Journey through Mark | Mark 1:1-11 (PART 1A)
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Today, I began studying the book of Mark… I don’t know how many times I have been through the gospels now, but every time the readings are good to my soul. I am trying not to follow other voices in this study. I just seek to hear the word of God speak to me. I am convinced that the Bible is the only source of authentic human revelation. Here I am seeking to understand the identity question; who am I?
In a sense, the holy spirit has been taking me on a journey from church to the diaspora… to the wilderness of life… and on this journey he’s been talking to me constantly. No, I do not mean I hear voices. I do hear the voice of the Holy Spirit as he speaks through the word. Today, I want to share some of those words that move me as I begin to uncover the message of Jesus Christ for my life. I am convinced this message is also for everyone who ever sought a life rich in meaning. My question today is… Who is this Jesus of scripture? What does the writer of Mark intended to say about Him?
For those of you that don’t know, the book of mark was the first gospel ever written. It is assumed that Mark wrote to persecuted Roman Christians around 64 A.D. by one source. I do not want to bore you with historical details, but I think it is important to consider the background of this context to better understand the story Mark is telling his audience. Christian persecution in Rome began because Christians were falsely accused of burning the city and killing hundreds of Roman citizens by Roman Emperor Nero in 65 A.D... This is the backdrop in which we must hear Mark.
As the disciples proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, new members were being added to the community each day. Thus, the written gospel instructs the community on the proper way of life these new folks ought to live. But, why would anyone join a persecuted sect during this time of chaos? What were the experiences of these early Christians that they were willing to die for Jesus? Mark’s message begins with a bold statement… “Jesus is the Son of God” (1:1). Now, for those of you who don’t know… in this early Roman context, only the Emperor was recognized as the Son of God. Perhaps this detail is irrelevant to you, but it is essential to understand the story. Within the Emperor’s office, Nero had a divine right to rule over the people. We could say that Mark is letting his community know that Jesus is the only Emperor these new believers are to have. Jesus should be the one and only divine ruler for these Christians.
Next, the writer moves to speak of a strange character… John the Baptizer. This man appears in the wilderness. John came proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (1:4). Here we need to keep in mind that John is not a priest baptizing non-Jews. He is just the voice of one crying out in the wilderness… calling Jews to be baptized. One source says these early non-Jews were immerse in water once-for-all and considered washed when converting to Judaism. That is, to tell Jews to be baptized and to repent was offensive! But there it is… the baptizer was calling the baptize Jews to turn their way of life back to God. This is equal to calling our baptize Christians back to the Lord. According to one source, the point John is making is that everyone is to come to God in the same terms because God is an equitable God.
Thereafter, we are introduced to the newly baptize Jesus, the son of God, from Nazareth… Yes… Jesus is baptized under John for the forgiveness of his sins!? That was John’s role… to call Jews and non-Jews to repent and be forgiven… and of this Jesus, God affirms as Son with whom he is well pleased (1:9-11). Jesus was without sin… we affirm that… but that is what John was calling people to do… to confess their sins and be forgiven, and to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. On the other hand, Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit when the dove descended on him. So, our first baptism by water is in preparation for our second baptism by the Holy Spirit. Following these events, the story turns to the temptation of Jesus.