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Mark 1:6-8: John the Baptist

Posted by adventbiblestudy on October 6, 2012


Mark 1:6-8 His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. (7) John announced : “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. (8) I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

Mark began his book with the words, “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” When we consider Mark’s introduction we can see why he begins his book with John’s announcement of Jesus’ ministry. “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” I can feel Mark’s excitement as he begins to write his account of Jesus’ ministry in this world.

By the time Mark sat down to write, he was finally able to see and understand Jesus’ mission, the plan of salvation, and His love for this world. It must have seemed like a monumental task to write an story of Jesus, the Son of God. What if he missed a point? What if he misrepresented one of Jesus’ parables? I don’t think Mark worried much about the details. After His resurrection, Jesus taught them everything they needed to know about the Holy Spirit. But wait. Mark was not one of the twelve disciples. Here are their names: Simon (whom he named Peter), (17) James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), (18) Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), (19) Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). (Mark 3:16-19) How is it Mark became one of the four to write a gospel about Jesus? Is there a spiritual message, a lesson in this?

Mark’s brief description of John shows him to be a simple man. “His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.” I always wondered why John wore clothes woven from camel hair. Aren’t camels in the group of unclean animals? Is wearing their hair considered a sin? Would it be considered a sin by the priests, Pharisees and Sadducees? If it was, why would God place such a stumbling block in their path?

John also had a strange diet, locusts and wild honey. Would those symbolize anything? A new believer reading this text for the first time would have many questions to ponder. Some may be prompted by the Spirit to study the words locusts and wild honey throughout the Bible to find the answer, comparing texts to find the true spiritual meaning.

Locusts can have many different meaning. God used locust as a symbol. “A vast army of locusts has invaded my land, a terrible army too numerous to count. Its teeth are like lions’ teeth, its fangs like those of a lioness.”Joel 1:6. We can see by the description Joel was not referring to physical locusts, but used them to point to a spiritual symbol. Jeremiah compared locusts to people. “They will cut down her people like trees,” says the LORD, “for they are more numerous than locusts.”Jeremiah 46:23 . Of course God used physical locusts for physical plagues such as those in Exodus. So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: How long will you refuse to submit to me? Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, watch out! For tomorrow I will bring a swarm of locusts on your country. Exodus 10:3-4. But which one if any apply to John’s diet? I have learned one valuable lesson in Bible study, if the answer is not clear, providing a simple understanding, you have to take your time and dig a little deeper. It never pays to jump to conclusions. John’s life is a good example of that. John was a type of miracle baby, born to dedicated parents well past their child bearing years. His father was a priest and his mother a dedicated follower thankful for the gift of a son.

Studying the word honey may provide an answer. David compared honey to God’s Word and law. I have refused to walk on any evil path, so that I may remain obedient to your word. (102) I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well. (103) How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. (104) Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Psalms 119:101-104.

The only problem is, both these symbols are consumed, eaten. They must agree with one another and help to explain each other.

I can’t help but see a humble man in John. “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am–so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals.” Was Mark thinking of the example Jesus taught His disciples at the last supper where Jesus washed their feet when he wrote about John feeling he was not worthy to take off Jesus’ sandals? John had no way of looking at the future, but Mark had the opportunity to look back at both the events.

What did John know about baptizing in the Holy Spirit? Since John had not met Jesus at this point, he must have had a very close connection with the Holy Spirit himself, considering the message John was delivering. Can you imagine the faith it must have taken to go out, announce the Messiah, begin this new ceremony of baptism while dressed in camel hair. How do you think people would have reacted? Do you think John hesitated, or was God’s Word so clear there was no doubt in John’s heart. Imagine being there watching John, looking at the reactions on the faces of the people going out to see him. Do you think you could tell who believed and who did not? Why do you think some accepted John’s message and others could not?

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