Mark 1

The Testimony of St Mark


"John Mark, commonly known as Mark, is the author of the Gospel of that name. He was the son of one of the leading women in the early church in Jerusalem. Believers assembled at her home, and Peter returned there after being freed from prison (Acts 12:12-17). John Mark was chosen as a companion of Paul and Barnabas as they left on the first missionary journey (Acts 12:25,13:5) but for an unnamed reason he left the two brethren about half way into the journey (Acts 13:13)...Peter speaks of Mark as his son and as being with him in Babylon-probably Rome (1 Pet 5:13). An ancient tradition states that Mark wrote his gospel in Rome, taking his material directly from Peter." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 253)

"'The Gospel according to Mark came into being in this manner: when Peter had publicly preached the word at Rome, and by the Spirit had proclaimed the Gospel, that those present, who were many, exhorted Mark as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what he had spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the 'Gospel' among those that asked him.'" (S. Kent Brown, Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 63 - 64.)

"Mark appeals to a gentile audience and is fast moving, emphasizing the doings more than the sayings of the Lord. He occasionally gives geographical and cultural explanations-necessary procedure for non-Jewish readers (see Mark 2:26; 5:41; 7:2-13)...Mark has the least amount of unique material, being only about 7 percent exclusive." (Bible Dictionary, Gospels)

"A close comparative study of Matthew, Mark, and Luke shows that they have much in common. Thus they are called 'synoptic,' meaning that they take a 'similar look' at Christ. We find, for example, that the substance of 606 of the 661 verses of Mark appears in Matthew and that 380 of Mark's verses reappear with only slight alteration in Luke...To look at this another way, consider the following chart, which illustrates the material common and exclusive to each of the Gospels:

Gospel Exclusive Common
Mark 7% 93%
Matthew 42% 58%
Luke 59% 41%
John 92% 8%

"In other words, 93 percent of the material in Mark is included in the other Gospels...

"What is one to make of such statistics? What is the chronological and literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels? The issues underlying these relationships constitute what biblical critics have come to denote the 'synoptic problem.' Since the nineteenth century many scholars have concluded that the resolution of the problem was to be found in stressing the priority and primacy of Mark, the shortest of the Gospels. The general consensus has been that Mark's was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark in preparing their own Gospels. This approach, known as the 'Markan Hypothesis' or the 'Two-Document Hypothesis,' contends that Matthew relied upon Mark, upon a 'sayings source' or collection of sayings of Jesus (known as the 'Q Document,' from the German word Quelle, 'source'), and added his own peculiar style, perspective, and experiences in preparing the Gospel we know as Matthew. Supposedly Luke did the same." (Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 49.)

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

"The tone for the entire text is set by its first line: 'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' Mark comes directly to the point and, by doing so, brings his readers immediately to the dramatic thrust of his work: The gospel or good news has its origin with Jesus, the anointed Son of God." (S. Kent Brown, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], 75.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"His coming, as Mark has it, was 'the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God'-meaning that John proclaimed the good news about Christ and salvation; that he laid the foundation and started the work; that he called the first group of true believers; and that, in reality, he set up the kingdom of God-meaning the Church of Jesus Christ-again on earth. John brought the first converts into The Church of Jesus Christ of the Meridian of Time. He laid the foundations upon which the Lord Jesus and the apostles built." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 386.)

Mark 1:4 John did preach...the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins

Joseph Smith

"It was the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins for the receiving of the Holy Ghost, and it was the gospel baptism.

"John preached the gospel and must have preached the first principles. If so he must have preached the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins, for that is the first principle of the gospel and was ordained before the foundation of the world.

"John came preaching the gospel for the remission of sins. He had his authority from God, and the oracles of God were with him. The kingdom of [God] for a season seemed to be with John alone. . . . He preached the same gospel and baptism that Jesus and the apostles preached after him." (Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 116.)

JST Mark 1:6 he shall not only baptize you with water, but with fire, and the Holy Ghost

The baptism of the Holy Ghost is a purifying fire which sanctifies the individual. The token of this sanctifying power was seen as 'cloven tongues of fire' on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3). The universal promise of the Lord is, 'whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost' (3 Ne. 9:20).

The other interesting doctrinal addition by the Prophet is that Jesus did in fact personally perform the ordinance of baptism. This little known fact is preserved in this rendition of Mark and in JST John 4:3-4, 'Now the Lord...himself baptized not so many as his disciples; For he suffered them for an example preferring one another.' See also JST John 1:28 and commentary for John 3:22.

Mark 1:9 Jesus...was baptized of John in Jordan

Bruce R. McConkie

"He who was holy-who did no sin, in whose mouth was no guile, whose every thought and word and deed was perfect-even he came to John to be baptized. Why? Not for the remission of sins, for he had none; not to court popularity with the people who revered John, for his message was to stand or fall on its own merit; not because he needed spiritual regeneration, for the Spirit he had with him always-but he came to be baptized 'to fulfil all righteousness,' that is, to accomplish all that was required of him according to the terms and conditions of his Father's plan.

"'And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness,' Nephi acclaimed, 'O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!'

"Then Nephi asks how the Lamb of God, he being holy and needing no remission of sins, fulfilled all righteousness by being immersed in Jordan by John. His answer falls into five parts, and Jesus was baptized for these reasons:

"1. To signify his humility before the Father; to show that 'according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father.' He is God's Almighty Son; he made the worlds; the sidereal heavens rolled into existence at his word; he has all power in heaven and on earth-and yet, as a perfect pattern of humility, he wades out into a dirty stream, whose waters are scarcely fit for human consumption, and permits a rugged, unpolished man from the desert to immerse him in baptism, because such is the law of the Lord.

"2. As a covenant of obedience; he 'witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.' He came not to do his own will, but the will of the Father, who sent him. He was no more free of constraint and control than is any man. He walked the course set out for him because it was his Father's will, and he was under covenant, made in the waters of baptism, to do the will of the Father.

"3. To receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; that is to say, to conform to the law that gave him the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead. As we are aware, this was a formality only in his case, for he being holy and without sin, the Spirit was his companion always. At baptism he simply went through the form that is required for all men, and that he should have done so is manifest by the fact that 'the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.'

"4. To gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom; that is, his baptism 'showeth unto the children of men the straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.' In other words, though he is the King of the kingdom, though he authors and proclaims his Father's plan of salvation, though he ordains and establishes the laws governing all things, yet he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without baptism.

"5. As an example to all men; to mark the course and chart the way; to show them the path they must follow. 'And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren,' Nephi says, 'can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?' (2 Ne. 31:5-12.)

"And so it is that the Lord Jesus is baptized-to save himself and to mark the path in which all others must walk to gain the same salvation...'to fulfil all righteousness.'" (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 403.)

Dallin H. Oaks

"Those who seek to follow the Savior will understand the importance of the ordinance of baptism. The Lamb without Blemish saw fit to submit himself to baptism by one holding the authority of the priesthood in order to 'fulfil all righteousness.' How much more each of us has need of the cleansing and saving power of this ordinance and the other ordinances of the gospel." ("Always Remember Him," Ensign, May 1988, 31)

Mark 1:10 straightway coming up out of the water

This scripture is a classic missionary scripture about the proper mode of baptism. Was Jesus baptized by a mere sprinkling? How could he have come 'up out of the water' if he had not first been immersed? This scripture, in combination with many others, proves without doubt that the proper mode of baptism is by immersion.

LeGrand Richards

"It requires a considerable stretch of the imagination to think Jesus would go to John at the River Jordan and then go down into the river, only to have a little water sprinkled or poured upon his head." (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, chap. 10)

Joseph Fielding Smith

"Did the apostles, the seventies and others in New Testament times, sprinkle or pour water when administering the ordinance of baptism? Frequently in the scriptures baptism is referred to without any intimation as to the mode, except that which the word itself connotes. However, when the history of the performance of the ordinance is given, the indication is clearly expressed declaring that the officiator and the candidate went down into the water, and came up out of the water. A few references to the point are as follows:

"Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.-Matt. 3:5-6.

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.-Matt. 3:16.

"And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.-Mark 1:9-10.

"And after these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon, near to Salem, because there was much water there: And they came, and were baptized.-John 3:22-23." (The Restoration of All Things [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945], 208.)

Mark 1:10 the Spirit like a dove descending upon him

Joseph Smith

"The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove; but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence." (Teachings, pp. 275-276.)

Mark 1:11 Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

"Each time the Father has introduced the Son, he has declared the Sonship of the Only Begotten. As John the Baptist baptized Jesus while others stood on the river bank, the Father declared to Jesus: 'Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' At the transfiguration, the Father said to Peter, James, and John: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.' And to the people on this hemisphere, the Father proclaimed: 'Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name-hear ye him.'

"[And again to Joseph Smith], praying in the woods on that bright spring morning, the Father, calling the youth by name, pointed to the Son, and said: 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'" (On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], 115.)

Mark 1:13 he...was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him

A common misconception is that Jesus was tempted of Satan for forty days. Rather, Jesus went into the wilderness to commune with the heavens. During that time he was 'with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.' We can presume that he also communed with the heavens in a grand and glorious manner. Often, when a prophet exhibits the faith to open the heavens, the devil shows up to destroy them. Moses spoke with God, then 'Satan came tempting him' (Moses 1:12). Joseph Smith's humble prayer was almost never uttered because the power of Satan bound his tongue and tried to destroy him (JS-Hist. 1:15). Naturally, Satan's greatest threat was Jesus of Nazareth. His temptation of the Master at this time suggests that Jesus had just experienced a powerful spiritual communion with his Father.

David O. McKay

"Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us. As soon as he was baptized...Jesus repaired to what is now known as the mount of temptation. I like to think of it as the mount of meditation where, during the forty days of fasting, he communed with himself and his Father, and contemplated upon the responsibility of his great mission."(Conference Report, April 1946, p. 113.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"If the veil has been rent for lesser men, and they have seen inconceivable glories and heard unspeakable words, what should we suppose was seen and heard by the greatest Man? Surely the spiritual stature of the Man Jesus was such that for forty days the lions and wild beasts treated him as they did Daniel. Surely the visions of eternity were opened to his view as they were to Paul and Joseph Smith. Surely he saw all that was seen by Enoch and Moses and Moriancumer. Surely there was purpose and preparation, refinement and testing, growth and development, during this period when our Lord's body was made subject to his spirit. Fasting and prayer and pondering and visions and revelations prepare men for the ministry, and it was no different, except in degree, where the preparation of the Lord Jesus was concerned." (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 1: 409.)

Mark 1:15 the kingdom of God is at hand

Howard W. Hunter

"Throughout his entire ministry, one of the main subjects of the teachings of the Master was 'the kingdom of God is at hand.' Some scholars interpret the words 'is at hand' as describing something to take place in the near future. It is their contention that the kingdom was not established on earth until the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon the multitude. They label this event as the beginning of the Christian Church. The facts, however, give basis for a different conclusion. There is ample evidence that the kingdom of God was established in the days of Adam, the first man, and has continued to the present day. The peoples of the earth, from the beginning, have had a duty to God as their king." (Conference Report, April 1968, Second Day-Morning Meeting 63 - 64.)

Joseph Smith

"Some say the kingdom of God was not set up on the earth until the day of Pentecost, and that John did not preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. But I say, in the name of the Lord, that the kingdom of God was set up on the earth from the days of Adam to the present time, whenever there has been a righteous man on earth unto whom God revealed His word and gave power and authority to administer in His name. And where there is a priest of God-a minister who has power and authority from God to administer in the ordinances of the gospel and officiate in the priesthood of God-there is the kingdom of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 271)

Mark 1:16-17 he saw Simon and Andrew...And Jesus said unto them, come ye after me

Jeffrey R. Holland

"Peter could not have known the ever-widening circles that single command would make in the stream of his plain and simple life. He was launching out into the expanse of godliness, into the eternal possibilities of redeemed and celestial life. He would be learning the mysteries of the kingdom. He would be hearing unspeakable things. To launch out into that limitless sea of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter brought his craft to shore, turned his back on the most spectacular single catch ever taken from Galilee, 'forsook all, and followed him.' (Luke 5:1-11.)

"From that moment on, Jesus taught and trained Peter at every opportunity. He walked with him in the hills outside of Capernaum. He sat with him beside the sea they loved so much. He stayed in his home, ate at his table, gave blessings to his family and friends. Peter watched silently as the Son of God cast out devils, healed the sick, restored the blind. When Jesus sought some respite from the crowd, Peter appealed to him in their behalf. 'All men seek for thee' (Mark 1:37), he told the Master, and Jesus smiled a knowing smile. Peter did not know that very soon other men would seek Jesus-and not to receive a blessing at his hand. But Jesus knew, and he hastened the work." (However Long and Hard the Road [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985], 92.)

Mark 1:18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him

Dallin H. Oaks

"Follow is the word the Savior used when he called his helpers to the ministry. As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, at work in their vocation. 'And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men' (Matt. 4:19). 'And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him' (Mark 1:18).

"Here the Savior established a pattern for those he calls to do his work. Acting through his servants, for he has said that 'by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same' (D&C 1:38), he calls us to take time from our daily activities to follow him and serve our fellowmen. Even the greatest among us should be the servant of all (see Mark 10:43-44). Those who always remember him will straightway assume and faithfully fulfill the responsibilities to which they are called by his servants." ("Always Remember Him," Ensign, May 1988, 30)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Suppose Peter had not left his nets 'straightway'? (See Mark 1:18.) He might have become the respected president of the local Galilean fishermen's association. But he would not have been on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, Moses, and Elias and heard the voice of God. (See Matt. 17:4.)" (Ensign, May 1985, p. 72.)

Mark 1:19-20 James...and John...left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants

To be a ship-owner with hired servants suggests that James and John were men of some means. Interestingly, John also had political connections. John's personal relationship with the high priest allowed him to gain access to the council of the Sanhedrin at the time of Christ's trial-eventually allowing Peter access as well (John 18:15-16). How a Galilean fisherman like John became an acquaintance of the high priest is unknown.

Mark 1:22 they were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes

The other place in scripture where we find this verse is after the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:28-29). Matthew made sure that his account included those doctrines which were so astonishing. Mark's omission of the Sermon on the Mount underscores his major emphasis which is the actions and miracles of Jesus rather than his teachings. The Bible Dictionary notes, " fast moving, emphasizing the doings more than the sayings of the Lord."

Orson F. Whitney

"...the gospel of Christ...seemed new to that generation, who were 'astonished at his doctrine,' in reality it was older than all the ages, older than Earth itself, and had been given to man again and again before any preaching of it by the ancient Apostles. It was a restored gospel then, as it is a restored gospel now, and had been revealed from God out of Eternity at the very beginning of Time." (Conference Report, April 1927, Second Day-Morning Meeting 96 - 97.)

Mark 1:24 I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God

Knowledge of Jesus identity is no guaranty of eternal felicity. As James declared, 'What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?...Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble' (James 2:19).

Bernard P. Brockbank

"Jesus was recognized by a man possessed of the devil, and the devil spoke out and said, '... I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.' (Mark 1:24.) The devils know God but do not respect his doctrine or keep his commandments." ("Knowing God," Ensign, July 1972, 121)

Mark 1:25 Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him

James E. Talmage

"On these as on other occasions, we find evil spirits voicing through the mouths of their victims their knowledge that Jesus was the Christ; and in all such instances the Lord silenced them with a word; for He wanted no such testimony as theirs to attest the fact of His Godship. Those spirits were of the devil's following, members of the rebellious and defeated hosts that had been cast down through the power of the very Being whose authority and power they now acknowledged in their demoniac frenzy. Together with Satan himself, their vanquished chief, they remained unembodied, for to all of them the privileges of the second or mortal estate had been denied; their remembrance of the scenes that had culminated in their expulsion from heaven was quickened by the presence of the Christ, though He stood in a body of flesh." (Jesus the Christ, 170)

Mark 1:35 he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed

Ezra Taft Benson

"[Jesus] communed constantly with his Father through prayer. This he did not only to learn the will of his Father but also to obtain the strength to do his Father's will. He fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights at the beginning of his ministry. (Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2.) He prayed all night just before choosing his twelve apostles. (Luke 6:12-13.) He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:39.) It would seem that during his earthly ministry he never made a major decision or met a crisis without praying." (Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 44.)

Mark 1:37 All men seek for thee

David O. McKay

"What a glorious condition will be in this old world when it can truthfully be said to Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, 'All men seek for thee.' (Mark 1:37.) Selfishness, envy, hatred, lying, stealing, cheating, disobedience, quarreling, and fighting among nations will then be no more!" (Conference Report, April 1968, First Day-Morning Meeting 9.)

Mark 1:44 shew thyself to the priest...for a testimony unto them

"It is hard for us today to imagine the awful condition of the leper in New Testament times. He was considered legally dead. But, worse, he was considered morally unclean. Forbidden to enter any walled city-lashed thirty-nine times if he did-he wandered, muffled to the eyes, crying 'Unclean!'

"Under Jewish law, no one could greet him. Under the law, no one could approach within six feet of the leper-one hundred feet if the wind came from his direction. Any building he entered was considered defiled and had to be purified. The common practice was to throw stones at or run and hide from any leper who approached.

"Such was the man who came to Jesus. What compassion and greatness he must have sensed in the Master to break the law in this manner. And what was the response? Against all law and tradition, Jesus reached out and touched the leper and by His touch cleansed him of his filthiness. By His touch, to save His brother, Jesus descended lower than any man-exactly as He did, later, to save each of us.

"We are that leper, each of us unclean in his own way, each of us crying, 'If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.' Each of us trusts that because of His infinite love, we will receive His touch." (William B. Smart, Messages for a Happier Life: Inspiring Essays from the Church News [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 136.)

Chieko Okazaki

"Remember the story of the leper who came to him, beseeching him, 'If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.' Think of leprosy-the rotting flesh, the stench, the ingrained horror of physical and ritual contamination that Jesus would have learned from babyhood. Those are powerful physical and emotional barriers to overcome. Jesus not only overcame those barriers enough to be 'moved with compassion,' the scripture says, but he 'put forth his hand, and touched him' (Mark 1:40-42; italics added). This was not long-distance healing. This was close, intimate, a refusal by the Savior to accept that there was anything in human life, no matter how repulsive it may have been to other people, that he could not transform into cleanliness and wholeness by putting his hand on it." (Disciples [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 93 - 94.)

Mark 1:45 Jesus could no more openly enter into the city

Mark's descriptions give us a good idea about Jesus' initial popularity. Jesus became famous quickly and started quite an uproar. So much so that he couldn't even go into some cities. Like a rock star at a shopping mall, people would throng him and become unruly. Verse 33 notes that 'all the city' was gathered to the door which led to Jesus. His own popularity, then, became a hindrance to the work insomuch that he had to stay outside the city and have people come to him. This, in part, helps to explain why Jesus so often counseled those he healed, 'tell no man' what was done (Matt. 8:4, Mark 8:30, Luke 8:56). Any more publicity would be a source of more crowd-control problems. But Jesus knew they were after a physical blessing, not a spiritual healing. In general, they wanted to see a miracle more than they wanted to repent and follow Him.

Spencer W. Kimball

"What a lonely life he must have lived! No more could he live a private existence. Many times he asked the healed one, 'Go thy way and tell no man.' But the recipient of his power and goodness went abroad and praised the matter and published it, 'insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places.' (Mark 1:45.)" ("Jesus of Nazareth," Ensign, Dec. 1984, 4)