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Perspective in this Gospel account is that of John Mark – the former deserter who was restored to faithful service

Constable: The Mark in view is the “John Mark” mentioned frequently in the New Testament (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:36-39; Col. 4:10; Phile. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:13; et al.). He was evidently a relative of Barnabas, and he accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey, but left these apostles when they reached Perga. Mark became useful to Paul during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, and was also with Peter when Peter was in Rome. Peter described him as his “son,” probably his protégé. . . Mark probably wrote this Gospel sometime between A.D. 63 and 70.

Church met in home of his mother – Acts 12; he was a cousin of Barnabas

Approach we will be taking is more of a rapid overview – that is how Mark writes his account;

Significance of connective: “straightway” — moving us through the ministry of Jesus in rapid fire succession – one incident right after another in abbreviated form; not exegeting every nuance; not always getting the expanded accounts from the other synoptic gospels – but moving along at a very fast clip – does not include the extended teachings of Christ related in the other gospels; more event oriented

Constable: Mark used a forceful, fresh, and vigorous style of writing. This comes through in his frequent use of the historical present tense that expresses action as happening at once. It is also obvious in his frequent use (41 times) of the Greek adverb euthys translated “immediately.”14 The resulting effect is that as one reads Mark’s Gospel, one feels that he or she is reading a reporter’s eyewitness account of the events.

Many great leaders have arisen over the ages; attracting significant bands of followers; enjoying various levels of impact in society – both in terms of importance and in terms of duration.

Confucius … Socrates … Jewish rabbis … John the Baptist …

Think through this morning what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.


“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

God has been silent for over 400 years in terms of His prophetic voice.

All of the OT points to the fullness of times when God would send forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

– Direct prophecies of the OT

– Types and pictures

James Edwards: For Mark the introduction of Jesus is no less momentous than the creation of the world, for in Jesus a new creation is at hand.

What an exciting juncture in human events to come to the point of the Incarnation – the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God –

This is epic; this is huge; you hate to miss the beginning of a great movie – here we are in on the beginning of the story of this new age

Beginning implies that there will be something more that comes after; there will be the coming of the Holy Spirit (details in Acts); there will be the second coming of Jesus

Truly Good News! Came to bring salvation … not judgment

Cranfield: The word “gospel” also had a pagan background associated with the emperor cult. The birth of an heir to the throne, his coming of age, and his accession to office were announced as “good news”—”gospel,” euangelion. The early Christians, therefore, connected the “gospel” of Jesus Christ with the “gospel” of the true ruler of God’s kingdom.

Cf. MacArthur comments on background understanding of “gospel”

No question about the identity of this great leader – the promised Messiah; the historic Jesus of Nazareth; decisively proclaimed as the Son of God

Name = Jesus

Title (not a last name) = Christ, Messiah, Anointed One – King

Lineage = Son of God — not the son of some human king

Gospel story builds towards a climax with the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ —

Unique emphasis of Gospel according to Mark: many commentators call it the Portrait of a Servant – but I find the initial emphasis to be on the Authority of Jesus Christ; man of action doing the will of His Father; [Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man”] – Servant-King blend is the emphasis

Stedman: I have just spent two weeks in Mexico with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, and I have realized anew that the Gospel of Mark is the most translated book in all the world. No other book appears in as many languages. Almost all Wycliffe translators, after they have reduced a language to writing, begin their translation of the Scriptures with this gospel. I am sure that the fact it is the shortest of the gospels has something to do with that decision! Bible translators are human beings like the rest of us, and no one wants to start with a gospel as long as Matthew or Luke. But it is also a fact that Mark is particularly suitable for introducing to the Scriptures people of all backgrounds, classes, and tribes. It is the one gospel of the four which is aimed at the Gentile ear.


A. (:2-3) Preeminent by Virtue of the Divinely Promised Forerunner —

Prophecy of John the Baptist

“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way;

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready the way of the Lord,

Make His paths straight.’”

Quotation combines in some fashion Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1, and Isaiah 40:3.

Van Parunak: The texts quoted:

1) 1:2a quotes Exod. 23:20, God’s promise to send an angel before the nation Israel when they leave captivity in Egypt.

2) Mal 3:1 picks up this phrase from Exod and extends it, so all of 1:2 may also be considered a quote from Mal.

3) 1:3, from Isa. 40:3, which in its original context describes the preparation of a road for the Jews to return to Judaea from the Babylonian captivity.

Desert = wilderness of Judea west and north of the Dead Sea; place where God characteristically met with His people and called His servants – like Moses = type of Christ

What is involved in making ready the way of the Lord?

Stedman: That is why the prophet Isaiah said John’s message would be like a great bulldozer, building a highway in the desert for God to come to the isolated stranger in the midst of the wilderness. Without a road you cannot drive out into the desert in order to help somebody. You must have a road, a highway in the desert. John was God’s bulldozer to build that highway. You know how roads are built — exactly as Isaiah describes in Chapter 40. “Every mountain shall be brought low, and every valley shall be lifted up; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain,” {cf, Isa 40:4a}. That is what repentance does. It brings down all the high peaks of pride that we stand on and refuse to admit are wrong. It takes the depressed areas of our life, where we beat and torture and punish ourselves, and lifts them up. It takes the crooked places, where we have lied and deceived, and straightens them out. And it makes the rough places plain. Then God is there, at that instant of repentance. Beautiful imagery, is it not?

Hiebert: The point of the whole quotation is that John’s preparatory ministry, in fulfillment of prophecy, authenticated Jesus’ Messiahship and prepared for the beginning of His official ministry as the Messiah. . . Roads in the East were generally poorly maintained. A coming king would send ahead of him a representative to assure that the roads had been adequately prepared. Spiritually, this was John’s advance task. He was to remove hindrances in the hearts of the people so that they would be ready to receive “the coming One.”

Cf. work by advance team of Secret Service agents on behalf of the President

B. (:4-5) Preeminent by Virtue of Focus on the Forgiveness of Sins

Mission of John the Baptist = Baptism of Repentance for Forgiveness of Sins

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

You can’t get a more critical issue than how to resolve man’s basic sin problem; people today like to minimize or deny that issue altogether … but since the Fall, it has been even more important than any physical healing

Remarkable phenomena – why would all these people be attracted to such a strange prophet at such a remote location for such a humbling baptism??

Stedman: It is evident that John spoke to a universal need in their lives. We do not have to guess what it was, because it is still around. It is exactly the same need that grips people’s hearts today. They were victims of a syndrome that every human being suffers from today — just as they did then. The syndrome consists of three elements: sin, guilt, and fear. Those always go together.

What is sin? Well, basically and fundamentally, sin is self-centeredness, that’s all. We commit sins because we are thinking of ourselves, loving ourselves, indulging ourselves, looking out for ourselves, taking care that no one get ahead of us. That is the essence of sin — self-centeredness. We are all victims of it. There is not one of us who does not struggle in this area. We find ourselves trapped in it constantly. That is the curse which hangs over our whole human race. We were made by God to be vessels to convey his outgoing love, to reach out with it to everyone around us. Somehow that has become twisted, so that now — instead of reaching out — we reach in, and we love ourselves first.

And sin always produces guilt. Guilt is dislike of ourselves. We do not like the fact that we hurt others — and we know we do. We feel responsible because we see the damage we do in other people’s lives by our self-centeredness, and we feel guilty about it. We learn to hate ourselves to a considerable degree. That is why psychologists say that the great problem humanity wrestles with is self-hatred. Carl Menninger wrote a book, Man Against Himself, in which he documents that this is what we do. We hate ourselves. We do not like ourselves. We lose our self-respect. That is guilt.

Guilt is always accompanied by fear, because fear is self-distrust. Fear is feeling unable to handle life anymore, being aware that there are forces and powers we are unable to control, and which eventually are going to confront us. We are not able to handle them, and so we run from them. Even in the Garden of Eden, as soon as Adam and Eve sinned they felt guilty, and they hid in fear. It has been the history of the race ever since. Fear looms up, that uncertainty about the future, and we become fearful, timid people, afraid of what will happen next. We are walking on eggs all the time, afraid of being accepted or rejected, afraid of what people will do to us — and especially, finally, afraid of what God is going to do to us. That is an inner torment the like of which there is no equal.

A baptism characterized by repentance; a change of mind leading to a change of behavior

C. (:6) Preeminent by Virtue of the Uniqueness of the Forerunner —

Description of John the Baptist

“And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist,

and his diet was locusts and wild honey.”

1. His simple ascetic dress

2. His simple ascetic diet

2 Kings 1:8 – similarity to prophet Elijah; characteristic of a Nazirite

Constable: This description of John would have identified him as a typical “holy man” of the ancient East who lived in the desert. His clothing was woven “camel’s hair” held in place with “a leather belt” (cf. 2 Kings 1:8; cf. Mal. 4:5-6). This is how prophets typically dressed (cf. Zech. 13:4). His diet consisted of dried “locusts” and the “honey” of “wild” bees. This was clean food for the Jews (cf. Lev. 11:21-22). John may have been a lifelong Nazirite, or he may simply have lived an ascetic life out of devotion to God (Luke 1:15). His personal appearance and behavior, in addition to his divine anointing, must have encouraged the Jews who came to him to abandon self-indulgent living—in preparation for Messiah’s appearing.

Ron Daniel: Preaching repentance prepares people for a Savior who can forgive their sins.

John’s appearance and attitude show us that he was in no way conformed to the world. He didn’t eat delicious dinners or wear comfortable clothing. The book of Romans tells us,

Rom. 12:1-2 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, {which is} your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

You shouldn’t be conformed to this world. You should be a non-conformist. But that doesn’t mean making your appearance so outlandish

D. (:7) Preeminent by Virtue of the Testimony of John the Baptist —

Distinction Between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ

“And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I,

and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.”

Van Parunak: His strength: “mightier than I.” Singles out the Lord not for superior holiness, or piety, or honor, but for his power, his strength. Cf. Luke 11:21-22, the Lord in combat with Satan. Continues the political sense of the good news. The mighty king who can destroy our enemies has finally arrived.

E. (:8) Preeminent by Virtue of the Superior Baptism Administered by Jesus

“I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

Water baptism can only symbolize what only the Holy Spirit could accomplish in terms of the inward reality of cleansing from sin

Future baptism will include fire




A. (:9-11) Preparation in Terms of Divine Approval for Character and Ministry of Jesus Christ –

Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist

“And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased.’”

Jesus was the only man who didn’t need to be baptized and repent of His sins; yet He submitted to the baptism to fulfill all righteousness

Marked the dividing line between his early years of private life and his entering into his public ministry as the Messiah

Great Trinitarian passage

Perfect, sinless Lamb of God who fulfilled all righteousness and could die as a substitute for our sins

Van Parunak: Matt and Luke use a vanilla verb for “open.” Mark uses the verb “to rip apart.” A sudden, violent action. Points us in two directions:

1) Past, to the nation’s request in Isa. 64:1 for a direct intervention of God in their problems (see 63:15-64:5). Mt and Lk in fact use the word from Isa in the LXX, anoigw, but Mark comes closer to the semantics of Heb. QR(.

2) Future, in 15:38 of the veil in the temple. Only two occurrences in Mark.

3) Thus the Baptism and the Crucifixion round off one another. The first rips open heaven as God sets forth on his work of salvation (Isa 59:16). The second rips open the veil so that man can enter in to fellowship with God. Reinforces our understanding that the ministry of Christ is bracketed by these two events.

James Edwards: The baptism signals the confirmation of Jesus’ Sonship and the commencement of his servanthood.

Stedman: First, Jesus’ being baptized was an act of identification. Jesus was associating himself with us. He took our place but he began with his baptism, not the cross. This was the first step leading to that relationship in which he was ultimately to be made sin for us, i.e., actually become what we are. This was the first sign of his intention to do so, when he took the place of a sinner, and was baptized with a baptism of repentance and confession of sin.

I like the way Dr. H. A. Ironside explained this: He said that we are like paupers who have accumulated so many debts that we cannot pay them. These are our sins. These tremendous claims are made against us, and we cannot possibly meet them. But when Jesus came, he took all these mortgages and notes and agreements we could not meet and endorsed them with his own name, thereby saying that he intended to pay them, he would meet them. This is what his baptism signifies, and is why Jesus said to John the baptist, “…thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” {Matt 3:15b RSV}. He declared his intention to meet the righteous demands of God by himself undertaking to pay the debts of men. So the baptism was clearly an act of identification.

But it was also, as you will note from Mark’s account, an empowering moment: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove…”

The third aspect of his baptism is that it was a sign of assurance to Jesus.

[and validation to those around watching and hearing]

Hiebert: The dove was preeminently the bird of sacrifice for the Jews. Jesus was empowered for that self-emptying service as the Servant of the Lord to which He had committed Himself.

B. (:12-13) Preparation in Terms of Persevering Victory Over Satan and Sin and Temptation —

Testing of Jesus Christ in the Wilderness

“And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan;

and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.”

Hiebert: He went with a strong sense of the Spirit’s compulsion upon Him. Since the object of His Messianic mission was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), Jesus recognized that His acceptance of the Servant vocation made the encounter essential. It was the initiation of His mission to overthrow the devil. His miracle-working ministry of authority over the demons was based on the victory won in this encounter.

Constable: God allowed Satan to tempt Jesus for two reasons: to show that He would not draw away from the Father’s will, and to demonstrate His qualification for His mission.

James Edwards: Israel was in the wilderness forty years (Deut 8:2), Moses was on Mt. Sinai forty days and nights (Exod 34:28), and Elijah was led for forty days and nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kgs 19:8). In each instance the wilderness was a proving ground, a test of faithfulness, and a promise of deliverance. The same contrasts are present in Jesus’ temptation, for in the wilderness Jesus is both tempted by Satan and attended by angels.

Place of abandonment, loneliness, terror; harsh environment; no food or water

Stedman: Mark records one other thing about Jesus’ temptation. Despite the fact that he was without human help, and assailed by the tempter in all these ways, nevertheless he was not alone. He was sustained by a ministry of comfort which came in unusual ways: He was with the wild beasts, and the angels came and ministered to him. Do not read “wild beasts” as though he were afraid of being attacked by them. Leopards, lions, bears, and other wild animals were all around throughout that wilderness area. But Jesus was not afraid of them; he was with them, Mark says. They were his companions. They comforted him and helped him. I can picture Jesus, his body cold from hunger, snuggled up between two mountain lions, ministered to physically by the animals. ???

Hiebert: More likely, the presence of these wild animals was an added element of terror for Jesus. The first Adam succumbed in an environment that was beautiful and friendly; the last Adam maintained His purity in an environment that was desolate and hostile. . . This angelic ministry (in contrast to the wild beasts) attests the human weakness of the incarnate Christ, but it also bears witness to His Sonship.




A. Transition in Public Leadership – from John the Baptist to Jesus Christ

“And after John had been taken into custody,”

B. Significance of Galilee as Launching Point

“Jesus came into Galilee,”

Skipped over earlier events of youth of Jesus and his early time in Judea

C. Core Ministry = Preaching the Gospel

“preaching the gospel of God,”

Van Parunak: The Activity: Preaching

Distinguish “preach” <2784>, 1:15, from “teach” <1321>, 1:22.

a) Preach, doing the work of a herald, getting the attention of people who don’t know what’s going on. Supported today by the gift of the evangelist.

1) John does it in 1:4,7

2) Jesus does it only in 1:14, 38, 39.

3) Afterward, done only by

a> those healed by the Lord (usually translated “publish”), 1:45; 5:20; 7:36,

b> or disciples, 3:14; 6:12; 13:10; 14:9; 16:15, 20.

4) Moral: importance of working through disciples!

b) Teach, instructing those whose attention has already been gained. Supported today by the gift of teaching.

1) The disciples are only said once to have done this (6:30).

2) Once (7:7) it occurs in a quotation from Isaiah.

3) The other 15 times are all of the Lord Jesus, in chh. 1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 12, 14.

D. Kingdom Focus in Fullness of Time

“and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;’”

Hiebert: His presence as the personal embodiment of the kingdom produced an unavoidable crisis. Men’s response to Him determined their relationship to the kingdom. His presence also precipitated the conflict of righteousness with evil. His miracles and His power over the demonic world established the presence and triumph of God’s kingdom over the kingdom of Satan. In Him, the kingdom of God invaded this present evil world and has established a present, spiritual reign in those who accept Him as their Sovereign.

E. Call to Action = Repentance and Faith

“repent and believe in the gospel.”

Constable: The Jews needed to make a double response since the kingdom of God was at hand. They needed to “repent” and “believe.” These two words call for successive actions, but the action is really one act that involves two steps taken almost simultaneously. Repenting involves turning from something, and believing involves embracing something else. For example, a drowning man who is clinging to a scrap of wood needs to do two things when a lifeguard reaches him. He needs to release the wood and entrust himself to the lifeguard.

Van Parunak: Repentance is a change of mind about ourselves. We cannot be God’s people if we are sinful; we cannot expect our sins to be forgiven until we acknowledge that we have them. We must declare moral bankruptcy before we can enjoy the riches of heaven. Throughout the NT, repentance is the first step to salvation: Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20;

2 Tim. 2:25; Heb. 6:1.2 2 Pet 3:9. The NT gospel does not begin with “God loves you.” It begins with “You are a sinner, under the judgment of God, and you must repent.”




A. (:16-18) Calling of Simon and Andrew to Discipleship

“And as He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And they immediately left the nets and followed Him.”

Hiebert: Mark’s gospel gives no indication of any previous acquaintance with Jesus, but from John 1:35-42 and 3:22-30, it is clear that they had already accepted Him as Messiah and even assisted Him in His work. The call now given them was a call to intensive training as His disciples.

Wiersbe: Jesus did not invent the term ‘fishers of men.’ In that day, it was a common description of philosophers and other teachers who ‘captured men’s minds’ through teaching and persuasion.”

Book: Training of the Twelve

Hendriksen: Their decision to side with Jesus exhibits his greatness: the impelling force of his influence over the minds and hearts of men, so that when he calls they follow immediately.

James Edwards: Three aspects determine the call to discipleship. First and most importantly, Jesus is the unqualified subject of the call. . . For Mark, the act of following Jesus entails a risk of faith, and faith must be an act before it is a content of belief. Only as Jesus is followed can he be known. . . A second characteristic of the call to discipleship is that it is a call to service . . . requires a fundamental change of perspective, to have in mind the things of God rather than self (8:33). . . This service is costly . . . Finally, the call of the four fishermen indicates that the essential work of Jesus consists in forming a fellowship. . .

B. (:19-20) Calling of James and John to Discipleship

“And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.”

Why 2 sets of brothers?

Constable: The main point, however, is the immediacy of their response to Jesus. This reflects Jesus’ great authority over people.


He was the Ultimate Master … they were the Ultimate Apostles … Foundation for the Church


We call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ.

– What marks us as genuine disciples?

– How do we respond to the authority of the Son of God?

– Have we received the good news of the gospel in such a way that our lives have truly been transformed?