Mark 1:17-45 – Jesus’ Pattern for Ministry

Thus far, we have seen several things about Jesus’ preparation for ministry: (1) the preaching of repentance, (2) his verification and empowerment, and (3) his testing. Having gone through this preparation, Jesus began his ministry by preaching that the kingdom was at hand. Like John, he called on the people to respond with repentance and faith.

In the rest of the chapter, Mark records what happened during Jesus’ early ministry. While it would be easy to read through these events as simple history, we should notice what Jesus did during his daily ministry: (1) disciple making, (2) teaching and preaching, (3) casting out demons and healing people, and (4) praying. All were an important part of his ministry.

You have probably noticed that our section of the chapter is rather long. It covers verses 17-45. Instead of looking at each verse in detail, we will be looking at what this section reveals about the four aspects of Jesus ministry. To further stimulate our understanding of what was happening, I will ask two questions that we will seek to answer during our time together.

  1. Disciple-Making (1:17-20)

    As you may recall, Jesus worked with twelve disciples during his earthly ministry. He also had many other followers including women, secret disciples, and the 70 who were eventually sent out on preaching trips. But here we see the beginning of Jesus’ disciple-making.

    As He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw four fishermen working their trade. Their names were Simon, Andrew, James, and John. He called each of them to follow Him and become a different type of fisherman.

    Why did Jesus involve other people?

    This question intrigues me. It could be asked about the prophecies about Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist as well. Why did Jesus involve other people? I think there are several reasons. First, this was a good way to interact with people in a small group setting. These four would have the opportunity to learn from Jesus not just from his public teaching but would also see how He lived every day. Second, Jesus was training these disciples to continue the work after He was gone. Their time with Jesus would prepare them for this future work. And as we see later in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit enabled these men to continue the ministry of Jesus quite successfully.

    What did He call them to become?

    In an interesting play on words, Jesus called the four fishermen to become “fishers of men.” They already knew how to catch fish. In these verses, we see that the men were using nets. They threw the nets into the water and then pulled up whatever they could catch. Jesus wanted them to learn to fish for people. Now what does this mean? If you are familiar with Jesus’ methods, he was not a bait-and-switch type of speaker. He actually cared about the people with whom He was working. He was not trying to teach them sneaky ways to capture the interest of people. No, Jesus was calling them to learn how to interact with people, to teach them God’s truth, and with the Spirit’s enablement to convince them to believe it.

    This is a good time for an application. Every Christian is called to become fishers of men. But this is not something that happens overnight. We need to learn how to talk with people, to explain the truth, and to convince them of their need to repent of sin and believe in Jesus. This is not an easy task. But I would imagine that during our study of the Gospel of Mark, we, too, can learn from what Jesus taught the disciples. And as we learn, we must put it to work. People need the Lord and we are the ones He will use to win them to Himself.

  2. Teaching (1:21-22, 38-39)

    Two times in this passage, we find Jesus teaching and preaching to the Jewish people. The first time was in Capernaum. He entered a synagogue (a Jewish teaching center) on the Sabbath day and taught the people. On the second occasion, He told His disciples that they were going to continue their ministry in other cities.

    What was different about his teaching?

    The normal style of synagogue teaching was dry and lifeless. The scribes knew the Bible but “their knowledge was derived from scribal tradition, so they simply quoted the sayings of their predecessors.”1 It seems ironic that I just quoted a Bible commentator to describe the scribes. However, their quoting didn’t seem to offer any hope or help. Instead of pointing the people to God’s wisdom, they merely repeated what someone else had said. Jesus’ teaching was much different. He taught with authority. This makes sense because He is the Son of God. As God, His understanding of God’s mind would be exact. This kind of teaching caused the people to be amazed.

    Why did He preach in multiple locations?

    With so many people appreciating His teaching, why did Jesus choose to go to other areas? Jesus explained that His purpose was to preach to many people. His purpose was not limited to one area. This makes sense when you stop and think about it. Jesus’s earthly ministry lasted about three years. He had limited time to reach as many people as possible. Staying in one place could have been beneficial, but others needed to hear as well.

    Let me ask you a question. Are you a Christian? If you are, how much impact does God’s truth have on your life? Is it dull and boring, or are you amazed at what God has revealed in the Bible? The way that you respond to God’s truth may be an indication of how poorly the preacher preaches. But it also may indicate what value you place on the Bible in your own life. Do you love learning from the Bible? Are you listening to what God is teaching? Are you allowing Him to change your life? Your attitude toward God’s truth will make a big difference in how it affects your daily life.

  3. Healing (1:23-26, 29-31, 32-34, 40-44)

    These accounts of Jesus’ work amongst the sick and demon-possessed is remarkable. As the Son of God, He was able to command demons to leave the possessed person’s body. He was also able to cause sickness to leave someone’s body. He did this for Simon’s mother-in-law, the leprous man, and many others. The people who were healed of their sicknesses or rescued from demon-possession were so grateful that they told everyone what Jesus had done for them. This actually made Jesus’ ministry more difficult because of the crowds of people who came seeking help.

    Which of these was the most surprising?

    There are four times in this chapter that Mark records Jesus healing or casting out a demon. (1) The demon cast out of the man in the synagogue, (2) Simon’s mother-in-law being healed of her fever, (3) a whole city full of sick and demon-possessed healed by Jesus, and (4) a leper completely healed. Of these three, it is the first that surprises me. What surprises me is that there was a demon-possessed man in the synagogue. Why was he there? Some have said that he may have been lucid most of the times with only occasional outbursts. Whatever the case, Jesus commanded the demon to leave the man’s body and it did. What a great change Jesus made in this man’s life.

    Why did Jesus heal people?

    The miraculous healing offered by Jesus was a great blessing to all who were affected. The sick person, the family who cared for him, the formerly demon-possessed individual, and those in the community who had been affected by his actions—all would be grateful for what Jesus had done. But why did He do it? Why did Jesus heal people of their afflictions? It is apparent that Jesus was not doing this for popularity. He actually told the healed leper not to tell people. And when the man told people anyway, it hindered Jesus’ ability to minister to others. I think Jesus did this because of His great love for people. The Bible tells us that God is love. As God’s Son, Jesus revealed to us the kindly heart of God who took the time to show His care for hurting people.

  4. Praying (1:35)

    After a long evening of ministry work, the people went home. I would assume that Jesus and the disciples lodged with someone and were given beds to sleep in. But contrary to normal practice, Jesus didn’t seek eight hours of sleep. Instead, he got up early in the morning (before daylight) and found a place to be alone to pray. It was not until morning, when the crowds returned, that the disciples were able to find where He was.

    Why did Jesus pray so early in the morning?

    Jesus had a lot of people interested in seeing Him. His disciples needed training, sick people needed healing, and possessed people needed relief. With so many people seeking His attention, it was difficult for Jesus to find time to talk with His heavenly Father. (Do you remember the time Jesus fell asleep in the boat during a storm?) Going to a secluded place early in the morning gave Him the opportunity to be alone without constant interruption.

    Christian, do you find yourself under too much pressure to pray? While it is true that we can pray while driving or while doing other things, it is not the same as praying with no distractions. This is why Jesus told his disciples to find a closet to pray in. With the door closed, it would allow for the ability to speak to God without any conflicts. But when do you find time like that? You might need to be creative. But find a time to talk with your Father in heaven. If Jesus needed that time alone, we do, too.

    Why were the disciples looking for him?

    It appears that the crowds began to gather early in the morning. They probably figured that they would be first in line for Jesus’ attention, if they arrived before everyone else. When someone knocked on the door, the weary disciples were quick to search for their missing teacher. Needy people were waiting. Where was Jesus? “Their exclamation, Everyone is looking for You! implied some annoyance because they thought Jesus was failing to capitalize on some excellent opportunities in Capernaum.”2

    While ministering at a church, the pastor told me and my ministry partner that he was going to spend some time praying. If someone called, he was not to be interrupted. We agreed to this, but after some time the phone rang. The person on the line told us that it was very important. Now knowing what to do, we finally decided to interrupt the praying pastor. He was gracious toward us, but it made me understand how difficult it is for people to find time to pray without interruption.


As we have zipped through the chapter, we have seen several things about Jesus’ early ministry. First, He was concerned about training future leaders. Jesus knew that his time on earth was limited and it was important to train the next generation to carry on God’s work. Second, He taught with authority. He knew that God’s truth would change the lives of all who responded correctly and made sure that his audience knew it was true. Third, Jesus cared for people. Much of His ministry time was spent caring for the sick and demon-possessed people. Last, Jesus took time to pray. Despite His busy schedule, Jesus made sure to take time to talk with God on a daily basis.

What is it that God has spoken to you about today?

• Is there someone you could be mentoring/discipling? Make time in your schedule to do that.
• Have you been treating the Bible as a lifeless book? Make time to study God’s Word, ask Him to open your eyes to see the importance of what the Bible says, and then share it with other people.
• Have you been caring for people? Make time to show people that you care. Talk with them, pray for them, help them, and see how God’s love shines through you to others.
• Have you been praying to God? Make time in your daily schedule to talk with God. As you share with Him your thankfulness and your needs, you will find that His peace will envelope you and enable you to do what needs to be done.


1 Grassmick 109.
2 Grassmick 110.


Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.

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