When Mark writes in the first chapter about a mysterious man entering the scene, instantly the reader recognizes there’s something very different about Jesus. He comes into the picture not as a rock star but rather as someone humble, kind, and yet, still kingly. Mark describes the people who are drawn toward this man as regular people who have become affected by the character, passion, and light of this strange Galilean.
Maybe that’s why Mark jumps right into the action of Jesus’ story. He offers little by way of introduction. He writes nothing about Jesus’ family tree. Unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t mention His birth. Mark’s retelling begins with Scripture and the preaching of John the Baptist who calls people to repent. Like all the greats of history, Jesus doesn’t just arrive—He is announced—and who better than John to do that? Right before Jesus makes His entrance into Mark’s narrative, John says, “I’ve washed you here with water, but when He gets here, He will wash you in the Spirit of God.”
1 This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, the Son of God.
2 Isaiah the prophet told us what would happen before He came:
Watch, I will send My messenger in front of You
to prepare Your way and make it clear and straight.[a]
3 You’ll hear him, a voice crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Eternal One,
a straight way in the wandering desert, a highway for our God.”[b]
4 That messenger was John the Baptist,[c] who appeared in the desert near the Jordan River preaching that people should be ritually cleansed through baptism with water as a sign of both their changed hearts[d] and God’s forgiveness of their sins. 5 People from across the countryside of Judea and from the city of Jerusalem came to him and confessed that they were deeply flawed and needed help, so he cleansed[e] them with the waters of the Jordan. 6 John dressed as some of the Hebrew prophets had, in clothes made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He made his meals in the desert from locusts and wild honey. 7 He preached a message in the wilderness.
John the Baptist: Someone is coming who is a lot more powerful than I am—One whose sandals I’m not worthy to bend down and untie. 8 I’ve washed you here through baptism[f] with water; but when He gets here, He will wash[g] you in the Spirit of God.
The Jordan River is the setting of some of the most memorable miracles in the Old Testament. On their journey through the wilderness to the promised land, the Israelites walked across the Jordan River on dry ground because God parted its waters. Elisha, one of the prophets of God, healed Naaman by telling him to bathe seven times in its waters. Partly because of miracles like these and partly because of a growing wilderness spirituality, many of the Jews in John’s day are out to hear him and be ritually baptized in the Jordan’s cool, cleansing waters. They are looking for God to intervene miraculously in their lives as He has done in the past. What they don’t know is that God is about to intervene, for at that time Jesus leaves Nazareth and heads south.
9 It was in those days that Jesus left Nazareth (a village in the region of Galilee) and came down to the Jordan, and John cleansed Him through baptism there in the same way all the others were ritually cleansed. 10 But as Jesus was coming out of the waters, He looked up and saw the sky split open. The Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove, 11 and a voice echoed in the heavens.
Voice: You are My Son,[h] My beloved One, and I am very pleased with You.
12 After that the Spirit compelled Him to go into the wilderness, 13 and there in the desert He stayed for 40 days. He was tested by Satan himself and surrounded by wild animals; but through these trials, heavenly messengers cared for Him and ministered to Him.
14 After John was arrested by Herod, who ruled the Jewish lands on behalf of Roman interests, Jesus went back into the region of Galilee and began to proclaim the good news of God.
Jesus: 15 It’s time! The kingdom of God is near! Seek forgiveness, change your actions,[i] and believe this good news!
16 As Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He met the first of His disciples, two brothers, Simon and Andrew, both fishermen who were casting their fishing net into the shallow waters.
Jesus: 17 Come and follow Me, and I’ll send you to catch people instead of fish.
18 Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus at once.
19 When He had walked a little farther, He saw the sons of Zebedee, James and John, in their boat repairing their nets. 20 Right away He called to them, and they dropped what they were doing and left their father Zebedee and the hired men aboard the boat to follow Him as His disciples.
21 They came at last to the village of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee; and on the Sabbath Day, Jesus went straight into a synagogue, sat down, and began to teach. 22 The people looked at each other, amazed, because this strange teacher acted as One authorized by God, and what He taught affected them in ways their own scribes’ teachings could not. 23 Just then a man in the gathering who was overcome by an unclean spirit shouted.
Unclean Spirit: 24 What are You doing here, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I can see who You are! You’re the Holy One of God.
Jesus (rebuking him): 25 Be quiet, and come out of him now!
26 The man’s body began to shake and shudder; and then, howling, the spirit flew out of the man. 27 The people couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen.
People: Who is this Jesus? This is a new teaching—and it has such authority! Even the unclean spirits obey His commands!
28 It wasn’t long before news of Jesus spread over the countryside of Galilee.
29 Right after they left the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 They told Him about Simon’s mother-in-law who was there in bed, sick and feverish. 31 Jesus went to her side, took her hand, and lifted her up. As soon as He touched her, the fever left her and she felt well again—strong enough to bustle around the house taking care of her visitors.
32 Just before night fell, others had gathered all the sick, diseased, and demon-infested people they could find. 33 It seemed as if the whole town had gathered at Simon and Andrew’s door. 34 Jesus was kept busy healing people of every sort of ailment and casting out unclean spirits. He was very careful not to let the demons speak because they knew Him and could reveal to the people who He really was.
35 Early in the morning, Jesus got up, left the house while it was still dark outside, and went to a deserted place to pray. 36 Simon and the others traveling with Jesus looked for Him. 37 They finally tracked Him down.
Whenever possible, Jesus seeks out solitude so He can pray and meditate. Jesus reveals His humanity. In these silent and reflective moments, He seems to refuel mentally, physically, and spiritually because Jesus hears His Father speak during His time alone. Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth, hearing from His Father seems to help Him focus on the mission at hand: redemption.
People: Everybody wants to know where You are!
Jesus: 38 It’s time we went somewhere else—the next village, maybe—so I can tell more people the good news about the kingdom of God. After all, that’s the reason I’m here.
39 So He traveled to the next village and the one after that, throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and casting out unclean spirits.
Jesus is confronted with a man who has leprosy—a skin disease that makes him ritually unclean according to Jewish law. This creates a problem with the authorities.
40 A leper walked right up to Jesus, dropped to his knees, and begged Him for help.
Leper: If You want to, You can make me clean.
41 Jesus was powerfully moved. He reached out and actually touched the leper.
Jesus: I do want to. Be clean.
42 And at that very moment, the disease left him; the leper was cleansed and made whole once again. 43 Jesus sent him away, but first He warned him strongly.
Jesus: 44 Don’t tell anybody how this happened. Just go and show yourself to the priest so that he can certify you’re clean. Perform the ceremony prescribed by Moses as proof of your cleansing, and then you may return home.
45 The man talked everywhere about how Jesus had healed him, until Jesus could no longer come into a town openly without the risk of being mobbed. So He remained on the outskirts. Even so, people still sought Him out from far and wide.
- 1:2 Malachi 3:1
- 1:3 Isaiah 40:3
- 1:4 Literally, John who immersed, to show repentance
- 1:4 Literally, repentance
- 1:5 Literally, immersed, to show repentance
- 1:8 Literally, immersed, to show repentance
- 1:8 Literally, immerse, in a rite of initiation and purification
- 1:11 Psalm 2:7
- 1:15 Literally, repent