Mark 1:1-20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 5, 2004


Mark – what do we know about him?

His mother was the sister of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), making him Barnabas’ nephew.

His mother’s name was Mary (Acts 12:12), and the early church often met at her house. It was at this house that the church was praying for Peter while he was in prison and it was at this house that Peter went after he was miraculously released from prison.

His Hebrew name was John (Acts 12:12), he is sometimes referred to as “John Mark”.

When Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey, he went with them as a helper (Acts 13:5).  But when things started to get tough, he abandoned them when they got to a place called Pamphylia and apparently returned to Antioch (Acts 15:38)

When Paul and Barnabas were going to start their second missionary journey, they had a huge argument over whether or not to take Mark with them.  Paul didn’t think Mark was very trustworthy, but Barnabas wanted to take Mark.  Paul and Barnabas ended up parting ways with Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39).

At some point, Mark was reconciled with Paul, and Paul even asked Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome because Paul saw that Mark had grown up and had become a faithful man (2Tim. 4:11).

God can take people who have failed before and help them become usable again.

At some point Mark also spent time with the apostle Peter, perhaps while he was in Rome.  Tradition has it that Mark wrote his gospel between AD 56-63 while at Rome with Peter.  Mark is called by early church historians Peter’s “interpreter” while in Rome.  It is thought that the gospel of Mark was pretty much the account of Jesus’ life as told by Peter.  We think that Mark has included a brief mention of himself as the young man in the Garden of Gethsemane:

(Mark 14:51-52 KJV)  And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: {52} And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Tradition has it that Mark then went to Alexandria, where he started a church.  He died as a martyr in AD 64 in the eighth year of the reign of Caesar Nero.

Mark 1

:1-8 John the Baptist prepares the way

:3 …Prepare ye the way of the Lord

The ministry of John the Baptist was foretold in several prophecies:

(Mal 3:1a KJV)  Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me

(Isa 40:3 KJV)  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

John’s ministry was about getting people ready for Jesus.

In ancient days when a king was to travel, his “advance-men” would go ahead of him and make sure that the roads were fit to travel on.  It would be like going through the President’s motorcade route ahead of time and filling in all the potholes.

John got the people ready for the coming of The King.

But instead of getting the streets ready by filling in potholes, he was getting the people ready by urging them to get their hearts right with God.

:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

There is a recent claim by archaeologists in Israel that they have found a cave that might have been connected to John the Baptist or some of his followers.  The cave is located a few miles outside of Jerusalem in the town where tradition says John grew up with his parents.

It might be that this cave has a connection with John, but this would not have been a place where John baptized because we’re told where John baptized – in the “wilderness” out by the Jordan River, not in a cave.

remissionaphesis – release from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), letting go of the penalty

John’s message was about repentance and forgiveness.

His message was that if you would turn from your sins, you would find forgiveness.

Being baptized was a way of showing other people that you had made a choice to turn from your sins to get ready for the coming of the Messiah.  Part of the symbolism of baptism is that of being “washed”, having the dirt of sin in your life washed away.

:5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea

John began to develop quite a following.

:6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

Matthew tells us his garment was woven out of camel’s hair (Mat. 3:4).

The “girdle of skin” would be a leather belt.  Elijah was also someone who wore a leather belt (2Ki. 1:8).  John is a partial fulfillment of the return of Elijah.

Locusts and wild honey – Yum.  Honey-nut Grasshoppers, a new breakfast cereal, breakfast of prophets!

He probably also had very long hair and a long beard because it seems he was a Nazirite like Samson – a man who grew his hair long to show his special devotion to God, a devotion also shown by a person abstaining from wine or liquor:

(Luke 1:15 KJV)  For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

All of this shows us that John was a bit of a “wild-man”, a “Jeremiah Johnson”.

:7 one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes …

Untying another person’s sandal was something only a servant would stoop to do.  John didn’t see himself as even being worthy of doing that for the Messiah.


Humility and ministry.

John had his head on straight.
He had crowds listening to him, but he knew that he wasn’t the one to be following.
He knew that his purpose was to point people to Jesus.
Later on when Jesus would begin to gain in popularity, some of the people asked John if he was bothered by it.
(John 3:26-30 NLT)  John's disciples came to him and said, "Teacher, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you said was the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us." {27} John replied, "God in heaven appoints each person's work. {28} You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him--that is all. {29} The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom's friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom's friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. {30} He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
It is possible to begin doing things for God for all the right reasons.  But as you go along, you find that you begin to get quite a lot of attention for the things you do.  You can get to the point where you end up doing the right things for the wrong reasons.  Rather than doing things to serve God, you do things to get attention.

This is the challenge for the person in the “up-front” kind of ministry like being a pastor or a worship leader.

Keep your motives in the right place. He must increase. We must decrease.

:8 … he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Just as John was immersing people in the Jordan River, Jesus would one day immerse His disciples in the Holy Ghost.

This is what took place after Jesus had died on the cross, rose again on the third day, and then ascended into heaven.  On the day of Pentecost Jesus baptized His disciples with the Holy Ghost:

(Acts 2:1-4 NLT)  On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus' resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. {2} Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. {3} Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. {4} And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

:9-11 Jesus is baptized

:9 Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

Jesus wasn’t baptized because He needed to repent from His sins.  He was baptized for a couple of reasons:

Jesus said He needed to be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mat. 3:15).  God wanted Jesus to be baptized.  This means He was setting an example for us to follow.

Jesus was also baptized in order to reveal Himself to the world.  John knew that one day the Messiah would show up while John was baptizing people and John would be able to point and say, “This is Him!” –

(John 1:31 ICB)  Even I did not know who he was. But I came baptizing with water so that the people of Israel could know who he is."

:11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Notice how the entire Trinity is involved.  Some groups teach something called “modalism”.  They believe that in the Old Testament, God is known as “The Father”.  Then the Father became a man and Jesus was born.  Then after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven He was changed into the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches that there is only One God (Deut. 6:4).  The Bible also teaches that there are three distinct Persons.  All three persons have always existed. 

We see it here at Jesus’ baptism.  The Son is being baptized.  The Holy Spirit is present.  The Father speaks.

How can there be three and also only be one?  Hey, God is simply a bit more complicated than you or I can comprehend.

:12-13 Jesus is tempted

:13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan


Ministry brings trouble

As soon as you begin to step out to serve the Lord, you will find yourself facing difficulties.
Satan doesn’t want you to serve the Lord, so he’ll do his best to stop you.
God allows Satan to test you because God wants men and women who will be able to stand against any difficulty.
God really doesn’t want wimps to serve Him.  He wants people who will keep going through every difficulty.
I don’t mean to discourage you or make you fearful, but you need to learn to expect it.
If you step out and decide to teach a Sunday School class, don’t be surprised when all hell breaks loose in your home on the Saturday night before you teach your first class.  Expect it and don’t let it stop you.
The team that is in Russia right now has experienced it.  One of the leaders of the group is Olivia Hurtado.  About a month ago she was in an accident.  Someone turned left in front of her and her car was totaled.  To make things worse, the person then lied to the police to make is sound as if Olivia was at fault.  For awhile her insurance company threatened to not pay for the damages.  But Olivia didn’t let is stop her.
The moment you take a step to serve the Lord, the enemy paints a bullseye on your back.
But don’t let it make you afraid.  Just be ready for the attacks and be sure to have your body armor on.

:14-15 Jesus preaches

:15 the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Repentmetanoeo – to change one’s mind, to change one’s mind for better.  It means that you know that you’ve been living your life wrong.  It means that you change your mind and are ready to turn your life around.

Repent and believe the gospel – are you ready to start trusting Jesus?

gospel” means “good news”.  The good news is that God has made a way for us to come to know Him.

He’s taken care of the big problem we have – our sin.
He sent His Son to die on a cross to pay for our sin.
And now we can be forgiven and come to now God.  That’s Good News.
The kingdom of God is at hand – you don’t know when you’re going to die.
Hurricanes.  Terrorists.  We live in some pretty scary times.
Even without the “scary” things, the truth is that we are all going to die.  Are you ready?
Repent and believe.

:16-20 Calling Disciples

:17 Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

Jesus is still looking for fishers of men.

He may ask some to leave their profession.

He may leave others in their profession, but want them to go fishing at work.

Whether you leave your profession to follow Him or not, He still wants to be number one in your life.

And when He’s number One, He wants you to have the same goal that He does – fishing for men.

He’s not fishing for men just to “catch” them, but to rescue them.

He’s not like the terrorists who captured an entire school of people in Russia and held them captive.
He’s more like the emergency service workers who are rescuing people from the ravages of Hurricane Frances.


The True Hero of the Titanic
John Harper was born to a pair of solid Christian parents on May 29th, 1872. It was on the last Sunday of March 1886, when he was thirteen years old that he received Jesus as the Lord of his life. He never knew what it was to “sow his wild oats.” He began to preach about four years later at the ripe old age of 17 years old by going down to the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in earnest entreaty for men to be reconciled to God.
As John Harper’s life unfolded, one thing was apparent...he was consumed by the word of God. When asked by various ministers what his doctrine consisted of, he was known to reply “The Word of God!” After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by Rev. E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, England. This set Harper free to devote his whole time of energy to the work so dear to his heart. Soon, John Harper started his own church in September of 1896. (Now known as the Harper Memorial Church.) This church which John Harper had started with just 25 members, had grown to over 500 members when he left 13 years later. During this time he had gotten married, but was shortly thereafter widowed. However brief the marriage, God did bless John Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.
Ironically, John Harper almost drowned several times during his life. When he was two and a half years of age, he almost drowned when he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived, and at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. Perhaps, God used these experiences to prepare this servant for what he faced next...
It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship’s launch, it was the world’s largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship’s starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in.
On board the ship that night was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner.
As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling “Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!” It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.
That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, “Are you saved?” The young man replied that he was not. Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said “Here then, you need this more than I do...” and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris. Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ. Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people, yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.
Sources for this article: "The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997, Scriptures are quoted from the King Jams Bible. John Climie, George Harper, & Bill Guthrie from "Jesus Our Jubilee Ministries" in Dallas, Oregon

Jesus is still looking for fishers of men.