11 January 2015

Mark 1:4-11

“I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 29


Within a few opening sentences, Mark's Gospel has laid its account of the "good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1) on two solid foundation stones, with which readers would be very familiar and which would give them confidence about what was to follow. The first was from the prophets Malachi (Malachi 3:1) and Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3), "See I'm sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (vv. 2-3), and the second was John the Baptist.

John was a well known charismatic figure. No one else in the Gospel accounts merits a description of what they were wearing or what they ate (verse 6). Yet despite his odd appearance and peculiar culinary preferences he attracted large numbers of people from the "whole Judean countryside", as well as "all the people of Jerusalem" (v. 5). He was an anti-establishment figure and perhaps because of this, as has often been seen in the centuries since, people were willing to listen to him.

John proclaimed a tough message and those who responded could not do so quietly and out of sight of others. They were publicly acknowledging their failings and then subjecting themselves to Baptism in full view of everyone (verse 5), but at the same time they were offered a new start - forgiveness of sins (verse 4).

However, despite his fame and influence, John was aware of his own limitations. He knew that he was only the forerunner, and that the man who would build on the foundation that he had laid would take his ministry to quite another level. Mark underlines this by the affirmation from heaven following Jesus' own Baptism, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (v. 11).

To Ponder

  • Was it necessary for Jesus to be baptized? Why?
  • How much importance do we place on confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness and should this be done in private or in the full glare of others?
  • Give thanks for those people who have had a significant influence on your own life.

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.