The journey begins, 1:1-5:43

1. Introduction, 1:1-13

ii] Jesus' baptism and temptation


Mark moves quickly on from his description of the forerunner, John the Baptist, and gives us a shorthand description of the baptism of Jesus and his testing in the wilderness. In this passage we are introduced to Jesus the son of God, messiah, who stands in the place of God's failed son Israel.


These two episodes proclaim two great truths:

*Of the baptism, Adolf Schlatter says, Jesus "associates himself with sinners and ranges himself in the ranks of the guilty, not to find salvation for himself, not on account of his own guilt in his flight from the approaching wrath, but because he is at one with the church and the bearer of the divine mercy";

*Of the temptation, William Lane says, "Jesus' obedience to God is affirmed and sustained in the wilderness, the precise place where Israel's rebellion had brought death and alienation, in order that the new Israel of God may be constituted."


i] Context: See 1:1-8


ii] Structure: Jesus' baptism and temptation:

The baptism of Jesus, v9;

A theophany, v10-11;

the proclamation of a divine word.


iii] Interpretation:

The debate, as to why it was necessary for Jesus to undergo John's baptism, a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, is inconclusive. Jesus' enigmatic commentary in Matthew 3:15, "it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness", does little to clear the air. These notes take the line that Jesus, as corporate Israel, underwent a flawless act of repentance, symbolised in water baptism, on behalf of those who will come to believe in him. The Exodus symbolism of Israel passing through the waters and moving out into the wilderness to be tested, does seem to be reflected in the gospel narrative, and this symbolism intern reinforces the idea that Jesus is undertaking a corporate act on our behalf.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The Temptation of Jesus.

Text - 1:9

The Exodus in the wilderness, v9-13: i] The baptism of Jesus, v9-11. Verse 9 parallels verse 5. John, the forerunner, calls on Israel to gather at the water's edge in preparation for the coming of the Messiah - the day of reckoning is come; the day of judgement is at hand. It was in leaving Egypt, through the waters of the Red Sea, that the children of Israel met the living God at Mt. Sinai, and where they were confirmed as God's unique people. From Nazareth in Galilee, a place of lawless Judaism, secularised, synchronised, comes a true Israelite. He heeds the call and comes to John by the river Jordan. Although he, of all those who came to John, has no need to undergo a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, he none-the-less faces God on behalf of a broken people. On behalf of the "lost", he undertakes a repentance acceptable to God. In the perfection of this one true Israelite there will grow a new Israel, gathered to him by grace through faith.

egeneto (ginomai) "-" - [and] it came to pass. Used to introduce a new episode. "Now it was in those days", Moffatt; "it happened", NAB.

en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [those days that]. Temporal use of the preposition; "it was then that Jesus came from Nazareth into Galilee", Barclay.

IhsouV (ouV ou) "Jesus" - Anarthrous: the only example of "Jesus" used in Mark without an article.

apo + gen. "from" - [came] from. Expressing source / origin. Jesus' coming "from" Nazareth to John at the Jordan river parallels v5.

thv GalilaiaV (a) gen. "in Galilee" - [nazareth] of galilee. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "Nazareth which is located in Galilee."

uJpo + gen. "by [John]" - [and was immersed, washed] by [john]. Expressing agency.

eiV "in" - into [the jordan river]. Local; space, arrival at: "in the river Jordan", expressing here the sense of en, "in".


The Exodus theme continues as the reader is given an insight into the divine confirmation of Jesus' unique sonship; he is the only faithful one, the true Israel, the messiah. As the people of Israel gathered before Mt. Sinai on that day when the heavens were rent and God spoke, so again the heavens are torn asunder and God speaks. Now, a new son is confirmed, a son faithful through and through. In Jesus, the new Israel, God's new community (represented by the dove) will be built in the power of God's Spirit. "Because you are my unique Son, I have chosen you for the task upon which you are about to enter", Stonehouse.

euquV adv. "Just as" - [and] immediately, then. Temporal adverb. Mark uses this word some 40 times, sometimes to tie together two related episodes, "next", at other times to provide dramatic movement; "and straightway", AV.

anabainwn (anabainw) pres. part. "was coming" - coming up, going up. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "when", Barclay; "as soon as Jesus came up out of the water", CEV.

ek "out of" - from [the water]. Expressing source / origin; "from out of." Variant is apo, "from".

touV ouranouV (oV) gen. pl. "heaven" - [he saw] the heavens. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." "Heaven", the abode of God, BAGD, although often referring to the sky; "he saw the sky parting asunder", Weymouth. The plural "heavens" is idiomatic. Mark is recording a personal revelation to Jesus, so "he saw" = "Jesus saw."

scizomenouV (scizw) pres. pas. part. "torn open" - being rent apart, split, divided, opened. The accusative participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "heavens", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "the heavens." Probably passive, as NIV, rather than middle; "opening themselves."

katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. "descend / descending" - [and he saw the spirit] coming down, descending. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "the Spirit", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object "Spirit".

eiV "on" - to, into [him]. Spatial, expressing movement toward and arrival at. The variant ep, "upon him", is to be preferred, although the preposition eiV can be taken as "upon". None-the-less, "came down and entered into him", BAGD, is possible, so Gundry.

wJV "like [a dove]" - like, as. Comparative; either, descending as a dove would descend, or descending, looking like a dove, in which case "like a dove" modifies "the Spirit." Probably the latter alternative.

peristeran (a) "a dove" - a pigeon, dove. An illusive image. Either the divine is being represented as a bird-like creature coming to rest on Jesus, or the dove, as a common symbol of Israel at the time, serves to identify Jesus as the new Spirit-filled corporate Israel. The second option seems best.


The notion of Jesus as corporate Israel is reinforced by taking the divine words in this verse as an allusion to Genesis 22:2. If this allusion is intended, Jesus is being identified as the true son of Abraham. It should be noted that the quotation from Mark is very close to the LXX version of Gen.22:2. These divine words are usually regarded as a melding of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, and serve as a divine confirmation that Yahweh's suffering servant is the conquering messiah. These divine words do not appoint Jesus to the role of God's servant, a role he already possesses and continues to hold. The words are a public confirmation of Jesus' messianic credentials for all who read this gospel. If the gospel account is representing Jesus as corporate Israel, then it is likely that the allusion is to Gen.22:2.

ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - [and there was a voice] out of, from [the heavens]. Source / origin; "a voice from God's dwelling place", the voice of God sounding from above, from the rent clouds.

oJ oiJoV (oV) "[my] Son" - [you are] the son [of me]. Predicate nominative. Probably messianic rather than filial. See above.

oJ agaphtoV "whom I love" - the beloved. The attributive adjective modifies "Son"; "my beloved Son." Certainly pushing toward the idea of "unique son / only son", given that the Hebrew "only" is often translated by the same Greek word in the LXX, but obviously in messianic terms rather than filial terms. "The beloved and only son", Barclay.

en + dat. "with" - in [you]. Here expressing association, "that toward which the feeling is directed", BDAG, "with", as NIV.

eudokhsa (eudokew) aor. "I am well-pleased" - i am well pleased. A timeless aorist, therefore best represented with a present tense. Possibly, "I think it good", even "I am resolved", so "I have chosen you", or in gentler terms, "on you my favour rests", Barclay. If the meaning "well pleased" is adopted, Gundry suggests that the word carries enthusiasm. The divine is over-the-top with Jesus; "in you I take delight", REB.


ii] The temptation of Jesus, v12-13. The faithful son, the new Israel, is now thrown into the midst of a cosmic struggle between Satan and God. Jesus is driven into the wilderness and there, like Israel of old, is tested. Mark implies that Jesus stands the test, yet unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not say that the test ends after the forty days. Nor does he give us any details, other than Jesus was "with the wild animals." The wilderness is Satan's realm, a place of horror, loneliness, where wild beasts roam. Jesus, the true Israel, must struggle through the darkness to the promised land. Yet, just as the angels ministered to Elijah during his forty days in the wilderness, so they minister to Jesus. For Mark, Jesus' wilderness struggle is but a foretaste of the coming three years which will involve an unending assault from demonic forces. As Jesus is sustained and affirmed in the wilderness, so he is sustained through the wilderness of his ministry. Thus is constituted the new Israel of God, a people who stand the test in Jesus.

ekballei (ekballw) pres. "sent [him] out" - [and immediately the spirit] sent out, thrust out/forth, cast out, drive out [him]. The historic present tense of a very forceful word. "The Spirit drove him immediately into the desert", Moffatt; "compelled", Barclay; "impelled", Weymouth.

eiV "into" - to, into. Spatial, expressing the direction of the action and arrival at; "into".

thn erhmon (oV on) "the desert" - a desolate place, wilderness. A place of testing and confrontation with the divine, but also often seen as a haunt for evil powers; "the wilderness", REB.


en + dat. "in [the wilderness]" - [and he was being] in [the desert]. Local; expressing space, "in"; "he remained in the desert", Zerwick.

tesserakonta "forty" - forty [days]. Alluding to the forty years of Israel's wanderings in the desert prior to entering the promised land. Unlike Israel of old, Jesus, the new Israel, does not fail the test.

peirazomenoV (peirazw) pres. pas. part. "being tempted" - being tested, tempted. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the action of the main verb "he was / remained" is accomplished, as NIV, but possibly final, expressing purpose, "in order to be tested." Satan puts Jesus to the test as Israel was tested in the wilderness, therefore "was put to the test", NJB.

uJpo + gen. "by [Satan]" - by [the adversary, devil]. Expressing agency, "by", as NIV.

meta + gen. "with" - [and he was] with [wild beasts]. Expressing association. It is unclear whether Jesus is living peacefully with the animals, as if in a pre-fallen world, or living with them with one eye on the nearest tree to climb for safety.

autw/ dat. "him" - [and the angels were were waiting on, ministering to] him. Dative of direct object after the dia prefix verb "to minister to", which verb is possibly an inceptive imperfect, "they began to minister to", but is more likely used because it provides background information following Jesus' having been "driven out" (present tense).


Mark Introduction



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