Back To The Wilderness – Mark 1:1-11

By John Bellingham on April 26, 2015
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Back to the Wilderness

Mark 1:1-11


I. A Cry in the Wilderness (vv. 2-3)

1) Prophetic Anticipation: Isaiah and Malachi

  • A New Exodus from Captivity (Isaiah 40:1-5)
    • Partially fulfilled (539 BC) when Israel was delivered from Babylon
    • Israel was still experiencing the pain of ‘exile’ back in their land – 400 years of enemy occupation and silence from God
    • John’s cry in the wilderness signaled that a New Exodus was about to begin!
  • A New Messenger (Malachi 3:1-4)
    • Expectation of a Prophet who would prepare the way for Israel’s King
    • Expectation that Elijah would return shortly before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6)

2) Prophetic Fulfillment: John the Baptist

  • Gospels declare John’s ministry to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-5
  • Gospels present John as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah
    • Although John was not literally Elijah (John 1:21), he came in the ‘spirit and power’ of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy (Matthew 17:12-13)
    • John’s unusual dress and diet confirm his identity as the new Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 1:8)
  • John was immensely popular (v. 5)

II. A Cleansing in the Wilderness (vv. 4-8)

The Significance of John’s Baptism in the Jordan

  • A Symbol of Repentance and Forgiveness
    • Water cleans us up on the outside
    • Only God can make us clean within!
  • A Sign to Israel –New Exodus from Captivity!
    • Most likely based on the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts
    • John’s baptism indicated that Jewish people needed to be converted too!
    • John was calling his Jewish brethren to come back to the wilderness and to cross the Jordan a second time – A New Exodus for a New Covenant
  • The Precursor of Christian Baptism
    • Baptism of believers – not of infants
    • Full immersion in water (cf. John 3:23)
    • Physical sign of the spiritual reality – Spirit Baptism!


Application: John’s call for Israel to repent and be baptized reminds us that nobody is saved by physical birth or by the faith of our parents – we must come to God as individuals who acknowledge our sin and look to Him for salvation

III. A Coronation in the Wilderness (vv. 9-11)

1) An Unlikely Baptismal Candidate – Jesus Christ!

  • John recognized his inferior role – v. 7
  • Like many of us, John was confused by Jesus’ request to be baptized – Matt 3:14-15

2) Reasons for Jesus’ Baptism

  • Identification with sinful humanity
  • Starting point of Jesus’ ministry (Acts 1:21-22)
  • Coronation Ceremony for Israel’s King!
    • Tearing open of the heavens – Isaiah 64:1
    • Father’s testimony to the Son– Psalm 2:7
    • Empowerment of the Spirit – Isaiah 11:2


Who do you believe that Jesus is? A good man? An enlightened teacher?

Mark wants us to know and to believe that He is the Son of God!

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