The Holy Spirit in Mark

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8 ESV)

Advent 2B – Mark 1:1-8

The Holy Spirit plays a limited role in the narrative of Mark’s Gospel. John proclaims that the coming one will baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:8), and indeed the Holy Spirit is present at the baptism of Jesus (1:10) and drives Jesus into the wilderness of testing and preparation (1:12). Then, the Holy Spirit is largely absent in the narrative. In one case, Jesus attributes David’s words in the Psalms to the Holy Spirit (12:36). In another, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will speak through the disciples when they are brought to trial for their faith (13:11). There is little else. The assumption, however, behind Jesus’ discussion of the unpardonable sin – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (3:29) – is that all of Jesus’ miraculous deeds are the work of the Holy Spirit. His his opponents accused him of having an unclean spirit (3:30). And speaking of unclean spirits, references to unclean or evil-producing spirits are common in Mark (e.g. 5:1-20, 7:24-30, 9:17-29). The Holy Spirit and unclean spirits are in sharp contrast in Mark’s narrative. Finally, there are a few neutral references to “spirit” as the human spirit (8:12, 14:38).