The text (Mark 1:1-8):
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
I find it interesting that Mark starts out the story of the life of the Christ with the introduction of John the Baptist. As I’ve mentioned in the introduction, the primary audience of the Romans would not have been as interested in this man baptizing people, unless it had some sort of relevance to the power of this Jesus that was being introduced to them. So what is Mark telling us about Jesus through starting here?
I imagine that if Mark is sitting aroung telling this story, probably much like how he would have heard it from Peter, then it would have sounded something like this… “Alright, before I talk about Jesus, there is one thing that you must understand. This Guy was foretold of hundreds of years ago by a very famous prophet! In fact, this prophet, who nailed everything else that he ever wrote, also mentioned that there would be this other guy who came first to get people ready…”
When I think of Mark telling the story like that, then I can see exactly why he would have started his Gospel this way. Before he ever gets into the details of who this Jesus-guy is, he takes one step back and points out that even before he starts doing anything else, there is a reason to take this dude seriously. The prophets of old knew it, and even John (who had a very successful ministry himself) knew it. In a way, Mark was saying, “something big is about to happen, and this is why you need to listen to the rest of this story.”
I also sense an element of Mark identifying early on the source of Jesus’ power. He will soon be jumping into many miracles that were performed by this Man, but this foundation lays out the fact that this was not just any Man to begin with. THIS one was special…