In the context of the Roman Empire, the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ, i.e., Jesus the “anointed” king of Israel, a people subject to Rome, would have been understood over against the “gospel”
of Caesar as the “Savior” who brought peace to the world. Son of God is missing in the earliest manuscripts.
(Mt 3.1–12; Lk 3.1–20; Jn 1.6–15,19–28
) preparing the way as the new Exodus and covenant renewal.
See Ex 23.20; Mal 3.1 (cf. Mt 11.10; Lk 7.27); Isa 40.3
. That this is not all a quotation from Isaiah suggests that it is rooted in a popular (non‐scribal) oral conflation of “prophecies.”
It is not clear whether my messenger ahead of you refers to John sent ahead of Jesus, or Jesus sent ahead of the addressees. “Prepare the way of the Lord” proclaims a new Exodus, as in Isa 40
. The wilderness, also suggestive of a new Exodus, was a place where other popular prophets and movements often originated (e.g., Acts 5.36
; cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.5.1).
. Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, John proclaims and performs a ritual of entrance into God's renewed covenant with Israel in which those ready to change their
ways are baptized as forgiven for having broken the covenantal laws.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem, i.e., all the people of Israel, from the capital city as well as from the villages, were baptized.
John's garb evokes an image of the prophet Elijah, as in 2 Kings 1.8; cf. 9.11–13
. Jesus is also taken to be Elijah in
6.15; 8.28; 15.35–36
John also proclaims one … more powerful who will bring the enabling divine power of the Holy Spirit.
(Mt 3.13–17; Lk 3.21–22; Jn 1.29–34
). Jesus himself is baptized into the renewal movement that began before him. From Nazareth of Galilee, a small village about 25 km (16 mi) west of the Sea of Galilee in the district now governed by “King” Herod Antipas (see 6.14
), son of Herod the Great.
The heavens torn apart, as the divine Spirit breaks through empowering Jesus as the anointed king of Israel. A traditional designation for the king was “son of God,”
as in 2 Sam 7.14; Ps 2.7; 89.26 (cf. Lk 9.35
cf. Isa 42.1
(cf. the particular “temptations” added in Mt 4.1–11; Lk 4.1–13
). Jesus undergoes a forty‐day time of trial and testing in the wilderness for a prophet, such as Elijah in 1 Kings 19.8; cf. Ex 24.18
. The battle against Satan (see 3.23–27
) is already engaged.
(Mt 4.12–17; Lk 4.14–15
John was arrested (see 6.17
) indicates the ominous situation as Jesus begins his mission centered in Galilee, a remote area of a country subjected to
A summary of Jesus' program and of the Gospel according to Mark. At the right time, in fulfillment of long‐standing yearnings
and hopes, God is finally acting to reestablish his beneficent will for the people. Repent, return to God's way, in response to the good news of God's action.
(Mt 4.18–22; Lk 5.1–11; Jn 1.35–42
). Sea of Galilee or the Lake of Gennesaret is a large lake in a deep basin mostly surrounded by high hills. Simon, also called Peter (
(Mt 7.28–29; Lk 4.33–37
Capernaum, a village at the north of the Lake, is the base of Jesus' activity in Galilee and the surrounding areas. The synagogue is the village assembly, here gathering on the sabbath (when Jesus performs the ensuing exorcism); at this time village assemblies
apparently did not yet construct public buildings in which to gather. His teaching is inclusive of his healings and exorcisms, as the rest of this story indicates. Authority, the Greek word also means “power.” Scribes, the literate elite of scholars‐lawyers who represented the Jerusalem priestly rulers.
A man with an unclean spirit, possessed by an alien force or demon.
In Mark the unclean spirits immediately recognize who Jesus is, as again in
1.34; 3.11; 5.7
. Holy One of God, a prophet possessed of divine power, as Elisha, 2 Kings 4.9
The actual exorcism involves a violent struggle.
With v. 22
these exclamations frame Jesus' exorcism: In contrast to the scribal “authorities,” Jesus teaches and acts with authority
and power over the unclean spirits for the benefit of the people. In Jesus' struggle against the superhuman demonic spirits
his political conflict with the rulers and their scribal representatives is also engaged.
From his very first exorcism, Jesus' fame spreads rapidly throughout the region; see also 1.45; 3.7–8
(Mt 8.14–17; Lk 4.38–41
The first of several key healings of women in Mark; see 5.21–43
A Markan summary, cf. 1.39; 3.7–8
Mark often uses city with reference to a village.
Not permit the demons to speak, Jesus commands the demons, who know who he is, not to make him known (see 3.12
) and sometimes asks people who witness healings not to tell anyone (e.g.,
1.44; 5.43; 7.36
). Nevertheless, his fame spreads rapidly and widely (e.g.,
1.37; 1.45; 3.7–8; 7.36
). The readers of Mark, of course, like the demons, know who he is from the beginning (
(Mt 4.23–25; Lk 4.42–44
). A Markan summary of Jesus' program of proclaiming the kingdom of God and exorcism of demons throughout the villages of
In their synagogues, the Greek word means “assemblies.” Jesus' proclamations, exorcisms, and healings take place largely in the village assemblies
(see vv. 21–22n.
(Mt 8.2–4; Lk 5.12–16
). Leper, a person suffering from skin lesions of any sort, and interpreted in priestly sources (see Lev 13–14
) as a channel of “unclean” contamination for individuals and society.
The leper dares Jesus to declare him clean, and Jesus responds to the challenge, in defiance of the elaborate and costly procedures prescribed in biblical law.
Moved with pity, some manuscripts have “with anger,” i.e., at the Jerusalem priestly establishment and their institutionalized procedures
and prescribed offering necessary for the “leper” to be declared free of the stigma (clean).
Since Jesus has already made the man clean, his instructions must be intended either as a demonstrative testimony or “witness” against the priest and the costly offerings required by their code (Lev 14.10–32
) or as a facetious remark (the now‐clean man does pointedly disobey the instructions).
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