When someone says, “It is written” you can bet it’s something they believe to be absolutely reliable. Mark begins his Gospel by quoting from the Book of Isaiah. Mark 1:2-3 says, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” When Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness to turn stones into bread, He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then Satan, attempting a new angle with Jesus, quotes from Psalm 91 and says, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands, they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Satan quoted Psalm 91 correctly, but he misapplied it to Jesus in a way that was a misuse of the passage. Satan was “twisting” what the scriptures meant to fit his agenda and Jesus countered with another quote from Deuteronomy, “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, you shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”

Many people have a problem with the Bible. It’s been banned in some countries and efforts to do so in some states have been proposed. While it is not technically “banned”, it is not a welcomed addition to many public schools and other institutions in the United States and other western countries. But what’s even more concerning is that more and more professing Christians don’t read the bible. Many don’t even know how to read it and use it as Satan did to promote their personal agenda. They rip verses out of context to make them say what they want them to say. The right understanding of any passage, as Jesus explains, cannot contradict any other passage in the bible. We must always ask, “what does the rest of the Bible say about this interpretation?” This makes the Old Testament quote that begins his Gospel so important.

The coming Messiah, as described in the Old Testament, would have a forerunner who would be sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Mark says that “what is written” about the forerunner comes from a passage in Isaiah. It might be worth noting that some of the ancient manuscripts of the book of Mark attribute the quote to “the prophets” rather than a specific prophet. One commentator says that the quote in Mark 1:2-3 is “…identified as coming from the prophet Isaiah, although it is actually a tapestry of three OT passages. The reference to the sending of the messenger in v. 2 follows the first half of both Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1, although there is no exact counterpart in the OT to the latter half of v. 2 (who will prepare your way). The greater part of the tapestry comes in v. 3, which reproduces Isaiah 40:3 nearly exactly. Isaiah 40:3 is quoted by all four Gospels with reference to John the Baptizer as the forerunner of Jesus (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:76; John 1:23). The Isaiah quotation in v. 3 was deemed the defining element of the tapestry of quotations. Thus, the whole is attributed to Isaiah, who was considered the greatest of the prophets.” Quoting with the authoritative preface of “It is written” has the effect of linking the life and ministry of Jesus to the Old Testament. “Jesus is not an afterthought of God, as though an earlier plan of salvation had gone awry. Rather, Jesus stands in continuity with the work of God in Israel, the fulfiller of the law and the prophets. The introductory tapestry of Old Testament quotations not only links the person and ministry of Jesus inseparably with the preceding revelation of God in the Old Testament, but it makes the person and ministry of Jesus nonunderstandable apart from it. From a Christian theological perspective, this unites the New Testament uniquely and inseparably to the Old Testament. The gospel is understandable only as the completion of something that God began in the history of Israel. This excludes the possibility of Christians either dismissing or diminishing the importance of the Old Testament, or of attempting to ‘purge’ the gospel of its Jewish origins and context.”[1]

[1] Edwards, James R. 2002. The Gospel according to Mark. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.