The First Testimony of John the Baptist

Posted by Thaddaeus

Mark 1: 1-8


The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.


As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People 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.  John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist.  He fed on locusts and wild honey.  And 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.  I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


Background:  The early Church Fathers attribute the authorship of the Gospel of Mark to John Mark, son of Aristopolos and Mary Mark, Peter’s mother-in-law, the one Jesus heals.  She becomes an admirer and follower of Jesus.  Tradition holds that John Mark is one of the servants at the wedding feast of Cana.  He is an eye witness to the first sign Jesus performs.  Peter is married to his older sister, which makes Peter young John Mark’s uncle.  After Aristopolos dies, Peter takes care of John Mark and considers him a son.  He sees to it that John Mark is well educated in law and the classics.  He is known as Mark; rather than John in order to avoid confusion with the apostle St. John.  He witnesses the Passion.  He travels with Paul and Barnabas.  He spreads the Evangelion (Gk., “good news of the kingdom”) with Peter as his scribe.  He writes down Peter’s recollections and sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.


The Preaching of John the Baptist:  The old-English term gospel does not exist until the Middle Ages.  The Latin term is evangelii.  An evangelion is a Roman proclamation used to announce a new Caesar, or the birth of another divine heir.  It is no coincidence that Mark uses the term in identical style to the Roman Empire in his opening one-sentence paragraph.  These twelve words stand alone as a shot across the bow.  The number twelve signifies divine government, but not the divine government of the Roman Empire.  The government of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  This is the reason Jesus never refers to himself as the Son of God during His earthly ministry; always as the Son of Man.  The terms are synonymous, but would not have the same meaning to Roman authorities.  The term Son of Man refers to the Messiah.  The one John the Baptist proclaims a baptism of repentance in preparation for His coming.