We begin today our study of the Gospel of Mark. We start at chapter one, verse one. Mark is the first of the Gospels chronologically, and he introduces us to Jesus: "the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." This phrase we will see again at the Baptism of Jesus and Tabor and Calvary. The climax in Mark's Gospel is the Centurion who proclaims "this is truly the Son of God."
John the Baptist is introduced to us by Mark. Mark quotes from Isaiah and Malachi. A messenger is to come to prepare the way. In the Gospel, the messenger is the Baptist, Jesus is the coming of God... "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord."
The credentials of John are clearly established from the Old Testament. Mark now introduces John's teaching. John is a preacher. John's message is repentance, the very message that Jesus will take up and will be preached by his disciples. John and Jesus and his disciples are related in that they all preach repentance. The whole reference to John as the one who preaches to prepare for the coming of God is focused on Jesus when John points to the One who is stronger than he, who works out of the Spirit of God.
John lived in the wilderness. This is in contrast to his parents who lived in the hill country of Galilee. He left the soft life for the barren lands. He lived off the land. His penitential life was well known. Later the Pharisees were to challenge Jesus about this!!!
John is only the messenger. He always pointed to the One who is to come "who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit."
John the Baptist in the Scriptures
Called "the Baptist," this John was born when Zechariah and Elizabeth, his parents, were already old. Hid mother was a relative of Mary, Jesus' mother, making john a cousin of Jesus. Although descended from long lines of priests through both his mother and father, John the Baptist followed the role of the prophet, retreating into the desert (perhaps in response to the death of his aged parents), reflecting on the unfaithfulness of his people, and emerging to preach a compelling message of repentance. He probably had some associations with the Essene community; in any case John, like the Essenes, was ascetic and insisted upon self-immersion to signify cleansing from sin. His manner reminded everyone of the earlier prophets, and stirred the population deeply. Most startling, however, was his announcement that God's message was about to come, and that the hour of judgement was upon the people. Another was to follow him, John announced, who would bring in the new era. John was particularly harsh on the religious authorities for their failure to repent. Great crowds were baptised in the Jordan, among them Jesus. It was not until later, however, that John understood that Jesus was the promised deliverer. He continued his stern preaching until he was arrested by Herod Antipas for daring to denounce the scandalous royal marriage. John the Baptist was beheaded by Antipas, but his influence survived for years. Some of his followers joined Jesus; others continued to revere him. he was the last of the prophets and the forerunner of the Saviour, and, according to Jesus; the greatest man born to woman.