World English Bible translation
1:1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 1:2 As it is written in the prophets,
"Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
Who will prepare your way before you.
1:3The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
1:4John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. 1:5 All the country of Judea and all those of Jerusalem went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. 1:6 John was clothed with camel's hair and a leather belt around his loins. He ate locusts and wild honey. 1:7 He preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. 1:8 I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."
Compared to other gospels, the Gospel of Mark begins abruptly. There is no introduction concerning the pre-existence of Christ or his birth. We simply read, "The beginning of the gospel..." This simplicity, this lack of pretension, is the hallmark of the Gospel According to Mark. Mark is a faithful recorder of the teachings that have been handed down to him. We believe that the one who instructed Mark was none other than Peter, the leader of the original twelve apostles. What we have in this book is valuable because of its simplicity. Mark is not trying to interpret what Peter has handed down. He is trying to faithfully record it.
So, Mark begins his gospel where Peter began his preaching. In the beginning, there was John the Baptist. Today, we neglect the role of the Baptist in the ministry of our Lord. We quickly pass over the mention of him in all four gospels. Most Christians would be surprised to learn that there is actually more historical evidence for the existence of John the Baptist than there is for Jesus Christ. In his own time, John the Baptist was a very big deal. He was popular with the people. Religious and political leaders feared him. Had his message been the least bit political, he would have been executed early on, as Jesus was. But, John preached in the wild places of Judea and his message was decidedly apolitical, at least at first.
John set up along the Jordan River between Jerusalem and Galilee. He lived simply and demanded little for his own life. The description that we have of him here is that of an ascetic or a recluse. But, John was no recluse. When he began preaching, the people came out to hear him. His message was relatively simple. The time had come for repentance in Israel. God was on the verge of doing something amazing. John called all those who were sinners and knew that their lives were displeasing to God to repent, to turn around, and begin to serve God again. For this reason, as would be true of Jesus later, John was unpopular with Jewish leaders and very popular with the masses of people.
John's message was one that people wanted to hear and one that they could understand. John was not trying to develop a systematic theology. He was just proclaiming what God had revealed to him. He was doing the job that God had given him to do. When we read all of the gospel accounts of the life of John, particularly that of the Gospel of John, we come to the conclusion that not even John the Baptist completely understood the role that he was to play.
John the Baptist was a herald. He comes before Christ and foreshadows Him. He gains popular support and then is executed for political reasons. But, before John dies he proclaims that God will soon step into the world and change things. John declares that there is one coming who will be the catalyst of this change. And, the change will not be primarily physical, but spiritual. "I baptize you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."
John is also a wonderful lesson for our own lives. God prepares people for changes. God does not usually place a burden on us that He has not prepared us for in advance. He does ask us to make changes in our lives for which He has not already laid the groundwork in our past and in our circumstances. We will not understand the full extent of the changes that God demands of us, just as John did not fully understand the extent of what Christ would do when he came. But, God does ask us to live up to the revelation that we have received. God does ask us to believe and then to act.
Can you hear God's voice calling you from the wilderness? What demands is God making on your heart today?
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