Good, Good News

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
(Mark 1:1-8)

Scripture Study

1:1 gospel The Greek word used here, euangelion (“gospel” or “good news”), eventually came to describe the genre of the first four books of the NT; but Mark probably uses it to describe the content of the Christian message (compare 1 Cor 15:1). Mark 1:1 introduces the good news concerning the person, teaching, and life of Jesus, God’s Son (see vv. 14–15). Jesus The name iēsous (Jesus) is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua (yehoshua’ or yeshua’), a common Jewish name in the first century AD. Christ The Greek word used here, christos, translates the Hebrew title mashiach, meaning “anointed one.” The term often functions as part of Jesus’ name, though elsewhere it is used as a title (e.g., 8:29; 12:35; 14:61).

1:2 it is written A conventional formula used for introducing a biblical quotation. prophet The term prophētēs refers to someone God calls, designates, appoints, or commissions for a specified task (usually involving delivery of a message). Isaiah Though only Isaiah is mentioned by name, Mark conflates Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3 into one quotation—mixing traditions from various Scripture texts was common at the time (e.g., 2 Cor 6:14–7:1). he will prepare In addition to resembling Mal 3:1, Mark’s quotation echoes Exod 23:20, where an angel is described as protecting God’s people during their wilderness journey and fighting on their behalf (Exod 23:21–23). The people are commanded to listen to this angel and not rebel against him. Likewise, John the Baptist presents the very truths of God and acts as the advocate for God’s ministry in Jesus.

1:3 the desert The Greek word used here, erēmos, describes an uncultivated or unpopulated region. In the Bible, the term often refers to the arid expanses south and east of Judah. the way The Greek word used here, hodos, often refers to a road or path. Mark uses it predominantly to describe a journey. Mark often describes Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as the “way” that He undertakes in obedience to God, fully aware it will lead to suffering and death (Mark 8:27; 9:33–34; 10:17, 32, 46, 52). make straight his paths The cry of a herald who runs in advance of a king announcing his imminent arrival—the king in Isa 40:3, being quoted here, is God Himself. In Mark’s Gospel, the herald is John the Baptist, who announces Jesus’ arrival and the kingdom of God (Mark 1:4–8).

1:4 John Introduces John the Baptist as the messenger sent by God to announce the coming of His salvation into the world through Jesus. John was the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah (see Mal 4:5–6; compare Matt 11:9). baptism of repentance In ancient Israel, water was often used as an instrument for purification (e.g., Lev 17:15; 22:4–6; Num 19:11–12). As a result, baptism in Judaism often was about ritual cleansing and may have involved multiple and regular baptisms. By contrast, John’s baptism stressed transformation—a turning from sin—and thus marked a turning point in a person’s life. for the forgiveness of sins John points to Jesus’ greater ministry, even calling Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29–31). John’s baptism was about forgiveness of sins in the sense that it pointed to Jesus, who was the means of providing that forgiveness.

1:5 Jordan River After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites crossed the Jordan to take possession of the promised land (Josh 3). The river carried symbolic connotations of national renewal and the fulfillment of God’s work among them. It is at this location that John the Baptist inaugurates the way for spiritual renewal.

1:6 clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt John’s ministry is associated with Elijah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets (Mark 6:14–16; 9:11–14; Matt 11:14). Elijah is characteristically described as wearing garments of hair and a leather belt (2 Kgs 1:8). fed on locusts and wild honey were common food in the Middle East. Leviticus 11:20–23 identifies four varieties that are clean and good to eat.

1:7 One mightier than I John understands himself to be the forerunner of the Messiah (compare Mark 1:2–3). I am not worthy Removing and carrying sandals was the work of slaves. John is stating that he is not worthy even to be a slave of the Messiah (the anointed one of God).

1:8 baptized you with water John’s baptism was in preparation for the Messiah, through whom God would pour out His Spirit on the people of Israel (Joel 2:28; Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 36:26; compare Isa 42:1). John anticipates that Jesus’ appearance would directly precede the arrival of God’s Spirit (compare Acts 2:1–13).

Scripture Reflection

Mark’s opening line resonates with his excitement at the glad tidings he is conveying. He sees the coming of Jesus, preceded by that of John the Baptist, as the turning point in history, when God decisively acted to accomplish all that he had promised for so many centuries. At the time Mark wrote, the good news was beginning to explode upon the Mediterranean world, as the apostles and other Christians traveled throughout the empire, evangelizing in synagogues and town squares.

Lives were being changed as people who had been lost in spiritual darkness and moral confusion came to know the living Christ and experience his love. Mark’s evident joy at the tidings he has to share prompts the questions: Do we realize how good the good news is? Do we recognize that this news fulfills and far surpasses all the deepest longings of the human heart? Or have we settled for a diluted version of the gospel that has little power to impact our daily lives? God’s entrance into human history in the person of Jesus Christ is news that is inexhaustibly new, as fresh and potent as on the day it was first proclaimed.

– Mary Healy

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.