We’ll be starting the year off by working through the Gospel according to Mark. With only 16 Chapters, the Gospel according to Mark is the shortest of the Gospels and we’ll probably work through it in roughly as many weeks. As we work through the text, please remember that I’m merely a lay person with no formal seminary training. I’m open to Biblical discussion and even disagreement on interpretation, particularly in the application of the text. I will avoid making arguments based on extra biblical materials and ask that you do the same. If what we discuss here conflicts with your church’s doctrine in any way, I encourage you to take the discussion to your pastors and elders, that is the purpose of their office and calling.
Summary of the Gospel According to Mark
Before we begin in the first chapter of the Gospel According to Mark, I recommend reading through the summary of the book put together by the folks at BibleStudyTools.com. I’d like to quote some of the sections from their page here:
Although there is no direct internal evidence of authorship, it was the unanimous testimony of the early church that this Gospel was written by John Mark (“John, also called Mark,” Ac 12:12,25; 15:37). The most important evidence comes from Papias (c. a.d. 140), who quotes an even earlier source as saying: (1) Mark was a close associate of Peter, from whom he received the tradition of the things said and done by the Lord; (2) this tradition did not come to Mark as a finished, sequential account of the life of our Lord, but as the preaching of Peter — preaching directed to the needs of the early Christian communities; (3) Mark accurately preserved this material. The conclusion drawn from this tradition is that the Gospel of Mark largely consists of the preaching of Peter arranged and shaped by Mark (see note on Ac 10:37).
Occasion and Purpose
Since Mark’s Gospel is traditionally associated with Rome, it may have been occasioned by the persecutions of the Roman church in the period c. a.d. 64-67. The famous fire of Rome in 64 — probably set by Nero himself but blamed on Christians — resulted in widespread persecution. Even martyrdom was not unknown among Roman believers. Mark may be writing to prepare his readers for such suffering by placing before them the life of our Lord. There are many references, both explicit and veiled, to suffering and discipleship throughout his Gospel (see 1:12-13; 3:22,30; 8:34-38; 10:30,33-34,45; 13:8-13).
Mark’s Gospel is a simple, succinct, unadorned, yet vivid account of Jesus’ ministry, emphasizing more what Jesus did than what he said. Mark moves quickly from one episode in Jesus’ life and ministry to another, often using the adverb “immediately” (see note on1:12). The book as a whole is characterized as “The beginning of the gospel” (1:1). The life, death and resurrection of Christ comprise the “beginning,” of which the apostolic preaching in Acts is the continuation.
The Gospel According to Mark does not recount the birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew and Luke cover His birth and John summarizes the significance of the incarnation of the Christ, the Son of God in human flesh. Mark’s account begins by introducing us to John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.
Mark 1:1-8 (ESV) | John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is important to recognize that this was indeed a real baptism for what it was… repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But this baptism is lesser than the Baptism we know in Christ, for even John said that the Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit. We see this play out later in Acts.
Acts 18:24-26 (ESV) | Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Acts 19:1-5 (ESV) | Paul in Ephesus
And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
I point this out to demonstrate that what John was doing was proper and necessary, but it was superseded by baptism in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s continue in Mark.
Mark 1:9-11 (ESV) | The Baptism of Jesus
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Here we have the Trinity displayed in the text. Jesus fresh out of the water, the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove and the Voice of God the Father. Modalism refuted. Jesus had nothing to repent of. No sin. No need to repent. So why the baptism? For our sake. We need repentance and the forgiveness of sin, and we are joined with Him in baptism. Not just His baptism, but into His death and resurrection, too. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that by faith we are joined with Christ, in His baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit and declared righteous before God the Father because of the Righteousness of His Son, Jesus.
Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV) | The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Praise the LORD for His Grace and Forgiveness. As we continue in Mark, let us remember that the Life and Ministry of Jesus is to be taken as a whole, for He IS the Messiah, not just someone who did Messianic things or taught Messianic principles. That is not to say that we cannot look at the smaller events in light of the whole, but we dare not rip a singular event out of the greater context and build a theology around it… As John wrote in his gospel account, Jesus is the Word made flesh.
Mark 1:12-13 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
It is so encouraging to me to know that while He committed no sin in any way, He is familiar with temptation and weakness. We serve a God who knows and understands.
Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Even in Mark’s brevity, we see clearly both Law and Gospel in Christ’s preaching. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Mark 1:16-20 (ESV) | Jesus Calls the First Disciples
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus calls His people to Him. The Holy Spirit that has been poured out on those who believe and are baptized now draws men unto Jesus through the preached Word. The multitudes that gathered throughout His earthly ministry was fickle… eventually calling for His crucifixion. Jesus preached to the crowds and performed many signs and wonders in fulfillment of prophecy, but He wasn’t playing to them. The Church, the Body of Christ is not called to play to the crowds.
Mark 1:21-28 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Spirit
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit,convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
From the beginning, we see that Jesus is different in every imaginable way. Mark’s Gospel makes it intellectually dishonest to limit Jesus as a merely a “good teacher”. He has Authority… Divine Authority.
Mark 1:29-34 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Many
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
There is good reason why Jesus didn’t permit the demons to speak. For they were not speaking to confess Jesus as the Messiah of God; rather, they sought to derail His ministry. Israel was looking for a Messiah who would establish an earthly ministry, they were waiting for the next King David who would establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to do much, much more and far greater… He came to heal us from our sin and eternal judgement.
Mark 1:35-39 (ESV) | Jesus Preaches in Galilee
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him,“Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
It is sad that our modern-day evangelicalism down-plays the preaching ministry. Jesus preached. He also performed signs and wonders that served as a testimony to Who He Is… we’ve been called to preach the Word.
Mark 1:40-45 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses a Leper
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
We serve a God who takes pity on our brokenness. He forgives our weakness and heals us by taking upon Himself our sins, our iniquities, our transgressions.
Until Next Week
Next week we’ll be working through chapter 2. This will not be an exhaustive study, we’ll only be scratching the surface of the text, but we will work through the text each week. I pray it serves you even if only by prompting you to read the text and skip my comments.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,