These small group studies of the gospel of Mark 1:35-45 contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Mark 1:1-11 Bible Study Commentary With Questions - John The Baptist Prepares The Way

Outline of Mark 1:

I. John the Baptist Prophesied (1-3)
II. John the Baptist Preaching (4-8)
III. John the Baptist Baptizes Jesus (9-11)

I. John the Baptist Prophesied (1-3)

Background Discussion Questions On Mark

  • What do we know about the author?
  • Who was the book specifically written to?
  • What evidence is there in the book that it was written to Gentiles (and not Jews)?
  • What kind of different things might be recorded when reported to these two groups of people?
  • What differences have you noticed between the gospel of Mark and other gospels?
  • What do you hope to learn as we study this book?
  • What goals do you have for yourself as we study it?

Discussion Questions on Mark 1:1-3

  • Why does Mark start with this prophecy from Isaiah?
  • What was the role of this "messenger?"
  • How do you think this person could "prepare the way for the Lord?" and "make His paths straight?"

Cross-References

John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.”

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Background

A. Author – The title of the book ascribes it to Mark. He is not actually mentioned by name in the book. Yet a historical study of the early church, shows that they ascribed this gospel to Mark. Many believe that the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 is Mark since this is the only gospel that records this incident.

Mark participated in the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but for unknown reasons gave up in the middle (Acts 13:13). This led Paul to refuse to take him on the next journey. Barnabas, however, took him under his wing and forgave him and went together with him (Acts 15:37-39).

Mark is then mentioned a number of other times as being close with both Paul (Colossians 4:10-11, Philemon 24) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13). This tells us that Mark learned from his mistakes and followed God faithfully later on during his life. It could be said that we have the gospel of Mark largely due to Barnabas being willing to giving Mark a second chance when others wouldn’t.

B. Audience – Most scholars agree that the gospel of Mark was intended for Gentiles, likely those residing in Rome. There is a lot of internal evidence for this. For example, Mark uses almost no Old Testament quotes (1:2-3 being the only one in the book). If his audience was Jewish, like in the Gospel of Matthew, he probably would have peppered references to the Old Testament in his gospel.

In several cases Mark, finds it necessary to explain certain aspects of Jewish tradition and geography (7:2-4, 13:3, 14:12) This would not be necessary if his audience was Jewish. He also spends less time on Jesus’ controversy with Jewish leaders, since this would have been less important for Gentiles. This is another reminder that difference in the gospels does not show contradictions. Rather it shows that the authors understood their audiences and included information that would be more useful and helpful to those they were writing to.

C. Mark is the shortest gospel. As a result, Mark moves through the life and actions of Jesus very quickly. He focuses much more on what Jesus did than on what Jesus said.

2. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God - In keeping with Mark’s fast paced style, what important truth does he reveal in verse 1?

In the very first verse he reveals Jesus as the Son of God, deity. This could be considered his thesis. He immediately shows the essence of who Jesus is, the Son of God. The rest of the book is then devoted to showing the proof, evidence, and result of this truth.

3. I send my messenger before your face - This quote in Mark 1:2-3 is the only time in the entire book he quotes the Old Testament. And it is an important one.

Mark identifies John the Baptist as this promised "messenger." The role of the messenger is to prepare the way for the Lord and to make his paths straight.

Suggested Study: John the Baptist Character Study

Isaiah also refers to his geographical location of ministry as being primarily in the wilderness, which is where John served.

The verse clearly identifies John's role. His purpose is to prepare the way of Christ. It is not about John. It is not about his fame, his numbers, his popularity, or his position.

Later in his ministry, John's own followers came and complained to him that Jesus was getting more attention and that John's disciples were starting to follow Jesus. John's reply is seen in John 3:30.

John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.

John did not complain. His disciples thought this was a problem that needed to be dealt with. But John knew this was the goal. His entire job was to prepare people and send them to Jesus. And he did it well. Several of Jesus' key disciples were disciples of John the Baptist first.

We would do well to learn from John's humility and deference.

Application: When we serve Christ, our entire purpose should be to bring glory to Him and not to ourselves. Do you do ministry in order to get credit for yourselves? Are you disappointed if no one sees you and expresses appreciation? If you find yourself disappointed, then this is a sign that perhaps the motivation is a wrong one. John served without any need for appreciation. His whole focus was on the Messiah. Ours should be as well. He must increase and we must decrease.

II. John the Baptist Preaching (4-8)

Discussion Questions

  • What was John the Baptist’s main task?
  • What character qualities did he need to accomplish this?
  • What was the main content of his message?
  • What do we learn about him as a person from this passage?
  • How about from other gospels?
  • In what ways do you think you need to be more like John the Baptist?
  • What was the purpose of water baptism?
  • What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Cross-References

Luke 3:19 - Now Herod the tetrarch had been rebuked by John because he had married his brother's wife Herodias and because of all of the other evil things Herod had done.

2 Kings 1:8 – They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Acts 28:31- Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Ephesians 3:12 - In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Matthew 24:38 - For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. John the Baptist’s ministry– He did not go the biggest cities or the capital city Jerusalem to take his message. Instead he preached in the wilderness. Why? The Bible does not give us the answer to this question. This is where God had called him to do ministry. And it highlights his humble character.

He relied upon the power of God’s Word to draw people. He never used gimmicks. There were no pizza parties or bowling nights. He simply preached the truth to whoever would listen. The message he preached was anointed by God and this drew many people out from the city to listen to him.

Application: A lesson for us is that wherever God has called you to share His words, do it faithfully and He will use it to accomplish His purposes. He doesn't call all believers to serve in a big church. Many labor for him in rural areas and in small churches. They are out of the limelight, but they are faithful and God sees. Neither does He call all of His servants to serve on the stage, in up front and visible ministry. Many labor behind the scenes. Wherever God has called you to ministry, do it humbly for Him.

2. John the Baptist's lifestyle - John wore camel’s hair, a leather belt, and ate locusts and honey. Clearly this clothing and diet was special or Mark would not have mentioned it. John led a very rustic and simple life. His clothing would probably be considered out of fashion and too simple. Let's just say that John wasn't going to start any new fashion trends in Jerusalem.

His diet was also abnormal to most people. Not many people find a diet of bugs to be very appealing. The point is that he didn’t need luxuries. He didn’t focus on “eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage” like most people. His food was just a means to sustain him, nothing more. He lived a simple life and was not distracted by the things of this world.

What can we learn from this?

John was goal-driven. He wasn’t easily distracted. He put the top priority on the most important things, namely his service to God. It was almost like John’s entire life was a fast (cutting out everything extraneous) so that he could devote himself 100% to serving God.

Application: Is there anything you need to cut out of your life in order to focus on serving the Lord? Have any earthly things become a distraction, soaking up your time, energy, or money? Perhaps like John, you need to simplify and focus on the right place.

5. John the Baptist’s message – John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His message was simple: repent. If they were willing to do so, they could be baptized as a public symbol of their faith in God and the new direction in their life.

According to verse 8, this baptism was just with water, not the Holy Spirit. Just like for Christians now, this water baptism was only an outer sign.

For us it is a sign of what the Holy Spirit has done in our hearts. For them it was a sign of their repentance and God’s forgiveness. John’s message was simple. It wasn’t complicated.

But he preached this simple message with boldness. He was bold to call the Pharisees what they were. He was also bold to warn Herod about living with his brother’s wife. Basically John was a truth speaker. He didn’t sugar coat things and had no desire to tickle people’s ears or make them feel comfortable. He said what needed to be said.

Luke 3:7 – He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John spoke strong words against the religious establishment. He wasn't afraid because God was on his side.

Application : John’s simple message is very refreshing. Today most sermon’s, Bible studies, messages, etc. are knowledge based. Too often Bible teachers or preachers may even feel a sense of pride when they can rattle off all kinds of obscure facts about a passage that most people don’t know.

George Muller is famous for his orphanage ministry in the 1800s. But before he started this he was an evangelist and preacher. He had just finished seminary and was invited by a church to preach one Sunday morning. He prepared diligently and gave what he thought was an excellent message. After he finished a young farm lady came up and thanked him for his message. She told him, "That was a great sermon. Didn't understand a word. But a really nice message."

At that point, George Muller knew that fancy words might sound nice, but they didn't help anybody. And he decided to ditch the seminary sounding sermons and speak directly to the common person.

Knowledge has the tendency to puff up. Would you say John’s message was focused on knowledge? If not, what?

In Matthew 28:18-20, what did Jesus command the disciples? He commanded them to teach their disciples to obey all that He commanded.

Obedience is what God is looking for, not knowledge. Most of the time, we know what we should do as believers. If someone doesn’t know what to do, it is normally a simple matter to read a few verses which are easily understood and then we know what to do. The question is, are we going to obey it or not?

6. John the Baptist’s character – John was simple, humble, and bold. It is interesting when we view his humility and boldness together. Nowhere do we see that John’s humility made him weak. He willingly spoke out against sin wherever he saw it. Yet he did not do so in a prideful, self-righteous way. Rather it was his