John Mark grew up in Jerusalem in a Christian home. He was influenced by Peter, and Peter's eyewitness accounts of Jesus must have been the chief source of his Gospel. Mark may have been the young man who streaked away on the night Jesus was arrested (14:51,52).
He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but the hardships of the serving life proved too much for him, so he turned back in Pamphylia. Later, when his cousin Barnabas wanted to take him on the next journey, Paul refused; Paul and Barnabas split up over this issue. Later, Mark came to know Jesus personally and he became a useful man. Paul wrote, "Get Mark ...he is helpful to me." (2Ti 4:11)
Mark 10:45 is the key verse of this gospel. After Mark was changed into a faithful servant of Jesus, he saw Jesus as the Suffering Servant spoken of in Isaiah's prophecies (Isa 52:13-53:12). He wrote about Jesus who served sinners by teaching repentance and faith, and who served the sick and demon-possessed crowds with his healing touch and his powerful word. He trained twelve disciples by being with them until they could learn his shepherd heart, and serve the crowds. He served us by shedding his blood on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for sin.
THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
Key Verse: 1:4
1. The gospel begins with prophecy (1-3)
God spoke through his prophet Isaiah about Jesus and his forerunner John some 700 years before their birth. God promised that he would send a messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah. John came to fulfill this prophecy and show that God is faithful to keep his promises.
2. The gospel begins in the wilderness (4a,6)
John was the voice in the wilderness. He wore simple clothes and ate simple food. His working place was not a luxurious office. He did not depend on money; he simply obeyed the word of God and preached that people should repent of their sins. He heralded the coming of the Lord.
3. The gospel begins with repentance (4b-8)
Those who hear the word of God, confess their sins, and ask God's mercy can welcome the Savior. He baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He forgives sins and gives life.
Prayer: Lord, may your gospel come with power into this wilderness world and into my heart.
One Word: Prepare the way for the Lord
JESUS, GOD'S SON, IS BAPTIZED BY JOHN
Key Verse: 1:11
1. Jesus accepts his mission (9-11)
Jesus was sinless, so he did not need the baptism of repentance. But he came from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the Jordan. He humbly accepted God's history and God's mission, and through his baptism, he stepped into God's redemptive history to fulfill all the promises of God. God was pleased. The Holy Spirit came to equip Jesus for his task.
2. Tempted by Satan (12-13)
A man who accepts God's mission is marked for the devil's attack. So, Satan, mankind's real enemy, attacked Jesus. His tool was temptation. Jesus did not accept the devil's seductive words, but defeating him was a hard fight. His weapon was the word of God (Mt 4). After the devil gave up (for the time being) and left, angels came and ministered to Jesus. The spiritual struggle is exhausting.
Prayer: Lord, help me to accept the mission you have for me; give me your Spirit and your word so that I may do battle with Satan and win.
One Word: God was pleased with Jesus
JESUS BEGINS HIS MINISTRY
Key Verse: 1:15
1. Repent and believe the good news (14-15)
John's arrest was a sign of the corruption of the times. It was bad news for people who love truth and righteousness. But Jesus did not give up. He proclaimed the good news that the kingdom of God is near. The Savior has come. He does not offer sympathy to oppressed people. He says to all, "Repent." He offers freedom from sin and citizenship in his kingdom.
2. Come, follow me (16-20)
Jesus' invitation, "Follow me," is a call to practical repentance. He calls us to leave self-centered lives and share in his life and mission. He wants us to love as he did. He wants us to be disciple-makers. The four fishermen whom Jesus called left everything and followed him. To be a disciple of Jesus means to put Jesus first--before family, job, home or possessions. A decision to follow Jesus is to begin a new life.
Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in your likeness and become a fisher of men.
One Word: Repent and follow Jesus
THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS' WORD
Key Verse: 1:27
1. Jesus teaches with authority (21-22)
Jesus taught with authority because he was the Son of God. He taught the Bible with authority because he himself believed and obeyed it. He was different from the scribes who only repeated what they heard, but never really believed it for themselves and never thought about obeying it.
2. Authority to cast out evil spirits (23-28)
Jesus' authority was not superficial. When he taught God's word, the demons in one man got so upset that the man shouted at Jesus. Even demons knew Jesus--and trembled. Jesus ordered the demon out, and it obeyed, reluctantly. Jesus came to challenge the devil and to set men free from his grip. Only Jesus can defeat the devil. When the demon obeyed Jesus, the people were amazed at the authority of Jesus' word.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your word. Let your word come into my heart this morning. Help me to believe your word and obey it so that I may share Jesus with others.
One Word: God's word has authority
JESUS HEALS MANY
Key Verse:1:31, 34
1. Simon's mother-in-law (29-31)
Jesus expressed his power in love. In his hands was the power that created the universe, but he took the hand of a sick old woman, Simon's mother-in-law and helped her up, and she was completely healed. Her strength returned and she served them with joyful gratitude.
2. The whole town gathered (32-34)
Jesus' day did not end when the sun went down. Sunset marked the end of the Sabbath; it was a signal for everyone to bring their sick and hurting people to Jesus. Jesus welcomed them and healed them. He also drove out many demons. The demons knew him so he would not let them speak. He was their enemy. He did not need their testimony. Jesus' busy Sabbath had begun in the synagogue, teaching the word of God. It ended with crowds coming to him for healing and help. He invaded Satan's stronghold and set many free from his power. His word has power to heal and power to defeat the devil.
Prayer: Lord, let your healing word dwell in my heart and come from my lips.
One Word: Jesus' power is expressed in love
Key Verse: 1:35
1. Early in the morning (35)
Jesus' popularity grew. People came to him from early in the morning until late at night. He healed all who came. But he had come to do God's will, not the will of the crowds; so he got up early in the morning to pray. He prayed for himself, for his disciples and for the crowds. He spent time with the Father. And he listened. Some people say that a regular time of prayer is not necessary--but it was for Jesus. How much more do I need to pray!
2. That is why I have come (36-39)
Jesus' disciples were caught up in the pressure of the crowds. Simon Peter even came looking for Jesus--the crowds were waiting. Jesus prayed and found God's direction. He had not come just to heal the physically sick; he had come to preach the word. So he left the milling, demanding crowd to travel around in Galilee and teach the word of God in the synagogues.
Prayer: Lord, help me to meet you in prayer each morning--to pray for your sheep and to find direction and strength for myself. And help me to listen.
One Word: Jesus got up early to pray
JESUS' LOVING TOUCH
Key Verse: 1:41
1. The man with leprosy (40)
A man with leprosy came to Jesus one day. Leprosy is a repulsive disease. This man must have been lonely and fatalistic. He wondered if anyone was willing to help a person like himself. He overcame the mocking of the crowds and came to Jesus, ready to be rejected.
2. Jesus was filled with compassion (41-45)
Jesus was not repulsed; he was filled with compassion. Even though it was against the law to touch a leper, Jesus touched him with a loving touch. He dispelled his fatalism by his words, "I am willing; be clean." Then Jesus gave him instructions which enabled him to become an active member of society once more. He told the man to keep quiet, but because of his joy, he could not help but tell about Jesus' love. Because of his disobedience, Jesus' ministry was hindered.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your compassion and for your loving touch. Lord, give me courage and compassion to touch untouchables.
One Word: Jesus is always willing
JESUS' AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS
Key Verse: 2:5
1. Four friends (1-5)
The four men who brought their friend to Jesus had to overcome many obstacles. They even made a hole in the roof of someone else's house. They brought their friend to Jesus by any means. Jesus saw their actions as faith. And he saw that the deeper problem of the paralyzed man was sin. Because of their faith to bring their hopeless friend and his faith to come, Jesus forgave him.
2. Authority to forgive sins (6-12)
Some religious leaders doubted Jesus' authority to forgive sins. So Jesus told the man to get up and walk. He gave visual evidence of his power to forgive and heal. The paralyzed man represents all those sinners who are paralyzed by sin and fatalism. He represents those who are full of bitterness and complaints. Jesus' word of forgiveness and healing makes useless men useful.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for my sins and help me to bring others to Jesus by faith, so that he may forgive and heal them, too.
One Word: Only Jesus can forgive and heal
JESUS CALLS LEVI
Key verse: 2:17
1. Follow me (13-14)
Tax collectors represent aggressive sinners, the kind of selfish people who get what they want by any means, regardless of who they hurt or how many enemies they make in the process. Levi the tax collector was rich--but he paid the price. He was branded as a quisling be his own people, he was probably not respected by his wife and children, and he was lonely. When Jesus called him to repent and begin a new life, he got up and followed. And he was full of joy.
2. I came to call sinners (15-17)
When Jesus was criticized for joining the joyful feast of tax collectors and sinners, he stated clearly his purpose in coming into the world. He did not come to live like a self-righteous Pharisee. He came to be a friend of sinners. He came to die for the sins of the world.
Prayer: Lord, forgive my calculating mind, and help me to hear your call and follow you simply, as Levi did.
One Word: Jesus came to call sinners.
NEW WINE; NEW WINESKINS
Key Verse: 2:22
1. When the Bridegroom is with us (18-20)
When some people wanted Jesus to fit into a religious mold, he hued three metaphors to teach the meaning of the gospel. Jesus is the Bridegroom. When he is with us, joy is in our hearts, no matter what the circumstances. He makes our lives like a wedding feasts. He satisfies our hearts.
2. Old garment, new patch (21)
When an old garment patched with unshrunk cloth is washed, the patch shrinks and tears the garment. Jesus' gospel cannot be used to patch up old, legalistic ways of living and thinking.
3. New wine, new wineskins (22)
Old wineskins become hard and brittle. New wine ferments and expands. If it is put in old wineskins, they will burst. Jesus' gospel changes us into new people. If we are not ready to repent and be changed, the gospel cannot be put in us.
Prayer: Lord, let the new wine of the gospel be in me. Let me stay with Jesus.
One Word: Be a new wineskin
LORD OF THE SABBATH
Key Verse: 2:28
1. Jesus' hungry disciples (23-24)
Jesus' disciples probably had not had breakfast, so as they passed through the grainfields one Sabbath, they plucked some raw grain and ate it. This was allowed by law (Dt 23:25). The Pharisees, however, were watching them closely, looking for a way to discredit Jesus. They criticized the disciples for harvesting grain on the Sabbath. We should not use our Bible knowledge to crush others.
2. A Bible lesson (25-28)
Jesus taught them the true meaning of the Sabbath. He used as an example David, a man after God's own heart. David was not a legalist. He loved God; he also loved people. When his men were hungry, he found a way to feed them. God gave the law to build men up--not to tear them down. Furthermore, Jesus himself is the Creator God, the Lord of the Sabbath. No one can criticize him. He is the Lord of the Sabbath and Lord of every day.
Prayer: Lord, help me study the Bible and learn from Jesus, not from the Pharisees.
One Word: Jesus Christ is Lord of all
STRETCH OUT YOUR HAND
Key Verse: 3:5b
1. Stand up in front of everyone (1-3)
A man with a shriveled hand was in the synagogue when Jesus came one Sabbath. He could not play the violin. He probably kept his useless hand in his pocket; he thought that he himself was useless. When Jesus came in, hope sprang up in his heart. But Jesus' enemies were there too. They had murder on their minds. Jesus did not shrink back. When he told the man to stand up in front of everyone, he was inviting him to become vulnerable--and to trust only in Jesus.
2. Stretch out your hand (4-6)
To be healed by Jesus, he had to take his useless hand out of his pocket and expose it to everyone. He did it, and Jesus healed him. Jesus' enemies could not answer Jesus' question, nor could they say anything about his act of mercy. They did not repent, so they went out and plotted to kill Jesus. No one can be neutral before Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, help me to stand with you and stretch out my shriveled hand.
One Word: Stretch out your hand
JESUS APPOINTS TWELVE APOSTLES
Key Verse: 3:14
1. Jesus withdraws; the crowds follow (7-12)
Jesus risked his life to restore one man's life. He incurred the wrath of the religious leadership, and he revealed himself to be the true shepherd of Israel. So people came to him from everywhere. Each one thought his problem most urgent--so, in their eagerness, they almost pushed Jesus into the lake. He taught and healed from a small boat. Demons could not endure his presence.
2. Jesus appoints the Twelve (13-19)
Jesus spent the night in prayer (Lk 6: 12). Then he appointed 12 men to be apostles. His training course was simple: They were to be with him. Then he would send them out to preach and serve the crowds. Someday, through these men the gospel would be preached to the ends of the earth, and the good news would be passed down through history to us. Jesus concentrated on training disciples and he commands us to make disciples too.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a good disciple of Jesus; also help me to be a disciple-maker.
One Word: Disciples and disciple-makers
OPPOSITION FROM ALL SIDES
Key Verse: 3:34,35
1. Those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit (20-30)
When Jesus gave himself wholly to serving the crowds, he was opposed by those who hated him and by those who loved him. The Pharisees saw him driving out demons and healing the sick by the power of the Holy Spirit, but they tried to discredit his ministry, saying that Satan was his power-source. This was a lie and an insult to God. Only Jesus is strong enough to break Satan's hold on a person. Those who see God's work, but deliberately reject it and plant doubt in others are committing a sin.
2. Jesus' mother and brothers (31-35)
Jesus' family thought he was crazy to spend himself so unstintingly for the selfish crowds. When they came for him, Jesus did not even greet them. They were concerned about his human life; he was committed to God's will. Those who do God's will are his real family. Can your commitment to Jesus take precedence over all human commitments?
Prayer: Lord, defeat Satan's power in me. Help me to do your will.
One Word: Whoever does God's will is my brother
JESUS TAUGHT IN PARABLES
Key Verse: 4:11
1. A farmer went out to sow (1-8)
Jesus was like a farmer who sows seed. The crowd was like a field with all kinds of soil. The crowd stood on the shore, while Jesus used a small boat as a pulpit. In the parable, the seed scattered by the farmer fell on four kinds of soil. Three kinds proved unfruitful--the path was too hard, the rocky soil too shallow, the thorns too profuse. Only the seed sown on the good soil produced an abundant harvest.
2. The secret of the kingdom of God (9-12)
Most people enjoyed listening to Jesus' parables, but they did not really understand them. The Twelve were different from the crowd. They really wanted to learn, so they came and asked. To them was given the secrets of the kingdom of God. They were good soil. They had a commitment to follow Jesus and to obey him. Those without such a commitment cannot know the secrets of the kingdom of God.
Prayer: Lord, I want to follow you. Teach me the secrets of the kingdom of God.
One Word: He who has ears, let him hear
THE PARABLE EXPLAINED
Key Verse: 4:20
1. Unproductive heart soil (13-19)
The seed represents the word of God. Whether or not it produces a crop depends on the soil. The uncommitted heart is like a path. Such a person enjoys superficial relationships, or pseudo-intellectual ideas for his own pleasure. He never commits himself to the truth. Some hearts are like the thin soil which covers a rock: They receive the word joyfully, but don't let it change their lives. So they have no root. They don't know Jesus. When rejection or persecution arises because of the word, they wilt and give up. Hearts like the thorny soil are full of anxiety and/or worldly desires. God's word is choked and dies.
2. Good soil (20)
When we repent, prepare the soil of our hearts and accept God's word and hold on to it, a good crop is produced--30, 60 and 100 times what was sown. Each of us has all of these soils in his/her heart from time to time.
Prayer: Lord, help me to plow my heart soil with repentance until it is good soil.
One Word: Have good heart soil
A LAMP ON A STAND
Key Verse: 4:21
1. Put the lamp on its stand (21-23)
A lamp is lighted and put on a stand in order to drive away darkness and expose everything in the room. One who does not want to repent might want to hide the lamp under the bed. Jesus is the true light who came into the world (Jn 1:9). He