Bible Study Basics: Mark 1:2-8 The Focus Is On John The Baptist

Step 5: Identifying Details About John

Mark’s Gospel Starts By Talking About John Not Jesus

A key part of Bible study is understanding the various elements in the text. This includes people, places and events. When we understand these the meaning of the text comes into clearer focus. When we skip over details we may be skipping over something important to the meaning of a passage. In Mark 1:2-8 the focus isn’t on Jesus. It’s on John the Baptist. Does it make sense that a book entitled the “good news of Jesus” starts by talking about someone else? I think it will when we understand John’s role.

Mark's focus on John the Baptist

Let’s do some research and expand upon what Mark says about John.

Mark’s Focus On John The Baptist

  1. Isaiah: Mark uses a quotation from the greatest Old Testament prophet to connect his book to the people of God in the past. Mark appeals to an ancient authority to validate his opening comments.
  2. Old Testament quotation in Mark 1:2-3: This is not a direct quotation from one passage in the Old Testament but a blending of three. The beginning part of the quotation is from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1. The largest part of the quotation comes from Isaiah 40:3. This is why it’s attributed to Isaiah.
  3. messenger: The link between the Old Testament and this gospel is the promised messenger to go before the Messiah. In Exodus the messenger was a divine messenger. Mark elevated John and his role with this association.
  4. prepare your/the way: John’s task was to get things ready for the Messiah.
  5. voice of one crying/ proclaiming/ preached: John’s ministry was one of proclamation. He challenged people to turn to God (repentance) from their evil ways and to be forgiven.
  6. baptizing/baptism: John called people to action. The proof of the decision of their hearts was being baptized. Baptism followed the confession of sin.
  7. clothed with camel’s hair/ leather belt/ ate locusts/ wild honey: John was set apart from birth for this task and lived the role. The goal of his entire life was to prepare the way for the Messiah.
  8. Judea/Jerusalem/river Jordan: John’s activity took place near the political and spiritual capital of the land. John was outside the city but close enough to influence it.

This chapter is full of truth. Tomorrow we will continue to the next step and make a tentative observation as to the meaning of these first eight verses. I want to leave you with some final thoughts about John.

  • John’s sole mission in life was to prepare the way for the Messiah.
  • He was called to do it, but God didn’t make him. He had a choice.
  • Life was hard Luke 7:33.
  • He never compromised. He called people to the action of obedience even though it cost him his life Matthew 14:3-12.
  • Jesus said no one who lived was greater than John.

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