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Mark and His Prologue

September 27th, 2011 by Oleg Kostyuk

by Oleg Kostyuk

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Vecellio Tiziano, "St Mark"

Welcome to Cross Connection. Let us experience together how the Word of God comes alive when we study it.  Today we will look at Mark’s introduction.

I believe that the reader who misunderstands the beginning almost inevitably misunderstands the conclusion. If we look carefully at the Gospel according to Mark we will notice that the prologue cannot be clearly identified from the text.

Mark starts his Gospel with the story of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8) and then in verse nine­ Jesus encounters John for the first time. Jesus is baptized by him and then is led to the desert to be tempted by Satan (1:12-13). And only in verse 14 does Jesus officially start His ministry. In the first thirteen verses Mark establishes the setting, introduces the characters, and lays the foundation for the plot.

Now there are a couple of questions that may be raised in our minds: What does this prologue or introduction have to say about Jesus, and how does this introduction reveal the truth about Jesus?

The prologue of the Gospel of Mark presents to us essential information for understanding who Jesus is.

The Gospel starts with the information about John the Baptist and his mission. The narrator states that John is the prophet of the last days foretold by Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3). His task is to “prepare the way of the Lord” for God’s final act of salvation. Malachi, another Old Testament prophet, foretold that before the coming of the Lord, another prophet with a message similar to Elijah would come: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5). Elijah was a great prophet of the Old Testament who was taken to heaven alive.

Mark in his Gospel makes it clear that John is not the Messiah, but the forerunner of the Messiah and Elijah the prophet as foretold by Malachi. This connection between John the Baptist and Elijah became very apparent to the eyewitnesses by the similarities in the clothing of both. They were “clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around their waist” (Mark 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8).

After telling the story about John the Baptist, Mark continues with another story about Jesus. Mark states in chapter 1:10-11 that after Jesus was baptized “immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came down from heaven saying, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10-11). Just imagine this glorious picture! The eyewitnesses did not see the Spirit of the Lord descending but the reader sees the event from a much deeper perspective. The message of the text is clear: Jesus is the Son of God empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Then Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness (1:12) where he confronts Satan. Verses 12 and 13 are not very easy to interpret. In fact, many questions can be raised: What do the wild beasts symbolize? Do the angels serve Jesus to sustain him against Satan, or because he has overcome Satan? The text does not explicitly say.[1]

However the main point is clear: Jesus did not fail during the time of temptation. He overcame Satan.

There are three main points that we can learn from studying the introduction of Mark’s Gospel: (1) John the Baptist is not the Messiah, he is the Messiah’s forerunner; (2) Jesus is the Son of God who was filled with the Spirit and in whom the Father is pleased; (3) and even though Jesus was confronted by Satan, He did not fail.

What an encouraging message! Mark’s Gospel is a great story of the Son of God, who was empowered by the Spirit and overcame Satan. This is a great example for us today, showing us that we also can overcome evil if we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and desire to be children of God.

Join our conversation on Cross Connection, and let us experience the Word of God come alive.



[1] Matera, Frank J., ‘The prologue as the interpretative key to Mark’s Gospel’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (1988), 3-20, p. 9.

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