It is in verse 4 that the drama starts. My French Bible (i) begins this verse with the shortest of sentences. ‘Jean parait.’ The message is clear. After 400 years of prophetic silence, ‘John appeared’. His name is rooted in the Hebrew name of Yehochanan, which means ‘the grace or mercy of Jehovah’ (ii). ‘A most proper and significant name for the forerunner of the God of All Grace.’ (iii)
There is a parched, unwelcoming and sparsely populated desert area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Sometimes referred to as Jeshimon, this is an arid, bare and sterile land. Mile after mile of scorched, unwelcoming emptiness, where virtually no plant life can thrive. This strip of utterly waterless land is the wilderness of John the Baptist. This is exactly the type of place where the prophets of old were to be found.
How, in such a place, was John able to baptise people? In the midst of this desolate place, the wilderness is dissected by the River Jordan, and it was here that people flocked to meet and listen to John. (iv)
Here is a man who looks like a prophet, in a place where you might have expected to find a prophet in the days of the ancients, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
- Bible du Semeur, Nouveau Testament, Marc 1:4
- Adam Clark, Gospel of Mark Commentary
- Adam Clark, ibid
- The actual site of Christ’s baptism is believed to be Al Maghtas, sometimes called Bethany beyond the Jordan, on the east bank of the Jordan about 8 miles north of the Dead Sea (whc.unesco.org)