Jesus lived almost 2000 years ago, but even today people all over the world serve Him. We know this man primarily through four Bible books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Firsthand acquaintance with these writings will help us understand Jesus and His message.
This course surveys Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ life. As you study each lesson, please keep a Bible at your side so that you can verify what you are learning by the Scriptures. You will notice that Mark is divided into sixteen major sections (chapters), each of which contains small divisions (verses). When a notation like 5:12 is used in these lessons, it means you should look at the fifth chapter of Mark and the twelfth verse.
A few more things before we get started:
- To profit most from these lessons, you need an open heart to receive what Jesus taught and did. Allow His words to direct you as you read.
- A prayer for God’s guidance at the beginning and end of each study is recommended.
- If you don’t understand something mentioned in this course, or in your reading of Mark, we want to help! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to talk with you!
Mark 1:1-8 John Prepares the Way
Please read Mark 1:1-8 in your Bible, then continue the lesson. In the very first verse, Mark announced that he would write about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is surprising; therefore, that he did not start out by telling about Jesus Himself. Instead, he described the work of John the Baptist. This was because John was to prepare the way for Jesus. John fulfilled this mission by preaching to get people ready for the coming of the Lord.
John’s message focused on two themes that will help us get ready to receive Christ. First, he preached about repentance. To repent means to decide to change. John was telling his hearers that they had to reverse their life’s direction to get ready for Christ; those unwilling to change could not come to Him. Second, John declared the greatness of Jesus. He said Jesus was so great that he himself was not even worthy to stoop down and untie His shoes. This was an amazing declaration because one does not have to have much worth to untie somebody’s shoes. In fact, in John’s day, untying shoes was considered to be a slave’s lowest duty–John wasn’t worthy to be Jesus’ humblest slave! So, for us to be ready to receive Jesus, we must repent (change our lives) and recognize His awesome greatness.
Mark 1:9-15 Early Events in Jesus’ Career
Just like thousands of others, Jesus came to John to be baptized. But, as He emerged from the water, something startling occurred: The Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a dove and a voice from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God was showing His approval of Jesus in a dramatic way.
Then Jesus entered the wilderness where the devil tempted Him. While Matthew and Luke provide more specific information about the temptations (Matthew 4; Luke 4), Mark’s brief account shows two things. First, Jesus experienced temptation as all men do. Second, doing what pleases God, as Jesus did when He was baptized, does not exempt one from temptation. Satan often intensifies his efforts when a person begins to serve God.
Mark 1:16-20 Jesus Calls Four Fishermen
As Jesus walked along, He saw two of His friends, Peter and Andrew, who were professional fishermen. He asked them to follow Him and become fishers of men. At once they quit their jobs and began following Christ. He next found James and John, and requested that they do the same. With no hesitation they left not only their occupation, but also their father, and began to accompany the Lord. Clearly, these men recognized Jesus’ greatness. He was the one whose shoes John was unworthy to untie. God had specifically acknowledged Him by his own voice from heaven. So, when Jesus demanded radical action (to drop everything and follow Him), they responded immediately.
Note some characteristics of followers of Jesus. These fishermen demonstrated the meaning of discipleship. When Jesus called, they:
- acted immediately
- left both job and family
- started following Him
Christ calls today through His word. When we perceive His greatness, we, too, will:
- obey immediately all He says
- put Him ahead of everything, including our job and family
- follow Him, allowing His example to direct every step
People who know that Jesus wants them to change, but put it off, are not like these four fishermen.
Mark 1:21-28 Jesus Amazes the Crowds
Jesus’ teaching astounded the multitude in the synagogue (a synagogue was like a church among the Jews). He taught with authority. He issued His commands as if He had the right to tell others exactly what to do!
Jesus’ actions showed that He really had the authority that He claimed. In this paragraph, He cast out a demon. How? By His words! Nothing more. When Jesus merely said, “Be quiet and come out of him”, the demon left the man. His words had authority even over demons. The calmness with which Jesus expelled demons reflected His power. He never argued or struggled or created a scene. He simply ordered the demons to leave and they left. No wonder people were amazed. He had demonstrated the credentials to prove His authority.
Note the need for authority. In every area authority is essential. To determine distance, it is necessary to have a yardstick or standard of measure by which to calculate length. Thus, if someone wishes to know how long a room is, he measures it. There is no other way to know for sure. God has provided a yardstick in religion – Jesus and His words. When we wish to know whether something is right or wrong, we should evaluate it by the standard of the Scriptures. This should be done with every teacher and teaching – even this online study. Therefore, you need to have a Bible at your side while you are studying and continually refer to it to be sure that what is taught in these lessons is true. The Bible is our yardstick.
Mark 1:29-34 Jesus Heals Lots of People
Jesus came into Simon Peter’s house and found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with a high fever (see Luke 4:38). Jesus spoke to her, raised her up and the fever left her. She then began waiting on Jesus and the disciples. He also healed many others who were brought to Him.
Several features of Jesus’ healings are noteworthy:
- Jesus healed immediately, with no delay.
- Jesus healed everyone who came to Him, regardless of their disease.
- Jesus healed so completely that Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was able to get up and start waiting on them. After a fever breaks, it normally takes a few days for a person to recover his strength. Jesus’ healings put people back as if they had never had their sickness in the first place!
- Jesus sought to avoid publicity. He ordered the demons not to announce who He was.
Mark 1:35-39 Jesus Continues His Journeys
Jesus frequently sought solitude for prayer. Prayer during the daytime was nearly impossible since the crowds continually pressed on Him, so He skipped sleep to be able to talk with His Father that He missed so much. After finally finding Him that morning, the disciples reported that everybody in the town where He had been was seeking Him. Nevertheless, since He wanted to be able to get the message to as many people as possible, He insisted on moving on to other towns.
Mark 1:40-45 Jesus Heals a Leper
Painful open sores caused everyone to dread leprosy. Those who contracted it were quarantined because the disease was highly contagious. In this story, Jesus did what no one else dared to do – He touched a leper. When He did so, the man was healed immediately. His sores were instantly transformed into smooth skin. The Lord then instructed the cleansed leper to report his healing to the priest (a requirement of the law of Moses – Leviticus 13-14), but to tell no one else. The man; however, went out and told everyone, the exact opposite of what Jesus had said. Undoubtedly, he was thrilled that he had been healed and probably imagined that spreading the news about Jesus would honor Him. But the fact remains that he did just what Jesus had said not to do. As a result, the Lord was thronged by such large crowds that He could no longer publicly enter into cities, but had to remain in unpopulated areas. We should learn a lesson: All disobedience, even well-intentioned, hurts Jesus’ work.
This chapter shows the greatness of Jesus. John was unworthy to untie His shoes; God spoke from heaven endorsing Him; He expelled demons by a mere word; He healed the sick immediately regardless of the nature of their infirmity. This chapter also indicates how we should respond to His greatness: immediately obey everything He says no matter what sacrifice is required; respect the authority of His message; and, obey Him, even when His command seems unreasonable.
Quick Review Questions
Use these questions if you want a quick review. You’ll have the option to check your answers at the end. If you prefer a more thoughtful style of question, try the ‘open-ended questions’.
Use these questions if you want a deeper, more thought-provoking experience. You can answer them in your own journal or here online. You’ll have the option to send in your answers for discussion with a real person, if you wish.