Who is This #2: Mk. 1:1-8

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Unlike Matthew and Luke (and even John to some extent), Mark contains no birth narrative.  Mark is the shortest of the four gospels, and one can tell from the very beginning that Mark often gives the minimum level of details (just look at the resurrection story at the end of the gospel).  Because details are so few and far between, each and every detail that Mark gives us should be considered in your reading.

In the beginning, Mark states, the coming of Jesus was prepared by John the Baptist.  John comes baptizing in the midst of the wilderness; but why does Mark specify that John was baptizing in the wilderness?  Is that a specific place?  Is it significant at all?

The wilderness refers to the Judean wilderness, the desolate area of Israel near Jerusalem.  Now in the Gospel of John, the Apostle John tells us the more specific location of John’s baptizing (Bethany across the Jordan; John 1:28).  Why does Mark specify that it was in the wilderness, but not the specific location?

In the Old Testament, the wilderness was seen as a place of preparation.  It was in the wilderness that the people of Israel were refined and prepared before they entered the Promised Land.  Mark quotes both Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3) at the beginning of his gospel, and both quotes refer to preparation.  John is baptizing in the wilderness in order to prepare the way for the coming Lord.

One could say that today we are in the wilderness once more.  We have been rescued from the from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13) through the work of Jesus.  Our passing over from slavery to sin to being God’s holy chosen people is similar to the Exodus generation, who passed from slavery to Egypt to being God’s holy chosen people.  After they received the Law, they remained in the wilderness, being refined until they were ultimately able to enter the Promised Land.  In the same way, we are now in the midst of this dark world, being refined and prepared until the day that we are able to fully enter the rest of the true Promised Land (cf. Heb. 3:7-4:13).

Throughout history, God has used the wilderness as a place of preparation for his people.  We see it in the Old Testament several times, and it is found in the way that John is preparing the way for Jesus in the wilderness.  And even now, we are in a metaphorical wilderness; how is God preparing you for the ultimate arrival in the Promised Land?


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