In verses 2-8 Mark described for us the preparation for Jesus’ ministry-how John came and paved the way for Jesus’ arrival. Now, in these verses, Mark introduces us to Jesus by providing for us an account that is a lot like an inauguration ceremony. In this account Jesus publicly accepts his ministry, He is confirmed to be the Messiah, and finally He is initiated into His ministry as the Messiah.
I. The Submission of Jesus to His Ministry (v. 9)
a. Jesus appeared
In verse 9 we read of Jesus’ public submission to His ministry. There Mark writes, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” Here Mark introduces us to the main character of this entire account: Jesus. Mark tells us that Jesus arrived on the scene “in those days.” What were these days? These were the days of John’s ministry. So, Jesus came into the picture at the height of John’s ministry when John was in the wilderness baptizing thousands. From Luke’s account we learn that Jesus was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). Mark additionally tells us that Jesus came from “Nazareth of Galilee.” It is interesting that Mark would make sure to add that Nazareth was in Galilee. This would be like me telling someone that I am from Brandon, FL. The only reason that I would add “Florida” would be because the person I was talking to did not know where Brandon is. This is exactly why Mark adds “of Galilee.” Nazareth was obscure little village that no one outside of the region would have known. Mark’s Roman readers (See Introduction) surely wouldn’t have known anything about Nazareth. In fact, Nazareth isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament. Because of its obscurity we do not know a lot about Nazareth. But we do know a few details about Nazareth. It was located approximately 70 miles north of Jerusalem in the hills west of the Sea of Galilee. Due in part to this remote location Nazareth was just an insignificant agricultural village with a meager population during Jesus’ time. Nazareth is first mentioned in the Bible as the home of Mary and Joseph (Luke 1:26-27). Jesus was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth because of the census. However, Jesus’ family eventually returned home to Nazareth where Jesus grew up.
The fact that Jesus came from such a small town should be striking to us. Remember, this appearance may seem to be a bit anticlimactic, but Mark is introducing us to the one “who is mightier.” In vv. 7-8 John vividly portrayed this one “who is mightier” and His divine ministry. Everyone who heard John would have been waiting for this “One,” and now Mark tells us that He has arrived. And it is more than just a little conspicuous that He came from such a small town. The people would have probably been very confused about this. How could the Messiah come from Nazareth? When Philip told Nathanael, who would become one of Jesus’ own disciples, that Jesus was from Nazareth Nathanael asked if “anything good can come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) So what is the significance of Jesus being from Nazareth? In Matthew’s account of the Gospel we are told that Jesus “lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘he shall be called a Nazarene.'” (Matthew 2:23) If you are paying attention then you might be wondering how this could be if Nazareth was never mentioned in the Old Testament. Well, Matthew is not necessarily referring to just Jesus’ home town. You see, Nazareth was sort of like the “low rent” district. Nazareth was the place that everyone made fun of (insert the section of your home town that everyone makes fun of here). Therefore, when Matthew says that it is a fulfillment of prophecy that Jesus was called a Nazarene he has in mind the fact that Jesus would be mocked and detested. This would fulfill the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:3.
This aspect of Jesus’ ministry was often overlooked by the people of his day. When John said that a mightier one was coming they thought that this mightier one would come in great splendor, overtake the Romans, and establish His earthly kingdom in Jerusalem. They did not understand that before Jesus could return and set up his earthly kingdom He had to come as a Nazarene and die as a sacrifice for sinners. This will be an important theme as we continue in the book of Mark.