Mark 1

Jesus' Early Galilean Ministry (1:1-3:16)


Mark was writing to the Roman world which venerated its emperors to a place of worship and placed a high value on calloused and oppressive leadership. The highest position one could have in Roman society was a place of leadership. Mark opens his Gospel presenting Jesus not primarily as a Leader King sent from God but as a Servant King sent from God. To understand Mark's commitment to reveal Christ as the Servant of the Lord is the first step in really comprehending the Gospel of Mark. Mark's goal is simple: to write the beginning of the story of the Gospel—from the birth of Jesus to His ascension. From the opening line, Mark makes it clear that Jesus is also God (1).

The Prediction of the Voice (2-3)

Because Mark is presenting Jesus as the Servant of the Lord, he dispenses with the genealogy of Jesus, for no servant would know their genealogy, nor would it be important. Instead, Mark quotes a prophecy from Isaiah predicting John the Baptist would be a voice announcing Jesus' coming.

The Fulfillment of the Voice (4-8)

Mark then rehearses the life of John the Baptist who did not arrive in the halls of leadership but in the wilderness announcing a change in the way people would encounter God. Reminiscent of the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River into the promised land, John the Baptist was at the spot where they crossed and baptized people into a change of mind regarding how sins were to be forgiven. He offered no sacrifice for sin, merely an immersion in water (4). Mark makes it clear many were going to the Jordan waters, not to the temple, to offer sacrifices and there they were confessing their sins to receive a moral cleansing from God (5).

Mark then made it clear that John the Baptist was a prophet, dressed as a prophet and living like a prophet (6). Mark portrays John the Baptist as a man who was the voice introducing the coming Servant. John declared the coming Servant was a mightier Servant than John and in fact the Servant to come was so special that John was not even worthy to wash His feet (7).

Then Mark gets to his point by quoting John the Baptist declaring the Servant was going to baptize not the external person only but the whole person for real life-change in the Holy Spirit (8).

The Baptism of Jesus (9-11)

For Mark, the baptism of Jesus is the Jesus genealogy. In baptism, Jesus is declared God's Servant, Son, and Christ. Jesus went to the water and was baptized by John, not confessing his sin but to birth His public ministry by being anointed by His Father to begin to act. When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens tore open, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and the Voice assured Him He was the beloved Son and Yahweh was pleased with His life.

Jesus' Temptation (12-13)

Again, it is important to remember that Mark is seeking to reveal Jesus the Servant of Yahweh. After being told He is the Servant Son, Jesus is driven into the wilderness as a Servant. A freshly crowned leader would go to a party or reception after a coronation, but Jesus, as a servant, was taken by God to the wilderness. The emphasis in the wilderness is not on the actual temptation but on the fact that Jesus was there for forty days, the wild animals did not bother Him, He endured the trial, and the angels of God ministered to Him. In Mark's mind, Jesus was being displayed as the Son of God in His endurance in the wilderness and as the Servant of God in His obedience in the wilderness.

The Calling of Disciples (14-20)

Mark records that as the Servant of God, Jesus went to Galilee to preach the Gospel. Mark notes that Jesus was not derailed by John's arrest—He did not play it safe—Jesus continued on with John's message, announcing the time had come, the rule of God was present, and if people wanted to come under the rule of a new King, they would need to change the way they thought about God and believe in the Gospel (14-15).

It was during this season when Jesus saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, fishing and called them to join Him in bringing the rule of God to the world (16-17). He used their occupation to describe what they would be doing: catching men with God's gospel and bringing them to repentance, healing, and liberation. He did the same thing with two other brothers, James and John (19-20). While much is being left out of the account of their beginning relationship, Mark is wanting to make it clear that Jesus the Servant of God was calling others to serve God's mission with Him.

Casting Out a Demon (21-28)

Mark, in further developing Jesus as Servant, tells the story of an incident that happened in Capernaum, on a Sabbath. Capernaum was a seashore village, not too far from the home of all the brothers Jesus had just called. For whatever reason, Jesus moved the center of His ministry to Capernaum and it was here where Mark tells us Jesus was teaching one Sabbath.

Jesus was God's servant, but Mark points out Jesus taught with authority, meaning under the unction of the Spirit, certain of the truth He was speaking. He was distinctly different from religious teachers who taught how to follow rules; Jesus taught how to connect with the Father (22-23).

While preaching, a man with a morally sick spirit began to cry out in mockery. First, he reminded Jesus and the crowd that Jesus was from the small, insignificant village of Nazareth. Second, he sought to stir up fear by asking if Jesus' message was going to be destructive. Finally, he reverted to mockery, stating he knew Jesus to be the Messiah from Nazareth. All his words were seeking to demean Jesus and stir unbelief—how could Messiah come from Nazareth? However, the demon also knew such knowledge could also venerate Him as One who had the truth. Either way, the man was a disruption (24).

Mark says Jesus rebuked the man by telling the spirit in him to be silent and come out of him (25). The morally foul spirit threw the man into convulsions and then, with shrieks, came out of him (26). Mark then goes back to those watching and listening and records the movement within their minds, deciding Jesus had a new teaching and it came with such an authority of God that even foul spirits obeyed Him (26-27). It was this miracle that caused His fame to really begin to spread (28).

Healing Peter's Mother-In-Law (29-34)

Jesus left the synagogue and went to Peter's home to visit his sick mother-in-law. Jesus healed her so completely and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

After the Sabbath had ended, about 6:00 pm, the sick and oppressed of Capernaum were brought to the front door of Peter's home. Jesus healed many of them and cast out demons. Some people who had demons in them were trying to legitimize themselves by showing they knew Who Jesus was, but Jesus did not permit them to speak.

Jesus Prays (35-39)

The next day, after such a fruitful experience of power, Mark tells of Jesus going to early morning prayer with His Father. It was dark when Jesus left and as the Servant of the Lord, Jesus went to a place where no one was present and prayed.

The disciples rose from their sleep, and without prayer, went searching for Jesus until they found him and told Him people were gathered again to drink from His success. Jesus told his disciples that, as the Servant of the Lord, He was not interested in increasing success but He was interested in doing what His Father wished. With that, Jesus invited them to go to with Him to the next towns and begin to declare God's rule had come. Jesus did and Mark recognizes that a huge sign of Jesus' Kingdom message was casting out demons.

Leper Healed (40-45)

To make clear that Jesus, as God's Servant, can only do what the Father leads Him to do, Mark tells the story of Jesus healing a leper. The leper, having heard about other healings, expresses his faith by telling Jesus that, if He is willing, He can make Him clean. Jesus, moved by compassion, touched the leper (something forbidden by law) and told the leper He was willing and then pronounced him clean. The leprosy immediately left him; we have no confirmation his flesh was restored.

Jesus then told the leper to not say anything to anyone but to go to the priest, show the priest his cleansing, and then offer the sacrifice commanded by Moses to confirm to the priest proof of what had happened. It was in this way that Jesus wanted to make the healing public, letting the priest bear witness and giving an irrefutable proof.  

The leper however couldn't wait; he spread the news freely, creating such a stir that Jesus had to change up His ministry venue and approach. Instead of ministering modestly within towns, Jesus had to go to unpopulated places and have people come to Him for ministry as the crowds became so large.