Mark 1:1-8 (ESV)
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” 4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 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. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Mark’s account of Jesus begins with a title, which could be read, “The Good News about Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God.” Mark started with the ministry of John the Baptist, who was the forerunner, or the one who went before Jesus. He prefaced the information about John with Isaiah’s Old Testament prophecy, which pointed to the forerunner. Aside from Jesus’ quotations, this is the only time Mark used the Old Testament in his biography of Christ. As Mark introduced John, he revealed that Isaiah specifically prophesied that the forerunner would be heard in the wilderness or the desert. (v. 3) He then transitioned to John who was baptizing and proclaiming repentance in the wilderness. Clearly, John the Baptist was the promised forerunner of the Messiah whom Isaiah spoke about. But John’s baptism was a little different from what the Jews were familiar with. Prior to this time, Gentile converts to Judaism were required to be baptized. Now, under John’s transitional ministry, those who prepared themselves for the Messiah were baptized as a result of their repentance and their desire to get right with God. The verb “baptize” literally means to immerse. According to verse 5, people were “going” and “confessing,” as they were immersed by John in water, symbolizing what took place in their hearts and the cleansing forgiveness of God. The people continued to stream from all over the country to John. As one group left, another replaced them.
The Jews who came to John were willing to be publicly identified with their repentance by the act of baptism. They acknowledged their sins and their need to turn from living for themselves to living for God. Although there was humiliation associated with being a covenant Jew who needed the forgiveness of God, any discomfort was well worth the benefit of being forgiven by the Almighty. What about you? Is there anything too embarrassing for you to do before others when it comes to standing up and out for the truth? These Jews could have faced hardship and rejection as a result of embracing John’s baptism, but they wanted to be right with God. Search your heart today. If a fear of others is keeping you from doing what God has called you to do, then repent! Choose to turn around and do things God’s way instead of living in fear of what people may think.