Mark 1:7-8 Commentary: The Coming, Stronger One’s Greater Baptism

Mark Commentary

Mark 1:7-8 Text & Translation

7 καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων, Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ.1

And he would proclaim saying, “After me comes the Stronger One, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to bend down to untie. (Mk 1:7, AT)

8 ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι5, αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.2

I baptized you in water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8, AT)

Lowly Forerunner

Come after someone often implies following them as a disciple3 (cf. Mk 8:34, ESV and the author’s translation in this previous sermon).

But here it refers to someone who follows someone chronologically.4 I doubt that the text is suggesting that Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist.

In this culture, disciples would often serve their masters in ways that would be similar to slaves/servants.5 But, untying someone’s sandals was the “menial task of a slave”,6 a Gentile slave.7

As one rabbi wrote,

““all service that a slave must render to his master a student must render to his teacher, except untying his shoe” (b. Ketubbot 96a, R. Joshua b. Levi).8

John the Baptist is claiming that he is not even worthy of being the Coming One’s slave.9

Despite his popular ministry (cf. Mk 1:5), in comparison, John is relatively unimportant.10

As John the Baptist says in John 3:

30 He must become greater; I must become less.” (Jn 3:30 NIV).11

Baptism & the Holy Spirit

There are several Old Testament texts that connect water/cleansing water with the outpouring of the Spirit.12 For example:

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Is 44:3, NIV; cf. Is 32:15).13

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29, NIV cf. Ac 2:16-21)14

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Eze 36:25-27, NIV cf. Eze 39:29; Zec 12:10;15 cf. Ezek 11:19, 37:14)16

John’s baptism was outward and symbolic; Christ’s baptism would be inward and spiritual.17

John’s baptism entailed physical immersion in water. Jesus’ baptism would entail metaphorical immersion in the Holy Spirit.18

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God would come upon judges, prophets, kings, etc. temporarily.19

In contrast, the prophets foretold of a time when the Spirit of God would reside in His people permanently (cf. Eze 11:19, 36:27).

Also, in the Old Testament, God alone bestows the Spirit of God (e.g., Joel 2:28).

As we mentioned in the previous commentary on Mark 1:2-3, Jesus is again being equated with God (the Father).20 For He does what only God can do.

In time, the Holy Spirit would be given to both Jews (Acts 2) & Gentiles (Acts 10).21

As it’s been said:

“Participation in John’s baptism showed a readiness to receive the greater baptism that the coming One would bring.”22

John’s repentance-baptism “cleared the way for God’s powerful presence in the Spirit.”23

Preparatory Baptism

John’s baptism was preparatory24 and preliminary (cf. Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16; Jn 1:26-27, 31, 33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 19:1–6).25

As we read in Acts 19:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Ac 19:1-6, NIV).26

John the Baptist did not baptize in Jesus’ name, nor was his baptism associated with the Holy Spirit.27

Contrary to what is believed by certain Christian groups, “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not a “second stage of Christian experience, but… the authentic Christian experience” — as contrasted with John’s preparatory baptism.28

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor 12:13, NIV).29

All genuine Christians have been baptized — metaphorically immersed in — the Holy Spirit. And this does not necessarily coincide with water baptism, nor is it necessarily preceded by water baptism. For as we read in Acts 10:

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Ac 10:44-48, NIV)

Clearly, the Gentile believers in the Cornelius’ household receive the Holy Spirit before they were baptized in water.


John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Stronger One — one of Whom he was not even worthy of being a slave.

John’s repentance-baptism paved the way and prepared people for the greater baptism of Jesus Christ , who would metaphorically immerse believers with the Holy Spirit — the Spirit Whom Christ would eventually send (cf. Jn 15:26, 16:7, 12-15 cf. Jn 14:26).

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.


  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:7.
  2. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:8.
  3. Witherington, 73; Lane, 51; France, 70; Guelich, 24
  4. Witherington, 73; France, 71; Stein, 50
  5. Keener, 130
  6. UBS, 22; Keener, 130
  7. Edwards, 32
  8. as quoted by Bock, 407 cf. Guelich, 24; Stein, 50; Strauss, 65
  9. Keener, 130; Bock, 404; Lane, 52)
  10. Cole T, 107; Garland, 46
  11. English, 26; Bock, 404; Edwards, 32
  12. Keener, 130
  13. Bock, 404; Brooks, 41; Schnabel, 43; France, 55; Guelich, 24; Stein, 51; Strauss, 66
  14. Keener, 130; English, 35; Witherington, 73; Bock, 404; Kernaghan, 33; Brooks, 41; Schnabel, 43; France, 55; Guelich, 24; Stein, 51; Strauss, 66)
  15. Keener, 130; English, 35; Brooks, 41; Schnabel, 43; France, 55; Guelich, 18, 24; Stein, 51; Strauss, 66
  16. Bock, 404
  17. Cole, 950
  18. Schnabel, 43 cf. France, 72
  19. Kernaghan, 33
  20. Kernaghan, 33 cf. Guelich, 28
  21. English, 36 cf. Schnabel, 43; France, 72
  22. Bock, 404
  23. Bock, 407
  24. Garland, 45; Lane, 52
  25. Kernaghan, 33 cf. Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16; Jn 1:33 [cf. Jn 1:26–27, 31]; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 19:1–6; France, 71; cf. Guelich, 24
  26. France, 71
  27. Cole T, 106
  28. France, 73
  29. Stein, 51
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