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Studying Mark's Gospel: Beginnings

Lesson 1

Beginnings

Mark 1:1-20

 

Son of Man, Son of God

Studies in Mark’s Gospel

 

PREVIEW

 

The long awaited time had finally come: God, in the fullness of time, came to our world in the person of His Son. Mary and Joseph made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem under the Roman order that everyone in the empire must register for taxation at their ancestral birth place (Luke 2). Mary gave birth to Jesus presumably the night they arrived. They had to take up lodging in a cave that served as a stable, and the baby was laid in a feeding trough! Such was the humble beginning of the earthly life of the central figure of history. Yet was this Jesus’ beginning? His kingdom and His atonement for us had been in the works since the foundation of history as we know it (Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:4). John extended us back to eternity past in his account of Jesus’ life and ministry:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

 

Little is recorded about Jesus’ childhood and earlier adulthood other than incidents surrounding the first two to three years of His life, and the incident at age 12 where Jesus was “lost” by his parents, only to be found in the temple debating with the religious leaders. His answer to His worried parents was, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” (Luke 2:49). The last childhood account is also recorded by Luke: 

 

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:51-52)

There are some alleged gospels written between the Second and Fourth Centuries a.d. and beyond that tell some pretty fanciful and absurd incidents supposedly of Jesus’ childhood. We can assume that our Gospel writers recorded what they did for their purpose at the time, and that is what God saw fit for us to know.

 

Of course, Mark’s Gospel has a different beginning than the others. His emphasis was also different from the others, as was his Roman audience. Let’s begin this series of studies in Mark’s Gospel, examining the things that God wants to teach us through this vital, action packed account of our Lord and Savior, the Son of Man, Son of God.

 

DAY ONE: The Beginning of the Good News

 

Please carefully read Mark 1:1-4 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  In what straightforward way did Mark open his account of Jesus (v. 1)?

 

NOTE: The awesome name Jesus Christ reflects both His Hebrew and Greek titles. Jesus came from the Hebrew name Jehoshua, Jehovah saves; Christos is the Greek term meaning the anointed one, or someone who had been anointed for office, and was the Greek equivalent of the title Messiah.[i] By this title Mark introduces us to the human Jesus, the Son of Man, but simultaneously the Christ, the Son of God.

 

2.  The word gospel refers to a message of good news, and was a term familiar to those of Mark’s day since it had origins in Roman usage as well.[ii] Here it is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. What was written of Him in the prophets, here quoting Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 (v. 2), and what did it say about His forerunner (v. 3)?


3.  Who was that messenger, and what message did he proclaim (the nlt translates this as shouting) to those who came to him (v. 4)?

 

4.  Baptism and repentance are two important New Testament concepts, and are linked together here.  We shouldn’t conclude that the mere act of getting wet means we are made right with God! In fact, the way these terms are used would indicate that baptism doesn’t remit our sins, but rather was the occasion to publicly repent and turn from them, obligating one to repent. The nlt is helpful for us here: “People should be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” What are some things Paul taught in Romans 6:1-6, Romans 6:11-13 about the relationship between baptism and repentance?  What does 1 Peter 3:18-22 add about this?

 

Scripture Memory:  This week we will be memorizing Mark 1:17. Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely, and prayerfully put it into practice!

 

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17, nkjv

 

DAY TWO:  The Servant’s Servant

 

Please carefully read Mark 1:5-8 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What was taking place as a result of John’s message, and what did they do (v. 5)? 

 

2.  Verse 5 probably meant that there was a continual throng of people coming to receive John’s baptism. No doubt he had gathered great attention since the Jews had not heard a prophetic voice from God for about 400 years.[iii] Not only was this baptism and repentance linked, but so also was the confession of sin. The Greek word for confess means literally to speak the same thing that another does, or to agree with them; thus it means we acknowledge our sins to God and agree with Him about our need to actively turn away from them (repentance). What do Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:8-10 tell us about this important aspect of our relationship with God?

 

3.  How does Mark describe John in verse 6? What would the people think of when they considered John’s character and message (2 Kings 1:8; Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:10-13)?

 

NOTES: John’s diet of locusts and wild honey was not, as some have thought, carob pods and sap from various trees.[iv] Both locusts and honey were considered clean and edible foods both by the law (Leviticus 11:21-22) and by rabbinical tradition. In appearance, John seemed of a prophet like Moses, expected in the last days (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and John’s message was that of God’s kingdom coming.[v] At every circumcision in Jesus’ day, the Jews would set up a throne in case the child proved to be that Elijah that was to come, and they felt Elijah oversaw each circumcision.[vi]

 

4.  The most striking feature about John was his humility. What did he say of himself in view of Jesus’ being mightier (more powerful) than he was (v. 7)? What else do we read about John’s humble character later on as well (John 3:26-30)?

 

NOTE: What John was saying in verse 7 mustn’t be missed, which Mark alone gives us the account of: In rabbinic teachings, untying a rabbi’s shoes was the task of slaves, and below the dignity of the rabbi’s disciples; this meant that John viewed himself as not even worthy of being a slave, the lowest possible position in that day’s culture, in comparison to the One he was the forerunner to![vii]

 

5.  What was the significant difference between John and the One to come (v. 8)? 

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Then Jesus said to them, “_________________ Me, and I will make you become ______________________ of men.”  Mark 1:17, nkjv

 

DAY THREE:  Jesus Confirmed as Son of Man, Son of God

 

Please carefully read Mark 1:9-13 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  The time had come for Jesus to enter into public ministry beginning, to John’s surprise (Matthew 3:13-15), with His being baptized. The date of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry has not been concretely established, partially due to changes in the use of calendars after His day. It is believed He lived from about 5 b.c. to a.d. 30.[viii] This would mean this date was about a.d. 27, and Jesus would have been about 30 years old.[ix] What amazing thing happened right as Jesus came out of the water (v. 10)?

 

2.  Other versions of this passage translate it as opened (kjv), torn open (niv), and split open (nlt). The Greek word for this is schizo, which meant to split, tear, divide in a violent way, to cleave asunder. How does this in a sense fulfill the hope of Isaiah for the latter days (Isaiah 64:1-2)? How else was this a significant Messianic sign as well (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21)?

 

NOTE: Ancient writers used a dove as a symbol of many different things, but here it may also allude to God’s promise of a new world after the flood (Genesis 8:10-12),[x] and Jesus had come to establish God’s kingdom.

 

3.  Not only did the Holy Spirit descend upon Him, but what else happened at that time to testify as to who Jesus was (v. 11)? Interestingly, how would Jesus later answer the charges of the religious leaders that His testimony about Himself was not valid by their standards (John 5:31-40)?

 

NOTES: This incident at the Jordan River serves as one of the clearest revelations of the reality of the Trinity—the three in one God—in the Bible![xi] The Father showed great love for the Son, which in Greek meant to approve, take pleasure in. He used the word agape, demonstrating His infinite preciousness to the Father.

 

4.  After such a great experience, we’d think the next thing Jesus would do is to begin ministering in might and power, proclaiming the Good News. However, God saw that something else had to come first. What happened according to verses 12, 13?

 

5.  The Spirit thrust Jesus away from this scene to face about 40 days in the wilderness, under which He would experience hunger, thirst, and the loneliness of isolation. For companions He had the wild beasts that could possibly attack and kill Him without divine protection! The phrase drove Him into the wilderness meant to be cast out, thrown out, and was the same phrase used to describe the casting out of demons. Yet Jesus followed this prompting of the Spirit willingly. This experience of Jesus facing battle with Satan against temptation in aloneness, but having the comfort of ministering angels, would truly speak to the hearts of those believers Mark wrote to, who were experiencing intense persecution under Nero. Jesus faced such difficulties yet God met His needs throughout it all, enabling Him to be victorious. Some believers in Rome faced agonizing deaths, including being covered with animal skins and being eaten alive by wild beasts, or used as human torches to light Nero’s garden at night![xii] Jesus’ facing this battle also showed Mark’s readers  that Jesus had come to set up God’s kingdom, which involved overthrowing the evil kingdom first.[xiii] 

 

What did the writer of Hebrews tell us about what we learn about Jesus through the trials He had to face, and how that uniquely enabled Him to minister to our needs as failing, fragile human beings (Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:14-16)?

  

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Then Jesus said to them, “_________________ Me, and I will make you _________________ ______________________ of men.”  Mark 1:17, nkjv

 

DAY FOUR:  The Galilean Ministry Begins

 

Please carefully read Mark 1:14-15 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  What happened around the time Jesus returned to begin His ministry (v. 14a)?


2.  John’s statement that he had to decrease and Jesus had to increase seems to have been as prophetic as it was a mark of his humility. John was arrested by Herod Antipas; Herod Agrippa I later had James killed to appease the Jews (A.D. 44), as Acts 12 tells us, and Herod Agrippa II heard Paul’s defense (Acts 25)[xiv] Mark doesn’t give us the reason for John’s arrest here, but what led to this (see Matthew 14:3-5)?

 

3.  How did Jesus begin His ministry in Galilee (v. 14b)? How does Matthew 4:12-16 expand on this?

 

NOTE: John 2:13-25 included Jesus’ ministry in Judea that lasted about a year; Mark chose to skip this to focus on other things, which further shows us he didn’t write this to be only a biography in chronological order.[xv]

 

4.  We were told in verse 14 that Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.  What was His specific message to the people of Galilee (v. 15)?

 

5.  There are two key words again used in verse 15.  The first is repentance, which in Greek is the word metanoia, a change of mind, but much more than just being a thought process, we saw earlier this week how it meant a change in consequent actions and conduct after we choose to turn from sin. The second is believe, which means to be persuaded of, put credit in, be confident and trust in,[xvi] the Gospel. What are some of the ways that the following passages help us understand what believing in Christ and the Gospel means?

 

John 1:12-13; John 3:16-18

Romans 3:21-26

Romans 10:9-13

 

Scripture Memory:  Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

 

Then Jesus said to them, “_________________ Me, and I will _____________ you __________________ ______________________ of men.”  Mark 1:17, nkjv

 

DAY FIVE:  Becoming a Fisher of Men

 

Please carefully read Mark 1:16-20 and answer the following questions.

 

1.  The Sea of Galilee is actually a large warm water lake about seven miles wide and thirteen miles long; it was at 685 feet below sea level, and supported a thriving fishing industry.[xvii] In fact, there were often as many as 330 fishing boats sailing that lake any given day![xviii] Out of all those there that day, who caught Jesus’ attention (v. 16)?

 

2.  What did Jesus ask of them (v. 17)?  How did they respond to this (v. 18)?

 

3.  Who did He next encounter, and what did He say to them (v. 19-20a)? How did they respond to this call (v. 20b)?


4.  This was evidently the second encounter of Jesus with Peter and Andrew, and this was their official call to discipleship. What are some things recorded about Jesus’ first encounter with them (John 1:35-42)?

 

5.  At this point in their lives, these men literally left everything to follow Jesus. We don’t know how Zebedee and his employees reacted to this, but they made the choice on the spot to follow Jesus. One reason they may have responded is that He reached out to them, making them an offer that no rabbi ever would, and gave them an opportunity far more important than feeding others’ stomachs with the fish they caught and sold, trying to just survive day by day. Interestingly, the word used to describe Jesus seeing Simon and Andrew means not just to glance at, but meant to perceive, become aware of, consider, and pay attention to.[xix]

 

We serve the God who sees us, the God who knows us, and the God who has chosen us to be His children in Christ. What are some comforting things that the following passages remind us of about this?

 

Psalms 139:1-18

Isaiah 40:27-31

Romans 8:26-39

 

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day.

 

Mark 1:17:

 

 

DAY SIX: Following Christ

 

1.  Mark reminded his readers and us today of some of the key New Testament terms involving one’s salvation and walk with God. The act of being baptized for these Jews would have been a very humbling experience, because the only baptism like this was an act traditionally only for those non-Jews who converted to Judaism. This challenged their very tradition about salvation; this baptism put everyone on the same plane, and meant that all people must to come to God on His terms.[xx] It was also not just an external action, but involved a changed life through repentance and the confession of sin. Baptism in water is an important action that symbolizes our confession of our need of God’s forgiveness, taking steps to repent from the things that grieve Him, and symbolically dying to ourselves so we can walk in newness of life in Christ. There are two things we should consider here in applying these things to our lives:

 

(1)  For those who already have received Christ and have been born again, have you taken the step of obedience of being baptized to publicly proclaim this? Or are there areas of sin that have been creeping back into your life that you have not dealt with before Him that you need to confess, and in His power and strength forsake them? What do you personally need to do about this?

 

(2)  Some of you doing this study may realize that you, like the Jews, have depended on your religion or ancestry to try to achieve salvation, and you have seen that maybe you truly haven’t put your complete trust in Jesus by faith to save you from the penalty of your sins. Will you today confess to God that you need Him, ask Him to forgive your sins and to help you be born again, turning from the sins that have separated you from Him, and experience the new life God has for you? Your group leader and others in your group would be happy to lead you to make this commitment to Christ and encourage you in your new relationship with Him.
 

2.  What a tremendous example we have seen in John the Baptist this week! He truly lived what he preached, and pointed people away from himself to the One who he felt unworthy even to be the slave of. John didn’t need a crusade team to go before him to get things ready; he didn’t use a clever advertising campaign; he just lifted up his voice with the good news, and people came in droves![xxi] He humbled and emptied himself of worldliness, and God was able to mightily fill and use him to set forth the way for the Messiah, much in the spirit of Elijah. Fortunately, God doesn’t call many of us to go out and live in the desert, wear an itchy camel hair suit, and dine on honey covered locusts! But He does call all of us to deny ourselves and to follow Him, and to let Him use us. As you read the following passage, please think about it and what you learned from the example of John, then record your thoughts about this:

 

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. As God's messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others (Romans 12:1-5).

 

3.  As we’ll see throughout Mark’s Gospel, discipleship is a central concept.[xxii] Jesus especially saw and perceived those He called to follow Him then, and He has done the same for us today. Jesus called these men (and us) to follow Him, or literally to walk the same road and have a joint participation with Him; but notice He doesn’t expect perfection from us. Jesus didn’t tell them to follow Him and have it all together; rather, He said “I will make you become fishers of men.” It is a learning process. As A. T. Robertson well put it, “It would be a slow and long process, but Jesus could and would do it. He would undertake to make fishers of men out of fishermen.”[xxiii]

                                                              

In this year of studies ahead, it is our prayer that you too would seek to become His disciple, not just one who knows Him, but one who makes an impact on your own world for His kingdom. What are some of the things that you feel that He needs to help you work on to become more of the type of person He wants you to be?  How can your group be praying for you in this? Perhaps by the end of this study year, you will be able to look back and rejoice in how far the Lord has brought you in these things. Share some of your thoughts here.

 

Scripture Memory: Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory. Do so now, and keep on reviewing it do you will be ready to share it with others in your group time.

 

Mark 1:17:

 

 



[i] Joel F. Williams, Mark.  In Darrell L. Bock ed., The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels (Colorado Springs:  Cook Communications Ministries, 2002), p. 113.

[ii] All word definitions in this study, unless otherwise indicated, are based on the following:  A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 5, 6 (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997); M. R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham:  Logos Research System, Inc., 2002); Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament:  For the English Reader (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Logos Research System, Inc., Bellingham, 1984, 1997); and Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament (Chattanooga:  AMG Publishers, Electronic Ed., Logos Research System, Inc., 1992, 1993, 2000).

[iii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), p. 1195.

[iv] Walter W. Wessell, Mark.  In Frank E. Gaebelein ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8 (Grand Rapids:  Regency Reference Library, 1984), p. 620.

[v] William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark.  In Gordon D. Fee ed., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p. 47.

[vi] David Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (Peabody:  Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1956, 1998), p. 21.

[vii] Joel F. Williams, Mark, p. 115.

[viii] Richard L. Niswonger, New Testament History (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing Co., 1988), p. 97. 

[ix] Walter W. Wessell, Mark, p. 622.

[x] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 136.

[xi] R. C. H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament:  Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Peabody:  Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1946, 2001), p. 54.

[xii] Richard L. Niswonger, New Testament History, p. 242.

[xiii]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1196.

[xiv] J. D. Douglas; P. W. Comfort, and D. Mitchell eds., Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton:  Tyndale House), in Logos Research System, Inc.,  Bellingham, 1992, 1997.

[xv] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1196; also see John D. Grossmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 107.

[xvi] George R. Berry, A Greek-English Lexicon and New Testament Synonyms.  In Baler Book House, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1981), p. 119.

[xvii] John D. Grossmick, Mark.  In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament (Wheaton:  Victor Books/SP Publications, 1983), p. 108.

[xviii] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark (Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 27.

[xix] T. Friberg; B. Friberg; and N. F. Miller, Analytic Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids:  Baker Books), in Logos Research System, Inc., Bellingham, 2000.

[xx] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament, p. 135.

[xxi] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2004), pp. 18, 20.

[xxii] John D. Grossmick, Mark, p. 108.

[xxiii] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 5, 6 (Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Oak Harbor:  Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1932, 1933, 1997).

 

 © 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2005-2006.

 

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