The Text in Context
Jesus has been heralded as the Messiah by prophetic witness (1:2–3) and by the announcement of the wilderness prophet (1:4–8). Now authoritative proof is given with his messianic anointing via his baptism. In a trinitarian act the Spirit descends on him, and the Father announces him as the beloved Son (1:9–11). The opening test of God’s Messiah is his defeat of Satan in the wilderness. The section concludes with Mark’s summary of the kingdom message of Jesus (1:14–15). This prologue introduces the reality of Jesus the Messiah as he begins his ministry.
Key Themes of Mark 1:9–15
■ Jesus’s baptism is seen as a new creation introducing the new age of the Spirit.
■ Jesus becomes the royal Messiah through his ministry as the Suffering Servant.
■ Jesus is tested in the wilderness and defeats Satan at the start of his ministry.
There are three primary insights. (1) Through a trinitarian act God proclaims Jesus as his Son by anointing him with his Spirit, thereby telling all that the new age of messianic fulfillment has begun. (2) God tests Jesus by using Satan to tempt him to use his messianic authority for his own benefit, but Jesus, using Deuteronomy, tells the devil that he will not repeat the error that Israel committed in the wilderness, thereby beginning his messianic ministry with a cosmic victory over the powers of evil (this is explicit in Matt. 4 and Luke 4). (3) The arrival of Jesus the Messiah marks the “fullness of time” (see Gal. 4:4), the moment when God’s plan for the salvation of humankind comes to fruition and the final age of history is inaugurated.
Teaching the Text
- Jesus’s baptism is a new creation that introduces the new age of the Spirit. The God-man connects with both his mission to bring redemption to humankind and his divine purpose in inaugurating the age of the Spirit. In one sense, his baptism is his “anointing” as the Messiah, and as such it launches his messianic ministry with the Twelve. But Jesus was the Messiah from the moment of his incarnation. Mainly, in baptism he identifies with the need of everyone to be “right” with God, thus bringing about God’s righteous plan of salvation (see Matt. 3:15). It was a major apocalyptic event in which the very heavens were split apart and the Spirit descended in a new way, not only on Jesus but also on this world, inaugurating a new kingdom reality, a new age of salvation dominated by the intervention of God and the Spirit.
- Jesus begins his ministry by being tested in the wilderness and defeating Satan. Mark’s narrative is deceptively simple but nevertheless portrays this event as a recapitulation of Israel’s (and Elijah’s) test in the wilderness. Jesus’s ministry must begin with a confrontation with Satan, for Mark will be emphasizing spiritual warfare throughout his story. It is God who is testing his Son, and Satan’s temptation is a tool to that end. The battle with the cosmic powers plays a critical role, and the forces of darkness are at all times opposed to the light. If the “wild animals” are indeed part of an Isaianic “paradise” theme (see above), the idea is that Jesus in his glorious presence transforms this world. Either way, the victory over Satan and his forces provides a powerful beginning to Jesus’s ministry.