PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way,
3the 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.”
Marks starts his narrative of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, by openly declaring that He is the Son of God.
He starts his narrative as a man of faith, someone who is convinced of the messianic claim of Lord Jesus and is ready to share it with the world.
As part of the justification of his faith, Mark presents a couple of prophesies, one from Malachi 3:1, and the other from Isaiah 40:3; where both prophets speak of the coming of God suddenly to his Temple and that a messenger should go before Him to prepare the people to receive Him.
The first quote is cited freely and spoken towards Jesus but keeps the sense of the message. Malachi’s version in the Masoretic and the Septuagint is YHWH who speaks about Himself in first person.
The second quote taken from Isaiah 40:3 and it is according to the Greek version but is basically the same as in the Septuagint.
Mark is redundant and only mentions the name of the last prophet. It’s important to know that certain old manuscripts contain the verse 2, as saying ‘the prophets’ and not ‘Isaiah’; but most version contain only the name of Isaiah as we commonly have it.
It is also worth to note that Malachi’s prophecy is messianic, because even though verse one is applied to John the Baptist as the messenger before YHWH; the last part of that verse speaks of another messenger, ‘the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says YHWH of hosts.’
Here God, who gives the prophecy to Malachi, is not speaking of the first messenger, suddenly He mentions another ‘messenger’ in ‘whom they delight’. The listeners are not only delighting in the message of God coming to them, but also in the person of this mysterious messenger, who is someone different to the first messenger.
Mark also speaks that John the Baptist appeared, preaching a baptism of repentance.
Many have said that this baptism is not the same as Christian baptism (Acts 19:3-5). Indeed, it was not. Christian Baptism represents repentance, but also the New Birth in Christ, and the reception of the Holy Spirit, who makes us Children of God. John’s baptism represented the washing of sins, Jesus’s baptism represents our new birth as Children of God, washed not by water, but by the blood of Christ Jesus.
But also, it says that John preached this baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Was it necessary to attain forgiveness?
Of course, God had prescribed temple offerings for the forgiveness of sins, and these were not tied up to John’s particular unorthodox ritual. But the new covenant of Grace was about to come, and those who truly repented of their sins and converted to the message of the Baptist, needed to make a public confession of their guilt, and accept the ritual to be formally forgiven by God. It was not the only way, but it was a way, the way of the disciples of John, who awaited the Messiah. The same way today, it is important to take water baptism to be forgiven of sins. It is through this ritual that God commanded to be celebrated, that we officially make a compromise with God to a new life, and God forgives us officially and adopts us as his own.
Then the Baptist starts proclaiming the Messiah’s coming.
Someone who is higher than him in honor, and virtue, whom he (John) is not worthy to touch even his feet. This shows the amount of respect that John had for the Messiah, whom he did not know yet who was (Mt 11:3), but he knew that he was from God, and the founder of a new covenant.
And more over, John knew that the Messiah will baptize with the Spirit of God. Something no human can do.