Gospel of Mark: Chapter 1

The Gospel of Mark:

Commentary on Chapter 1

  • v. 1 – Mark tells us immediately the purpose of his writing – to share the “good news”[1] about Jesus.
    • Jesus is described as the Messiah.[2] This term is Hebrew and means “anointed one.” In the Old Testament priests, kings, and prophets where all anointed with oil to mark them as selected by God for a specific task or purpose. The Old Testament spoke of an “Anointed One” that would come and who would be unlike all other anointed ones who had come before. Mark is claiming that Jesus is this one, this different, new, greater anointed one.
  • vv. 2-3 – This quotation is actually a combination of two quotes – one from Malachi 3:1 and the other from Isaiah 40:3. Following the Jewish tradition of the times, Mark mentions only the “greater” of the two prophets (Isaiah).
  • v. 4 – John is the fulfillment of the prophecies Mark has just quoted. The making ready for the Lord is not a process of literally building roads, but rather of repentance – turning from sin and towards God.
  • v. 5 – Judea is the entire nation in which the Jewish people lived and Jerusalem was the capital city of Judea.
    •   Jordan is the main river in Judea, running from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south.
  • v. 6 – John’s appearance was simple and wild, but it also hearkened back to an early time when another great prophet had come – Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).[3]
  • vv. 7-8 – As the prophecy says, John is a voice preparing the way for the Lord – he is not the Lord. John himself proclaims that he can only baptize with water, but that another is coming who is going to baptize with God’s Spirit.
    •  Untying one’s sandal was one of the lowest tasks possible at this time. Essentially John is saying he is not even worthy to serve in the most minor manner the Lord.
  • vv. 9-11 – Here is Jesus, the Lord that John has been proclaiming. God the Father confirms that Jesus is the one by opening the heavens and sending the Holy Spirit down onto Jesus.
  • vv. 12-13 – This recalls when Israel wandered for forty years in the desert, but unlike the Israelites, Jesus did not succumb to temptation.
  • vv. 14-15 – Jesus’ message is much like John’s message. But now Jesus is bringing in the Kingdom of God, it is no longer coming, it is here. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom with His presence. To be part of God’s Kingdom one cannot be pursuing evil, so Jesus calls all people to repentance and belief.
  • vv. 16-18 – Simon is given the nickname Peter by Jesus. Peter means rock.
  • vv. 21-22 – The Sabbath day was the last day of the week for the Jews (Saturday).[4]
    •   A synagogue was a place for learning about God through the teaching of the Scriptures.
    • The religious leaders always quoted others to support their teachings, but Jesus spoke as if He knew directly from God the truth (and He did!).
  • vv. 23-28 – This spiritual being was evil and Jesus casts it out of the man.
    • Exorcisms of evil spirits were not uncommon, but they depended upon the exorcist using complicated spells and rituals to cast out the demons. Just as Jesus taught as if He knew truth directly from God, so He exorcised demons as if He had the power and authority of God (and He did!)
  •  v. 25 – Throughout the Gospel of Mark we will see an emphasis on the secret nature of the kingdom. Jesus repeatedly makes the evil spirits be quiet (see v. 34) and later will speak in parables that are difficult to understand.
  • vv. 32-34 – Jesus continues to heal and cast out demons, but as in v. 25, Jesus does not allow the demons to speak about who Jesus is. Why doesn’t Jesus want others to know who He is? Shouldn’t Jesus want others to know that He is the Messiah? The problem was the way the Jewish people conceived of the Messiah at this time – they thought of Him as a conquering hero who would throw out the Roman oppressors, but Jesus came as a very different kind of hero.[5]
  • v. 38 – To preach is to proclaim or announce a message. In this case, Jesus is proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom.
  • v. 40 – Leprosy is a very disturbing disease. It oftentimes involved one’s flesh taking on grotesque forms and nauseous smells and sometimes one’s body parts would die and drop off. It inevitably led to death over a period of years. Individuals with leprosy were outcasts from society, everyone feared that being anywhere near a leper would allow one to “catch” the leprosy.
  • vv. 41-44 – Jesus heals the man of leprosy, but sternly tells the man not to tell others about this – the reason why will become evident in v. 45. Instead the man is to go to the priests and show himself to be clean according to the Old Testament laws as set down in Leviticus 14:2-32.
  • v. 45 – The reason for forbidding the man to share his healing with others besides the priests was so that crowds of people looking for healing would not surround Jesus – forcing him out of the cities. Now Jesus had to speak in the wilderness, because he would be mobbed and unable to accomplish anything if he entered the cities.

Author: Dave Mackey

Revision: 1.1 4/19/13


[1] “Gospel” is a synonym for “good news.” So, when we say, “We are going to share the gospel” we are saying, “We are going to share the good news.”

[2] Sometimes we see Jesus called “the Christ” – this is the Greek term that is synonymous with the Hebrew term “the Messiah.” They both reference the same promised anointed one – the individual (Jesus) set apart by God for a special, great task.

[3] In fact, Malachi had prophesied that Elijah would one day return (Malachi 4:5).

[4] Christians celebrate the “Lord’s Day” on Sunday, associating this with when Jesus arose from the dead.

[5] One to save us from our greatest enemies – sin and death. One who showed us a way of love and forgiveness rather than might and violence.