“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.””
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed,
“The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandal. I have baptised you with water but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.
In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Mark begins his Gospel by rooting it in God’s promises and actions in the past. For instance, Mark makes clear, with his quotation from Isaiah, that the events which unfold in his gospel are a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, explicitly linking Isaiah’s prophecy to John the Baptist and Jesus. Mark also introduces several important themes that will be developed throughout the rest of the book. Mark, unlike the other synoptic gospels (Matthew and Luke), does not begin with an account of Jesus’ birth. Instead, his story begins with the start of Jesus’ ministry. Nevertheless, it is clear from the very beginning who Mark thinks Jesus is: He is the Christ, which is a translation of the Jewish ‘Messiah,’ God’s anointed king, prophesied in the Old Testament and awaited by the Jews. Mark also states in the very first verse, that Jesus is the Son of God. Although, what this title means will only become clear during the course of the gospel.
1. Read the quotation at the beginning of this passage. Who do you think is sending out his messenger? Who is the messenger? For whom is a way being prepared?
2. How does John’s ministry prepare the way for Jesus? How can we use this as an example for how we should prepare to meet Jesus?
3. As we have explored above, Mark makes it clear that the coming of the Christ is rooted in Israelite history. What difference does it make to you that the gospel is so deeply rooted in history?
4. What does the crowd’s response to John’s message suggest about their sense of need?
5. Why do you think the crowd felt the need to be baptised as a sign of repentance and forgiveness in addition to following the Jewish sacrificial system?
6. How does John emphasize the greatness of the one who will come after him? Despite his greatness Jesus came to John for baptism. What does this tell us about Jesus’ relationship to us?
7. Why do you think Satan tempted Jesus directly after his baptism? Do you think that Satan continued to tempt Jesus during his ministry? How do you think Jesus withstood temptation?
8. Have you ever had an experience of being tempted either in the same way as Jesus was tempted in the desert, or in more subtle ways? Which do you find harder to withstand?
· Ask God to continue working in your heart to make you more like John the Baptist; embracing Jesus as the Christ, God’s anointed king and helping to prepare others to meet him.
· Pray that God would strengthen you to withstand temptation and to remind you that Jesus was also tempted.