Last edited on 25/Jul/2020
Bible Study: Mark Chapter 1 (English Standard Version)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Mark 1:1–8)
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.”
Mark begins his Gospel by making the extraordinary claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Let’s discuss what this means. Firstly, Christ is not Jesus’ last name, it is a title which means anointed or chosen one (Messiah is the Hebrew variant of this title).¹ Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit in his baptism to be the saviour of the world. Secondly, the Son of God is not a literal title. Jesus is not literally God’s Son, in the sense that he was born of a mother by natural means. Instead, it is a title of divinity. When the Bible says that Jesus is the Son of God, it means that he is divine by nature (Mark 14:61–64; Hebrews 1:8–9), equal with God in essence (John 5:18), and that he is of the closest possible relationship with God the Father (John 1:14, 18). Sons share the same human nature as their fathers. In the same way, the Son of God shares the same divine nature as God. This title must not to be confused with the similar title given to Christians. Christians become sons and daughters of God by adoption into his family, through faith in Jesus and the regenerating work of the Spirit in the waters of baptism. However, Jesus is not the Son of God by adoption, but he has always been the Son since eternity (Micah 5:2). To sum it up, when the Bible calls him the Son of God, it is saying that Jesus is God.
Mark then quotes Isaiah 40:3. John the Baptist and Jesus fulfil this prophesy. John is the messenger who came to prepare the way of the Lord (the Lord of Isaiah means Yahweh in Hebrew, God’s personal name), and Jesus is the Lord of this passage (Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh). John was baptising many people from Judea and Jerusalem in order for them to repent of their sins and to receive forgiveness. This was a foretaste of what was to come, which prepared the way for Jesus, who would one day baptise people with the Holy Spirit. This occurred on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus. This occurred on the day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, a feast in Ancient Israel’s calendar that celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai.² John also prepared his way by preaching the coming of Jesus, saying that he is not even worthy enough to untie his sandals. The clothing and diet of John is also noteworthy. It shows that although he was a humble, poor, and lonely person, God still used him to accomplish great things. In fact, Jesus even said that among those born of women, no one is greater than John the Baptist (but even the least in Heaven is greater than him) (Matthew 11:11).
The Baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9–11)
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.”
What’s significant about this passage is that it says that Jesus was baptised. In the last passage, it said that John was “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. However, this does not mean that Jesus is a sinner. This is because the Bible teaches that Jesus is without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The reason why Jesus did this was because he was identifying with the sinful people whom he came to save. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord said that he did this to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). This is because Jesus is taking our place, and this is realised in his death. The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23), and Jesus died for us (Romans 4:23–25).³ He also did this to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. This initiated Jesus’ ministry of preaching the gospel, and performing miracles.
Another significant part of this passage is that the entire Holy Trinity is present in Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus stood in the Jordan lake, Heaven was torn open, the Holy Spirit flew down and rested on him in the form of a dove, and God the Father spoke to everyone there from Heaven, saying that Jesus is his beloved Son. What is true for Jesus’ baptism is also true for ours. Baptism is not just a water ceremony; it is water joined with the word of God. The water is applied to the recipient either by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, and done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (in the name of Jesus is the same) (Matthew 28:19–20). In baptism, Heaven is opened and God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come down to dwell within us, and the Spirit washes away our sins and gives us new birth into God’s family (John 3:5–7; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3–5; Titus 3:4–6). Therefore, it is not a good work that we do to earn our salvation, but a free gift from God. Also, its effectiveness entirely depends on the presence of faith in Jesus.
The Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:12–13)
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.
By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to be trained for his ministry. While there he was tempted by Satan for 40 days, but he did not fall into sin. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke go into much more detail about this event (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). They each describe how Jesus used the holy Scriptures to refute three of Satan’s temptations, involving turning stones to bread, falling from the temple to tempt God into saving Jesus, and worshipping Satan to obtain the riches of the world. They also say that Jesus fasted for the entire time, which means he was very vulnerable. Although Satan has managed to tempt every human into sinning, he failed with Jesus. Jesus has power over Satan, and can save all those who have become slaves to sin. By conquering sin, death, and the devil (1 Corinthians 15:54–57; 1 John 3:8) through his perfect life, his sacrificial death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, Jesus will set us free from slavery and bring us to eternal life, if we put our faith in him.
Jesus Begins His Ministry (Mark 1:14–15)
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.”
John was arrested because he told Herod that it was not lawful for him to take and marry his brother’s wife, Herodias. He was executed later. The passage says that Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of God. But what is the gospel of God? What was Jesus proclaiming? The word gospel means good news. The gospel is the good news that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. However, Jesus has not yet died at this moment, so in this context it is a little different. Jesus’ message of the good news of God contains three main elements: the time being fulfilled, the kingdom of God being at hand, and the need to repent and believe in the gospel. The first is that God’s promises through the prophets are now going to be fulfilled; the second is that God is about to arrive to rule; and the third is that people need to respond wholeheartedly by turning to God for forgiveness and trusting in the message Jesus brings.⁴
Jesus Calls the First Disciples (Mark 1:16–20)
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.
Here Jesus calls the first apostles for his ministry. The 12 apostles were Jesus’ closest followers who always travelled with him, and to whom he gave the authority of casting out demons and healing at certain times. Jesus’ statement “I will make you become fishers of men” is a significant one. Instead of Simon and Andrew bringing fish into their nets for the rest of their lives, they were assigned by God himself to bring people into his family through preaching the gospel. What’s also significant is the immediate response of Simon, Andrew, James and John to leaving everything they were doing to follow Jesus. When God has plans to fulfil, he will ensure that they are carried through, even by working through the most unlikely of people and circumstances.
Jesus Heals a Man with an Unclean Spirit (Mark 1:16–28)
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.
Mark then writes that Jesus went into a synagogue to teach and that people were amazed by the fact that he taught with authority. This means that he didn’t just read to them the Scriptures, but he actually taught them what the Scriptures meant, what they pointed towards, and his word was final. He then records that Jesus expelled an unclean spirit from a man. In other words, the man was demon-possessed. After asking if he would destroy him, the demon made a remarkable confession—that Jesus is the Holy One of God.
This is remarkable for a number of reasons. God’s holiness refers to his profound differences from us. He is distinctly set apart from us, infinitely above us, the only one worthy of our worship (Exodus 15:11), and he is completely pure and sinless. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah calls God “the holy One of Israel” many times (e.g. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 12:6). In fact, God’s holiness is a major theme throughout Isaiah’s book. Jesus’ title of the “Holy One of God” is very similar to this. Jesus claimed God’s title of “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14) in passages such as John 8:58, along with his other “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John, but this time a demon is giving him a title of God. In another place, Peter calls Jesus the Holy One of God, after acknowledging that he alone is worthy of being followed, and has the words of eternal life (John 6:66–69). The demon and the apostles therefore acknowledged the deity of Christ, because God alone is holy. They recognised that Jesus was supreme, set apart, and above them. This title also signifies that although God is holy, he still came down from Heaven to dwell with us (which is what Jesus did, see John 6:38), and it also signifies sinless perfection, and the Bible testifies to Jesus’ perfection (1 Peter 2:21–22). Jesus is the Holy God of Heaven in human flesh.⁵
Just by the word of his command, Jesus then cast out the demon. This attracted the crowd’s attention, and they began questioning who he is, like many other people in the Bible do. The key part of this passage is that Jesus has authority and power unlike any other. Because of this, he became famous very quickly. Jesus became the light of a very dark world in desperate need of being saved. Throughout the rest of his ministry, Jesus healed millions of people who sought him, and taught them about the kingdom of God and God’s plan of salvation. People are drawn to Jesus because in him they see God’s salvation. This is what Jesus’ name means. In fact, according to the Bible, Jesus is “God with us”, who has come to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21–23).
Jesus Heals Many (Mark 1:29–34)
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.
It is recorded that Jesus then went into Simon and Andrew’s house with his four apostles in order to heal Simon’s mother-in-law who was lying in bed with a fever. Jesus displays his compassion and power yet again, by healing her, simply by gently holding her hand and lifting her up. At sundown, the whole city brought to Jesus people who were sick or demon-oppressed, and he healed them in the house. It can clearly be seen so far, that Jesus cares about the sinners whom he came to save. With such power at his disposal, Jesus could easily have driven the people away from him so that he could rest and be free from their burdens, but instead he took their burdens upon himself, shared their grief, and cured them from all their suffering. It is interesting to note that Jesus commanded the demons to be silent because they knew who he was. This was because the time had not yet come for him to suffer and be crucified, and so he had to keep his identity as the Christ as hidden as possible until the time came.
Jesus Preaches in Galilee (Mark 1:35–39)
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.
In this passage, it can be seen that Jesus has a very intimate and personal relationship with God the Father, from the way he went out early to pray by himself. This is a great example for all Christians to follow throughout their lives. It also reflects the importance of prayer, because our Lord considered it important. Prayer is simply talking with God. Like in any relationship, it is important to keep in contact and communicate with our loved ones, otherwise, the relationship won’t last, and it is the same with God. Jesus taught that when we pray to God, it should be done in private, and that God who sees us in secret will reward us (Matthew 6:5–6). He also taught that when we pray we shouldn’t “heap up empty phrases” or think that we will be heard for our “many words”, but that we should pray like Jesus taught us to in the Lord’s Prayer, which is “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” (Matthew 6:7–14). Jesus also taught us that we can be certain that God hears our prayers, that he will answer them, and that he delights in giving us good things (If our prayers are aligned with his will) (Matthew 7:7–11).
The disciples told Jesus that everyone was looking for him, and Jesus answered by saying “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out”. Before Jesus went out to evangelise, he prayed intimately to his Father in Heaven. This shows us that prayer is very important for preaching the gospel. Salvation is a work of God, not our work, because we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8–10), and so we need to pray that God gives us the right words to say, that he helps us, and that he opens the hearts and minds of our non-Christian friends that we speak with to the gospel message. Mark then writes that Jesus went throughout Galilee preaching in the synagogues, and casting out demons. Even after curing thousands of people from their sicknesses and demons in Simon’s (Peter’s) house just the day before, Jesus is at it again the day after. This shows how serious he took his call from God the Father to teach the nations, heal them, and save them.
Jesus Cleanses a Leper (Mark 1:40–45)
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.
In the final section of Mark 1, Jesus heals a leper. Leprosy is a disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs, and it is contagious (though not highly contagious).⁶ This passage is significant because of the leper’s faith in Jesus. He knew that if it was Jesus’ will, he could be healed, and confessed this to him. In response, Jesus had pity on the man, and said “I will; be clean”. Here Jesus healed another person immediately just by the word of his command. He did so because he loved the leper, felt sorry for him, and saw that he had great faith. Like the leper of this passage, we are also inflicted with a disease called sin, which we caught by our wrongdoing against God and humanity. Because of our sin, God must punish us and cast us away from his heavenly dwelling forever to Hell. But if we have faith in Jesus, that he is our Lord and Saviour, who bore our sins at Calvary on the cross as our substitute, died for them, and rose again bodily from the dead , Jesus will heal us from the sin ‘disease’, we will be made right with God, and have eternal life (Luke 24:45–47; John 3:16–17; Romans 10:9–10; Philippians 3:8–11).
After Jesus healed the man, he sent him away, and told him to keep silent about his miracle. Like the time when he said the same thing to the demon, Jesus said this in order to avoid conflict with the Jewish authorities, who he knew would try and put him to death for it. Instead of just sending the man away, Jesus also told him to abide by the Old Testament law. This was because Jesus didn’t want people to think that he thought God’s law was not important, or that he was deserting it; instead, he came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17–20). Jesus fulfilled all that was spoken of him in the Law and the Prophets, and he kept its commandments perfectly.⁷ Instead of listening, though, the man told everyone about what Jesus did for him, most likely out of joy. As a result, Jesus could not openly enter towns, because of the massive crowds seeking him, and he had to stay out in desolate places most of the time.
Next Bible Study
1. What Does Christ Mean?, GotQuestions.org, last accessed before 9 Jan 2017, <https://www.gotquestions.org/what-does-Christ-mean.html>
2. Pentecost, Wikipedia, last accessed before 9 Jan 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecost>
3. Dr. McGee, J V, Q & A: Why Was Jesus Baptized When He Had No Sin?, oneplace.com, last accessed before 9 Jan 2017, <http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/thru-the-bible-with-j-vernon-mcgee/read/articles/q–a-why-was-jesus-baptized-when-he-had-no-sin-14381.html>
4. Wenham, D, Walton, S 2001, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels & Acts, IVP Academic, Illinois, p. 202
5. Lawson, S 2016, The Holy One of God, Ligonier Ministries, last accessed before 9 Jan 2017, <http://www.ligonier.org/blog/holy-one-god/>
6. Leprosy Overview, WebMD, last accessed before 9 Jan 2017, <http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/leprosy-symptoms-treatments-history#1>
7. Engelbrecht, E A, Murray, S R, Paavola, D E, Prange, V H, Sorensen, R A, Walther, M P (eds) 2009, The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, p. 1587