November 6, 2004

Mark 1:2-3 Sermon Notes

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Mark 1:2-3
(August 29, 2004 Sermon Notes)

Mark doesn’t simply tell us the story of Jesus. Like Paul (Acts 13; Rom. 1), Mark starts by referring to prophecies which look forward to the beginning of the good news. He wants us to know that the story of Jesus is the climax of a much longer story. Jesus is the culmination of the whole Old Covenant.

But what Mark is doing here is far from straightforward. What he says sounds like Malachi 3:1 followed by Isiaah 40:3. But Mark doesn’t quote Malachi 3:1 word for word. He modifies it.

Malachi 3:1 says, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” But Mark 1:2 says, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare the way before you.”

Mark isn’t misquoting Malachi. Rather, Malachi 3:! is itself a modification of Exodus 23:20 (“Behold, I send a messenger before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared”). Mark is blending both of these passages together to show how they speak of Jesus.


In Exodus 23:20, YHWH promises to send his Angel to protect Israel and bring Israel into the Promised Land. From other passages of Scripture, we know that this Angel is YHWH himself. He’s God the Son. His presence with Israel, as YHWH goes on to say in Exodus 23, means that Israel must listen to him if she is to inherit the land. The Angel’s presence is an assurance of victory to all who heed his voice.


But Mark doesn’t simply quote Exodus 23:20. He blends that verse with Malachi 3:1. In Exodus, Israel is in the wilderness but in Malachi’s time Israel is back in the Promised Land after the exile in Babylon.

But Israel was no longer obeying YHWH’s voice and was in danger of being cast out of the land. And now YHWH says that he is coming to judge them. Now it’s YHWH who is invading the land to conquer all the spiritual Canaanites and restore the land to his faithful people.

But before he comes, he is sending his messenger (the Hebrew and Greek words for “angel” also mean “messenger”). The messenger will prepare Israel so that not everyone is destroyed when YHWH comes.

Mark identifies that messenger as John the Baptist. Drawing on Exodus, Mark is presenting John as the “angel’ (not divine but human) who brings Jesus, the new Israel, into the Promised Land. YHWH has sent him and his coming is a promise of victory for Jesus and for all who follow him. If Israel wants to inherit the land, she must listen to John’s message.

Drawing on Malachi, Mark is also presenting Jesus as YHWH himself, driven away by Israel’s sins but returning to judge his people and to purify them. Bur who can endure the day of his coming? And so YHWH sends John before Jesus to prepare Israel lest she be destroyed. There is no room for unholiness in the presence of the king who is YHWH himself. But there’s victory for everyone who trusts in YHWH and rejoices in the coming of the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4).


After citing Exodus blended with Malachi, Mark then quotes Isaiah 40:3. Again, as with the Exodus and Malachi citations, Mark wants us to understand the whole passage he’s citing as speaking of Jesus. Isaiah 39 ends with the proclamation that Israel will go into exile. But Isaiah 40 proclaims a return from exile.

More precisely, Isaiah 40 proclaims that YHWH will return to his people to forgive them and bring them home. First comes the messenger, urging Israel to prepare YHWH’s way. And then YHWH himself will come. Mark wants us to see Jesus as YHWH the king, rescuing his people from the power of their enemies and restoring them to his favour.

Jesus is YHWH, coming to conquer and save. But first he sends a messenger to prepare his way, to call Israel to repentance, so that his coming doesn’t lead to destruction for the whole nation.

Today, we celebrate the good news: YHWH has come and has conquered. He has led us into our inheritance, the kingdom of God. We share in his great Exodus and we’re following Jesus in the great Conquest. But who will share in that inheritance and that victory? Only those who repent, who continue to make his paths straight, and who follow Jesus on the way of the Lord.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:37 pm | Discuss (0)

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