Introduction to Mark
John Mark, son of Mary (Acts 12:12), has been universally recognized from the beginning as the author of the second gospel. He was a relative of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), and very likely a close associate of Peter (I Peter 5:13). He accompanied Paul and Barnabas for a time on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5,13), with his departure later causing a break between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40). Somehow he later became reconciled to Paul and became a profitable co-worker (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24: II Timothy 4:11).
Since his mother was apparently the owner of the “upper room” where Jesus met with His disciples for the last supper, it is probable that Mark knew Jesus and may well have been one of his disciples, though not one of the twelve specially chosen. He also may well have gotten much of the information for his gospel from Peter.
Many have considered the Gospel of Mark, which is the shortest of the four, to have been written first. He certainly wrote before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for that event was still future when he wrote (note Mark 13:1-2). There is an ancient tradition that he wrote mainly for the information of Roman believers. He did indeed place strong emphasis on the actions of Jesus, using the word “immediately” or some similar word at least forty times, and this would appeal to the action-oriented Romans.
1:1 beginning of the gospel. Most evidence indicates that Mark was the first to write a life of Christ. His mother owned the house in Jerusalem where the early disciples gathered to pray (Acts 12:12), quite likely the one where Christ instituted the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:12; Acts 1:13). Jesus was probably a close friend of Mark’s family. This verse also indicates that the gospel witness began with the witness of John the Baptist.
1:2 written in the prophets. Mark here quotes Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, both of which prophesied (many centuries in advance) of the coming of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah. No other book ever written contains specifically fulfilled prophecies such as this, yet the Bible contains hundreds. Divine inspiration is the only reasonable explanation.
1:3 Prepare ye. John did, indeed, prepare and baptize the men who later would become Jesus’ disciples (note John 1:35-37; 3:30; Acts 1:21-22).
1:4 John did baptize. Some have suggested that John’s baptism was a sort of “proselyte baptism.” However, there is no such thing as proselyte baptism mentioned in the Old Testament, the writings of Josephus, Philo, or any other literature of the apostolic era or earlier. John’s baptism was true Christian baptism. See notes on John 1:7,23-34; Acts 2:41; 19:1-5 as well as on the parallel passage in Matthew 3:1-11. Note that Jesus’ disciples, who already had been baptized by John, were never re-baptized when they left John to follow Jesus.
1:6 locusts and wild honey. Despite his eminent father, an important priest named Zacharias (Luke 1:5), and despite his popularity (according to the previous verse, “all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem” went out into the desert to hear him preach and to be baptized), he was a very simple and humble man—truly “sent from God” (John 1:6).
1:7 There cometh one. From the very beginning of John’s ministry, he was preaching Christ. Thus, he was surely the first Christian preacher and the first Christian prophet.
1:11 my beloved Son. This is the first use of the key word “love” in Mark’s gospel. Similarly, the first use of “love” in Matthew and Luke are their renditions of the same event (Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22). Thus God has emphasized thrice over, as it were, that His love for His Son is the very definition of love. In fact, the Father loved the Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). How profoundly significant, therefore, is the first occurrence of “love” in John (the gospel in which love is mentioned more often than in any other book of the Bible) when we are told that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) that we might be saved! This becomes even more remarkable when we note that the first occurrence of “love” in the Old Testament is when God told Abraham to offer up “thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” (Genesis 22:2) as a sacrificial offering, thus providing a beautiful type of the sacrificial love of the heavenly Father for His Son.
1:13 wild beasts. Mark covers the temptation of Christ in two verses, while Matthew took eleven and Luke thirteen verses. Only Mark, however, mentions the wild beasts that were “with” Jesus. He was their Creator, of course, not their enemy.
1:15 kingdom of God. Compare Matthew 4:17, where the same incident is recorded, except that “kingdom of heaven” is used by Matthew instead of “kingdom of God.” It is clear that the two are synonymous (see note on Matthew 3:2).
1:21 into the synagogue. The ruins of this very synagogue where Christ preached have been excavated in Capernaum.
1:22 one that had authority. See also Matthew 7:29. Jesus never guessed, expressed an opinion, or suggested a possible interpretation of Scripture. Everything He taught was with absolute authority, for He was the very Word of God (John 1:1, 14). Never did He need to retract anything He said; never did He leave unsaid anything He should have said. “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).
1:24 I know thee. It is interesting to note that the demons, like their master Satan, knew who Jesus was, even though His countrymen—and even His own human family—did not. Note also Mark 1:34.
1:30 Simon’s wife’s mother. This is almost the only mention of a wife of any of the twelve apostles, and this occurred only because of the miraculous healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Paul also referred to Peter’s wife (I Corinthians 9:5). Otherwise there is no mention in Scripture anywhere of wives or children of the apostles.
1:35 great while before day. Both at the beginning of His earthly ministry and at the end (in Gethsemane), Christ in His humanity felt the necessity of fervent prayer to His Father. In fact, frequent prayer was a mark of His whole life on earth. In this, as in all things human, He is our example. If He needed frequent prayer, how much more do we!
1:41 touched him. Because of its contagious and deadly nature, leprosy made its victims essentially untouchable. But Jesus not only spoke to the leper—He touched him, and then spoke to him and healed him.
1:45 blaze abroad the matter. On the healing of this leper, see the parallel accounts in Matthew 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-14, especially in relation to the testimony of his cure to the priests. Only Mark, however, tells us that the leper instead told his story far and wide, wherever he could. This miracle attracted more attention to Jesus than the others (Mark 1:21-34) because leprosy was such a loathsome and incurable disease.