repent of person sins, for He had none. His baptism showed that He is the Son of God, the One approved by the Father and empowered by the Spirit, He is the Messiah.
- God allowed Satan to tempt Jesus for two reasons: to show that He would not draw away from the Father’s will, and to demonstrate His qualification for His mission. During the time of testing by Satan, “angels were ministering to him”. God did not leave His Son alone, but provided grace to help in this time of need.
- What temptations are you currently struggling with? What encouragement do you find here for facing your own temptations?
- Ask God to help you find the encouragement and strength you need to face temptation.