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After stating the prophesies of Malachi and Isaiah in verses two and three, Mark quickly tells us of the coming of John in verse four.
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
1) What is Mark saying by moving so quickly from the prophecies of Malachi and Isaiah to ministry of John?
○ John is the fulfillment of those prophecies.
2) What do verses one through three say abut John according to the prophecies of Malachi and Isaiah?
○ John is the messenger who clears the way for the coming Messiah.
○ His ministry will take place in the wilderness.
The people of Israel had been without a prophet for about 400 years. Hosea prophesied about the time between the Old and the New Testament saying:
For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days. Hosea (3:4-5) (NIV)
3) What did Hosea say would happen to the people of Israel?
○ The Israelites would live without God or His representative.
○ They would one day return to the worship of God.
Crowds of people were making the journey to see the figure who was announcing the fulfillment of Israel's destiny.
4) How do you think the people of Israel might have viewed John's coming after all those years?
○ Any number of thoughts, emotions and ideas would probably be a valid answer .
5) What does this long period of time between prophets tell us about God's time?
○ God's reckoning of time is far different than that of men.
6) How should knowing that God operates on a different time schedule than we do change our thinking ?
○ It should be an example of patience to us.
○ It is a reason for rejoicing, for He is long suffering.
John's ministry was one of active participation, He came and baptized anyone who was willing.
7) What point was Mark making regarding John's baptizing other people?
○ John called all people regardless of gender, race or social stature to be baptized as a symbol of moral and spiritual regeneration.
In contrast to Gods patience, John was calling for immediate action, the time of the coming Messiah was near!
Mark does leaves out certain things about John that we are told in the other Gospels. Among them his birth and relationship to Jesus and John's disagreement with the major schools of Judaism.
John's ministry took place mostly in the wilderness or in some translations, the desert. It was a re-enacting of the inaugural event in Israel's history, the Exodus. The Israelites were leaving the city and returning to the wilderness.
8) What significance is there to John's ministry taking place in the desert or wilderness?
○ It would remind Israel of her covenantal origins in the Exodus.
○ The wilderness was a place of redemption to Israel.
○ A place of meeting with God where His mercy and grace were often handed out to the nation of Israel.
Mark portrays John as the fulfiller of Elijah's climatic role of the forerunner to the one who was more powerful. Appearing in the wilderness fulfills both the Mosaic and prophetic prototypes.
John calls people out of their comfortable homes, and away from the temple, to a baptism of repentance the forgiveness of sins.
9) What does John mean by repentance?
○ The Greek word used for Repentance is "metanoia" (met-an'-oy-ah). Metanoia is a compound word meaning both "to change ones mind" and "to alter one's understanding".
○ Conscious thought and a willful act are requirements of true faith as opposed to a faith built on feelings, emotions or traditions.
10) What does John mean by "For the forgiveness of sin"?
○ John does not bestow forgiveness, only God can forgive sin.
○ Forgiveness belongs to the new Covenant which the coming of the Messiah will bring.
11) Who was John calling to repentance?
○ The call is not only to sinners and Gentiles as in Luke, but to the religiously pious as well.
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
Luke (3:12-13) NIV
Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay."
Luke (3:14) NIV
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt (3:7-12) NIV
Historian Flavius Josephus wrote of John's call for social reform in his book Antiquities:
"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him."
Josephus actually pays more attention to John than he does to Jesus. John's impact on the world are a part of recorded history.
Mark tells us something of the reach of John's ministry in verse five.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (NIV)
12) Who does Mark say responded to John's message?
○ People from all around the region.
○ All the people of Jerusalem.
This statement is likely a case of Mark using hyperbole, a Literary exaggeration used to convey a message.
It would indicate that God's covenantal people went out to be baptized, probably as families.
Doctor Luke writing in the book of Acts tells us that John's message traveled far and for a longer period of time than is reported in Mark.
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied.
Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Acts (19:1-7)
13) How far did John's message of repentance travel?
○ John's message was carried as far away as Ephesus two to three decades later.
Many Jews believed there had not been a prophet since Malachi. It was also thought b that the prophets would be restored near the end of the age.
6John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
14) Looking at John himself, what about verse six strikes you as odd?
○ John's clothing of Camel's hair and rope belt.
○ John's garb was as unusual in his day as it would be in ours, however they weren't entirely unique.
"On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision. He will not put on a prophet's garment of hair in order to deceive." Zec (13:4) NIV
○ John's diet, made up of locusts and honey.
○ Locusts were acceptable under Jewish dietary law.
Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper.
Lev (11:22) NIV
John's manner of dress and choice of food pointed back to Elijah and the prophets, who was expected to return before the end.
John not only associated himself with Elijah by diet and dress, but his criticizing of Herod Antipas also echoes Elijah's confrontation with Ahab in First Kings chapter eighteen verse eighteen. John is said to be the last of the Old Testament prophets.
Mark uses a Jewish idiom to compare himself humbly to the coming Messiah in verse seven.
And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
15) What does John's mean by using of a metaphor of that time period, "I am not worthy to stoop down and untie", tell us about his attitude towards the Messiah?
○ John considered himself inferior to the Messiah.
John again summarizes his baptism of water as inferior to the baptism coming with the Messiah in verse eight.
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Mark concentrates on John's message of reform and of the one more powerful. John's baptism was symbolic and pointed to a more powerful and permanent reality. In the Old Testament only God bestowed the Spirit.
16) What is John saying about Jesus by saying "He will baptize with the Holy Spirit"?
○ Jesus has the power of God the Father.
○ Baptism of the spirit is greater then water baptism.
○ The reference to the Holy Spirit identifies this as coming from the Father.
Mark testifies to the fact that Jesus' coming was not a random event. In the Old Testament the bestowing of the spirit was the prerogative of God.
The question I leave you with is this. How can we follow John's example as the forerunner of the Messiah in our daily lives?
Clyde Annach is the operator of the Web Log Clyde's been thinking again! [http://clydesthinking.com/]