I. Preparation for Ministry (Mark 1:1-13)


I. Preparation for Ministry (1:1-13)

1:1 Mark opens the gospel—the good news—by pointing out that it is of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In obedience to an angel’s command, the promised child’s parents gave him the name “Jesus” (Matt 1:21). “Jesus” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means, “the Lord saves.” “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew “Messiah,” which means, “Anointed One.” This was the title of the promised King, the descendant of David who would rule the kingdom and deliver his people. The title “Son of God” tells us Jesus is more than a mere man. He is fully divine; he’s the God-Man.

1:2-5 Typically kings would send envoys ahead of them to prepare their way. Mark tells us that God did the same for his Son, sending an envoy to prepare the way for the King (1:2). Christ’s ambassador was a man named John whose mission was foretold many years before by Isaiah (see Isa 40:3). The prophet said a voice would cry out in the wilderness, instructing people to prepare for the Lord’s coming (1:3). This was fulfilled when John started baptizing in the wilderness of Judea. He proclaimed the need for spiritual cleansing in preparation for the Messiah and his kingdom. This would require repentance—turning from sin. John urged his hearers to be baptized and confess their sins as an outward sign of their inward willingness to repent (1:4-5). By “confessing” their sins, they were agreeing with heaven’s evaluation of their sins; by “repenting” they were adopting heaven’s perspective on their sins.

1:6-8 John’s plain lifestyle was reflected in his clothing (a camel-hair garment with a leather belt) and his food (locusts and wild honey) (1:6). He was a simple, unworthy man pointing to someone more powerful than he (1:7). This Coming One would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit (1:8). God had promised it long ago (Joel 2:28), and in time Jesus would deliver (see John 14:16-17; Acts 2:1-4).

1:9-11 When Jesus arrived at the Jordan River, he was baptized . . . by John (1:9). He did this to identify with sinners, whom he’d come to save (see commentary at Matt 3:13-15), and so that he might be distinguished as the Messiah, the Son of God (see John 1:29-34). As he rose from the water, the Spirit descended on him from heaven (1:10). Thus, though he was truly God, Jesus’s humanity would be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then the Father exalted his beloved Son (1:11). Thus, we see the Trinity at work at this crucial kingdom moment: The ministry of God the Son begins with the loving affirmation of God the Father and the empowering presence of God the Spirit.

1:12-13 In preparation for his mission, Jesus was compelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness (1:12). As Israel had spent forty years in the wilderness, so Jesus spent forty days, identifying with God’s people. There he was isolated from civilization, among wild animals, and tempted by Satan (1:13). And whereas Israel repeatedly failed to obey God during its time in the wilderness, Jesus was victorious. He demonstrated the power of God over the devil when led by the Holy Spirit. This is why the apostle Paul urges Christians to be “led by the Spirit” and to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:18, 25).