Mark is the shortest of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It shares a lot of the same events from the life of Jesus found in Matthew and Luke, but does so in a much shorter fashion that emphasizes the fact that Jesus’ ministry was three years of almost nonstop action.

Here is how the Gospel starts.

Mark 1:1-13

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

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 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. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Mark begins by taking us to the Jordan River where Jesus is baptized by his cousin prophet, John the Baptist. Here at Jesus’ baptism is the clearest picture that Scripture gives us of the identity of the Trinity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- co-existent, co-eternal, and active in perfect unity in the world.

The first thirteen verses of Mark set the tone for the entire book. We see some quick yet monumental occasions in the life of Jesus that reveal his identity from the very beginning of the narrative. We are told immediately that Jesus is the Son of God. We are told that he is the prophesied Christ. We are told that his righteousness pleases the Father. And we are told that he succeeded in his temptation.

The theme of hope is alive and present because Jesus is on the scene. God has become flesh. He is living as the perfect man. He is the champion of mankind. Where we have all failed, we now have hope that the Christ, the Son of God, will succeed.

Discussion Questions

  • Why is hope such a valuable thing in our world?
  • Do you agree or disagree that hope is in short supply in the world?
  • Describe a group of people you have known who lost hope?
  • Which phrases in Mark 1:1-13 offer hope?
  • Why do you think John the Baptist had so much attention?
  • How do you think John felt when Jesus came down to be baptized?
  • Why did Jesus submit himself to baptism?
  • What purpose did Jesus’ time in the wilderness serve?

Jonathan Pugh
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