Category Archives: Mark

Mark 4:21-25 – The lamp that reveals secrets

One of the things that every Christian should be doing is Bible study. This is an important part of spiritual growth. As you study the Bible, you will gain knowledge about God and will learn what you need and what God wants you to be doing. But sometimes, Bible study is difficult. Even the apostle Peter had trouble understanding some Bible truths. He said, “Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand.”

So what do we do when we come to a difficult portion of the Bible. Some might respond by skipping that part. I just can’t understand it. But is this what God wants for us? No, God has told us to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Some of the teaching in the Bible may be difficult, but that should drive us to more diligence. Work hard and try to find what God is teaching. There is a great benefit to studying and understanding what God says in the Bible.

The reason why I mention this is that this passage took some time for me to understand. Jesus spoke these words but didn’t explain His meaning. So, it took some time to figure out what He meant. But after much study, I would like you to consider what I found.

  1. What does it say? (Mark 4:21-25)

    The lamp

    Jesus began by asking two questions and then making several statements. His questions involved the use of a lamp. Both questions had to do with the purpose of a lamp. Is a lamp brought to a room to be hidden under a basket or under a bed? The obvious answer is no. “Who would bring a lighted lamp just in order to set it where its light could do no good?”7 Nobody brings a lamp to a room to hide its light. The second question also expects an answer. Isn’t the purpose for a lamp to set it on a lampstand? The obvious answer is yes.

    Let’s talk about the lamp and lampstand mentioned in this passage. When we think of a lamp, we think of the electrical lamp which sits atop the table next to our armchair or bed. But in biblical times, the lamp was usually made “of clay or metal, with olive oil to fuel its wick (not a candle).”1 You can still buy these types of lamps on the internet.2 They look like a flattened tea kettle with a handle, center hole for filling, and a spout with the lighted wick. The lampstand was a stand on which the lamp could be placed safely and where its light could cover the most area. “It might be a shelf extending from the pillar in the center of the room … or a single stone projecting inward from the wall, or a piece of metal conspicuously placed and used similarly.”5

    After using the lamp as an illustration, Jesus said that nothing was hidden that would be not be revealed. He then repeated the idea by saying that nothing has been kept secret that would not come to light. After saying this, Jesus invited anyone who had ears to hear.

    The listening

    Next, Jesus broadened his thoughts about hearing. He warned his audience to take heed to what they heard. By saying take heed, he meant that they should “pay attention”3 to what they heard. He told them that the amount of information they used would be the amount they would be given. If they heard (and presumably acted on it), they would be given more. Those who had would be given more. But those who didn’t have would have what they had been given taken away from them.

  2. What does it mean?

    You may notice that what Jesus said to the people was not explained. So we are left to interpret what he meant by the context of the rest of the chapter. One thing to remember is that Jesus had previously explained to the disciples that they had been given the privilege of understanding the truth (Mark 4:10-12). But those who were outside (referring to those who had rejected Him) were being judged by God for their sin and would only hear the parables without an explanation.

    Note also what Jesus said to his ignorant disciples. He was surprised that they did not understand the parable of the four soils.

    Mark 4:13 – “And He said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

    This shows us that we who have been born again ought to be able to understand Jesus’ parables. Since the Holy Spirit indwells us and the veil has been removed from our spiritual understanding, we should be able to study Jesus’ sayings and understand the meaning. This does not imply that it will be easy. It may take a while to think about them and may involve prayer and comparison to other things Jesus taught. But with the help given to us by God, we should be able to understand what Jesus is saying in these parables.

    To whom was Jesus speaking?

    At the beginning (Mark 4:2) and the ending (Mark 4:33-34), Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. But in the middle of this section, He explained things to His disciples when they were alone (Mark 4:10). In verses 10-20, Jesus was speaking privately to the disciples. But when we come to the following three parables, to whom was He speaking?

    The disciples

    Perhaps the key is found in how Mark begins each paragraph. In verses 21 and 24, it says that “He said to them.” But in verses 26 and 30, there is no mention of “them.” Then in verses 33-34, it mentions that Jesus only spoke in parables to the crowds but explained them when alone with the disciples. With that in mind, I think that in our passage, Jesus is still speaking to His disciples. Knowing to whom He was speaking will help us to interpret what He said to them.

    What does the lamp represent? (Mark 4:21-23)

    In the parable of the four soils, Jesus defined the seed as God’s truth and the soil as people’s hearts. In this parable, Jesus does not explicitly define the terms. So what does the lamp represent in this part of His teaching?

    Jesus is the lamp.

    If you are familiar with the gospels, you may remember that Jesus called Himself the Light of the world.

    John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

    If Jesus was equating Himself with the lamp here, then He was saying that His voice was not something to keep hidden. As He spoke the truth, hidden things and secrets would be revealed. While Jesus is the Light of the world and His presence was a light to people, I don’t think this is what He meant here. Why would He refer to Himself as the lamp and then talk about hiding Himself under a basket or bed?

    The disciples are the lamp.

    One of the many Bible references to light is found in Matthew 5:16.

    Matt. 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

    In that passage, Jesus told the disciples that they were a light to the dark world. They should not hide their light but should be an influence on all people they met. But does that fit with our current passage? If the disciples are the lamp, then Jesus was telling them to shine, but how does that fit with hidden things being revealed? I don’t think that is what Jesus was saying here.

    God’s truth is the lamp.

    The Bible also talks about God’s truth being a lamp to people.

    Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

    This seems to fit the context best. In the previous parable, the seed represented God’s truth spoken to people. In this parable, the lamp represents God’s truth shining into people’s lives. As it shines, hidden things and secrets are revealed. This is how I will interpret this parable.

    With this in mind, this is the meaning Jesus was trying to get across to His disciples. Gods’ truth is not something to keep hidden from others. Instead, it is something to be proclaimed openly so that men’s sins can be revealed, people can repent, and find forgiveness from God. This only possible when God’s people are proclaiming God’s truth and people are listening.

    What does the hearing and measuring mean? (Mark 4:23-25)

    Note that Jesus calls on people to hear if they are able (4:23). He then tells them to pay attention to what they hear because how they respond will affect the results it produces in their lives (4:24-25). There are two thoughts here.

    Not everyone listens (4:23).

    As Jesus spoke to His disciples and to the crowds, He addressed those who had ears to hear. There were two types of people. As you may recall, there were some people who had rejected Jesus (many of the religious leaders). There were others who were only interested in what Jesus could do for them (healing and miracles). These were spiritually deaf people who were not tuned into what Jesus was saying. But there were some whose hearts had been touched by God. They were listening to what Jesus said because God had opened their hearts to receive Him. The sad truth is that not everyone listens. But the happy truth is that some do listen.

    Everyone will be rewarded for his response (4:24-25).

    The second part of Jesus’ teaching involves the response of those who heard Him. When Jesus told them that they should pay attention to what they heard, He noted that there were only two responses and that each would have its own results.

    For those who hear and pay attention to Jesus’ teaching, there is a promise for more to be given to them. As they hear and respond favorably to it, they will be given more of God’s truth. “Truth received and carefully assimilated enlarges one’s capacity to receive more truth.”4 And as they continue listening and obeying God’s truth, more truth will be revealed.

    But those who hear but do not pay attention to what Jesus says will have nothing. And even the truth they were given will be taken away from them. This reminds me of the seed scattered on the wayside. Before the seed of God’s truth could take root in their hearts, Satan steals it away and they never do believe.

    What Jesus said is true. “It is a universal law that the measure of their diligent attention to the teaching will be the measure of the profit they derive from it.”4 How a person responds to God’s truth will determine the results it will have in his life. A positive response will have good results. A negative response will have bad results. This is how God has designed for it to work.

  3. How does it apply?

    There are two truths here which can be applied to our lives.

    Understand that you can’t hide from God.

    When the light of God’s truth shines on your life, it will reveal the sins hidden in your heart. You can’t hide anything from God. “Men may try to cover up things, but in this they will always be unsuccessful, for God brings everything out into the open. One day whatever is now concealed will be revealed. … Men think they can get away with their evil thoughts, plans, words, and actions. God, however, will expose all this.”6

    While this may appear to be a terrifying thing, it is actually a benefit. Instead of allowing you to continue in your sin, God wants your sin to be revealed so that you can be changed. His goal is for you to recognize your sin against Him, to repent of it, and then to turn to Jesus and be forgiven. If your sin was never uncovered, you would never find God’s forgiveness. So allow the light of God’s truth to penetrate your heart. Only then will you find cleansing and forgiveness.

    Pay attention to what God is saying.

    When the light of God’s truth comes into your life, you have the opportunity to respond. How will you respond today? Will you pay attention to what God has said? Or will you continue in your ignorance? If you hear God’s truth and apply it to your life, God will help you. He wants to give you a relationship with Him that is growing and becoming better every day. But if you hear God’s truth and let it go in one ear and out the other, you will never benefit from it.

    If you are a Christian, you have the unique privilege of hearing and understanding God’s truth. As you read the Bible and search for God’s plan for your life, He will reveal it to you. But it takes effort. You can’t think that a lackadaisical effort will produce good results. It won’t. This week, start putting effort into your own personal Bible study. Take the time to read the Bible and apply it to your life on a daily basis. When you do that, you will benefit greatly.


1 Mounce, Bill, λύχνος as viewed at on 9/23/2023.
3 Mounce Bill, βλέπω as viewed at on 9/23/2023.
4 Hiebert 117.
5 Hendriksen 162.
6 Hendriksen 163.
7 Lenski 180.


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

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Lenski, R. C. H., The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, Columbus: Wartburg, 1946.

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

“What is the significance of the lampstand in the Bible?” as viewed at on 9/23/2023.

Mark 4:1-20 – Parable of the Four Soils

When I was in high school, I played soccer, basketball, and track & field. While we played, the cheer leaders would do their thing along the sidelines. But most of the time I was preoccupied with the competition and didn’t pay attention to what they were doing. One day, we were playing in a soccer tournament at a Christian camp in North Carolina. When I came out of the game for a rest break, my cousin (dressed in a lion mascot outfit) began a pitiful cheer by herself. She almost mumbled the words and acted disinterested. That got my attention and made me mad. What was she doing? She was supposed to be cheering us on. But then she did the cheer again a little bit louder. And a third time, she was yelling at the top of her lungs. What I didn’t understand was that she had planned this cheer to get the crowd’s attention. Once I understood that, it all made sense.

At another time, our cheerleaders gave a Friday afternoon pep rally. Once again my cousin led the school in a cheer. But this one involved clapping with her. She clapped once and then clapped several times and then some more. I was oblivious to how to match the claps, but the crowd seemed to understand and were able to clap at the same time she was. It wasn’t until afterward that I learned that she was clapping 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 times and then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 times. Until I understood the pattern, I was very confused.

Have you had a similar thing happen to you? The people in today’s Scripture passage did. In Mark 4:1-20, we will be reading about Jesus’ use of a parable which at first nobody understood. But when things were explained to the disciples, it all made sense. Let’s take a look at what happened.

  1. The Parable of the Planter (Mark 4:1-9)

    Jesus took another opportunity to teach the people. This time it was near the sea. There were so many people that He got into a boat and taught from the water. This would have kept them from pushing against Him and would also have kept Him visible to everyone. When He began teaching, it was not in straight forward principles. Instead, He taught with parables.

    A parable has been described as “a short discourse that conveys spiritual truth by making a vivid comparison. The truth to be taught is compared to something in nature or a common-life experience. … A parable draws its hearers to take part in a situation, evaluate it, and apply its truth to themselves.”1 With that in mind, can you think of any parables and how this definition fits them? How about the parable of the prodigal son? Jesus told the parable about a wayward son who lived in sin and finally realized his wrong choices. Jesus used this story to show how merciful God is to those who repent of their sin and come back to him.

    In this parable, Jesus spoke about a farmer who went out to plant seeds. “He worked with a leather bag containing the seed, either wheat or barley, tied it to his waist while he scattered the seed by hand.”4 With our modern way of farming, his method seems haphazard. He simply cast the seeds around hoping that some of them would land in a good place and grow. Some of the seeds landed on the wayside. “The wayside was either a road at the edge of the field or a footpath crossing the open field.”5 But the birds ate these seeds before they could take root. Some seed fell on stony ground where there wasn’t very much dirt. The plants grew quickly at first but when the sun scorched them they withered away. Some of the seeds landed among the thorns. But the plants that grew there were unable to grow because the thorns were so thick. But there were some seeds that fell on good ground and later grew into productive plants which produced a good crop.

    “Both before and after Jesus told this parable, He urged the crowd to listen carefully.”1 He started with “Listen!” and ended with “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This should cause us to stop and consider what Jesus is saying and how it applies to each of us. Will you do that today?

  2. The Purpose of the Parable (Mark 4:10-12)

    Later, when the multitudes had gone home, Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples. They asked Him about the meaning of the parable. Jesus explained to them that they were being given the ability to understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. But those who were outside would only hear parables. This withholding of information was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He then quoted from Isaiah 6:9-10.

    Isaiah 6:9-10 – “And He said, Go, and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”

    At first it may seem unfair that Jesus only explained the parables to His disciples, but there is more to the story. Much time had passed since He first began teaching the people. And “Jesus’ audiences were not denied the opportunity to believe in Him. But after they persistently closed their minds to His message, they were excluded from further understanding of it by His use of parables.”2 When people rejected His teaching, Jesus allowed them to remain in their unbelief and did not explain the parables to them.

    What does it mean?

    There are two types of people. There are some to whom God reveals the truth and some to whom it will not be revealed. The difference between the two is not their innate goodness but the work of God. Jesus had chosen the twelve to be His disciples and with that privilege had given them this great opportunity to know God’s truth. But the others, including many in the multitude, were not given the opportunity to understand the truth.

    Jesus explained this hiding of the truth from some by quoting Isaiah. The Old Testament prophet was told by God to speak to the people but that they would not understand or perceive what was being said. They had come to a place where they had rejected God’s message so often that they were no longer able to understand or repent.

    How does it apply?

    If you are a believer today, you should thank the Lord for opening your eyes to the truth. If it had not been for Him, you would still be living in sin and walking away from Him. This is the way all of us are born. Isaiah described this well by saying, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way.” But God, who is rich in mercy, reached down and opened our eyes to the truth and brought us to the place where we would respond to Him. It may have been that God used a friend to share the truth with you. Or you may have been reading the Bible when you finally understood. Or you may have heard a preacher when God’s Spirit opened your eyes to understand the truth. At some point, you understood that you were a sinner who deserved God’s eternal judgment in Hell. But you also learned that Jesus gave His life on the cross to pay the debt for your sins. Then you repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus. That is when God saved you and gave you a new life.

    But there are others who have not responded to the Lord as of yet. If you are one of them who has consistently rejected the Lord, you may find yourself in a bad situation soon. God’s patience with stubborn people lasts only so long. And when these Jewish unbelievers continued to reject Him and His ways, God finally gave them over to their foolish choice and let them become hardened to the point where they no longer could understand God’s truth. The solution to this is to listen and respond positively to what God is saying. Turn from your sin and trust in Jesus before you become too hardened to change.

  3. The Meaning of the Parable (Mark 4:13-20)

    It is interesting that Jesus chided the disciples for not understanding His parable. He seemed surprised that they didn’t understand the parable and was wondering if they would understand future parables. Thankfully, Jesus took the time to explain what His parable meant.

    What it means

    The seeds

    Firstly, Jesus explained what the seeds stood for. The seeds which the farmer planted in the parable stood for “the word” of God. In other words, the seeds were God’s truth which was spoken to various people. This would have included the Bible and also whatever Jesus said since He is the Son of God. God’s truth (the seeds) were being proclaimed to people just as a farmer scatters seed in a field.

    The soils

    The wayside (15) represents people who hear God’s truth but who are influenced by Satan and are convinced not to believe.

    The stony ground (16-17) represents people who “hear the Word with a hasty, enthusiastic, but shallow profession of acceptance.”2 Because of this, they don’t last long. As soon as they face persecution, they stumble. It would appear that “their profession proves not to be genuine.”2

    The thorn-covered ground (18-19) represents people who receive God’s truth but who are kept from being productive for the Lord because of worldly cares, the allure of riches, and covetousness. “These things choke the Word, making it (the Word, not the hearer) unfruitful (cf. 10:22), indicating they are not true believers.”3

    The good ground (20) represents people who receive the truth and then become productive for the Lord. While their productiveness may vary, they are all productive believers for the Lord.

    How it applies

    If you were to apply one of these soils to yourself, which one would fit?

    Are you someone who hears God’s truth but never gets around to responding to it? If so, you may be like the seeds planted by the wayside. Even though you have often heard God’s truth, you never respond to it because Satan is actively turning your mind to other things. Let this be your wakeup call today. Turn to the Lord while He has your attention today.

    Are you someone who at some point was excited about what you heard from the Bible but later fizzled out? If so, you may be like the seeds planted on stony ground. You thought being a Christian would make your life better but as soon as you faced opposition, you couldn’t handle it. Let this be a wakeup call for you today. You need to become grounded in God’s truth so that you can face the difficulties that will eventually come. Start reading the Bible and applying it to your life. Without this, you will stumble.

    Are you someone who has received the truth but who since then has allowed worldly concerns, the love of money, and a desire for things take God’s place? If so, you are like the thorn-covered soil. You have allowed things to take God’s place in your life. Let this be a wakeup call for you today. Are you so worried about temporal things that you can’t do anything for the Lord? Are you so concerned with money that you are distracted from serving the Lord? Are you always thinking about getting more things and have allowed that to take God’s place in your life? Remember what Jesus said.

    Matt. 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

    Repent of your misplaced priorities and seek God’s instead. Only then can you become a productive Christian for the Lord.

    Are you someone who has received the truth and have been a productive person for the Lord? If so, you may be embarrassed to say so. You may think that saying so would be sinful pride. But you needn’t think that way. If you are a productive person for the Lord, then you are like the good ground that produced for the planter. God’s truth has made a difference in your life and it is noticeable. This is not something to be ashamed of and neither is it something to be proud of. Instead, be grateful for what the Lord has done in your life.


At the beginning of this message, I shared how clueless I was to what my cheerleader cousin was doing. But there came a time when I understood what she was doing. Then and only then was I able to appreciate her mysterious cheerleading. I still look back and smile at what happened so many years ago. Do you notice what happened today? At the beginning of our study, you heard a parable that didn’t make sense. But then God gave you the opportunity to understand what it meant. This should be comforting to you in light of what happened to some of the hard-hearted crowd Jesus had spoken to. Now that you understand what Jesus meant by the parable, it is your opportunity to respond. How will you respond today? Will you allow God’s truth to take root in your heart or will you allow the seed of God’s words to have no effect?


1 Grassmick 118.
2 Grassmick 119.
3 Grassmick 120.
4 Hiebert 106-07.
5 Hiebert 107.


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

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

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

Mark 3:31-35 – Our Closest Family

If we were to take the time to tell stories from when we grew up, I am sure that there would be a number of entertaining stories. Having grown up with a brother and three sisters, there are many stories that I could tell. And I am sure that you could tell some about your own family as well. Later in life, we left our parents and began our own family. There are also many stories that could be told there. And those stories bring a smile to our faces as we remember them.

Have you ever thought what it must have been like when Jesus was growing up. What was His family life like? What was Joseph like? What was Mary like? What were His brothers and sisters like? We already know that Joseph and Mary were poor at the time of Jesus’ birth because they offered birds instead of bigger sacrifices when He was circumcised. But they were rich for a moment as the gifts of the magi provided money for them to move to Egypt to escape murderous Herod. After they moved back, the only mention of Jesus’ childhood was when He was twelve and got left behind in Jerusalem. Beyond that, we know very little about his childhood or family.

Do you think family was important to Jesus? I’m sure it was. But when we read through our passage for tonight, we will see that He had another family that was even more important.

  1. Jesus reveals his real family (Mark 3:20-21; 3:31-35).

    What it says

    After Jesus had chosen the twelve disciples, they returned to the house that served as their headquarters. It didn’t take long for a multitude to gather and this kept them from even eating a meal. His own people (probably His family) heard about the crowd and decided to step in and help Him. They wanted to take Him away because they thought Jesus was out of His mind. Apparently, they still didn’t understand who He was and what His purpose was.

    Jesus’ family finally arrived. His mother and brothers stood outside and called for Him. “The size and density of the crowd made immediate access to Jesus impossible.”1 The multitude of people heard their request and told Jesus that His family was outside. But Jesus took that moment to teach them something. He asked who His mother and brothers were. After looking around at the people in the room, He said that the people around Him were His family (mother and brothers) because they were doing God’s will.

    What it means

    Jesus showed that following the Lord may conflict with family life.

    Did you notice that some of His family thought He was out of His mind? They wanted to put their hands on Him and forcefully remove Him to a safer place. If it weren’t for the crowds between them and Him, they would have accomplish their desire. This shows us that His family’s desire and God’s desire were in conflict.

    Their goal was to live a normal, non-fanatical life. Their goal was to get Him away from the crowds so that He could be a normal person again. Their goal was to live a quiet and peaceful life with their family’s reputation intact. They didn’t want to be known as the family of an odd, crowd-gathering, religious fanatic. They just wanted Jesus to settle down and be normal. Their purpose for Jesus was for Him to be like any other person who lived at the time.

    But God’s purpose for Jesus was much different. God had sent His Son to preach repentance and faith to the people, to care for them by healing and casting out demons, and to prepare the next generation of disciples for reaching the world with the gospel. This purpose didn’t fit with what His family wanted. It involved working with great crowds of people who needed His help. It involved preaching a message of repentance that made people uncomfortable. It involved an antagonistic relationship with the current religious leaders and this was difficult for Jesus’ family. And it would eventually involve his own suffering and death on the cross. But Jesus wasn’t concerned about what His family thought because He was accomplishing the purpose God had sent Him to do.

    Jesus revealed that those who do God’s will are his closest family.

    When we were young, it was our family members whom we knew best. We shared the most in common with them. We had the same way of speaking, thinking, and living. But when each of us became a Christian, we became part of a different family that can be even closer than our blood family.

    When the people told Jesus that His mother and siblings were outside calling for Him, He did something that at first may seem a bit harsh. Instead of responding to His family members’ concerns, He pointed to the people around Him and said that His mother and brothers were those who did God’s will. In effect, He was denying His family and choosing to associate with His spiritual family instead of the other.

    What is this family that Jesus was talking about? Well, if you turn to John 3, you will be reminded that Jesus talked about the new birth with Nicodemus. He told him that he needed to be born again. This was another way of saying that Nicodemus needed to be born of God and become one of God’s sons. This could only take place when God caused him to be born again spiritually.

    John 3:6 – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

    We all come from a physical family (born of the flesh) but we all need to be born again (born of the Spirit). The difference is physical birth versus spiritual birth. Our physical family may pass along many interesting qualities. But when we are born again by God’s Spirit, we become part of a different family of people who have become the sons and daughters of God.

    One of the marks of being part of this family is mentioned in Mark 13:35. Those who are part of God’s family are noted for doing the will of God. This family includes Jesus, Peter, James and John, Paul, Timothy, William Carey, John Paton, Pastor Fitzsimmons, Pastor Bailey, Pastor Gallion, and each of us who has been born again and is actively doing the will of God.

    How it applies

    Are you willing to put God before your family?

    When Jesus dismissed the desires of His family, this may have been taken poorly by them. This was His own physical family which included His mother and siblings. How could He set aside their desire to help Him and do something else? Well, I can see your concern for having a good relationship with your family. And we aren’t commanded to ignore our family or be rude to them. But there may come a time when you have to choose between them and following the Lord.

    I think that this is similar to what the disciples faced when the religious leaders were telling them to stop speaking about Jesus. Normally, it is right to obey those in authority over us. But when their demands conflict with what God had said to do, the right response is what Peter told them.

    Acts 4:18-20 – “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'”

    For most of us, family is very important. We love our parents, siblings, children, and other relatives. But this love for family must never keep us from obeying the Lord. If it does, then a choice must be made. Despite their protests or arguments to the contrary, we must choose to obey God rather than them. This may not be easy or comfortable, but it is the right things to do.

    Are you doing the will of God?

    The next thing to think about is whether we qualify for being a part of God’s family. I am not talking about the new birth at this point, but am talking about doing God’s will. Jesus described his spiritual family as being made up of those who are doing God’s will. Are you currently doing God’s will?

    Coming to church and being part of the services are part of that but are not all of God’s will. Being someone who does God’s will must incorporate all aspects of our lives. Doing God’s will must include our lives at church and our lives at home. Our lives at work and our lives at play. Are you doing God’s will?

    What is God’s will? How do we know if we are doing it? Well, that may take some time to discover by studying the Bible. But let’s consider several things. Are you eagerly seeking God’s will for your life by reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life and make you more like Christ each day? Are you forsaking sin and seeking to live a life that is holy for the Lord? Are you using your days to glorify God by your actions and speech? Are you telling other about Jesus? Are you trying to help others? Are you being kind to others?

    Those who are in the family of Jesus are those born-again believers who are actively doing the will of God. Are you one of them?


Over the years, I have been happily surprised to find brothers and sisters across the world who are actively doing God’s will. When we meet, there is a common bond as we recognize a similar heart for the Lord. We may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but it is very clear that we are both seeking the Lord and wanting to do His will. Ands that desire to do God’s will binds me together with them.

Some of you may come from a family where very few are Christians. This can be very sad as you want each of them to know the Lord. But when God saved you, He graciously gave you a new family made up of those who are seeking to do His will. Find your comfort from fellowshipping with this family. Allow these relationships to grow and spend time with those who are going in the same direction. It is a blessing from God. And if you think about it, there will come a day when each of us will be with the Lord forever and guess who will also be there? Yes, our spiritual family made up of those who have been born-again and who did the will of God.


1 Hiebert 103.


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

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1948.

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

Mark 3:13-30

When I become a Christian, I was only 19 years old. Although I had grown up in a good home and attended church all my life, I chose to live a worldly life of secret sin. I am so thankful that God chose to pull me away from my sin and save me from Hell. When He saved me, He gave me a new life with new desires. My new desires included wanting to read the Bible and pray. And as I did that a new desire grew in me to find a way to serve the Lord.

Over the years, the Lord gave me opportunities to learn from pastors and Christian teachers who patiently dealt with my quirky personality and impulsive nature. The Lord also gave me opportunities to serve Him in different churches, at Christian camps, and as an evangelist for children. After 34 years, I can look back and smile at how the Lord used me. God is so patient! And so were God’s people.

I was reminded of my own journey as I read the first part of our chapter today. We will begin by looking at how Jesus chose the original twelve disciples. And as we study through the Gospel of Mark, we will see how these men were used by God despite their quirks and sometimes even their bad decisions.

  1. Jesus chooses the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19).

    What it says

    After Jesus had healed the sick and cast out demons, he went up on a mountain. Once there, he called4 a number of people whom He wanted as disciples. From this group, He appointed twelve men who were (1) to be with Him, (2) to be sent out to preach, (3) to heal the sick and cast out demons. The names of the twelve are listed in order of importance beginning with Peter and ending with Judas Iscariot who eventually betrayed the Lord. After appointing them, they went into a house together.

    What it means

    Jesus wanted to train others to do the work.

    Peter was the first mentioned and later became the leader of the early church. Jesus’ nickname for him was “Peter, the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic Cephas, which means a ‘stone or rock.’ This probably described his leadership role during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church.”1 He wasn’t the only one and they weren’t the only ones who were used by God in the early Christian church, but they were the first who were trained by and used by Jesus.

    They needed this training because there was a lot they didn’t understand. At one point, when Jesus had been rejected by a community, two disciples suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Obviously, they had a lot to learn from Jesus before they were ready to lead the early church and reach the world with the good news of Jesus.

    Jesus wanted to enable others to do the work.

    When Jesus began His ministry, it was a mix of helping people (healing, casting out demons) and preaching repentance and faith. While the disciples could preach, they did not have the ability to miraculously heal people or to command demons to leave a possessed person. But Jesus did and gave these disciples the ability and power to do such things. As they did so, they would be recognized as servants of God and people would listen to what they had to say.

    How it applies

    I still think it is interesting that Jesus would choose to use people instead of doing the work Himself. He could obviously do it better than any of us, and yet He wants to use us. This leads to two questions.

    Do you want to serve the Lord?

    The disciples were used by the Lord during the first century church. But they are long gone and the need is still great. Who will serve the Lord today? Do you have the desire to serve the Lord? Those who are called to serve are Christians (people who have been regenerated by God) and people who are eager and willing to do God’s will. Are you one of these people? If so, you should consider how you can serve the Lord today.

    Are you able to serve the Lord?

    The disciples were not superheroes when Jesus called them. They were people who were not particularly impressive except for one thing. They had been with Jesus. Their time training under Jesus involved watching how He responded to people, how He cared for others, how He spent time in prayer, and how He taught people God’s truth. As they learned from Him, they gained knowledge and experience and were also enabled to do the work. What made them effective was that Jesus enabled them to do the work.

    It may be that you are willing to serve the Lord but are not yet feeling enabled. Who can enable you to do the work of ministry around you? It is God who can enable you. Jesus may not be physically present to train you for ministry, but He has enabled others who can help you.

    Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

    If you are willing to serve the Lord and are wondering how you can be enabled to do it, think of what this verse says. God gave us the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor teachers to prepare us to do the work of the ministry. One of the ways you can be enabled to do ministry is to attend Sunday School, Sunday services, and prayer meeting. During these services, the Lord will use what you are taught to equip you for serving Him. The you can serve with a better understanding of what God has said and wants to be accomplished.

  2. Jesus refutes a false accusation (Mark 3:20-30).

    Have you ever been falsely accused of something? It may be that you were accused of doing something that you had not done. It isn’t a good feeling, is it? Jesus also went through that. Except what He was accused of was much more serious.

    What it says

    A multitude of people found out where Jesus was and came to see Him. There were so many, that it was impossible even to eat a meal. When his family found out about this, they thought he had become a “mentally unbalanced religious fanatic.”2 Isn’t it interesting how people viewed Jesus’ ministry? To some, He seemed like a weirdo because of His devotion to God’s will. J. Vernon McGee notes that “the musician, the athlete, the businessman, the artist, the statesman who gives himself to his work is recognized for his total devotion. But if a man gives himself in total dedication to the cause of God, he is branded as a fanatic.”3 However, the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, stated that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub5 and was casting out demons with Satan’s help. “Instead of recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, the scribes charged that he was the permanent tool of Satan. It was a vicious attack upon His person.”6

    Jesus responded to the scribes in parables. They had attributed his power to Satan but this didn’t make sense. How could Satan cast out himself? How could Satan’s kingdom stand if it was defeating part of its own kingdom? He then used an illustration of someone wanting to plunder a strong man’s house. To do so, you would have to bind the strong man first. Otherwise, it would be impossible. Jesus then made a very clear statement about their accusation. He told them that God will forgive all kind of sins including blasphemies. But if someone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he would not be forgiven but would be condemned forever.

    What it means

    Jesus is opposed to Satan and his minions.

    What the scribes were accusing Jesus of was completely false. As you read through the first three chapters of Mark, what do you notice about Jesus and demon-possessed people? You notice that Jesus was opposed to the demons and wanted to free the possessed person from their control. The authority He had over them was not as a general exercises authority over his own soldiers. No, Jesus was God Almighty exerting His authority over His enemies. He even commanded them not to reveal His identity to the world because He wanted no connection between their evil work and Him.

    Jesus is serious about this kind of blasphemy.

    Although Jesus made logical arguments against the scribe’s false accusations, He noted that their sin was unpardonable. What sin had they committed? This is a difficult sin to define. Several commentators say that it wasn’t a particular sin that Jesus referred to but it was the fact that His accusers were hardened beyond the possibility of repentance.8 11 12 While there is evidence for that in other parts of the Bible (the pharaoh during the Exodus), that is not mentioned here. So, we need to look closely at what Jesus says.

    There are two things that Jesus meant to say here.

    First, Jesus stated that all sins will be forgiven by God including blasphemy. Note that when Jesus stated that all sins would be forgiven, it was “not an assertion of universal forgiveness but a declaration that all classes and kinds of sins may be forgiven (with the one exception subsequently stated).”7 By this we understand that God is very merciful. He could hold our sins against us for eternity, but He chooses to grant us forgiveness. That forgiveness is only available because Jesus died in our place on the cross.

    Second, there is a sin that will not be pardoned by God. That sin is what the scribes did here. They saw the Holy Spirit performing miracles through Jesus and still attributed those miracles to the devil. In this case, the unpardonable sin was saying that the works Jesus did were from the devil. This was a bold sin committed by people with hard hearts.

    Consider what one person wrote about this:

    “They had no excuse for such an action. They were not speaking out of ignorance or misunderstanding. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God to save Israel. They knew the prophecies were being fulfilled. They saw Jesus’ wonderful works, and they heard His clear presentation of truth. Yet they deliberately chose to deny the truth and slander the Holy Spirit. Standing before the Light of the World, bathed in His glory, they defiantly closed their eyes and became willfully blind. Jesus pronounced that sin to be unforgivable.”13

    How it applies

    Whose side are you on?

    This section of the chapter shows two types of people. On one hand, there were the people who eagerly listened to Jesus and believed who He was and what He said. These people included the disciples and others who had become convinced as they saw what Jesus did and heard what He said. On the other hand, there were the hard-hearted scribes who were against Jesus. These people came with hardened-hearts and were unmoved by what they saw. They were enemies of Jesus because they were also enemies of God.

    Which side are you on? Have you seen the miracles and heard His teaching and become convinced that Jesus is the Son of God? Then you are headed in the right direction. Keep listening and at the right time God will work in your heart and draw you to Himself. If He is doing that right now, then repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus. But there was also another group of people in this part of the chapter. Are you like the religious scribes who saw all the evidence in Jesus and rejected Him? Are you still an unbeliever? Have you come to the place where you are willfully rejecting who Jesus is and what He can do for you? Let me say that if this is where you are, you are in a dangerous place. Don’t let your heart become hardened anymore. Turn to the Lord today.

    Have you committed the unpardonable sin?

    It may be that you wonder about your own sins. Have you gotten to the place where God will not forgive your sins? Before you become overly anxious, consider several well-known sinners whom God forgave after committing horrendous sins.

    David – adultery, dishonesty, murder
    Adulterous woman – caught in the act of adultery
    The prodigal son – wasted his money on harlots and wild living
    Peter – cursed and denied Jesus three times
    Paul – persecuted Christians in the early church, part of stoning Stephen to death

    If God could forgive these people who sinned terribly, He can forgive you as well. But it would be good for you to consider these who were not pardoned for their sins. How did they get to the place where they willfully rejected Jesus despite the evidence displayed right in front of their eyes? This happens slowly and surely. When someone rejects what God is showing him, he gets a spiritual callous on his conscience. Then when he continues to sin and rejects the convicting of the Spirit, that callous gets harder. As time goes by, the callous becomes so hard that the person no longer feels bad about his sin and totally rejects God’s Holy Spirit.

    Psalm 95:7-8 – “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts…”

    Each of us needs to consider our own relationship with God today. I can’t tell where you are in relation to the Lord at this point in your life. But I do know this. If you will listen to what God is saying, there is still hope. Don’t let your heart become hardened to what God is saying. Seek Him today while you can. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. It can only come from Him.


In our passage today, we have seen several types of people. First, we saw the disciples whom Jesus called to Himself to train and eventually send out to preach the gospel to many people. Second, we saw curious people who came in large crowds to see Jesus. Not much is said about them except that they came to Jesus and listened to Him. Third, we saw religious scribes who rejected Jesus despite the incredible evidence that He was the Son of God.

Some of you are like the disciples who have been trained to serve the Lord. Let me encourage you to take what you have learned and share it with others. Don’t become complacent. Get up and do something for the Lord. Speak for Him wherever you can.

Some of you may be like the curious crowds who came to see Jesus. You are here listening to this message but have yet to make a choice. Let me encourage you to not put off your decision for long. If God has convicted you of your sin, now is the right time to repent and believe in Jesus.

Some of you may be like the religious scribes. You have already made up your mind that Jesus is not Who He claimed to be. As you have heard the Bible taught today, you have no desire to repent of your sin or to believe Jesus. Be careful. There will come a time when you will regret this. Turn from your sin now and receive God’s mercy before it is too late.


1 Grassmick 116.
2 Grassmick 117.
3 McGee 174.
4 Hiebert 92. “Calleth is middle voice and indicates that Jesus was acting in His own interest.”
5 Hiebert 99. “In the Greek, the name is always Beelzeboul; the familiar ‘Beelzebub’ is from the Vulgate. Some view the name as a derisive corruption of the title of the god of Ekron, Baal-zebub, ‘the lord of the flies,’ to make it mean the lord of dung. More probably it means lord of the dwelling, that is, the dwelling of the evil spirits. This agrees with the reference to ‘the strong man’s house’ in verse 27.”
6 Hiebert 99.
7 Hiebert 101.
8 Hiebert 102.
9 Hiebert 103.
10 Hiebert 104.
11 Ironside 58, 59.
12 Hendriksen 139.


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

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Ironside, H. A., Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1948.

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

“What is the unpardonable sin / unforgivable sin?”, as viewed at on 9/9/2023.

Mark 3:1-12

I have been reading ahead in the Gospel of Mark. One of the things that I have noticed is that this book records a lot of the events during Jesus’ ministry as opposed to what He taught. That got me thinking. Why was this gospel written? My first thought is that Mark was trying to show people who Jesus is by showing what He did. Perhaps that is why there are more events than teaching in this gospel account.

In this chapter, Mark records five of those events during the ministry of Jesus:

1. The healing of the man with a withered hand.
2. The healing of the multitudes.
3. The appointing of the twelve disciples.
4. The accusation that Jesus was controlled by the devil.
5. The definition of Jesus’ real family.

Today, we will be looking at the first two events. But as we look at them, let’s try to understand what Mark is telling us about Jesus and how that will make a difference in our lives.

  1. Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

    At the end of chapter two, Jesus announced that He was Lord of the Sabbath. As God, He determined what was allowed to be done on the Sabbath day. And He determined that it was okay for David to eat the week-old shewbread when he was in need and that it was okay for his poor disciples to eat heads of grain from a field on the Sabbath day.

    No doubt the religious leaders were displeased by this. Who was this upstart? He was only 30 years old and acted like He was the authority. Their rabbis had written many rules that had been added to God’s commandments about resting on the Sabbath. Apparently, people were not allowed to be healed on the Sabbath unless it was a life-or-death situation. These extra rules had become overly important to the zealous Pharisees. So they began watching Jesus trying to see if He would break one of the extra rules their rabbis had prescribed.

    What does it say?

    One Sabbath day, Jesus entered a synagogue. It just so happened that a man with a withered hand was present. The Pharisees were so concerned with Jesus breaking their extra rules on the Sabbath that they were unconcerned with this man’s physical problem. All they wanted to do was accuse Jesus and get Him in trouble. But Jesus had a better idea.

    He called the man with the withered hand to step forward. The man did. Then Jesus addressed the religious leaders with a question. Is it lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath day? Is it lawful to save a life or kill on the Sabbath day? What Jesus was asking in general applied specifically to whether He should heal this man on the Sabbath day. Was that okay according to their extra add-on rules? But the religious leaders were unwilling to answer His question.

    This made Jesus become angry.1 He was grieved that their hearts were so hard that they were more interested with obeying man-made rules than with seeing a man healed. Despite their hard heartedness, Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. As he did so, his withered hand was healed completely. “His ability to heal the man’s hand by the exercise of His will was proof that Jesus was more than a mere man.”2 Jesus is both man and God. But, as you might have guessed, the Pharisees didn’t recognize this and weren’t pleased with what He did. Instead of praising God, they left the meeting to plot with the Herodians to destroy Jesus.

    What does it mean?

    Jesus wanted people to understand the real purpose of the law.

    To the Pharisees who were present these laws were the only thing that mattered. Obeying their man-made laws was the only way to prove that they were good, Jewish people. In their minds, keeping the laws was the most important thing to do. And these rules became such a focus that they didn’t even consider why God made the laws.

    Jesus’ question should have pierced their hearts and helped them to understand the real reason for the law. God didn’t give the commandment about the Sabbath day to hurt people; it was given to help them. Think about the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:8-11). God told the Israelites to keep the Sabbath day holy by not working. They, their children, their servants, and their cattle were to rest from work on that day. God showed the importance of weekly rest by creating the world in six days and then resting on the seventh.

    Back to the story. When Jesus asked the religious leaders if it was lawful to do good or evil or to save a life or kill, He was trying to get them to think. They were thinking that healing on the Sabbath day was breaking the law. But was it? No, it was doing good on that day. Jesus wasn’t causing this man to break God’s commandment by being healed on that Sabbath day. God’s purpose for that day of rest was never to burden people but to help them.

    Some people are more focused on rules than God.

    Obeying God’s command is an important part of a believer’s life. When you realize the reason for God’s commands, it takes away the burden of obeying them. But there are some people who are so focused on the rules that they miss the reason for them. The Pharisees were such a group. They were so focused on the obedience part, that they missed the point of the law itself.

    Instead of seeing the blessing of having a day of rest, they were busy making sure people were compliant. How many steps had they taken that day? Had they done anything that looked like work? Were they properly resting? Were they at the synagogue that day? This focus took away the blessing of having a day of rest and caused them to be a burden to everyone they interacted with. This was not what God intended at all.

    How does it apply?

    Whenever this topic is discussed, it is easy to make an improper application. So, let’s be careful that we don’t miss what we need to think about.

    Are you obeying God’s commands?

    If you are not careful, you might look at this event and think that God doesn’t care about rules. That is not true. If you think about it, the laws in the Old Testament were given by God for the good of people. Jesus was not telling people to disregard God’s laws. He was simply telling them to understand the goodness of God by protecting them with those laws.

    If you have become lax toward obeying God’s laws, don’t take this passage out of context and feel good about your disobedience. Look at God’s laws and obey them with an understanding that God has your good in mind by giving these laws to you.

    Have you missed the point?

    On the other hand, you may be a very fervent believer who tries to obey all of God’s laws. As you seek to obey them, consider whether you have missed the point of God’s commandments. Have you become so focused on obeying them that you no longer do them for the right reasons? Is your purpose to please the Lord or to be right? Is your purpose to limit others or to take advantage of the protection God gives in them? Are you focused on doing good for the right reasons?

    I would imagine that what Jesus said to the stubborn Pharisees has made you think yourself. Perhaps God’s Holy Spirit has convicted you about something you have done or have not been doing. Whatever the case, it is important to respond correctly to the convicting of the Spirit. Take a moment to respond to God right when the Spirit speaks to you.

  2. Jesus healed many others (Mark 3:7-12).

    What does it say?

    Jesus and his disciples left the area to go to the sea. But they weren’t able to be alone because people from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east side of the Jordan River, Tyre, and Sidon came in a huge group to see him. They had heard about what he had been doing.

    What had He been doing? So far, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has (1) taken over John the Baptist’s ministry and preached about repentance, (2) called some disciples, (3) cast out a demon, (4) healed Peter’ mother-in-law from her fever, (5) healed people after the Sabbath, (6) preached in many synagogues in Galilee, (7) healed a leper, (8) forgiven and healed a paralyzed man, (9) called a tax collector to be his disciple, (10) eaten with tax collectors and sinners, (11) answered a question about fasting, (12) proclaimed Himself Lord of the Sabbath, and (13) healed a man with a withered hand. No wonder the crowds came to see Jesus!

    But this multitude was overly eager to see Jesus. They were so eager that Jesus told His disciples to get a small boat ready for him to get in so as to keep from being crushed by the crowds. Many people were healed by Jesus and many more pushed to get close enough to touch Him. He also dealt with people who were demon possessed. As He dealt with them, the demon would cause the person to fall down before Jesus and declare that Jesus was the Son of God. But Jesus told them not to make His identity known.

    What does it mean?

    There were many needy people in this area of the world.

    At the beginning of the first century, there were many people who were afflicted by health issues. So far we have seen leprosy, fevers, paralysis, and a withered hand. As we continue our study of Mark, we will see more people who needed Jesus’ help. The other thing we see is the amount of demon possessions. Satan and his demons were actively harming the people who lived there.

    This raises another question: Why were there so many sick and demon-possessed people? Wasn’t this the land in which God had promised to bless the Jewish people? Didn’t He tell them that they would be protected from diseases if they loved and obeyed Him?

    Exodus 15:26 – “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

    What had happened to the people whom God had promised to protect from diseases? These people had rejected their God and turned against Him. Because of this, they were experiencing what it was like to live without God’s blessing and protection.

    It was not yet time to reveal His identity.

    When the demons announced that Jesus was the Son of God, they were not wrong. But their intent was not good. It was not in God’s plan to reveal Who Jesus was at that time. They were not trying to help but were actually hindering God’s plan. And if you think about it, why would Jesus want a demon announcing His identity? “He did not want the recognition of His true nature to be associated with the impure and malevolent testimony of demons. He wanted men to realize His true identity through His words and works.”3

    How does it apply?

    As you look around our country, you might be deceived as to its condition. Americans have wealth, peace, and relatively good health, right? Compared to the rest of the world, we have it pretty good. While the comparison is true, there are still a lot of needy people around us. There are people all around who are poor, sick, addicted, and afflicted by Satan. During Jesus’ ministry, He reached out to these people and helped them. While we do not have the ability to heal them as Jesus did, we do have the ability to love, help, pray for, and tell them about Jesus.

    If you think about it, we have what they actually need. They want an end of suffering and that may be what God will do for them at some point. But ultimately what they need is Jesus. Only He can meet their innermost need. Like all of us, they are sinners who have broken God’s laws. They are under the curse of sin and need God’s forgiveness. They can only get things right with God if they repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus. But how will they know about their need and the solution unless someone tells them. Will you?


Today, we have considered two events in the early ministry of Jesus. The first involved Him healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day. We learned from this that God wants our obedience but also our understanding. He holds us back from things that will harm us and wants our good. But if we are not careful, we may focus on the rules instead of God’s good intentions. The second event involved Him healing people in a great multitude from many cities. We learned that there were many needs that needed addressed. If we open our eyes, we will see that things are the same here today. God has placed us here in a needy community that needs to hear about their great need and His great love.

What has God spoken to you about today? Do you need to adjust your focus to God’s intentions? Do you need to adjust your focus to see the needs around you? Or maybe you need to repent of your sin and place your faith in Jesus today. Whatever the case, I encourage you to talk to the Lord and get things right. Then with a new focus, seek to do His will in the world around you.


1 Hiebert 86. “The aorist tense implies that the look of anger was momentary, but grieved is present tense, picturing a prolonged feeling of grief or distress at such men.”
2 Hiebert 87.
3 Hiebert 92.


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

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

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

Mark 2:18-28 – Four Questions about Jesus’ Ministry – Part 2

Last week, we began a two-part study about four questions that people asked Jesus. The first question was, How could Jesus forgive sins? When the paralyzed man was lowered through a hole in the roof, Jesus forgave the man and healed him. By this, we learned that Jesus is God and able to forgive sin. The second question was, How could Jesus associate with sinners? When Jesus visited Levi’s house, his “sinner” friends were there causing religious people to wonder about Jesus’ associations. Jesus responded by telling them that he was like a physician coming to heal the sick. He had come to call sinners to repentance and so he spent time with them.

in today’s study, we will look at two more questions that people asked Jesus. The questions were about fasting and keeping the Sabbath day. While these may not seem very exciting topics, we will soon see that Jesus’ answers were very wise at the moment and can be very helpful to our own lives as well.

  1. How could Jesus not promote fasting? (Mark 2:18-22)

    This week, I saw an announcement by one of my college friends that his father had written a book about fasting. The book was written to show the purposes and benefits of fasting from a biblical perspective. Most of us would rather eat than fast. It is not something we look forward to. But there have been times when I was too busy to eat or there may come a time when I am so overwhelmed by a situation that I will not eat due to sorrow or the need to pray. I think this is what fasting is for.

    In our first section, a group of people asked Jesus about fasting. Let’s take a look at their question and Jesus’ response to it.

    What it says

    The disciples of John and the Pharisees were the ones who approached Jesus with the question. Both groups practiced fasting, but Jesus’ disciples did not. “During the time of Jesus, the pious Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), on the second and fifth day.”3 Several times in the gospels, the Pharisees are condemned for making a show of their fasting. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus noted how religious hypocrites disfigured their faces while fasting so people would notice. He also told the story of a proud Pharisee who announced to God that he fasted twice every week (Luke 18:12). If you are familiar with the Pharisees, this should come as no surprise.

    But what about the disciples of John? Why would they be doing the same thing as the hypocritical Pharisees? First of all, we have to realize that fasting doesn’t have to be done for show. It can be done for good reasons. Think about the person whom these disciples were following. Do you remember John the Baptist from Mark 1? He was a preacher of repentance. “He emphasized sin and the necessity of turning away from it. It is not inconceivable, therefore, that he may have encouraged fasting as an expression of mourning for sin, the very reason which the Pharisees also gave for much of their fasting (cf. Matt. 6:16).”10

    Add to this the fact that Jesus and his disciples had been feasting with Levi and his friends. “If the feast of Levi fell on the evening beginning either of their weekly fast days, the disciples of Jesus were feasting at the very time the pious Pharisees were fasting.”3 As they were keeping themselves from food, they would have seen Jesus and the disciples enjoying a feast with Levi and his friends. As they were supposedly fasting for God, this must have seemed very strange. But note this: “The Old Testament prescribed fasting for all Jews only on the annual Day of Atonement, as an act of repentance (Lev. 16:29), but the Pharisees promoted voluntary fasting on every Monday and Thursday (cf. Luke 18:12) as an act of piety.”1 Although fasting twice a week was not required by the Old Testament law, why did Jesus and the disciples not follow their religious tradition?

    When asked why, Jesus “compares his … presence on earth with a wedding-feast.”11 He explained that the disciples were like friends of the bridegroom. These friends “were the groom’s attendants who accompanied him to the house of the bride to bring her to the groom’s house, which was now hers. … They shared in the joy of the bridegroom. [And note this:] Jewish custom exempted them from certain religious observances, including the weekly fasts. Weddings were occasions of laughter, merriment, and song.”4 A wedding is supposed to be a time of celebration not fasting. And this was what Jesus tried to tell them. While he was with them, they would not fast, but there would be plenty of times for fasting after Jesus was taken away.

    He then talked about how unwise it would be to put a new piece of cloth on an old garment. “If a patch of unfulled wool … is placed on a garment that has seen better days, the result will be that, especially when this unshrunk piece becomes wet and shrinks, the bordering cloth of the badly worn piece of clothing will be pulled to pieces.”13 He also told them that putting new wine in old, brittle wineskins would be just as bad. When the wine fermented, it would burst the old wineskins. In both cases, new items wouldn’t work well with old items.

    What it means

    There are two things to understand in this section.

    First, we have to understand what Jesus was saying about the bridegroom and his friends.

    Jesus was trying to show them that His presence among them was something to celebrate. He had already brought healing to the sick, cast demons out of people, forgiven the paralyzed man, called disciples to follow him, and taught God’s truth like no other person was doing at that time. These things were a cause for rejoicing not fasting.

    “The time would come when the Bridegroom (Jesus) would be taken (aparthe, implying violent removal; cf. Isa. 53:8) from them and on that day (His crucifixion) the disciples would fast in the … sense of experiencing sorrow in place of joy.”1 But that time had not yet come. So, they were right to feast together thinking of all that Jesus had done.

    Second, we have to understand what Jesus was saying about the old and new cloth and old and new wineskins.

    When Jesus talked about the old and the new, He was revealing that His presence changed everything. The religious leaders had made so many extra rules, that the truth of the Bible was obscured by them. It was time to remove all of those man-made rules and to follow the clear teaching of Jesus. His “presence with His people was a time of newness (fulfillment) and signaled the passing of the old.”1 Because of that, the people were not to add Jesus to their list of man-made religious rules. Instead, they were to leave all of that to believe and follow Him.

    How it applies

    You have to trust Jesus alone.

    If you grew up in a religious home, you might still have the idea that your outward actions are required for you to be a Christian. You might think that what you do is what matters to God. But that is not why Jesus came and why He died on the cross. He didn’t die for your sins because you were able to do good things to impress God. He died on the cross because nothing you do can impress God. We are sinners who can’t earn God’s favor by the good things we try to do. There are no requirements or lists of things to do. He only tells us to repent of/turn from our sin and believe/trust Jesus. Nothing else will do you any good. You must trust Jesus alone.

  2. How could Jesus allow the law to be broken? (Mark 2:23-28)

    Have you ever seen someone speeding past a stopped police car and nothing was done? I have seen it multiple times. During my travels, I will occasionally see a police car driving faster than the speed limit and several brave souls following him at the same speed. Hey! That’s not right! How can that police officer allow the other drivers to get away with breaking the speed limit? This is the same feeling some of the Pharisees had when they watched what Jesus’ disciples were doing.

    What it says

    The Sabbath was a day given by God to the Jewish people for rest and relaxation. No work was to be done on this day. On one particular Sabbath day, Jesus and the disciples walked through the grain fields. The disciples were hungry and plucked some of the heads of grain to eat. “This was legitimate (Deut. 23:25), but the Pharisees viewed it as reaping, an act of work forbidden on the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 34:21), so they demanded an explanation from Jesus.”1 They asked Jesus why the disciples were breaking the Old Testament Law by “harvesting” crops on the Sabbath day. “To ensure observance of the Sabbath law, the scribes had enumerated ‘the main classes of work: forty save one, among them reaping, threshing, and winnowing. But in their eagerness to ‘fence’ the law against violation, they had gone to extremes in stipulating acts that were regarded as work. Thus the Pharisees regarded the plucking of the heads as reaping, the rubbing of the grain as threshing, and perhaps the blowing away of the chaff as winnowing. The disciples were guilty of working on the Sabbath!”6

    When Jesus heard their question, He ask the Pharisees if they had ever read about David eating the showbread from the tabernacle when he was running away from King Saul. The shewbread consisted of ceremonial loaves of bread which were placed in the temple for a week in honor to God. Every Sabbath day, the old bread was removed and could be eaten by the priests. It was meant only for them. So when David was given this bread, it was out of the ordinary. When he and his men ate this ceremonial bread, it was not a lawful action but God did not punish David for doing so. Jesus used this story to illustrate that the Sabbath was made for man not the other way around. He also stated that as the Son of Man, He was the Lord of the Sabbath.

    What it means

    Jesus used this event to teach two things.

    First, He taught why the Sabbath was put in place.

    Why did God give the Sabbath day? Was it designed to make people super careful about what they did on that day? Or was it designed for their rest and relaxation? By pointing toward David’s unusual situation, Jesus was showing “that the Pharisees’ narrow interpretation of the Law blurred God’s intention. The spirit of the Law in respect to human need took priority over its ceremonial regulations.”1 If God allowed David to eat this bread when he was in great need, couldn’t the disciples, who were poor and hungry, eat a little of the grain on the Sabbath day?

    When Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath, He was showing them God’s intention. “The Sabbath was instituted (by God) for mankind’s benefit and refreshment not that people were made to keep burdensome regulations pertaining to it.”1 “The minute, arbitrary regulations of the Pharisees made man the slave of the Sabbath, making its observance a burden rather than a blessing. Their binding traditions tended to nullify God’s gracious purpose in giving the Sabbath to man.”8

    Second, He taught that He was Lord over the Sabbath.

    Who was in charge of the Sabbath? The Pharisees had come to the conclusion that their rabbis and traditions were what defined the Sabbath day restrictions. Their ultimate authority was found in the traditions passed on to them by their religious leaders. But this was not right. God was the One who gave the command to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. “God had made it what it was. it was the Lord, no one else, who had laid down his principles for sabbath observance. And since all authority had been given to the Son (Matt. 11:27; 28:18), who is one with the Father (John 10:30), with whom the Father is well pleased (Mark 1:11), and who was sent into the world by the Father (Mark 1:38; 9:37), … consequently”16 Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath.

    This may have come as a shock to the Pharisees who were confronting Jesus that day. Was He saying that He was ultimately in charge of what was allowed on the Sabbath day? Who did He think He was? Sadly, many of them never understood who Jesus was and is. He is the Son of God, God who became human and lived among us. So, whatever He said to them was authoritative. And that day “He was using His authority to set aside the restrictive regulations of the Pharisees which perverted the divine intention for the Sabbath.”9 “Therefore, no one has any right to find fault with him when he allows his disciples to satisfy their hunger by picking and eating heads of grain!”17

    How it applies

    Have you become so wrapped up in keeping the rules that you have forgotten the reason for them?

    In the Bible, we read a lot of things that God wants Christians to keep away from. We are to put off our old lifestyle (Eph. 4:22), stop lying (Eph. 4:25), not to be sinfully angry (Eph. 4:26), not to steal (Eph. 4:28), not to speak corruptly (Eph. 4:29), not to be bitter (Eph. 4:31), not to be fornicators or covetous (Eph. 5:3), not to tell dirty jokes (Eph. 5:4), not to get drunk (Eph. 5:18) and many other things.

    Why did God give us all of those commands? Was it so that we can look down on other people and make ourselves to look better than them? No, God’s purpose for every command is for our good and to make us more like Jesus. We don’t do those things only when people are watching. We do them because we know God has our best interest in mind. His commands are for our good. And when we keep that in mind, they will not appear to be restrictions but helps.

    Do you understand that? If you do, then your Christian life will become totally different than before. Instead of a list of dos and don’ts that fill you with anxiety, they will become a joyful practice because you know Who gave them to you and why.


During our study today, we have looked at two events that caused people to ask Jesus a question. The first was why the disciples didn’t fast. Jesus told them that having Him with them was a reason to celebrate. He then told them that it was time to leave their old traditions and to simply put their faith in Him. If you are someone who is holding on to traditions and rules in order to please God, I hope that you understand what Jesus was saying. God doesn’t want your attempts at pleasing Him by obeying rules or doing things. He just wants you to turn from your sin and put your faith in Jesus.

The second question was about keeping the Sabbath day. Why did Jesus’ disciples eat grain on the day when they were to be resting. Jesus used the story of David and the tabernacle shewbread to show the reason for the Sabbath. God designed the law to help people not to hinder hungry people from eating. As you consider what Jesus taught them, I hope that you understand why God gives us prohibitions. It is always for our good not to make us constantly feeling guilty. When you get to the point where you understand that, you will be able to enjoy your relationship with the Lord.


1 Grassmick 114.
2 McGee 170.
3 Hiebert 76.
4 Hiebert 77.
5 Hiebert 78 quoting Ezra P. Gould.
6 Hiebert 80-81.
7 Hiebert 82.
8 Hiebert 82-83.
9 Hiebert 83.
10 Hendriksen 99.
11 Hendriksen 100.
12 Hendriksen 101.
13 Hendriksen 102.
14 Hendriksen 105.
15 Hendriksen 108.
16 Hendriksen 108-09.
17 Hendriksen 109.


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

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

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

Mark 2:1-17 – Four Questions about Jesus’ Ministry – Part 1

In last week’s message, we read from Mark 1:16-45. There we saw Jesus’ pattern for ministry. Do you remember the four aspects of His ministry? There was (1) disciple-making, (2) teaching, (3) healing, and (4) prayer. I still think these provide a good template for ministry today (although healing would have to be replaced with caring for people). At the end of the chapter, Jesus had become very popular. People came from miles around to be healed and to listen to his teaching. But when the leper was healed, he “didn’t obey what Jesus had requested him to do, but had gone out and told everyone. So then the crowds pushed upon Him and our Lord couldn’t do His work.”4

At the beginning of chapter 2, things had settled down enough for Jesus and the disciples to return to Capernaum. This seemed to be his ministry headquarters. In this chapter, Mark records four events that happened. What I found interesting about the chapter is that each event involves a question asked about Jesus by various people. With this in mind, our outline will be based on these four questions. Today, we will cover the first two questions in verses 1-17.

  1. How could Jesus forgive sins? (Mark 2:1-12)

    Forgiveness is something that many people long for. I heard of a story about a father who posted an advertisement in a newspaper telling his son Pablo that all was forgiven and that he wanted to meet him in front of a building in the city. When he arrived, there were hundreds of men named Pablo waiting for their father’s forgiveness.

    As we look at the first event, we will see how Jesus offered forgiveness to a man and how he has the authority to do so.

    What is says

    When Jesus returned to Capernaum, he went back to Simon’s house. Many people came to meet him, so He took the opportunity to preach to them. “The ministry of our Lord was to preach the Word of God, and that is the emphasis that we feel should be made today.”4 But others came to be healed. When four men were unable to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, they took matters into their own hands. “Like many [houses in that area], this house probably had an outside stairway leading to a flat roof. So the men went onto the roof. After digging through it (a composite of grass, clay, clay tiles, and laths), they made an opening … above Jesus and lowered the paralyzed man before Him.”1 What do you think the people thought when this happened? What do you think the owner of the house thought? Wait. Whose house was this? If it was the same house as mentioned in chapter 1, this was Simon Peter’s house! Uh oh.

    As parts of the roof fell into the room in which Jesus was preaching, all eyes were on the man being lowered and then they all looked at Jesus. What did He think of all of this? “Jesus viewed the determined effort of the four as visible evidence of their faith in His power to heal this man.”1 Having noted their faith, He told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. This led the scribes to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. How could anyone but God forgive sins? Jesus asked why they were thinking this way. He then asked them which was easier to do: to forgive someone’s sins or to heal them of being paralyzed. Both were impossible for a person to do, but then Jesus was no ordinary man. He proved that he could forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man.

    What it means

    “In the Old Testament, disease and death were viewed as the consequences of man’s sinful condition, and healing was predicated on God’s forgiveness (e.g. 2 Chron. 7:14; Pss. 41:4; 103.3; 147:3; Isa. 19:22; 38:16-17; Jer. 3:22; Hosea 14:4).”1 In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God told Solomon that He would forgive those who humbled themselves and sought His face. So Jesus’ offer of forgiveness to the paralyzed man sounded like blasphemy to the scribes who were there because, as they said, only God could forgive sins.

    What they were saying is true insofar as they went. It is true that only God can forgive sins. But what they did not know or believe was that God was in their midst. As God and man, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. So He could forgive the sins of this paralyzed man. And when He asked if it was easier to announce forgiveness or healing, He wanted to show the people that He was able to do both. By His divine power, Jesus healed the paralyzed man and proved that He could forgave sins.

    How it applies

    What you believe about Jesus is important. The scribes did not believe that Jesus was God, even after they saw Him heal the paralyzed man. The people also saw what Jesus did but were merely amazed at what Jesus did. Some of them may have believed in Him. But consider this. This event in Jesus’ ministry was given to you as well. You need to be forgiven by God to be made right with God and to escape the coming judgment. But what you think about Jesus will determine whether you will be forgiven by God. Do you believe that Jesus was just a man or is He God as well? Only God can forgive sins. Since Jesus is God and because He (revealed later in the Gospel of Mark) died for our sins and rose again, He can forgive you for your sins. Do you believe that Jesus is God and can forgive your sins?

  2. How could Jesus associate with sinners? (Mark 2:13-17)

    Would you feel uncomfortable if a woman with a bad reputation came to your pastor’s house to eat? Would you feel uncomfortable to eat dinner with someone known for drunkenness? If we could set aside the obvious cautions for safety reasons and if we made sure that others were present so as to keep from any rumors spreading, would you feel uncomfortable spending time with a person known for sinful behavior? This is the question that Jesus faced in our next section.

    What it says

    Jesus later went to the sea and taught the many people who gathered around him. He later met Levi “who was a Jewish tax official in the service of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. For such service, often involving fraudulent practices, these officials were despised by the Jews.”2 Despite his suspect reputation, Jesus called Levi to follow Him as a disciple and he did. Just as Peter and Andrew left their nets to become Jesus’ disciples, so Levi left his tax collecting to follow Jesus.

    “Shortly afterward, Levi gave a dinner for Jesus and His disciples.”2 During the dinner, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and the other disciples. These were probably friends of Levi who had been invited to the meal. The scribes and Pharisees considered these people to be “untaught in the Law, who did not abide by rigid pharisaic standards.”2 But they were more than that. They were sinful people who needed to hear what Jesus had to say. But when Jesus allowed them to crowd around Him, the scribes and Pharisees asked our next question. Why does Jesus eat with sinful people? Jesus heard and responded that a doctor works with sick people not those who are well. Jesus’s goal was not to take care of righteous people but to call sinners to repentance.

    What it means

    Why did Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Mark included this event in his gospel to show us one of Jesus’ goals. As he said, He didn’t come to call the righteous but to call sinners to repent of their sin. This shows us two things. First, He did not come for the righteous. “The words, the righteous, are used ironically to refer to those who saw themselves as such, namely the Pharisees (cf. Luke 16:14-15). They saw no need to repent and believe.”2 As you may recall, the Bible says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” And yet Jesus stated that He had not come to help righteous people. Second, He did come to help sinners. Just as a physician seeks to treat the sick, so Jesus came to call sinners to repentance from sin. If they would come to Him and humbly acknowledge their sin, He was willing to work with them. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

    How it applies

    There are two applications here. The first applies to you if you have not yet repented of your sin and believed Jesus. God wants you to repent of your sin and follow Him. This involves a humble acknowledgment of your own sin from God’s perspective. When you realize that you are a sinner in God’s eyes, your next response should be to admit it and turn from it. After that, you should follow Jesus to learn from Him. At this point, we have not talked about His death on the cross, but as we study the Gospel of Mark together, we will eventually see that Jesus died for our sins on the cross so that God could forgive you. But at this point, start with getting your heart right with God. Turn from your sin to the Lord.

    The second application involves those who are already believers. Part of being a Christian is living a righteous life. We are told to be honest, to obey authority, to abstain from evil, and many other things. We are to do this because we love the Lord and want to please Him. But in your quest to be a godly person, make sure that you remember where you came from. When God saved you, He changed you and made a big difference in your life. But remember that He had to change you and that He saved you when you were a sinner. So, when you interact with people who are “sinners” don’t become so separated that you can’t talk to anyone. Be like Jesus and talk to sinful people so that they can hear about Jesus and be changed by Him, too.


As we consider what Jesus said and did in this section of Mark chapter 2, we should make a note of how He carried out His ministry to people. First, He was concerned with forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man. As God, He had the ability to both forgive and heal the man. And He did this with great kindness. Did the paralyzed man deserve to be forgiven or healed? No, but Jesus loved him and did it anyway. You might think about this today. None of us deserved what Jesus did for us, but we should be thankful that He loved us and died for our sins despite us being unworthy.

Second, Jesus was willing to tarnish His perfect reputation in order to reach out to sinful people. Although religious people questioned what He was doing, Jesus brushed off their criticisms and showed why He came. He came like a physician to care for those who were spiritually sick. There are many people who are spiritually sick today. They need to hear the gospel—the good news about Jesus—and they probably won’t ever hear it unless we take it to them. So, consider how you can brush aside criticisms and fears and interact with people so that they can learn about Jesus, who died for them too!

If nothing else today, I hope that every Christian will consider how Jesus ministered to people. His life is an example that each of us should follow. And now that we have seen how He ministered to sinners, maybe it’s time for us to do the same. How about it?


1 Grassmick 112.
2 Grassmick 113.
3 Grassmick 114.
4 McGee 167.


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.

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.

Mark 1:9-15 – How God prepared His Son for ministry

When someone is preparing for their future occupation, there is a time of training. That often includes classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and work with a mentor. All of this is designed to get you ready for that future job. I know someone who is currently working toward becoming a journeyman electrician. The process will take several years but the process will eventually end with an exam that will determine if he passes the test.

During our last message, we saw how God prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. He used the prophets to foretell his ministry. He also used John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the gospel. In today’s message, we will look at three more things about his preparation. They involve Him being verified at his baptism, the Holy Spirit training Him in the wilderness, and how well-prepared He was for His early ministry.

  1. He was verified at his baptism (Mark 1:9-11).

    Before someone announces himself as a candidate for political office, he is vetted. People look into the candidate’s background, writings, social media posts, and pretty much everything that he has ever done or said. The candidate is only given the green light to run when the vetting process has been completed. They are then verified as someone who could make it through the rigors of the candidating process.

    While Jesus was not running for political office, He was put through a vetting process that included baptism and temptation. First, let’s consider the events that transpired during his baptism.

    Jesus was baptized by John.

    As you may recall, John the Baptist was preaching repentance to the people near Jerusalem. He told them to prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus by repenting of their sins. The other gospels give examples of people who came out to see him. When asked how to repent, he gave them specific examples of what that would look like. He said things like: (1) Give to those in need, (2) don’t overcharge, (3) don’t make false accusations, and (4) be content with your wages (Luke 3:10-14).

    When Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist, there was a bit of a problem. Jesus was the sinless Son of God. Since He had never sinned, how could John baptize Him?

    “Mark did not state why Jesus submitted to John’s baptism: However, three reasons may be suggested: (1) It was an act of obedience, showing that Jesus was in full agreement with God’s overall plan and the role of John’s baptism in it (cf. Matt. 3:15). (2) I was an act of self-identification with the nation of Israel whose heritage and sinful predicament He shared (cf. Isa. 53:12). (3) It was an act of self-dedication to His messianic mission, signifying His official acceptance and entrance into it.”1

    I think the best explanation is that Jesus took part in the baptism to identify himself with what it represented. As the One who would eventually pay the price for our sins on the cross, it was good for Him to identify with God’s plan so that others would follow His example. “By means of his voluntary submission to baptism, Jesus had signified his entire willingness to accomplish the task assigned to him, namely, to suffer and die in his people’s stead.”12

    Jesus was anointed by the Spirit.

    After being baptized by John, Jesus came up out of the water and something supernatural took place. The sky was torn apart and the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus like a dove. What did this mean? “In Old Testament times the Spirit came on certain people to empower them for service (e.g., Ex. 31:3; Jud. 3:10; 11:29; 1 Sam. 19:20, 23). The coming of the Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission.”1 This was a visible sign that Jesus was filled with the Spirit and enabled to serve God.

    Jesus was verified by the Father.

    At that same time, a voice was heard from heaven. It was God the Father voicing His approval for His Son. He said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The Father made several things very clear. (1) Jesus was the Son of God, (2) Jesus was loved by the Father, and (3) the Father was pleased with Jesus. After hearing this statement spoken from heaven, there was no doubt who Jesus was and that He was approved by God.

    Application: Who do you think Jesus is? Many believe that Jesus was someone who went about doing good and performing miracles. Some believe Jesus was a great teacher that could keep the attention of the crowds. While those things are true, we have discovered something more about Jesus. He is the Son of God who was approved by God. As we look read through the rest of the Gospel of Mark, we will see more evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and the plan God had for Him to accomplish.

  2. He was trained by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12-13).

    The second part of the vetting process for Jesus was His temptation in the wilderness. “He was among the wild beasts. … The Jordan valley and the adjacent wilderness have been known as the haunt of hyenas, jackals, panthers, and even lions. … The region where Jesus fasted and was tempted was therefore the scene of abandonment and peril.”13 If He could survive this period of forty days of temptation in such harsh conditions, He would be ready for public ministry.

    Jesus was led by the Spirit.

    Verse 12 tells us that the Spirit immediately drove Jesus into the wilderness. The language used here is strong. He was quickly pushed into the wilderness to go through this last phase of training. For forty days, Jesus would endure lack of food, temptation, and struggles. But all of this was part of the Holy Spirit’s plan to get Jesus ready for ministry.

    Does it seem strange that the Spirit led Jesus to a place where He would be tempted? What we don’t always recognize is that God has a plan that often involves testing. “God put Jesus to the test (the Spirit led Him to it) to show He was qualified for His messianic mission.2

    Jesus was tempted by Satan.

    In verse 13, we learn that Satan was tempting Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness.

    Who is Satan?

    “The name Satan is derived from a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary.’ … It is the personal name of that mighty spiritual being who is the head of the kingdom of evil and is engaged in constant warfare against God’s kingdom.”7 He is the enemy of God and was eager to destroy the Son of God.

    What did Satan do?

    The language used by Mark seems to indicate “that Jesus was repeatedly subjected to temptation during the entire period. … The three temptations, described in Matthew and Luke, came when Jesus was exhausted and at His weakest as the mighty climax in Satan’s assaults against Jesus.”7 Satan tried every trick in the book to cause Jesus to sin and turn away from God’s plan. Somehow, he knew that Jesus’ ministry would pull people from their sin to God. And he didn’t want that to happen.

    1 John 3:8 – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

    What did Jesus do?

    Jesus faced many of Satan’s temptations, but He did not give in to any of them (see Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus fought against “the prince of evil personally before confronting his forces. He entered on His ministry to defeat him and set his captives free (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8).”2 As we go through the rest of the chapter, you will see how Jesus often cast out demons from possessed people. This was part of his spiritual battle against the evil one and his minions.

    Jesus was cared for by angels.

    During this time, Jesus was alone and away from other people. But he was not left alone without any care. The angels of God ministered to Him during this difficult time. “The precise nature of the angelic service is not certain; it may include the supply of physical as well as spiritual needs.”8

    Application: When you are tempted to sin, remember what we have seen here today. Jesus went through the same temptations we face today.

    Hebrews 4:15 – “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

    Application: When it seems that temptation is too strong for you to resist, call out to Jesus for help. He knows what it is like to be tempted and how to resist without sinning. He will help you.

  3. He was well prepared to begin His ministry (Mark 1:14-15).

    At the end of the forty days, Jesus had passed every test. He had been empowered by the Holy Spirit and verified by God the Father. He had also endured forty days of temptation alone in the wilderness. And in all of these things, He had shown Himself to be sinless and capable of completing God’s plan for Him on earth. Now that He was prepared, what would happen next?

    Jesus was left alone.

    When we began the chapter, John the Baptist was preaching repentance from sin. It would seem that he and Jesus would be great partners in ministry. But something had already changed. “Jesus began His ministry in Galilee (cf. Mark 1:9) after John the Baptist was arrested by Herod Antipas … for the reason stated in Mark 6:17-18. … The time for Jesus’ ministry in Galilee had now come.”3

    If you are not familiar with what happened to John the Baptist, I will give you a quick summary. John the Baptist was a preacher of repentance from sin. And he didn’t hold back due to someone’s position in society. He actually told a king that he was committing adultery by taking and marrying his brother’s wife. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over very well. John was arrested and placed in prison.

    But God’s plan would still be fulfilled. John had prepared the way for Jesus and His time had finally come. It was time for John the Baptist to exit and Jesus to enter the ministry. “The time was fulfilled.” So what did Jesus do? The first thing Jesus did was to leave the area of Jerusalem and return to Galilee. There he began preaching a specific message.

    Jesus preached the good news.

    What did Jesus preach about? There were two parts to his message: (1) the kingdom was near, and (2) people needed to repent and believe the good news.

    The kingdom was near.

    If you were a Jewish person who lived at that time, Jesus’ message would have been exciting. Jesus told them that the kingdom of God was at hand or was drawing near. For people whose land had been conquered by Rome, this would have been extremely good news. But what they expected and what Jesus announced were two different things.

    “They were expecting a future messianic (Davidic) kingdom to be established on the earth. … Jesus’ hearers naturally understood His reference to the kingdom of God to be the long-awaited messianic kingdom. … But it was not near in the form the Jews expected. Rather it had arrived in the sense that Jesus, the Agent of God’s rule, was present among them.”3

    While they understood Jesus to be announcing the kingdom’s soon arrival, Jesus was actually telling them that He had arrived. He, the future King of Israel, had arrived and was preparing people for the kingdom.

    “Jesus taught that His earthly Davidic reign would not come immediately (cf. Luke 19:11). After God completes His present purpose of saving Jews and Gentiles and building His church (cf. Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 3:2-12), Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on this earth (Matt. 25:31, 34; Acts 15:14-18; Rev. 19:15; 20:4-6).”4

    The Bible does teach that Jesus will reign over all the earth at a future, unrevealed date. But that time was not then and is not now. It will happen when God completes His purposes. At the right time, Jesus will return in the sky to take all believers to be with Him in heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18). After that, there will be 7 years of Tribulation where God judges unbelievers on the earth (Rev. 6-18). At the end of those years, Jesus will return to the earth to defeat His enemies and begin His earthly kingdom for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-6).

    Knowing that these things are going to happen? How does someone prepare themselves for Jesus’ coming kingdom on earth?

    The proper response.

    Because the kingdom was drawing near, they “were urged to enter into it by meeting the conditions which immediately followed.”9 Jesus told the people to repent and believe the gospel.

    Repentance – The first proper response is repentance. To be a part of God’s future kingdom, each individual must repent of sin. In other words, each of us must recognize our sin and turn from it to God. “Genuine repentance prepares the heart for true faith in the gospel.”11

    Believe – The second proper response is to believe the good news. At this point, Jesus was not asking them to believe that he died for them and rose again. They didn’t know about that because it hadn’t happened yet. Instead, they were to believe what Jesus was saying. They needed to believe that the kingdom was at hand and then make themselves ready for it.

    Can you imagine the excitement this must have produced in Galilee? The people must have looked at Jesus with wide eyes. Could it possibly be true? Was the kingdom drawing near? Who is this Jesus? As they listened to His preaching, they would eventually get answers to all of their questions.


As we study the Gospel of Mark in the coming weeks, we will learn more about this Jesus. He was not merely a man. He was and is the Son of God. But you will have to come to your own conclusion about Him. Let me encourage you to continue this study with me. Read ahead in the Gospel of Mark. You can click here to begin your reading in chapter one, but feel free to read the whole book. As you read, ask God to help you to understand what is being said. But most of all, think about what the Bible says about Jesus. I hope that someday you will believe that He is who He says He is—the Son of God who loved us and gave His life for us.


1 Grassmick 105.
2 Grassmick 106.
3 Grassmick 107.
4 Grassmick 107-08.
5 Grassmick 108.
6 Hiebert 35.
7 Hiebert 36.
8 Hebert 37.
9 Hiebert 42.
10 Hiebert 44.
11 Hiebert 45.
12 Hendriksen 45.
13 Hendriksen 48.


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

Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004.

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

Mark 1:1-8 – Preparing the Way for Jesus

Have you ever taken the time to look back on the changes God has made in you since you were born again? Over the years, God brought people into your life who helped to mentor you toward spiritual maturity. It may have been parents, pastors, relatives, teachers or friends who were a godly influence on your life. Over time, you learned to pray, to study the Bible, to worship the Lord, to speak for the Lord, and to change your behavior to become more like Jesus. Thank God for those who made a difference in your life.

Now consider this odd question: Did Jesus have to go through that process? In Luke 2:52, we learn that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” We are baffled by the fact that Jesus grew as a human because He is and has always been God. But these things did happen. In God’s plan, the eternal Son of God was born as a human baby, grew up into an adult, and, during his experience on earth, learned to be what God the Father intended Him to be.

How could God learn or be trained to become “Christ-like?” It sounds strange, but that is what happened to Jesus in His early years. But He was not alone in this preparation. In Mark 1:1-15, we are made aware of people and events that prepared Jesus to begin His earthly ministry in Israel. God the Father used the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, the Father’s own announcement, and the Spirit’s training in the wilderness to ready Jesus for His ministry to sinful and needy people. With these influences, Jesus was completely equipped to begin His ministry.

This morning, we will look at the first two who were sent by God the Father to prepare the way for Jesus.

  1. The prophets announced His preparation (1:1-3).

    It is interesting to think that God used people from the past to prepare for Jesus to arrive on earth. Some of those whom God used were prophets whose writings are recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. Mark quotes two passages regarding the messenger who would prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival. These verses are from Malachi and Isaiah.

    Malachi 3:1 – “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

    In this prophetic passage, Malachi records what God had promised to do. He was going to send a messenger who would prepare the way for the Lord’s future appearance. After this time of preparation, the Lord would arrive.

    Isaiah 40:3 – “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

    In this prophetic passage, Isaiah tells us that there would be a voice crying out in the wilderness. It seems strange that a voice would be heard where few people live. But his message would be heard and it revolved around preparing the way for the Lord. God Himself would arrive and the people should make ready for His appearance.

    These prophetic verses were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. But they talk about both His coming ministry and the ministry of a messenger who would prepare the way before Him. “Roads in the east were generally poorly maintained. A coming king would send ahead of him a representative to assure that the roads had been adequately prepared.”4 This is what this promised messenger would do. “He was to remove hindrances in the hearts of the people so that they would be ready to receive ‘the coming one.'”4

    Who was this promised messenger?

  2. John the Baptist prepared for His coming (1:4-8).

    John the Baptist was the messenger promised by Malachi and Isaiah. You can read more about his birth and ministry in the Gospel of Luke (1:5-25, 59-80; 3:1-22). Mark tells us about his message, lifestyle, and announcement about Jesus.

    His message revolved around repentance (4-5).

    Although he was in the wilderness, John had a productive ministry to the people in Judea near Jerusalem. He called on the people to repent so that their sins could be remitted. To show their repentance, each one was called upon to be baptized.

    There are two thoughts here in John’s preaching:

    Repentance – If you saw someone in the street and he looked at you sternly and yelled, “Repent!,” what would your response be? What would he be telling you to do? Repentance is “a turn about, a deliberate change of mind resulting in a change of direction in thought and behavior.”1 John was telling the people to turn from their sinful thoughts, words, and behavior to God. Repentance affects the mind (which others can’t see) and speech and behavior (which others can see). When someone sees himself from God’s perspective, he has a choice to continue in sin or turn from it to God.

    Baptism – It would be easy to look at John’s baptism the same way we look at Christian baptism today. But to the Jewish people, it was different. “John’s baptism was no innovation since the Jews required Gentiles wanting to be admitted into Judaism to be baptized by self-immersion. The startling new element was that John’s baptism was designed for God’s covenant people, the Jews, and it required their repentance in view of the coming Messiah.”1 So, baptism was an outward, public action that showed others that they were serious about their repentance from sin. It was also a baptism unto remission of sins. In other words, this repentance brought them to a place where they would be ready to meet Jesus, the One who would grant forgiveness for their sins.

    His lifestyle was different (6).

    I recently saw a video of someone supposedly passing out gospel literature on the sidewalk. When people refused to take his pamphlets, he would kick them and make them take them. Do you think that would be a good idea? Would people take the gospel more seriously if you kicked them? I don’t think that would be a good idea.

    Now consider how John’s lifestyle affected his message. His lifestyle was not something we would choose to follow, but you can be sure that it got the attention of the people to whom he spoke.

    He wore odd clothes.

    Did you notice how John the Baptist dressed? He wore clothing made from camel’s hair held together by a leather belt. Mark doesn’t mention it, but he may have been under the Nazirite vow as the angel said he would not drink wine or strong drink (Luke 1). If so, he would have been even more startling to see. Nazirites refrained from all alcoholic beverages, would not cut their hair, and would not touch a dead body (Num. 6:3-7).

    He ate odd food.

    He also ate locusts and wild honey. While these supposedly “were the common diet in desert regions”2 it seems strange for Mark to make mention of them as if it were different than what normal people ate. I think this shows us what John the Baptist was willing to endure as he sought to do God’s will.

    He was like Elijah.

    While not mentioned here in Mark’s gospel, other places in the Bible say that John the Baptist was like Elijah. When you consider how John dressed, you would not be wrong to think of Elijah considering how that prophet was described.

    2 Kings 1:7-8 – “Then he said to them, ‘What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you these words?’ So they answered him, ‘A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’”

    Jesus also noted this similarity. During a longer discourse about John the Baptist, Jesus said, “If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:14). “John the Baptist’s ministry was marked by ‘the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17), fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4:5–6.”3 Consider these verses below:

    Luke 1:17 – “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

    Malachi 4:5–6 – “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

    Elijah was a great prophet used by God to turn the hearts of Israel from Baal worship to the One, true God at Mount Carmel. While we may get stuck on his odd appearance, these Scripture prophecies show how great his mission was. Like Elijah, he would preach with great power and people would be turned from their sin to the Lord. Their repentance would be evident in their changed hearts before the Lord appeared on the earth.

    His preaching announced Jesus’ coming (7-8).

    From these verses, we learn that John knew his place. He was the messenger not the Messiah. So that the people would not attach themselves to him, John announced the coming of Jesus. He said three things about Him. (1) Jesus was mightier than John. (2) John did not feel worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal strap. (3) Jesus’ baptism would be better than John’s as it would include the Holy Spirit.

    John did a good job of preparing the way for Jesus. God used his message to convict people of their sinfulness and need to repent and turn to God. But he also made it clear that he was not the important figure; he was only there to prepare people for Jesus. After some time, John’s work began to come to a close and Jesus was introduced to the world.

    Before we move on, let’s consider something that we can learn from the ministry of John the Baptist. Remember two things about him: (1) He preached repentance, and (2) he pointed people to Jesus. This ought to be instructive for every Christian. We often want people to like us when speaking the gospel to them. This often shapes our discussion to avoid anything that would possibly turn off the person we are speaking to. But is this what we should be doing? If we follow the example of John the Baptist (and later Jesus), we will preach repentance from sin and point people toward Jesus no matter how they respons. Think about it for a minute. Why would someone be convinced that he needed to be saved if he didn’t first understand God’s opinion of his sinfulness? As you speak to others, be sure to include the need for repentance. Without it, our gospel will not be complete. But as you “preach” repentance, be sure to point the person to Jesus—the solution to their sinfulness.


After this sermon, we will be observing the Lord’s Supper. It is a time where we Christians are reminded of what Jesus did on the cross for us. As we eat the bread, we are reminded that He gave His body to be broken for us. As we drink the grape juice, we are reminded that He gave His blood to pay the price for our sins. These are the things the prophets and John the Baptist were preparing people for. The announcement of God’s coming plan and the preaching of repentance prepared the hearts of the people to believe what Jesus eventually did for them on the cross.

I wonder if God has brought you to the place where you see your own sinfulness to God. All of us, including me, are sinners. We have broken God’s laws and done things that God would be just to condemn us for and send us to Hell. Our first response needs to be repentance—a change of mind about our sin, accepting full responsibility for it, and agreeing with God that we are wrong. When we come to that place, we will be ready to understand what Jesus did on the cross for us. He, the perfect Son of God, took our place and died in our place so that God could be just in forgiving our sins. This is why John the Baptist preached repentance to the Jewish people so long ago. This is why I am preaching repentance to you today as well. Now let me ask you an important question: Have you repented of your sin against God and believed Jesus. If not, will you today?


1 Grassmick 103.
2 Grassmick 104.
3 “Who was Elijah in the Bible?”
4 Hiebert 24-25.


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

Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.

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

“Was John the Baptist really Elijah reincarnated?” as viewed at on 7/22/2023.

“Who was Elijah in the Bible?” as viewed at on 7/22/2023.