This passage discusses the ministry of John the Baptist in the wilderness. It kicks off the gospel account as a whole. Arguing over whether the phrase “The beginning of the gospel” refers to the creation of a gospel genre or merely a proclamation of the beginning of the book is silly and fruitless. What does matter, however, is that John the Baptist fulfills his forerunner ministry, faithfully preparing the way for the Lord.
John the Baptist: son of Zacharias and Elizabeth and descendants of the Levitical line. He and Jesus were also cousins (Luke 1:36). John was also raised as a Nazirite (Luke 1:13-15). A Nazirite vow embodied a total devotion of a person to God’s purposes. Two key Old Testament verses prophesy of John and his ministry:
A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (Is. 40:3)
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:1)
* Like, the gospel of John, Mark has no nativity discourse but chooses to commence the chapter with the ministry of John the Baptist.
• John’s headquarters and ministry base is not the state-built Temple but a wilderness. God would not use the state-hijacked Judaism of John’s day through which to bring the Messiah. He would go outside the box.
• Remember that there was no prophetic voice given by God to Israel between the time of Malachi and John’s ministry. This time span is roughly 400 years. During the days of Nehemiah, another contemporary of Malachi, Israel was under Persian rule. But by 63 B.C., Israel is under Roman rule. John’s preaching must have been like a clap of thunder to the people.
1. The coming of both the forerunner (John) and the Messiah (Jesus) were foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures (Is. 40:3; Mal. 3:1)
2. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is the first theological declaration of the gospel.
3. The deity of Christ is clear. Both Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 speak of the preparation for the advent of the Lord or ‘o kurios, which according to R.T. France, “in the OT context can only mean God.” Hence, by applying these verses to Jesus, Mark is clearly stating that Jesus Christ is God. In addition, remember also that in the Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh Himself is the Only One who pours out His Spirit on people. But in 1:8, Jesus too is baptizing people with the Spirit. This is another proof that Jesus is indeed God.
1. Repentance and forgiveness of sins prepare our hearts for the Lord.
2. God offers His best gifts through unlikely sources.