Its very easy to read scripture and miss things. I did an investigation into Mark 1:1-8 a while ago and it was amazing what I found. I want to share with you what I found and how amazing Gods word is when we ‘dig a little deeper’. These are my musings from my research, sorry if it comes off like I’m preaching, its just how I tend to write things at times. I hope you find this interesting and of profit.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way,3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It’s easy to just read the first few verses at the beginning of a book or letter from the bible and not really think about it. Its just the introduction, nothing really to see here we may say to ourselves, lets move on to the exciting bits, but if we are not careful we may miss some vital and important information that helps set the scene for us, give us some background and context for what is about to happen, Lets be honest, I know I am guilty of this.
In the first eight verse to Marks gospel it gives us some insight about the coming of the messiah, the foreword if you like to Gods redemptive plan for fallen humanity.
The first verse identifies for us who the messiah is, and what His mission is. He is Jesus, the messiah is the Son of God. The name Jesus means, in Hebrew is pronounced as Yeshua or Yehoshua meaning “to deliver; to rescue.” Jesus was sent to deliver us, to rescue us from the penalty of Sin and the death that it brings. The word Messiah means anointed. Anointing someone was an act to consecrate, to set apart someone for the Lord. This was done by pouring oil over the person, the oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this first verse tells us that God has sent His Son and has anointed Him to rescue us, to deliver us, to redeem us. To proclaim to us His gospel, which means ‘the good news’, the good news of our salvation from sin found only in Gods only begotten Son Jesus the Messiah. We miss this if we just skip over the first verse of Marks gospel.
THIS WAS PROPHETIZED
Verses 2 and three show us that this wasn’t a plan that God just came up with, not just a ‘I better do something quick before it all goes to custard’, No God had a plan for our redemption right from the beginning. God will first send out a messenger to tell His people what He is about to do. The prophet Isaiah told this fact 700 years before the birth of Christ. Seven centuries had passed, empires had come and gone, But His word remained, and finally at the time God had appointed He sent His son into the world. How easy it is to miss this point.
The first three verse of Marks gospel set up the stage, give us some clues about who the promised messiah is and how He is going to reveal it to His people. Are we being a ‘John the Baptist’ to the people who have not heard of Jesus, are we preparing the way for them so that they can encounter Jesus? We are called to be more than bystanders in the journey of faith, its more than just saying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart, its about being the messenger of Christ, bringing the good news of salvation for all who would believe in the Lord Jesus, the redeemer of all humanity.
WHAT WAS JOHN’S MESSAGE?
So, what was the message that John was preaching? He preached a message of repentance, of confessing one’s sins before God the Father. Being baptized was a symbolic act of being cleansed from Sin, a death to sin as it were. The passage tells us that many from the surrounding areas were coming to John to be purified from sin, even the chief priests and religious rulers of the day came to Him to ask if he was the promised messiah. His response to this is found in John 1:19-23 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
He told them that he was the one to announce to the people that Gods plan for redemption was at hand, His promised messiah was about to be revealed to His people. He went on and tells us in verse 7 that he is unworthy to untie His sandal, the point that he is getting across is that despite the fact that he may be seen as a ‘holy man’ or a ‘righteous man’ when compared to the Messiah his ‘righteousness;’ is as ‘filthy rags’ before the righteousness of God. Anything we do in our own strength, the striving that we do to try and please God will ultimately fail. This is not because God wants you to fail, its that He wants you to rely on Him, to be obedient to Him, it says in 1 Samuel 15:22, 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
It is better to listen to His voice. Also, to realise that the God we serve is a holy God and he has called us to be holy, (1 Peter 1:15-16 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”) what does this mean? It means we have been set apart, set apart from the world, being transformed from the nature of the world, being renewed in mind from the influence of the worlds culture to know His culture, be citizens of heaven and declare to this dying world to repent and come to God, who alone can offer forgiveness and salvation.
WEIRD CLOTHES AND FOOD
Why does the bible describe the clothing and diet of John the Baptist, It seems to us an almost insignificant bit of information, but why would Mark include pointless information? When we look at it from their cultural point of view, we find that it does indeed have significance. So, what does it tell us? For a Jewish audience, this detail linked John the Baptist to a very significant prophet in the Old Testament. The prophet Elijah wore similar clothing that set him apart from everyone else. the coarse garments of John the Baptist symbolize his mission to preach repentance. Sackcloth is a similar garment referred to in the Old Testament and frequently was worn when in mourning or in a public show of repentance for sin.
While his clothing choices may seem odd to the modern reader, they made perfect sense to the 1st-century Jewish follower, who instantly understand the significance of his garments.
Concerning his diet, what I found was that it was the type of food that the poor ate, this was to identify with those considered the dregs of society, also as a witness against the excess of the wealthy elite that believed that being rich a sign of Gods blessings, and to be poor was a sign of being a sinner. It was a stark contrast to see a ‘holy man’ a prophet to eat food considered to be the food of the God forsaken.
I BAPTIZE WITH WATER, HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the last verse we read this ‘I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’. What is meant by these words? We know that Johns baptism was a baptism of repentance and the water was significant as we looked at earlier, but what did John mean when he said He would baptize you with the Holy Spirit?
At first glance we may suppose this to be a supporting text for the Pentecostal theological stance of being ‘filled with the spirit’ with tongues being one of the signs of that experience but is that what the text says or are we looking at it through an interpretative lens that is bias to our own suppositions? What was John saying? There are many different views on what the phrase means, many scholars have looked at and discussed what it may mean, and while all the various ways it has been interpreted, they can all be biblically proven, but here is my attempt, please remember that this is my opinion on this after careful research, this is the word of Jeff and NOT the word of the Lord.
The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma (Strongs 4151), which has a similar meaning to the word ruach. “Pneuma; to breathe, blow, primarily denotes the wind. So, for me with that understanding of the word and that John was foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus, it means that, like God breathed the breath of life into Adam at creation, that Jesus will breathe new life in us, He gives us a life that is from God. When we ask Jesus into our life as saviour, we have put to death the old life, and Christ by His resurrection gives us new life, just as we need air to breathe, So Christ by the Holy Spirit gives us ‘breath’ to breathe anew, the ‘life force’ of God rather than that of this world.
So, what have we learned from these 8 verses from the opening of Marks gospel?
- God had a plan for humanities redemption.
- God sent John to prepare Gods people for the coming of the messiah.
- If we accept Christ, we are given new life through his Holy Spirit
We could and probably have missed these gems before. Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees as it were. Are you willing to investigate Scripture, His word a little more deeply, do some research to see what is hidden in plain sight? We can easily miss these things if we don’t engage our mind with the written word and listen to His voice as we read. It is His complete revelation to us, it tells us all that we need. The challenge for you today and for the rest of your days is to investigate His word with a renewed vigour, to use the tools that we have, to uncover and experience Christ in His fullness.
I always look forward to your comments and suggestions, so please comment, leave a suggestion or any ideas you may like me write a blog on. Until nest time be blessed as you serve our great and Might God.
In Christ our redeemer Ps Jeff.