Mark 1:1-8 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What Old Testament prophecy did John the Baptist fulfill? What was his role? See Mark 1:2-3 (printed below)

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, the one who shall prepare your way. (3) He will be the voice crying out in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him. (Mark 1:2-3)

John fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.” John’s role was to announce the coming of the Messiah (i.e.; the Lord Himself) and prepare the people for Him.

2. According to Mark 1:4 (printed below), John’s ministry consisted of what two activities?

So John came, baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

John’s ministry consisted of the two activities of baptizing and preaching. Specifically, John preached that men must repent of their sins and be baptized. A person’s submission to John’s baptism indicated his repentance and symbolized his spiritual cleansing and forgiveness.

3. How did the people respond to John’s ministry? See Mark 1:5 (printed below)

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Mark 1:5)

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They responded to his preaching by confessing their sins and allowing themselves to be baptized by him.

4. When John saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming out to observe what he was doing, what does he say to them (see Matthew 3:7-10 printed below?) What does he mean?

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Produce fruit worthy of repentance; (9) and do not think to yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. I tell you, from these stones God is able to raise up children for Abraham. (10) Even at this moment the axe lies at the root of the trees; every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10)

John calls the Pharisees and Sadducees “a brood of vipers.” He tells them that they must bear fruit that is worthy of repentance and they must not put their trust in the fact that they were the descendants of Abraham. In other words, John rebukes them for their self-righteousness (they did not think they needed to be baptized by him), their hypocrisy (although their lives were respectable, their hearts were full of sin), and their misplaced confidence (they trusted in their religious heritage rather than in the Lord for their salvation.)

5. According to Mark 1:7-8 (printed below), what did John tell the people? To whom was John referring?

Now this is what he preached, After me there is coming someone who is mightier than I. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs of his sandals. (8) I baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:7-8)

John told the people that after him would come someone who was greater than him. Whereas John only baptized with water, the one who was coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John was referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.