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Cut to the chase

By Sam Harrell   |  Read the verses.

Mark 1:1-8

1The 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,’”

4John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And 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. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7And 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. 8I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It is widely accepted within orthodox circles that Mark’s was the first gospel written. As such, it picks up where the Old Testament leaves off. On every page, the Old Testament echoes the promise that there is a coming King who will heal Israel, restore the kingdom to God and make the world the way it was supposed to be.

Mark takes eight verses to get at what Matthew and Luke use three chapters to cover. This sets the tone for the book—put simply, Mark cuts to the chase.

Verse 1.

Gospel is a very old word meaning “good news.” This good news about Jesus is of his perfect life and death on our behalf and his resurrection from the dead.

Israel was anticipating an earthly king who would to heal the nation from its civil war, and deliver it from the empire that held it captive – in this case, Rome. The sharp contrast here is that Mark is casting this coming king as the “Son of God.”

Verse 2.

Mark starts here with a phrase that is repeated throughout the bible: “As it is written.” The writers of scripture are intensely bible-focused.

It is interesting to notice what Mark does not start with. He makes no mention of his resume, which includes missions trips with the apostles Paul and Barnabas. He has been discipled by the Apostle Peter. Mark doesn’t even appeal to the authority he possesses as a Holy Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus inspired to produce an original work of Holy Scripture.

We should take note for our own lives: Mark is standing on “it is written.”

Verse 3.

Mark quotes Isaiah 40:3 to highlight John the Baptist’s message: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD, make his paths straight.”

The promise in the ears of Mark’s hearers is that “there is a new government leader coming; make a grand royal highway that carves down the hills and fills in the valleys and name it after the coming King.”

Imagine the hope that comes with the anticipation of a new president who will get things done, make things right and raise the nation to unprecedented heights. God’s answer to this was both Yes and No. No, this would not happen according to the world’s ways. And yes, it would raise the whole world to historically unprecedented heights.

Verses 4-8.

John the Baptist’s explosive revival ministry spanned all of Israel. Standing with the Old Testament prophets, John was acting out the gospel message in three ways:

First, God takes what man puts on the outside and calls it to the middle. John was a very strange man—a distinct outsider—and his ministry was taking place in the wilderness. So the temple and Jerusalem were suddenly on the outside of what God is clearly doing.

Second, in every time and place, in the first century and today, the world prizes the pleasures of the flesh. The rich clothe themselves in fine linen and curate the finest foods they can find. But God poured his life, message, presence and power into a man who wore animal skins and subsisted on a diet of bugs and sugar.

Third, John proclaimed that God brings resources that both religion and irreligion lack. Religion baptizes with water, and the non-religious seek power from the world. John’s message was that a King was coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and bring a power much greater than John.

True to form, this happened as Jesus was sent into the wilderness of God’s wrath, so that we who were destined for an eternity in that wilderness, could be brought into the center, redeemed and filled with God’s presence.

Isaiah 9:1-7

1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.


Mark 1:1-8

Cut to the chase.

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