I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS#The prologue of the Gospel according to Mark begins with the title (Mk 1:1) followed by three events preparatory to Jesus’ preaching: (1) the appearance in the Judean wilderness of John, baptizer, preacher of repentance, and precursor of Jesus (Mk 1:2–8); (2) the baptism of Jesus, at which a voice from heaven acknowledges Jesus to be God’s Son, and the holy Spirit descends on him (Mk 1:9–11); (3) the temptation of Jesus by Satan (Mk 1:12–13).
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].#The gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God]: the “good news” of salvation in and through Jesus, crucified and risen, acknowledged by the Christian community as Messiah (Mk 8:29; 14:61–62) and Son of God (Mk 1:11; 9:7; 15:39), although some important manuscripts here omit the Son of God.
The Preaching of John the Baptist.
2#a. [1:2–8] Mt 3:1–11; Lk 3:2–16. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:#Although Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, the text is a combination of Mal 3:1; Is 40:3; Ex 23:20; cf. Mt 11:10; Lk 7:27. John’s ministry is seen as God’s prelude to the saving mission of his Son. The way of the Lord: this prophecy of Deutero-Isaiah concerning the end of the Babylonian exile is here applied to the coming of Jesus; John the Baptist is to prepare the way for him. #b. [1:2] Mal 3:1.
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
3#c. [1:3] Is 40:3; Jn 1:23. A voice of one crying out in the desert:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.’”
4John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 6John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist.#Clothed in camel’s hair…waist: the Baptist’s garb recalls that of Elijah in 2 Kgs 1:8. Jesus speaks of the Baptist as Elijah who has already come (Mk 9:11–13; Mt 17:10–12; cf. Mal 3:19; Lk 1:17). He fed on locusts and wild honey. 7And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. 8#Through the life-giving baptism with the holy Spirit (Mk 1:8), Jesus will create a new people of God. But first he identifies himself with the people of Israel in submitting to John’s baptism of repentance and in bearing on their behalf the burden of God’s decisive judgment (Mk 1:9; cf. Mk 1:4). As in the desert of Sinai, so here in the wilderness of Judea, Israel’s sonship with God is to be renewed. #d. [1:8] Jn 1:27; Acts 1:5; 11:16. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”
The Baptism of Jesus.
9#e. [1:9–11] Mt 3:13–17; Lk 3:21–23; Jn 1:32–33. It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.#He saw the heavens…and the Spirit…upon him: indicating divine intervention in fulfillment of promise. Here the descent of the Spirit on Jesus is meant, anointing him for his ministry; cf. Is 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; 63:9. A voice…with you I am well pleased: God’s acknowledgment of Jesus as his unique Son, the object of his love. His approval of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus will fulfill his messianic mission of salvation. 11#f. [1:11] Ps 2:7. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Temptation of Jesus.
#The same Spirit who descended on Jesus in his baptism now drives him into the desert for forty days. The result is radical confrontation and temptation by Satan who attempts to frustrate the work of God. The presence of wild beasts may indicate the horror and danger of the desert regarded as the abode of demons or may reflect the paradise motif of harmony among all creatures; cf. Is 11:6–9. The presence of ministering angels to sustain Jesus recalls the angel who guided the Israelites in the desert in the first Exodus (Ex 14:19; 23:20) and the angel who supplied nourishment to Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kgs 19:5–7). The combined forces of good and evil were present to Jesus in the desert. His sustained obedience brings forth the new Israel of God there where Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation. 12At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert,#g. [1:12–13] Mt 4:1–11; Lk 4:1–13. 13and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
II. THE MYSTERY OF JESUS
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry.
14#h. [1:14–15] Mt 4:12–17; Lk 4:14–15. After John had been arrested,#After John had been arrested: in the plan of God, Jesus was not to proclaim the good news of salvation prior to the termination of the Baptist’s active mission. Galilee: in the Marcan account, scene of the major part of Jesus’ public ministry before his arrest and condemnation. The gospel of God: not only the good news from God but about God at work in Jesus Christ. This is the time of fulfillment: i.e., of God’s promises. The kingdom of God…repent: see note on Mt 3:2. Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15#i. [1:15] Mt 3:2. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Call of the First Disciples.
#These verses narrate the call of the first Disciples. See notes on Mt 4:18–22 and Mt 4:20. 16#j. [1:16–20] Mt 4:18–22; Lk 5:2–11. As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 18Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. 19He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. 20Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
The Cure of a Demoniac.
21#The account of a single day’s ministry of Jesus on a sabbath in and outside the synagogue of Capernaum (Mk 1:21–31) combines teaching and miracles of exorcism and healing. Mention is not made of the content of the teaching but of the effect of astonishment and alarm on the people. Jesus’ teaching with authority, making an absolute claim on the hearer, was in the best tradition of the ancient prophets, not of the scribes. The narrative continues with events that evening (Mk 1:32–34; see notes on Mt 8:14–17) and the next day (Mk 1:35–39). The cleansing in Mk 1:40–45 stands as an isolated story. #k. [1:21–28] Lk 4:31–37. Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22#l. [1:22] Mt 7:28–29. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23#An unclean spirit: so called because of the spirit’s resistance to the holiness of God. The spirit knows and fears the power of Jesus to destroy his influence; cf. Mk 1:32, 34; 3:11; 6:13. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24#The Holy One of God: not a confession but an attempt to ward off Jesus’ power, reflecting the notion that use of the precise name of an opposing spirit would guarantee mastery over him. Jesus silenced the cry of the unclean spirit and drove him out of the man. he cried out, “What have you to do with us,#What have you to do with us?: see note on Jn 2:4. Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law.
29#m. [1:29–34] Mt 8:14–16; Lk 4:38–41. On leaving the synagogue he entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. 30Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. 31He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
32When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. 33The whole town was gathered at the door. 34He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Jesus Leaves Capernaum.
35#n. [1:35–39] Lk 4:42–44. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. 36Simon and those who were with him pursued him 37and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” 39So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
The Cleansing of a Leper.
40#o. [1:40–44] Mt 8:2–4; Lk 5:12–14. A leper#A leper: for the various forms of skin disease, see Lv 13:1–50 and the note on Lv 13:2–4. There are only two instances in the Old Testament in which God is shown to have cured a leper (Nm 12:10–15; 2 Kgs 5:1–14). The law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper. In curing the leper, Jesus assumes that the priests will reinstate the cured man into the religious community. See also note on Lk 5:14. came to him [and kneeling down] begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” 41Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”#p. [1:41] 5:30. 42The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.#q. [1:42] Lk 17:14. 43Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. 44Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”#r. [1:44] Lv 14:2–32. 45The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.