8 January 2012

Mark 1:4-11

"You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." (v. 11)


John the Baptist may well have been an odd looking character with some strange eating habits (verse 6), but he must have been very charismatic. His fame spread far and wide, with people being drawn from not only the local countryside but from Jerusalem itself (verse 5). They came to hear what he had to say but also to be baptized. They were clearly convinced by him of the need for a change in their lives, seeking repentance for the forgiveness of their sins (verse 4).

John was such an important figure that all four Gospel writers link him to the ministry of Jesus, and they do so as quickly as possible. In Matthew we have to wait until chapter 3, but within a few verses of the first chapter in both Luke's and John's Gospels we encounter John the Baptist. Mark hardly mentions Jesus at all before he tells us about John.

It could be that John was such a well known, important and revered figure of the time that Mark wanted to link him quickly to Jesus to enhance his credibility. However John's assertion that he was "not worthy" (v. 7) to do what was regarded as the most menial task for a slave makes it crystal clear that John's successor was far superior to him. It was Jesus who was the chosen one.

Mark does not try to explain why Jesus needed to be baptized. Instead the focus for this event was the heavenly confirmation of who Jesus was, described through the beautiful image of a dove descending upon him (verse 10). So now Jesus not only has the backing of John, the voice from heaven makes it crystal clear that Jesus is the Son of God. From these first few verses Mark's readers are left in no doubt about who Jesus really is.

To Ponder

Why do you think Jesus came to John to be baptized?

How much importance do you place on confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness? Why?

Give thanks for any moments in your life when you have felt God's presence descend upon you like a dove.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.