Mk 1:1 THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Most writers regard this verse as the title of the book.
Gospel, i.e. the tidings of salvation, or the story of the life of Jesus
Christ (see Intro., p. 15).
Concerning the word “Gospel” the Glossary of the Catechims of the Catholic Church notes:
“GOSPEL: The “good news” of God’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is this Gospel or good news that the Apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the entire world (571, 1946). The Gospel is handed on in the apostolic tradition of the Church as the source of all-saving truth and moral discipline (75). The four Gospels are the books written by the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which have for their central object Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Son: his life, teachings, Passion and glorification, and his Church’s beginnings under the Spirit’s guidance (124, 514).”
Jesus = Saviour. Christ = Anointed. Kings, priests and prophets were anointed, and Jesus was all three.
Mk 1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee.
As it is written in Isaiah: St Mark actually begins by a quotation from Malachi: Behold, I send My angel, and he shall -prepare the way before My face (Mal 3:1). Our Lord Himself applies these words to St John. This is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send, etc. (St Matt. 11:10.). For the Isaiah quotation see on verse 2.
The texts of Malachi and Isaiah are similar inasmuch as they both allude to the Exouds with it’s reference to an angel which will go before the people (Ex 23:20). Both also speak about preparing the way before the Lord.
St Mark, as historian, only quotes the Old Testament twice; here and in Mk 15:28, And with the wicked He was reputed. The passage concerning the angel who should prepare the way, referred primarily to the return of the Jews from their exile in Babylon, but the doctors of the law saw in this prophecy a secondary allusion to the Messiah.
Mk 1:3 A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.
A voice of one crying. A reference to a herald preceding a monarch and proclaiming his coming.
in the desert. The desert in which St John preached, was a tract of very thinly-inhabited land, lying east of Jerusalem and north of the Dead Sea.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord. St John exhorted his hearers to do this, by confessing their sins and bringing forth worthy fruits of penance. See Mk 1:5 and especially Luke 3:3, 7-14.
make straight his paths. An allusion to the Eastern custom of sending out workmen to prepare the roads for the passage of a monarch. It consisted in filling valleys, levelling hills, and making devious paths straight and even.
Isaiah 40:3 is almost certainly a mockery of the gods of Babylon. In ancient times highways were rebuilt for kings and gods (idols) so that they might enter their capital city in splendor, often as a celebration for the victory of the king and his gods over foreign people and their gods. The people of God and the utensils of worship taken from the Jerusalem Temple at the time of the Babylonian conquest and the exile that followed were, no doubt, led along such a road as they entered Babylon, with their conquerors celebrating their and their god’s victory over them and their God. Of course, they failed to understand that what they deemed the defeat of Israel’s God was, in fact, part of a plan orchestrated by him. The King of Babylon, like the King of Assyria before him, thought that he had conquered just another god, and for this both suffered the consequences (Isa 10:10-11; 14:13-15). Here God is declaring that he will have his own victory procession, triumphantly leading his people out of the pagan city he-not the gods of Babylon-had led them into. On this processional highway “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed” and “all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (verse 5). His word stands forever (unlike “flesh”, see Isa 40:6-8) and accomplishes his will (Isa 55:10-11). Thus at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel we see a note of triumph and victory hinted at. Jesus will be confronted by Satan, the prince of demons and the one whose power is behind every false god, and He will be victorious (implied in Mk 1:12-13; explicit in Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13).
Mk 1:4 John was in the desert, baptizing and preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins.
baptizing. The use of the present participle denotes an action frequently repeated. John was extremely busy with baptizing and preaching given the huge numbers who went out to him (see the next verse; also Mt 3:5 and note the reference to “crowds” [plural] in Luke 4:7, 10).
preaching. St John preached before he baptized; the order is here inverted. Baptizing was the characteristic feature of his ministry.
baptism of penance. Not the Sacrament of Baptism but a penitential rite to prepare them for the preaching of our Lord. This “baptism of penance” could not, of itself, take away sin.
Mk 1:5 And there went out to him all the country of Judea and all they of Jerusalem and were baptized by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
all the country, etc. This is one of St Mark s graphic touches. The other Gospels mention the various classes of people who listened to St John soldiers, tax-gatherers (St Luke 3:10-14).
river of Jordan = the river Jordan.
confessing their sins, i.e. “declaring their deeds.” These words do not refer to the Sacrament of Penance, which was not then instituted. The Law of Moses prescribed a detailed confession of certain sins, e.g. unjust or rash oaths. Leviticus: Let him do penance for his sin, and offer of the flocks an ewe lamb or a she-goat, and the priest shall pray for him and for his sin (Lev 5:5-6).
Mk 1:6 And John was clothed camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and he ate locusts and wild honey.
camel’s hair. A. rough cloth made from coarse camel s hair. St John the
Baptist led a life of penance, hence his clothes and food were of the poorest.
leathern girdle. The rich wore expensive girdles; the poor used a plain leathern strap such as the Arabs of the desert still wear. Recall Jesus’ words in reference to the Baptist in Mt 11:8~But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. The Baptist’s dress calls to mind the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).
locusts. A rather large-winged insect considered “clean” by the Jews. The food of the poor. The locusts were dried in the sun and sometimes made into cakes.
wild honey was found in quantities in the clefts of the rocks in the desert, or the term may mean the tree-honey, a gum found exuding from certain trees.
Mk 1:7 And he preached, saying: There cometh after me one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.
after me. St John the Baptist was born about six months before our Lord. As no Jew was allowed to preach before his thirtieth year, Jesus began His public life about six months later than St John. I doubt the phrase there cometh after me one, &c, has anything to do with age. More likely it’s picking up on the theme of “before” in verses 2~Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. John is prophesying the coming fulfillment of the foundational purpose of his ministry. Indeed, in Mk 1:9 Jesus will come to the already ministering Baptist, be baptized by him and then start his own ministry for which the Baptist’s was a prelude.
mightier than I. Note the Baptist’s humility, Jesus is “the Mighty One.” The Greek word ισχυροτερος (ischyroteros) means mighty or powerful one. As the Mighty One Jesus has come to subdue “the strong man” (ισχυρου = ischyrou) Satan (see Mk 3:23-27).
to stoop down. A minute detail proper to St Mark.
and loose. To loose and carry the shoes was the work of the slave, who performed this office for his master, when the latter entered a temple or banqueting hall.
Mk 1:8 I have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
I have baptised you with water, etc. The Baptist exalts Christ’s baptism, which conferred the Holy Ghost, and regenerated the soul.