How Can Jesus Help Me?

Explore the Bible Series

December 6, 2009


Background Passage: Mark 1:1-45

Lesson Passage: Mark 1:14-31


Introduction to the Gospel According to Mark


New Testament scholars generally agree that Mark was the earliest of the Gospels, and that this account of the public life of Jesus served as an important resource for Matthew and Luke.Luke clearly acknowledged that he had used several sources (See Luke 1:1-4), and both Matthew and Luke appear to quote directly, at times, from Markís Gospel.If I assume rightly, these writers simply utilized the most basic principles of historical inquiry, and their careful use of resources, as I see it, does not preclude the work of the Holy Spirit.


Authorship: Like the other Gospels, this book does not directly indicate who wrote this account; therefore, our conclusions concerning authorship must evidence some humility.However, external resources do give some direction in this matter.During the Second Century (c. 140 A.D.), Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, attributed this book to John Mark (Papias made this claim in, Exegesis of the Lordís Oracles, a no longer extant work- See William Laneís very useful commentary). Ireneus, Bishop of Lyon, also affirmed Marcan authorship and the influence of Simon Peter on Markís work.The Muratorian Canon, though badly damaged, seems to attribute the book to Mark as well. At the beginning of the Third Century, Tertullian and Clement of Rome add their voices to the Marcan chorus.This view, of course, is not without some detractors.Some scholars have pointed out, for instance, some clumsiness with the geography of Palestine and alleged unfamiliarity with Judean religious customs.Nevertheless, the preponderance of evidence seems to point to Marcan authorship, in my judgment.


We know little about the private life of John Mark.It appears he came from a Hellenized Jewish family, thus the Latin name Marcus.His Jewish name, John, occurs in the Acts of the Apostles and some of the Pauline Epistles.Mary, Markís mother, came from an important family, and she owned property, in Jerusalem.Indeed, her home acted as an early meeting place of the primitive church. Barnabas, an early convert to Christianity, was Markís cousin, and Mark accompanied Barnabas and the Apostle Paul on a portion of the First Missionary Journey.Markís abandonment of the missionary band occasioned some tension between Paul and Barnabas, but we find Mark, again at Paulís side, during the apostleís Roman imprisonment (See Acts 13:13, Acts 15:36-41, and Colossians 4:10-11). ††Peter may have played a role in Markís conversion (See I Peter 5:13 where the apostle refers to him as ďmy son.Ē).Church tradition indentifies Mark with the evangelization of Alexandria, Egypt, where he may have suffered martyrdom.


Date of Composition:I have tried to distill a great deal of information in this brief summary.Research convinces me of the early composition of the Gospel of Mark, perhaps as early as 65 A.D. Even secular scholars, like Michael White, date this Gospel about 70 A.D. The last half of the Sixties proved most traumatic for the Roman Empire and for Judea, in particular.Caesar Nero spiraled into apparent insanity, and his reign disintegrated into near chaos.This chaotic environment spread to Judea, and the entire region burst into the flames of insurrection, led by the Zealots and Iscarii, Jewish insurgents intent on undermining Roman governance in Judea.After Neroís suicide, General Vespasian left the command of imperial troops to his son Titus Flavius.This ruthless military officer destroyed Judean resistance and razed Jerusalem in a near-apocalyptic conquest.In addition to severe persecution of the Jews, Nero and Vespasian ordered localized maltreatment of Christians. More than thirty years had passed since the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the first generation of Christian leaders were threatened by the imperial violence (church tradition claims that Simon Peter and Paul died about 64-66 A.D.).Perhaps these dismal circumstances prompted Mark to pen his account of the public life of Jesus.The demise of the apostles may have fuelled Markís desire to preserve their preaching of the kerugma (New Testament word for the ďGood NewsĒ).


The Nature of Gospel Writings: In my work as a historian, I often read biographies.My familiarity with the writing of biographies convinces me that we should not read these Gospels as biography, in the modern sense.Indeed, the Gospels prove most frustrating in their dearth of information about the early life of Jesus.Mark, for instance, began his gospel with an account of Jesusí life, at about age thirty.The Gospel gives only fleeting glimpses of the Lordís life prior to his baptism by John the Baptist. Even then, Mark does not follow a strict chronology of the Lordís public life; rather, the author, follows a theological, sermonic pattern.His aim was to proclaim the person and work of Jesus, not to recount a daily chronology. It seems safe to conclude that Mark sought to preserve apostolic teaching concerning Jesus, with particular attention to the preaching of Simon Peter.


Lesson Outline:


I.        A Summary of the Ministry of John the Baptist (vv. 1-13)

A.     Introduction to the Gospel of Mark (v. 1): Mark began his work by identifying Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.He used the word ďGospelĒ (euangelion) to reveal the joyous news of the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.To further solidify the readerís understanding of the person of Jesus, Mark called him the ďSon of God.ĒSome commentators question the validity of ďSon of GodĒ, but the reading seems reliable, according to my research.

B.     Old Testament predictions of the work of John the Baptist (vv. 2-3): Mark identified Isaiah 40:3 as a predictive passage concerning John; however, Markís citation begins with a text from Malachi (See Malachi 3:1).Perhaps we should not expect ancient writers to utilize the same kind of exact literary citation as we would find in modern historical works.John, according to Mark, would come as a messenger, ďa voice of one crying in the wilderness.Ē

C.     The public ministry of John (vv. 4-8): The Baptist appeared in the Judean wilderness and immediately made a profound impression on the entire region.Many people (ďall the country of JudeaĒ) came for Johnís baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins.This forgiveness of sins relates to the repentance of the people, and was evidenced by submission to water baptism.Mark seemed impressed by Johnís somewhat eccentric dress and diet, but the authorís attention centered on the Baptistís humble attention to the superiority of the Lord Jesus.He, in fact, baptized in water, but Jesus, John claimed, would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

D.     The baptism of Jesus (vv. 9-11): In due season, Jesus authenticated the ministry of John by submitting to baptism.This act helped identify Jesus with sinners, and inaugurated the public life of the Lord. As Jesus emerged from the water, the Holy Spirit descended on him, like a dove.This does not necessarily mean the Spirit came in the form of a dove; rather, it may imply that the Spirit descended like a dove would light on a roost.Perhaps most importantly, a voice came from heaven identifying Jesus as Godís Son and affirming the Fatherís approval of the Son.

E.      Jesusí temptation in the wilderness (vv. 12-13): Mark devoted considerably less material, than Matthew and Luke, to Jesusí sojourn in the desert.In Godís economy, desert experiences pay critical roles, and here, at the very inauguration of the Lordís public life, he stayed in the wilderness for forty days.All three Synoptics highlight Satanís activity during Jesusí solitude, an activity the Lord resisted by quoting Scripture.


II.     Calling of Four Disciples (vv. 14-20):

A.     A summary of the Lordís preaching (vv. 14-15): Jesus initiated his work by preaching the Kingdom of God and calling on his hearers to repent and believe.ďThe KingdomĒ recalls Godís covenants in the Old Testament, especially the promises made to King David.Through Christ, God ushered in his royal governance in the hearts of covenant people.Repentance and faith mark the identity of Kingdom citizens.

B.     The first four disciples (vv. 16-20): Jesus chose to incorporate a band of followers in his Kingdom work, and he called four fishermen to train for the important work of bearing witness to the King and his Realm.The Lord adopted Capernaum as his headquarters, and he called two sets of brothers to follow him: Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee.Jesus may have already known James and John (some believe they may have been Jesusí kinsmen).The Gospel of John gives more detail about the call of Peter and Andrew (See John 1:35-44).


III.   The Exorcism of a Demon Possessed Man (vv. 21-28): Demon possession appears, without explanation, in the text of the Gospels.We find little evidence of this kind of demonic activity in the Old Testament (perhaps the experience of King Saul serves as an example), but the Gospel writers address this phenomenon rather matter-of-factly.They offer no explanation of possession, but each of the writers describes detailed ďsymptomsĒ of the malady.The Gospel writers carefully distinguish between physical illnesses and demon possession. This manís condition suppressed his human personality and reduced him to a mouthpiece for the evil spirit.William Lane rightly points out that demon possession aimed at destroying the image of God, in its victims.In a powerful demonstration of his authority, the King subdued his enemy with two simple commands (notice that the Lord did not employ an elaborate exorcism ritual), ďBe silent, and come out of him.ĒThe synagogue crowd marveled at the power of Jesus, and word spread rapidly of Jesusí ministry to this poor afflicted man.


IV.  The Healing Ministry of Jesus (vv. 29-45)

A.     Healing of Peterís mother-in-law (vv. 29-31): During a season of fellowship with his new followers, Jesus received news of a serious illness suffered by Peterís mother-in-law.We cannot know the precise nature of the womanís illness, only that she suffered from a dangerous fever.Jesus touched the woman, and she recovered from her illness.

B.     Additional healings and exorcisms (vv. 32-34): News of the Lordís power apparently spread throughout Capernaum, and many people brought the sick for the Masterís touch.It seems that these remarkable events occurred in the household of Peter and Andrew.

C.     The Lordís solitary prayer (vv. 35-39): Despite the pressing claims on his time, Jesus devoted the early morning hours to private prayer.He withdrew to a secluded place and engaged in fervent prayer, long before sunrise.There was, it seems, a vital connection between prayer and power to heal.After a while, the disciples sought Jesus because of the press of the crowds, but the Lord reminded the four men of his mission to preach throughout Galilee.

D.     The healing of a leper (vv. 40-45): The Bible uses the word ďleprosyĒ to describe a broad range of serious skin illnesses, including what we know today as Hansonís Disease.Leviticus Thirteen prescribes complete isolation for those suffering from leprosy; yet, this man came boldly to Jesus, and the Lord touched him.In this historic context, these actions were most unusual.The text tells us that this manís plight moved the Lord with compassion, and the manís disease was instantly cleansed.After healing the man, Jesus commanded him to tell no one of his healing, but the man disobeyed the Lord.Because of the manís disobedience, Jesus could not enter the towns, as he planned.