A ReMARKable Life Series

  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child.  Christ -- fully man, fully God.  But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations.  Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.   
2. Reaching a Region and Ready for Conflict (Mark 1:14-3:12)
  • Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee, calls Simon, Andrew, James, John and Levi to follow Him. He performs miracles in the region, thus providing proof of who He is. However, the opposition of the Pharisees and the Jewish religious establishment begins; still, the crowds flock to Him.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus Himself is the gospel message. Mark 1:14
  • Jesus is God in Person, with all the authority and power of God. Mark 1:33 & 34; 2:8-12
  • Jesus as the gospel message in person requires a response. Mark 1:15, 17, 38; 2:17
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How is Jesus the personification of the gospel message?
  • What does it mean to say that Jesus is God?
  • What is your response to Jesus?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus wait until John was imprisoned before starting His public ministry?
  • Why do you think Simon, Andrew, James, John and Levi left what they were doing and followed Jesus?
  • Describe the miracles Jesus did. What did each of the miracles show about Jesus?
  • Why did Jesus do miracles of healing?
  • What did Jesus mean by telling the demons not to say anything about Him?
  • Why did Jesus tell the man cured of leprosy not to say anything about Him?
  • What were the objections the religious authorities had against Jesus and why?
  • Why did Jesus say that His followers didn't need to fast?
  • What did Jesus teach about the Sabbath?
  • What was Jesus' attitude to the multitudes who were following Him and seeking to be healed?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What would you do if Jesus said to you, “Follow me?” What do you have to give up to follow Jesus?
  • What were Jesus' disciples thinking when they went looking for Him while He was praying? Did they understand why Jesus was away by Himself to pray?
  • Describe Jesus' character traits. (e.g., He was purposeful. Mark 1:17)
  • What was it about Jesus that attracted people? Was everyone attracted to Jesus for the “right” reasons?
  • What did Jesus do that upset the religious authorities, and why were they upset?
  • What does it mean that Jesus can heal any disease, cast out demons and forgive sins?
  • Why did the demons react to Jesus the way they did?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In the last Notes, Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days being tempted by Satan and attended by the angels. The preparation for His shining was about to come to an end. And sure enough, Mark 1:14 brings the end of John’s ministry in his arrest. Mark does not go into any detail about the events which led to John’s arrest as they do not suit the purpose of his book. Simply put, John’s ministry is over; he has pointed the way to the coming One, and that One is Jesus who thus begins His public ministry in Galilee, the region where He was brought up and lived. And in verses 14 and 15, Mark capsulizes Jesus’ message: it is the gospel of God, that His kingdom (that is, His reign) is now “at hand” (that is, present), and that the response is to repent, meaning turn from one way, and believe instead in the gospel for salvation. And the gospel is not only a message; the gospel is literally Jesus Himself. In short, God is present in the world, right on time in terms of His “calendar” and is present in the person of Jesus to call people to Himself, to belief in who He is. Jesus’ message is the essence of the good news, and it is the same good news His followers proclaim to this very day.

The ensuing verses, through Mark 3:12, provide a look-see at Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and include in that glimpse a picture of Jesus the God-man, His power and authority, His character, and His purpose, and further provide a picture of responses to Him from immediate discipleship when He calls to outright rejection. The kingdom of God had come into the earth to fallen, sinful man, and into a religion of Judaism that worshiped the One God and awaited the coming of the Messiah and longed for the establishment of God’s kingdom, but that in many ways had become encumbered by traditions and teachings which kept people from the kingdom through its rules and regulations, rather than drawing them to it. Into this setting comes Jesus on the heels of John, to people who were prepared by John’s preaching but in many ways unprepared for the Messiah.

Jesus immediately (to use Mark’s favorite word) brings the message of the gospel to the synagogue in Capernaum, an important town on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was a key city as it stood on a crucial trade route, was the site of a customs station, and had a Roman garrison. Indeed, it was a pivotal location for Jesus to begin His ministry as word would spread far and wide given the coming and going of trade and travelers. As He taught in the synagogue, which was customary for a visiting teacher to do, His teaching was different; everyone was amazed at His teaching (Mark 1:22, 27) because His authority was from Himself, not from quoting supposedly authoritative statements from previous teachers. But in the midst of His teaching came a man with an “unclean spirit” (meaning he was possessed by a demon) who shouted out about Jesus and who He was by naming His name, “the Holy One of God.” It was a popular belief in that day that if you knew a person’s true identity and could speak his name, you would gain power over that person. It seems that the demons were thus attempting a power play, as it were, albeit out of a real and healthy fear of Jesus reflected in their statement that perhaps He had come to destroy them (Mark 1:24). Jesus would have none of the demon’s attempt, and instead ordered the demon out of the man. The people who witnessed the scene were amazed at Jesus’ authority over demons (Mark 1:27). Who was this Jesus? So amazing was the happening that the news of Jesus quickly traveled around the region (Mark 1:28). As He continued to minister and preach in the region, Jesus exercised authority over disease (Mark 1:29-34), leprosy (Mark 1:40-45), paralysis (Mark 2:3-12), and physical deformity (Mark 3:1-5). Jesus graciously healed many (Mark 1:34, 45; 3:10) who came from all over the region (Mark 3:7 & 8), and cast out demons (Mark 3:11) who would clearly identify Him as the Son of God. What was the purpose of these miracles? It was to attest to who Jesus was – that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God (Mark 1:1) – and to attest to the truth of what He said about the kingdom. His miracles were unimpeachable, they were many, they were “supernatural,” and they were effective.

But beyond the miracles were His claims about Himself. He claimed the ability to forgive sins! (Mark 2:5 et seq.) Only God could forgive sins, as the religious authorities knew (Mark 2:6 & 7), and they also knew that to claim that power if one didn’t have it was to commit blasphemy. God indeed does have the authority to forgive sins, and thus Jesus’ claim was that He was the Messiah, and that the true “disease” people have is a spiritual one that requires forgiveness from sin and He can offer such. This was Jesus’ message when the men lowered the paralytic from the roof into the midst of the house where Jesus was teaching in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-12). This was Jesus’ message as He ate and shared with “tax gatherers and sinners” at Levi’s home (Mark 2:15-17). Jesus came to earth with a purpose, namely to reveal God’s kingdom and to call people to follow Him and become part of the kingdom of God; He came to those who understand their need for spiritual cleansing, not for the self-righteous who won’t admit their spiritual need (Mark 2:15-17).

In what He preached and the way He dealt with those who opposed Him, Jesus also showed that His coming ushered in a new covenant of grace that could not be contained by the law and its man-made regulations which the religious authorities taught must be kept in order to merit God’s grace. Ritualism, traditions, acts of holiness such as fasting, and such practices, were not wrong in and of themselves; what was wrong was the view that it was practicing them that led to one's acceptance by God. This “new” way is sketched in bold relief by Mark in the continuing controversy about the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28; 3:2-5). There were 39 acts that were strictly forbidden on the Sabbath, and there were hundreds of interpretations of these acts that extended the proscriptions far beyond 39. For example, reaping was forbidden on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees regarded picking heads of grain (Mark 2:23) as reaping and therefore forbidden. Jesus instead taught that the Sabbath was under His Lordship (Mark 2:28), and that human need trumps religious ritualism and that the Sabbath is a gift to man for his good to provide rest and an opportunity for worship. Blind adherence to ritualism amounts to a limitation to what God otherwise intended for the Sabbath. Thus, the rule that healing on the Sabbath was only allowed in the event a life was actually in danger had to give way to serving God’s will by taking the opportunity to restore one through healing notwithstanding it occurs on a Sabbath (Mark 3:1-5). Those who opposed Jesus at this juncture were the ones actually doing wrong in holding to the traditions as over against seeking God’s will, and ultimately by using Jesus’ approach as the basis for seeking His very death (Mark 3:6).

In the foregoing we see that Jesus’ words and actions were intended to prompt a response. In other words, one cannot dismiss Jesus as irrelevant; one must hear what He says and see what He does and respond either with belief or unbelief. Again, the response sought is repentance, turning from unbelief to belief and then by following Him. When He called Simon, Andrew, James and John (Mark 1:16-20) as well as Levi (Mark 2:14), these men in fact responded. Mark states that Simon, Andres, James and John “immediately” left their fishing nets and followed Jesus after He called them to Himself. Did they understand fully what they were committing to? Of course not. But they knew that He was real, and they knew He was not an ordinary man but was calling them to the kingdom which their hearts desired. And so they followed Him, at significant cost (leaving their trade and their family businesses). And Levi, who was a hated tax-collector (hated because the Jewish people considered them traitors for collecting taxes on behalf of the hated government), in following Jesus would not be able to return to his lucrative job. Nevertheless, these men followed. And what of all the others who flocked to Jesus (Mark 1:33, 45; 2:1 & 2; 3:7-10)? These folk came for a multitude of reasons: many came just to be healed by this miracle worker and for no other reason; some came simply out of curiosity; others came, no doubt, to witness the interaction between Jesus and the religious authorities; some came out of opposition (Mark 3:2). Jesus didn’t shy away from any of the foregoing people, though He did seek to move around so that His message would not be lost in the face of His miracles (Mark 1:35-39). He wanted people to be healed spiritually (Mark 1:38; 2:17).

In Jesus, people saw one who was authentic, a man with a purpose (Mark 1:14, 38; 2:10, 20) and authority (Mark 1:22, 27); a man of prayer (Mark 1:35) with a willing and compassionate heart for others (Mark 1:40 & 41), a man with concern for the spiritual state of people (Mark 2:17) and who was always reaching out. They also saw a man who was aware of the opposition to Himself and who didn’t shy away from it (Mark 3:4 & 5) but confronted it with the truth. Ultimately, as we know, He gave His life as a result of the opposition to Him, though that offering of Himself on the cross was exactly the prescription for eternal life and the forgiveness of sin. At the earlier stages of His ministry, however, Jesus wanted people to interact with and respond to His message, to the gospel, by understanding that He came to bring life to them and, as He would later say, life with abundance. That is the same message of the gospel today: Jesus came to bring life, and the way to that life is to respond to Him by believing that He is who He says He is, the Son of God, the Messiah who heals the spiritually sick.