Mark 1 Bible Study Notes

Section 1: The Beginning

Read Mark 1:1

In the first verse of his Gospel, Mark tells us three things about Jesus.  Firstly, Jesus is given the title Christ (or in Hebrew, Messiah), secondly, Jesus is introduced as the Son of God and thirdly, the events of Jesus’ life are gospel.

Definition: Christ/Messiah
The Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) was the anointed one, prophesied about in the Old Testament.  Anointing signifies kingship.  So, the Messiah was a king, a descendant of King David, who would reign over Israel.  He would rule wisely and justly, always doing what was right (Jeremiah 23:5-6).  In fact, his reign would be eternal (Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44).  And he wouldn’t just reign over Israel, but over the entire world bringing eternal peace (Isaiah 2:2-4).  This Kingdom on Earth is called the kingdom of God.

Definition: Son of God
Firstly, and most obviously, when Jesus is called the Son of God it means he is divine.  He is the genuine Son of God the Father.  Mark 1 shows very clearly that Jesus is the divine Son of God.  In verse 3, Mark quotes Isaiah 40 saying “prepare the way of the Lord [Hebrew:Yahweh]”.  He then presents John the Baptist preparing they way for Jesus as a fulfilment of this scripture.  Jesus is Yahweh, according to Mark 1.  He is the Son of God, truly divine.
“Another layer of meaning, however, connects the title “Son of God” in Mark 1:1 with a whole-Bible trajectory. Adam was “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Adam failed, however, to walk in obedience to God. God later called Israel to be his “son,” and the Bible even describes God as calling Israel his “firstborn” (Ex. 4:22–23). Yet Israel, too, failed. Jesus, however, was the final Son of God, the true Firstborn, the Son who succeeded where all others had failed (Mark 1:11). Because of his obedient sonship, God is pleased to adopt into his own family those who are united to the Son by faith (Rom. 8:14 –17; Heb. 2:10). Mark 1 taps into this whole-Bible theme.”[1]

Definition: Gospel
Gospel means good news.  The events of Jesus Christ’s life are good news for all people in all the world.

Mark’s Gospel is, therefore, a very exciting thing to read.  This is the good news about Jesus, who is the Messiah, who is the Son of God.

Section 2: John the Baptist’s Ministry

Read Mark 1:2-8

Question: According to these verses, what is John the Baptist’s job/role?

In fulfilment of the prophecy from Isaiah 40, John the Baptist prepares the way of the LORD, he paves the way for Jesus to enter into his ministry.  He does this firstly, by baptising people with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  This is also what Jesus’ message and ministry was all about (see verse 15 – the first words Jesus says in Mark’s Gospel).  Secondly, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus by preaching about him (verse 7-8).  His message was that the one coming was far greater – he wasn’t even worthy to untie his sandal – and that while John just dunked people into water, the one coming would baptise people in the Holy Spirit.

Question: What does it mean to be baptised in the Holy Spirit? What is your experience of being baptised or filled with the Spirit?

Read Titus 3:4-7

The Holy Spirit is a “he”, not an “it”.  He is God, the third person of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit described in Titus 3 is baptism in the Holy Spirit.  All Christians, all who truly believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and believe Jesus is Lord, have been baptised in the Spirit.  This must be true because Titus 3 says we are “saved by… the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”.  1 Corinthians 12:3 says “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit”.  So, to be baptised in the Holy Spirit is to be made alive spiritually and renewed by God himself, as Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit onto us.  From that moment onwards, God always dwells in the Christian’s heart and life.  Every Christian is baptised in the Spirit once, but we must go on being filled with the Spirit often, every day, so that we are empowered and strengthened for ministry and reminded of God’s closeness to us.  In Acts 2, the Apostles were baptised in the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, then in Acts 4 they pray and are filled again with the Spirit.  Likewise, we who have been baptised in the Spirit, should often pray and seek to be filled again by the Spirit’s presence.  Baptism in the Spirit and subsequently being filled with the Spirit is often, but not always, accompanied by truly spectacular experiences of signs and wonders, for example, speaking in tongues and bringing prophecies (Acts 2, Acts 19) and rooms shaking (Acts 4:31).  Though not recorded Biblically, Christians throughout the ages have had different experiences when filled with the Holy Spirit.  Some feel a deep sense of peace and freedom from worry, others feel powerful and greatly emboldened; some people laugh, others cry; some are thrown to the ground powerfully by the Spirit’s power, others shake, still others remain completely still.

Next week’s Life Group will be devoted to praying for another and particularly praying for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Question: Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, so we too as Christians should prepare the way for Jesus in the lives of those around us.  How can we do this?

Section 3: Jesus’ Baptism and Wilderness Experience

Read Mark 1:9-13

All three persons of the Trinity are involved in Jesus’ baptism.  The Father speaks, saying “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”, the Son himself is baptised and the Spirit descends upon Jesus.

Question: What do you think is the meaning and reason for Jesus’ baptism happening in this way?

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection could be described as the Son’s mission.  But scripture leaves us in no doubt that all three persons were involved.  It was the Father’s plan, so at Jesus baptism he publicly declares his pleasure with his Son.  And Jesus’ ministry was only possible, with the anointing and empowerment of the Spirit.  It is appropriate, then, for all three persons of the Trinity to publicly act together at the start of Jesus’ public ministry.

In Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 3:15), we are also told why Jesus was baptised by John even though he was not sinful and did not need to repent – “to fulfil all righteousness”.  This clearly shows that water baptism is part of righteous living and all Christians should follow his example by being baptised in water.

Question: Why was Jesus driven by the Spirit into the wilderness?  Is there any connection in verse 13 with Old Testament scriptures that help explain this event?

Mark doesn’t spend as much time describing Jesus’ wilderness experience as Matthew or Luke, but his very short account still gives us some important information.  Firstly, he overcomes Satan’s temptations.  Jesus is perfect, blameless, sinless.  Secondly, reference to 40 days, is reminiscent of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness.  Where Israel grumbled, moaned, gave into temptation and ultimately died.  Jesus overcame temptation and was ministered to by angels to survive.  Some commentators believe the mention of wild animals makes the comparison, not just with Israel, but also Adam, who lived amongst wild animals.  Jesus is the new perfect Israel and the new perfect Adam.

Section 4: Jesus’ Message

Read Mark 1:14-15

Verse 15 are Jesus’ first words in this Gospel and also summarise his Gospel message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Repentance and faith are the two motions of a believer receiving salvation.  In repentance, they turn from sin and death and in faith they to turn to Christ, believing in him.

In has been said “Fish swim, birds fly and Christians repent”.  This is helpful in reminding us that repentance and faith are not just one time commandments, although there is a special moment where a Christian first repents and believes in Christ, but rather an ongoing commandment that a Christian must live out each and every day.

Question: How do you show repentance and faith every day?  How can you grow in faith as a Christian?

The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) calls for us to ask God for forgiveness when we pray.  One way to actively live out faith and repentance each day is to follow this manual for prayer: to confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness, on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross.

Section 5: Jesus calls the First Disciples

Read Mark 1:16-20

Question: What does it mean to be a fisher of men?  How are you living this out in your life?

We need to share the Gospel message of verse 15 with other people.  We need to live out the Great Commission from the end of Matthew’s Gospel.  By doing so, we will catch men and women into the Kingdom of God.

Question: What do verses 18 and 20 teach us about the nature of Christian discipleship?

If Jesus truly is the King, obedience to him should be immediate.  It is also costly.  Simon and Andrew leave their fishing business including the nets, James & John leave their Father to follow Christ.

Question: What have you given up to follow Jesus?

Section 6: Jesus’ Ministry

Read Mark 1:21-45

Question: What characteristics of Jesus are emphasized in these verses at the start of Jesus’ ministry? (Verse 22 and verse 27 are particularly helpful)

Mark emphasizes Jesus power and authority in these verses.  When Jesus teaches it’s not like the other teachers because it comes with an authority.  When he heals, he demonstrates astonishing power.  When he speaks to demons, they obey him.  All these stories show just how much power and authority Jesus had.

The other thing that comes through is Jesus’ compassion.  In verse 31, Jesus tenderly heals Simon’s Mother-in-Law.  In verse 41, Jesus is moved with pity (note: NIV translation of “Jesus was indignant” is wrong here) and he even touches a leper.  Meditate on the amazing truth that Jesus has awesome power and authority, but also is full of love and compassion.

Question: How closely does Jesus prayer life described in verse 35 mirror your own prayer life?

We must carve out time alone to pray.  It doesn’t have to be early in the morning, but that is often a good time for it.  Jesus was deliberate and faithful in doing this.


[1] Dane Ortlund, “Knowing the Bible: Mark”, Gospel Coalition, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/course/knowing-bible-mark/#week-2-introduction-mark-11-20

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