Trustworthy Witnesses

Trustworthy Witnesses

Trustworthy Witnesses
Text: Mark 1:1-11

Main Idea:  The good news of the gospel is a person—Jesus Christ the son of God—not a religious path.


I.   The Testimony of the Prophets (1:2-3)
II.  The Testimony of John the Baptist (1:4-8)
III. The Testimony of God himself (1:9-11)

Mark 1:1–11

This morning we are launching into a year-long sermon series in the Gospel of Mark.[1]

This Gospel holds a unique place in Church history, in that, it was one of the most neglected books in the early church because 90% of the material in Mark appears in either Matthew or Luke. This relationship led the early church father, Augustine of Hippo, to propose that Mark was little more than an abbreviation of Matthew.[2]

But, a dramatic change took place in the 19th-century as biblical scholars wrestling with the historical relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke concurred that Matthew and Luke utilized Mark not the other way around.

So as we turn our attention to the Gospel of Mark, I want you to see that it is not just another historical biography or a narrative account. It is a written proclamation of an oral message that was sweeping across the Roman empire.

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It’s no accident that Mark uses the term gospel or good news (εὐαγγέλιον) to describe the Jesus event. Mark is linking the life of Jesus Christ to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 52.

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news (εὐαγγελίζω), who publishes peace, who brings good news (εὐαγγελίζω) of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The “good news” is news of: peace, happiness, and salvation. But, what is the source or reason that peace, happiness, and salvation have arrived? It is the glorious message that God is reigning over his kingdom people. And that is precisely the good news that Jesus announces from the very beginning of his ministry.

Mark 1:14–15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, Mark’s Gospel is so much more than the story of Jesus of Nazareth. It is good news that“The Creator of the universe has intervened in human history, fulfilling his promise to reclaim his creation, restore his people, and rule over the entire earth through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Therefore, as we will see throughout our study, the good news of the gospel is not the result of:

  • an academic endeavor whereby clever men organized preexisting religious propositions
  • or new set of divine laws to be obeyed
  • a series of unfortunate events

Main Idea: The good news of the gospel is a person— Jesus Christ the Son of God. [The gospel is a person not a religious path][3]

And Mark doesn’t want us to just take his word for it. He goes out of his way to present us with the testimony of not just one or two but three testimonies that Jesus is the very the Son of God.[4]

The Testimony of the Prophets (Mark 1:2–3)

A Composite Citation (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3)

In many ways, the Gospel of Mark begins with a hidden, offstage voice. John and Jesus suddenly appear as full-grown adults BUT Mark’s Isaiah citation makes it abundantly clear that their arrival is inextricably anchored in God’s OT Promises.

Yet, as we take a closer look at verse 2–3 it becomes apparent that Mark’s citation is a conflation of two different texts Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. And the interesting thing is that both of these texts promise that a future messenger (whom Malachi later identifies as the prophet Elijah) will prepare the way, not for the Messiah, but God himself.

Malachi 3:1–2 Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lordof hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

And in the second text, is taken from a section in which Isaiah encourages exiled Israel that God himself would deliver them with a glorious second exodus.

Isaiah 40:3–5 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A Theological Declaration (So what is Mark doing with these two texts?)

First, he is grounding the good news of the gospel in the testimony of the prophets. He is telling his audience, look everything I am going to tell you has already been promised.

Second he is telling his audience, everything we have been waiting for has finally come true, Jesus’ story fulfills both Isaiah and Malachi’s prophecy that God would rescue his people and restore Jerusalem to be a light to the nations.

Third, he is highlighting the clear OT distinction between the messenger who prepares the way for God’s arrival and the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The Testimony of John the Baptist (Mark 1:4–8)

John’s Prophetic Identity

When Mark goes out of his way to tell us the John the Baptist was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt, he wasn’t just telling us that John preferred animal pelts to polyester or a poly-cotton blend. He is telling us something about John’s prophetic identity. He is telling us that John the Baptist is a prophet like Elijah.

2 Kings 1:7–8 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” 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.”

Mark wants us to make an important connection between John and Elijah because Malachi prophesied that God would send the Prophet Elijah to call Israel to repentance so that they would be ready for God’s arrival.

Malachi 4:5–6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

Now the only record we have of Elijah in our NT is on the Mount of Transfiguration. And that is only for a few minutes. But, in this text Mark wants his readers and us see that John the Baptist is Malachi’s prophet Elijah preparing God’s people for his arrival. Jesus had to make this very same connection for his disciples.

Mark 9:11; 13 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

John’s Message

Notice that John’s ministry is not just about baptism. It is explicitly directed toward preparingthe way for someone who is far greater than himself and who baptize with the Holy Spirit. And he wanted them to know that there was a drastic difference between the herald and the one he was heralding. In other words, John understands that he is not trying to build up a following for himself. NO. Rather, he understands that he is lower than the lowest slave in comparison to the one who is coming. So low that he is unworthy to do the most menial task.

On account of this his entire ministry is like a mirror, deflecting all the attention toward Jesus the coming Messiah by faithfully preparing God’s people for an up close encounter with God himself. An encounter which will result in commendation for the repentant and judgment for those who persist in their sin.

So we have the testimony of the OT prophets, the testimony of a “prophesied prophet,” and as we turn to verses 9–11, Mark provides us with the testimony of God himself.

The Testimony of God Himself (Mark 1:9–11)

The Baptism

Now we could move past this even rather quickly because it is so familiar. But, it is important to ask the question, “Why did Jesus get baptized by John?” Jesus is not a sinner! Is he just going through the religious motions? I do not believe so.

Jesus is publicly identifying with the sinful people that he has come to save. Matthew even tells us that John didn’t want to baptize Jesus.

Matthew 3:14–15 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

This is the depths to which Jesus humbled himself to purchase effect our redemption.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Let’s link this to Christian baptism. “In Christian baptism, going under the water means dying with Jesus and coming up out of the water means rising to newness of life with Jesus. Butbefore we could identify with Jesus and what he did to save us, he had to identify with us and all that we had done as sinners.”[5]

And this identification with our sin is one of the reasons why God tears the heavens open to anoint Jesus with the Holy Spirit and declare his whole-hearted delight in Jesus.

The Torn Heavens

Mark uses the Greek verb σχίζωfor this event (to divide by use of force).[6]What is opened can be closed again; what is ripped cannot easily return to its former state. In Jesus Christ all heaven is breaking loose… God is coming to redeem his creation whether mankind wants him to or not.[7] The barriers are torn down and torn open, and God is now in our midst and on the loose, fulfilling hope of Isaiah,

Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.

Jesus is being indwelt and anointed by the Holy Spirit for his ministry, fulfilling Isaiah’s Messianic expectation:

Isaiah 11:2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

The Father’s Testimony

Finally this heavenly announcement conveys two very important things about Jesus identity to readers familiar with their Old Testament. God the Father uses the language of two important OT texts to testify about Jesus.

Psalm 2:7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

When God the Father testifies about Jesus by alluding to these two very important texts he is testifying to the fact that Jesus is, not only, the long expected Messiah—the Son of God—from Psalm 2. Jesus is alsothe Servant of God from Isaiah 42!

So in many ways, God’s proclamation in verse 11 drives Mark’s theme through the entire book. Everyone, including the disciples, are going to struggle to put these two ideas together: That the Messianic Son of God (Mark 1–8) is the Suffering Servant (Mark 8–16) who will bear the sin of many, and make intercession for transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).


Not a Mystery

The gospel is not a mystery story (or an Agatha Christy novel) in which the reader can only guess about identity of the main character until the end. NO, from the very outset of the Gospel Mark makes it very clear, Jesus is the Messiah—the Son of God. Yet, from the perspective of the characters in the story, Jesus’ identity and mission will only be revealed gradually.[8]

Christianity is not just a “Religion”

What I mean by this is that Christianity is not just a list of religious things to do as if Christianity is a ladder that helps us reach God by following religious rules.

Religion is about what we do to reach God; the gospel is what God did—in Jesus Christ—to reach us. It is news, not advice. It is not something to do; it is something that has been done. In order to receive it, you must repent and believe.

This gospel is also not one report of good news among many other such stories. The Greek noun translated “gospel” is singular. It’s one road, one path, one way, one truth that enables us to overcome our separation from God and be restored to him. As Dr. Meyer observes:

“We live in a world that wants to talk about everything on the level of tolerance where no story or narrative is placed over all the others. But this is the one story to rule them all”[9] because it is the true story.

It’s a true story that constantly calls mankind to repent of their rebellion against God, bow their knee and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord. Because if you do it now you will be forever forgiven and restored to God. Forever a beloved child adopted by grace. Forever an object of his love and affection.

But one day, the day that he returns as conquering king, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. But for many, it will not be in joy and celebration but it will be a forced acknowledgement of his sovereign rule and perfect justice. And that is why we continue to proclaim the good news of the gospel until the day that Jesus returns.

[1]This background material was adapted from, Mark L. Strauss, MarkZondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 17–28.

[2]Saint Augustine, “The Harmony of the Gospels,” in Saint Augustine: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, trans. S. D. F Salmond, 1st edition., vol. 6 of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 79.

[3]James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 25.

[4]I am taking verse one as a title. Jason Meyer includes Mark as a fourth witness, (Jason C Meyer, “True Confessions” [presented at the Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, 4 March 2017],

[5]Meyer, “True Confessions.”

[6]Walter Bauer et al.,A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 981. In fact, it is the very same verb that he uses in 15:38–39 to describe the temple curtain being torn in two after which the centurion proclaims truly this must be the Son of God.

[7]David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 48.

[8]Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark, Revised Edition., vol. 9 of, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 707.

[9]Meyer, “True Confessions.”