Lesson 2

The Gospel According to Mark

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:9 It happened in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 1:11 A voice came out of the sky, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

1:12 Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. 1:13 He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals; and the angels ministered to him.

Today's Lesson 

In Today's Scripture, Mark succinctly tells the story of the baptism of Jesus and his temptation in the wilderness. Here we have yet another example of Mark brevity. He tells the story as it has been given to him without elaboration. If Mark was based primarily in Rome, his access to other primary sources of what had happened in Palestine 30 years before would have been limited. So, Mark the faithful interpreter passes along the words that he has heard and no more.


Jesus came down from Galilee and was baptized by John. Signs and wonders attended His baptism. Jesus then goes into the wilderness for forty days to be prepared for what was to come. Let us look behind the sparse words and see what Mark is trying to communicate about this initial phase of the ministry of Christ.


The first thing that should stand out is that this passage contains the second and third reference in a very short space to the Spirit of God. John has declared that the one that will follow him will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now we are told that the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove after He was baptized. Not only that, but the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness after His baptism. We meant to quickly grasp that the Spirit will be an active force in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The Spirit of God is God's seal of approval. We know that God is at work through the presence of God's Spirit.


The second thing that should stand out is the second reference to who Jesus is. The very first verse of this gospel reads, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Now Mark tells us that at the time of His baptism, a voice came down from the sky saying, "'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" Mark makes clear from the very beginning that we are talking about a unique individual here. In the person of Jesus Christ we find a man unlike other men. This man is the Son of God.


Just as John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of Christ, the baptism and temptation prepare Christ for His ministry. Even the unique Son of God was to be prepared to accomplish what only He could accomplish. How much more so you or I? First Jesus was baptized and recognized by John the Baptist. The Spirit of God had sent John to prepare the way for the Lord. The Spirit then directs Jesus to John so that John will know that his mission is fulfilled. The time had come for the transfer of authority from the prophet to the Son.


Then the Son was driven into the wilderness for a time of fasting and preparation. He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. In a poetic turn, Mark tells us that Christ was with the wild animals and that angels ministered to Him. Perhaps His greatest temptation was simply to remain.


But for Mark, these pictures are the setting of the stage. The lights have come up and the main character has taken the stage. Though we have a brief glimpse of John the Baptist first, we cannot doubt who the main protagonist of this story is to be. "Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting, and the Spirit descending on him like a dove." The spotlight is firmly fixed on Jesus of Nazareth and will never go off of Him for the rest of this book.


Before we know anything else about Him, we know that He is chosen by God and led by the Spirit of God. Here is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the unique Son of God, sent by God and approved by the work of the Spirit. "'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"


How has God prepared you in the past for challenges you would face in the future? Did you look upon the preparation with thankfulness or bitterness?

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