Today: [Mark 1] The Power of God Revealed in Christ: In Mark chapter 1 we find the account of the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He is baptized of John in the Jordan, and after 40 days in the wilderness, comes out in the power of the Spirit, casting out devils and healing the sick. Before too many days pass, the crowds are so great that Jesus cannot enter into the city, but for the magnitude of the crowds must remain out in the open fields as miracle after miracle take place, galvanizing our faith and leaving us crying out for this same Jesus to make Himself known in our midst.
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[Mar 1:1-45 KJV] 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; 7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. 9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, [saying], Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. 16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the [son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him. 21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

Who wrote the gospel of Mark? The gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, who was the nephew of Barnabas and briefly a traveling companion who accompanied his uncle Barnabas with the apostle Paul (see Acts 12:25). At a certain point Paul rejected Mark, prompting Barnabas to separate from him, taking John Mark with him (Acts 15:38). Sometime later Barnabas was martyred and John Mark is believed to have become then the traveling companion of the apostle Peter until his martyrdom in Rome. Traditions hold that when Peter was put to death, the church at Rome prevailed upon John Mark not to leave the city until he put down in writing all of Peter’s Jesus stories, hence the gospel of Mark was born. The gospel of Mark is the earliest written of the four gospels and is characterized by the type of anecdotes of power and action that Peter would have been attracted to with his own bombastic personality, we may call it the gospel of Mark, but it could just as easily and accurately be described as the gospel according to St. Peter, penned by John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas.

Chapter 1 begins with the account of John the Baptist heralding the coming of Christ, calling out as the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John’s message was “prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight…” As well as preaching, John called people to the rite of baptism as an acknowledgment of sins forgiven and lives reformed in readiness for the Messiah’s return. The word baptism used here denotes that the act was not mere sprinkling, but total immersion or “dipping” in the river Jordan. Whereas the Jews in Judea universally practiced ritual washing of their hands as a sign of purity, John advocates for total immersing of one’s entire body as a sign of total and complete cleansing and repentance and not just a vestigial cleansing of the hands in an outward show of feigned piety. In the rite of baptism, John was not just calling for personal reform and repentance but a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. There is therefore in John’s baptism, and should be reflected in Christian baptism the idea of the coming of the kingdom in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the days that John baptized in the Jordan, Jesus came, a kinsmen to John, and when He was baptized, John sees the heavens opened above Jesus, and a voice saying “this is My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased…” This was not only witnessed by John and Jesus but by others as well, and immediately Jesus is compelled to isolate Himself in the wilderness for 40 days where He encounters and is confronted by Satan himself. The gospel of Mark doesn’t give details of this confrontation as other gospels, but does indicate that when the temptation was at an end, angels came and ministered to Him. How do we know these things happened, if Jesus was alone? We know they happened and we can only conclude because Jesus conveyed these things to His disciples during the years He was with them. He told Peter and the others the story, and they repeated them for those who consequently penned the account as part of the gospel narrative.

After John is put into prison, Jesus apparently takes this as the signal to begin His personal ministry in the region of the Galilee. Whereas John preached the coming of the Messiah, Jesus message is that of the kingdom of God being manifest and a call to the people to repent and believe the gospel or the good news. This is the first reference to the word gospel in connection to the preaching of Jesus and the message of the kingdom of God. Whereas Matthew used the term kingdom of heaven, Mark recounts the term employed as the kingdom of God, which leads us to believe that we are expected to see the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God as one and the same thing. The message of the kingdom is the dominant theme of Jesus’ teaching. Of the 70+ references to the kingdom of God in the New Testament, all but 3 are attributed to the direct teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught that whatever He considered the kingdom to be, it was immediate, present and coming into manifestation not at a future time, but right then and there, with implications that His hearers should be making radical changes in their lives in expectation of what that meant both for them and the world around them.

In the midst of preaching these beginning messages, Jesus encounters Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, going about their employment as fishermen. Jesus invites them to leave their nets to follow Him, and that He will make them to become fishers of men. The language here is very interesting. The invitation is “come after Me and I will make you to become…” To be a disciple of Christ is intended to be a total and all out commitment that will radically change your life and the trajectory of your life. The word “make” here includes the meaning of “to spend”. Jesus is saying to them, “follow Me and I will MAKE you, I will SPEND you…” To be a disciple of Jesus is to be change in His pocket, to spend and be spent in a life of service to Christ is the prerogative of every person who accepts Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Verse 18 records that Peter and Andrew’s response was all out and total. They forsook their nets and followed Him. Does that reflect the character of your conversion? When Jesus laid claim to your life, what did you forsake as a result? Much Christian teaching today results in conversion being seen as an enhancement to existing choices and lifestyle, but in this account the present life is completely abandoned and a new life and new initiative in Christ is adopted leaving all else behind.

23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let [us] alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine [is] this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. 29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. 32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. 35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All [men] seek for thee. 38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. 39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth [his] hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish [it] much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

After calling James and John likewise to follow Him, Jesus goes to Capernaum, in His home area and stands to teach in the synagogue. Now these people knew Jesus well, but after His baptism, and after the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus’ demeanor is quite different than what they were accustomed to. Now, they find Jesus speaking with authority, and even confronting a demonized man in their midst, that He rebukes and casts out. It is interesting that today, so called deliverance ministers think they need to get a demon to talk before they cast it out, whereas Jesus isn’t interested in what a demon has to say, but rather tells it to be quiet and come out. We need to pattern our approach to casting out demons after the manner in which Jesus cast them out, and not in the theatrical approach many use today which tends to draw more attention to the demonic itself than it does to Jesus.

Seeing the bold teaching of Jesus, and His manner in casting out the devil, the people are astonished and Jesus notoriety and fame immediately spreads throughout Capernaum and Galilee. Jesus doesn’t delay but leaves with His four newly called disciples and goes to Simon and Andrew’s house. He finds there that Simon’s mother in law is sick of a fever. Without preamble or flourish, Jesus goes to the bedside of the sick woman, takes her by the hand and lifts her up out of bed. Immediately the fever leaves her, and she arises completely healed and sets about serving them. Again, we make note of the simplicity with which Jesus moves in the power of God. There is no fanfare. There are no rich, flowing words or flourishes of religious expression. He simply moves in a presumptive authority, expecting demons to flee at His command, and sickness to depart at His merest touch.

The people hear witness not just of Jesus’ teaching, but His authority over demons and sickness, and they quickly bring ALL that were sick and diseased, or troubled with demons until all the city has gathered at the door of Simon and Andrew’s house. Jesus goes out to them, healing their sick and casting out devils, again not allowing the demons to speak. We need to walk in this level of presumptive authority when it comes to ministering to the sick. We need to be less interested in goading a demon to speak through a tormented person and simply tell them to be quiet and to come out. This is the approach that Jesus employs, and it is certainly an example that we ought to follow.

After a long night of ministering to those that were suffering, Jesus arises very early in the morning to a solitary place to pray. The four disciples are roused at Jesus’ departure and follow after Him. When they find Him praying, they inform Him that the crowds were already gathering again to seek Him out for prayer.

Rather than continue His work there in Capernaum, Jesus sets off to preach in other towns throughout Galilee, continuing in the same pattern, of teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick and casting out devils as before. Notably, in verse 40 a leper comes and kneels down before Jesus. Pay attention to the exchange between them: The leper declares to Jesus “if you will – you can make me clean…” The leper recognizes that there is no lack of power in Jesus to heal Him, just the need for Jesus to be willing to do so. Jesus response immediately in kind, moving with compassion and puts His hand out to touch the untouchable, saying “I will be thou clean…” The man is instantly and visibly healed, whereupon Jesus charges the man not to tell anyone, but simply to go to the priest to present evidence of his cleansing from the disease. The man doesn’t listen, and beside himself with joy he tells everyone he meets about his miracle. As a result Jesus can no longer enter into any particular city, but is compelled to stay in the open places in the desert to accommodate the crowds that are coming to Him.

When we read this account, in its simplicity and power, we can only declare as John Wesley did, after encountering Moravian missionaries, declared “when shall THIS Christianity cover the earth as the waters cover the sea?” We desire, and we long to experience the presence the power of Christ manifest in our midst even as they did in the Galilee during the beginning days of Jesus’ ministry. While others claim these things have passed away, we nonetheless dismiss that contention as unbelief and lay hold on the promise of Hebrew 13:8:

[Heb 13:8 KJV] 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

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