The Gospel of Mark is the earliest and shortest of the 4 gospels in the New Testament. Although the text seems to lack literary polish, it is simple and direct. This post is my personal study on Mark Chapter 1.
Mark Chapter 1:2 – Is it Malachi or Isaiah?
In the NASB and ESV versions, Mark 1:2 credited Isaiah as the prophet for the cited quote, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way“” . Other bible translations use, “As it is written in the Prophets“.
Besides this discrepancy, the cross reference in the NASB linked the verse to Malachi 3:1. I saw this verse when studying the Book of Malachi. So, why credit Isaiah?
Is there a similar verse in the Book of Isaiah? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this question. A search of the commentaries at Biblehub showed that others have noticed the difference too.
The reason is this. The quote in Mark 1:2 is actually made up of 2 verses in the Old Testament. The first part of the quote is from Malachi. The second part, “the voice of one who calls out, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God” is taken from Isaiah 40:3.
The World English Bible shows this more clearly.
2 As it is written in the prophets,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,Mark 1:2-3 WEB
who will prepare your way before you: (Malachi 3:1)
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord!
Make his paths straight!’” (Isaiah 40:3)
There are different explanations for this difference from the cultural and literary perspectives. I simply thought it cool to find that different prophets from different time periods have proclaimed the same promise of a Messiah from Abba God.
Mark 1:9-11 – You are my beloved Son
Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River was also recorded in Matthew 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22. The highlight of this event for me is this:
A voice came out of the sky, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”Mark 1:11 WEB
God was speaking directly to Jesus. There is no mention here or in the other accounts whether others can hear this expression of love. It sufficed that Jesus heard it. Abba God established His relationship with Jesus. He is the Father, Jesus is the Beloved Son.
When Jesus started preaching, it was to reveal the good Father. The Old Testament ended in Malachi with a promise from God to mend the relationship between fathers and children.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”Malachi 4:5 WEB
The New Testament opened with God declaring that He is the Father to Jesus. Jesus extended that relationship to man. God is fulfilling His promise in the Old Testament. Isn’t this the best sequel?
The declaration in Mark 1:11 was repeated again at the Mount of Transfiguration as recorded in Mark 9:2-8, Matthew 17:1-13 and Luke 9:28-26.
7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!” 8 And suddenly they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.Mark 9:7-8 WEB
Here, we know this expression of love can be heard by others. God declare to the 3 disciples present at the Transfiguration.
Abba God is so precise and all His actions intentional. The first declaration was personal. He was speaking to Jesus, affirming His love just as Jesus was about to embark on the most difficult task of His life. It is a reminder for me. That when I face a challenge, to turn to Abba God and hear Him say I am His beloved.
The second declaration was to the others. To remind them that Jesus is God’s beloved Son. It is a reminder for me too. Listen to and follow Jesus, the Beloved Son of God. He is the reason why I am saved and blessed.
Mark 1:12 – Drove?
Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.Mark 1:12 WEB
The verb “drove” in Mark 1:12 caught my attention. Is this accurate? Jesus had to be driven into the wilderness? He didn’t want to go?
The Greek word used here is ἐκβάλλει (ekballei). Strong’s number 1544. It is defined as “to throw (cast, put) out; I banish, I bring forth, produce. From ek and ballo; to eject.”
It is accurate and it is a strong word. Some commentators argued that the use of strong, directive words is part of the gospel’s writing style. Mark is more direct, straightforward and succinct. The other Gospel accounts didn’t use such a strong word. Both Matthew 4:1 and Luke 4:1 used “led by the Spirit“.
Whether Jesus was reluctant to go or not, the wilderness experience is Spirit-led.
I sometime wonder how it feels like to be led by the Holy Spirit. I have heard other people said they were led by the Spirit to do this and do that. My reactions range from envy to skepticism. How do they know? Because the outcomes were desirable? But an undesirable outcome can be good too right?
Is the leading palpable?
Pastor Joseph Prince taught that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and is therefore always guiding and leading us in peace. It is not a case of being “possessed” by the Holy Spirit to do stuff that we normally wouldn’t do. It is more a case of daily walking in the Spirit in peace. Let the absence of peace be the thermometer of whether our decisions and actions are led by the Spirit. I’m still learning this and I don’t think it is a lesson anyone graduates from.
Mark 1:14-15 – Good News
Gospel means Good News. Jesus describes the gospel of God as a fulfilment, a kingdom of God. Man is called to repent and believe in the good news.
14 Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”Mark 1:14-15 WEB
I can see why the Jews would misunderstand what Jesus came to do. They were under Roman rule. Good news to them would be political liberation. Talking about a kingdom would surely lead them to think about that. Is this deliberate?
Mark 1:21-38 – Capernaum and Peter’s House
There is a lot of action in this passage. Jesus taught with authority, drove out unclean spirits and demons and healed a lot of people.
I have been to Capernaum and the site of Peter’s house in Israel.
I believe it is still an active archaeological site. There are fences and lots of ancient stones lying around in neat rows and columns.
Jesus’ first stop was the synagogue; the spiritual and community space of a town. His second stop was Peter and Andrew’s house where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. A lot of healing ensued at Peter’s house. Many demons were driven out too. Verse 33 mentioned that “the whole town gathered at the door.” That would be about 1,500 people.
Mark 1:35 – Praying in the Early Morning
35 Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he rose up and went out, and departed into a deserted place, and prayed there.Mark 1:35 WEB
I always say that I am not an early bird. I find it hard to wake up before morning light. Is it really about the time? Or was it more about quiet communion with God? Early morning is conducive because most people are still asleep. Whatever the time, safeguard my communion with Abba God.
Mark 1:40-45 – Leprosy
The account of Jesus healing a leper at the end of Chapter 1 seems abrupt. Shouldn’t Chapter 1 ends at verse 39 since it resembles a concluding verse. The account can then start as Chapter 2 together with the healing of the paralytic man. But that’s not how the Holy Spirit organized the Scriptures.
The first mention of leprosy is in Exodus 4:1-8. Moses complained that the Jewish people in Egypt will not believe he is sent by God. God gave 2 signs as proof.
- Turning Moses’ staff into a serpent and back (verse 2 to 4)
- Turning Moses’ hand leprous and then healing it (verse 5 to 7)
The first sign denotes power of authority. A staff can also be seen as a scepter, a sign of authoritative power. The second sign denotes the power of healing.
This reminds me of the sequence of events at the start of Jesus’ ministry at Capernaum from Mark 1:21 to 45. Jesus taught with authority, demonstrated authority over demons, and he healed many who are sick including a leper.
I see a parallel here. As Moses was the deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt, Jesus is the deliverer of the world.
We have come to the end of this post. I hope you have found what you are seeking. If not, keep looking. For Jesus said,
9 “I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.Luke 11:9-10 WEB
For God so loved you, He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for you. You are precious to Him.