Setting

Mark opens with a bold claim that Jesus is “the Son of God” (1:1). He then gets right into the story of the gospel, starting with John the Baptist, who preached a “baptism of repentance” (1:4) in preparation for the One who was greater. While John was setting the stage, Jesus prepared Himself in the wilderness.

Key Verse

(1:8)

Did You Know...?

1. Gospel (1:1): The English word comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “the story concerning God.” The Greek word used in the New Testament (euaggelion) means literally, “good news.” The term appears frequently in Paul’s epistles. [ref]

2. The prophecy in 1:2 (quoting Isaiah 40:3) was written about 700 years before John the Baptist was born. [ref]

3. Wilderness/desert (1:3): The Greek word is used more to convey a sense of a solitary or lonely place. [ref] Here, Mark is referring to the region west of the Dead Sea.

4. John (1:4): The name is derived from the Hebrew expression that means, “the Lord is gracious.” It was given by an angel of the Lord (Lk 1:13).

5. Baptize (1:4): Derived from the Greek word baptismos, which means, “to dip,” “to immerse,” or “to submerge.” [ref]

6. John centered his ministry in the “all the land of Judea” (1:5) in the southern part of Palestine, while Jesus began His ministry around Galilee (1:14) in the northern part of Palestine. Because of John’s work, people later came all the way from Judea to see Jesus (3:8).

7. Camel’s hair such as a camel and used it as clothing. (1:6): The poor treated the skin of a dead animal [ref]

8. Locusts (1:6): Considered clean food under the Mosaic law (Lev 11:21-22), but not part of the everyday diet. [ref]

9. Sandal strap (1:7): Sandals were insignificant things (Gen 14:23). The simplest form consisted of a plain sole of leather, bound to the feet by a leather thong. [ref] It was a very lowly task to carry or loosen another’s sandal.

10. Nazareth (1:9): Literally, “Sanctified.” A small town atop a hill (Lk 4:29-30) in the southern part of Galilee. It was Jesus’ hometown (Mt 2:23). It was so obscure that it was never mentioned in the Old Testament. [ref]

11. Jesus traveled about 18 miles (30 kilometers) to be baptized (from Nazareth to Jordan).

12. John the Baptist witnessed the vision of the Holy Spirit appearing like a dove (Jn 1:32).

Outline

  • Beginning of the Gospel of the Son of God
    (1:1)
  • John the Baptist
  • Prophesied to prepare a way for the Lord
    (1: 2-3)
  • Baptism of repentance
  • John’s dress and diet
    (1:6)
  • Preached about one who is greater
  • Baptism of Jesus
  • Heaven opened and Holy Spirit descended like a dove
  • A voice from heaven: “You are My beloved Son”
  • Temptation of Jesus
  • Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the desert
  • 40 days in the desert with wild animals; angels attended him

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Describe “gospel” in your own words.

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  • 2.

    When did your faith in Jesus Christ begin? How did you come to know Jesus?

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  • 3.

    What did each of the following do to prepare for Jesus’ ministry? a. God? b. John? c. Jesus?

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    a. God—He sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus; acknowledged Jesus as His son; the Spirit descended upon Jesus and was with Jesus; He sent angels to attend to him.

    b. John—He prepared the people for Jesus’ coming; he preached that Jesus was greater and baptized those who repented; he baptized Jesus.

    c. Jesus—He set an example of baptism; He submitted to the Holy Spirit to go to the desert to be tempted.

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  • 4.

    In this passage, what are the things and/or events related to the wilderness?

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    Voice crying in the wilderness; baptizing in the wilderness; locusts; wild honey; the spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness; Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness; Jesus was with wild beasts.

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:1-8

    1a.

    What did John come to do?

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    See verse 4.

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  • 1b.

    What was the people’s response to his preaching?

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    See verse 5.

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  • 2.

    Compare John’s way of dress and diet to that of a prophet. (cf. Lev 11:21-22; 2Kgs 1:8; Zech 13:4).

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    John’s dress and diet indicate that he lived a simple life and survived on the bare minimums (whatever was available to him). John the Baptist lived like a typical prophet, and this lifestyle was not typical of an average person.

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  • 3a.

    What role does prophecy play in this paragraph? Compare “John came” (4) with “Jesus came” (9).

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    From the sequence and wording of the narrative, we see that prophecy plays a key role in bringing Jesus Christ onto the center stage.

    The author introduces John by first quoting the the words of the OT prophets about the voice of the wilderness. This prophecy was fulfilled when John came. Now, John, in turn, took on the role of a prophet, and the author’s description of him in verse 6 underscores that role. John prophesied about the One coming after him, and his prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus came.

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  • 3b.

    How does the fulfillment of prophecies help the reader know who Jesus is?

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    Jesus’ coming was prophesied by all the prophets, including John the baptist. This demonstrates that Jesus was no ordinary historical figure. Jesus’ coming was a very significant event in history and God’s timetable. It was so important that God sent one prophet after another to announce it and finally sent John to prepare the way. Now, Jesus had finally come to fulfill the greatest divine plan, bringing redemption to mankind.

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  • 4a.

    What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

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    To be baptized with the Holy Spirit means to receive the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 11:15-16; cf. 10:44-46). This is the promise that our Lord Jesus Christ gives to all believers—that God’s Spirit Himself will dwell in our hearts forever as a personal Helper (Jn 14:16-17, 7:37-39).

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  • 4b.

    What is the difference between Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit and John’s baptism with water?

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    John’s baptism was “of repentance for the remission of sins” (1:4). However, it ultimately served as a pointer to the One coming after John, Jesus Christ (Acts 19:4).

    Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is not a foreshadow. It actually changes the lives of believers and prepares them for the heavenly inheritance. Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, our Lord seals us as His heir (Rom 8:16-17; 2Cor 5:5; Eph 1:13-14, 4:30). Through the Holy Spirit Who lives in us, He teaches us (Jn 14:26, 16:13), renews us (Tit 3:5), quenches our inner thirst (Jn 4:38-39), intercedes for us (Rom 8:26-27), and empowers us (Acts 1:8; Rom 8:9-11).

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  • 5.

    Today, who plays the role of John the Baptist?

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    Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, many Christian workers have prepared the way for the True Jesus Church. The true church reaps the fruit of their labor (Jn 4:37-38). Christian missionaries have gone to far-off places to preach. Bible scholars have translated the Bible into many languages. Countless hymns written in the past still move us today. All of these works prepared the world for the true gospel. The True Jesus Church is prophesied in the Bible, and is entrusted to preach the gospel to the world. She preaches the complete and perfect gospel, fulfilling the promises written in the Bible.

    At the same time, the church also plays the role of John the Baptist. We are preparing the believers for Jesus’ Second Coming, when the heavenly kingdom is fulfilled.

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  • 1:9-11

    6.

    If Jesus had no sins to repent of, why did He let John baptize Him?

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    “To fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). Jesus sets an example in everything He commands us to do. (cf. Matthew Bible Study Guide, Lesson 4, Questions 10a and 10b).

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  • 7a.

    What happened immediately after Jesus was baptized?

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    See verses 10-11.

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  • 7b.

    What was the significance of this event?

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    The parting of the heavens, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the voice from heaven all serve as a testimony from God to all the people that Jesus was the Son of God. They also reinforced what John the Baptist had prophesied about Jesus.

    Furthermore, the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Jesus was a sign that God had sent Him to the ministry (cf. Lk 4:18).

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  • 8a.

    List the characteristics of a dove. What was a dove used for in the Old Testament?

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    Innocent (Mt 10:16); needing protection (Ps 74:19).

    In the Old Testament, doves were used in a burnt offering (Lev 1:14). Also, those who couldn’t afford to buy lamb offered doves instead (Lev 12:8).

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  • 8b.

    Why does the Holy Spirit appear like a dove (10)? What else does the Holy Spirit appear as in the Bible?

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    The passage says, “like a dove.” John did not literally see a dove, but something like it. Often, it is difficult to describe a vision in words. This is true for biblical writings and in testimonies today. What is important is the meaning behind the vision.

    A dove is a lowly creature. The Holy Spirit appears like a dove to teach us a lesson in humility. Likewise, even though Jesus had great authority, He “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Php 2:7, NIV). As servants, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1).

    The Holy Spirit also appears as a tongue of fire (Acts 2:4). John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Mt 3:11). The Holy Spirit gave the apostles power and courage to serve the Lord (2Tim 1:7).

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  • 8c.

    What is the Holy Spirit like to you? How would you describe the Holy Spirit?

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  • 1:12-13

    9.

    Why did the Holy Spirit send Jesus into the desert immediately after His baptism?

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    Jesus went into the desert to be tempted. His temptation is an important part of God’s salvation plan; it was necessary before He could teach and understand people’s suffering (Heb 4:15, 2:18). After we give our lives to Christ, things may not magically go well. In fact, “the Lord weighs the heart” (Prov 21:2). However, Jesus’ firsthand experience assures us that “God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1Cor 10:13, NIV).

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  • 10.

    What do the “wild beasts” (13) symbolize?

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    They signify danger and works of the evil one (Dan 6:4-7, 16, 21; 1Pet 5:8). They might also refer to continuous opposition to God’s work (1Cor 15:32; Acts 19:23-41).

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  • 11.

    Why do you think Mark does not state how Jesus was tempted, nor that Jesus overcame temptation?

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    Instead of whether or not Jesus overcame the temptation, Mark states that the angels attended him. He emphasizes that Jesus was not alone when He faced the temptations and wild beasts. No matter the temptation, God is always there to help us.

    Luke 4:13 tells us, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Similarly, Mark could be portraying this temptation as the first in a series of attacks (from Pharisees [Mk 2:15-22], from His own people [Mk 3:21, 31-34], etc.)

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  • 12a.

    When you are in a difficult situation, how do you know whether or not it is the will of the Holy Spirit? How do you get through it?

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  • 12b.

    What are the “wild beasts” in your faith? How do you overcome them?

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