Mark 1:1-20 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-After 2.5 years together, it’s time to walk through one of the Gospel accounts! Mark, more than any other Gospel emphasizes the implications of Jesus’ call to follow Him.

-Also turns people’s expectation of the role of the Messiah (Christ) on their head. They expected a warrior king and got a suffering servant, which also has some strong implications for us today. As I look at our cultural landscape, we as Christians have become overly accustomed to recognition and prestige, but how do we respond when we’re marginalized and ostracized from those who have power today? Mark will encourage us to remain faithful.

-One of the unique characteristics of Mark’s Gospel is how quickly things move. Where John elaborates and expands on robust theology and implications of Jesus’ message, Mark keeps things brief and succinct quickly moving from one scene to the next. 

-One thing to note about writing in the 1st century is they had very different approaches than we do today, which if you think about it makes sense, right? Who here had to read Romeo & Juliet in school?

-“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she. It is my lady, O, it is my love! O, that she knew she were! She speaks, yet she says nothing: what of that?” Today: she’s lit. 

-Don’t impose our 21st century ideas onto a 1st century book! We think linearly and subsequently, but that’s not how the Gospel writers are to be interpreted. Instead of writing chronologically they wrote thematically and theologically. They’re trying to communicate truths about who God is as they write. Additionally, Mark uses a lot of repetition as this book was meant to be read aloud so he’s trying to help people be able to easily remember the story.

-With that in mind, who wrote this Gospel? Why do we call it “Mark”? 

-As these 4 Gospels started being spread to the early church, they very early on were labeled “The Gospel according to ____” The earliest manuscripts we have of Mark are labeled with that name on them. So who was Mark?

-The earliest church tradition points to the person named John Mark who traveled with Peter and Paul during the spread of the church. 

-He’s first mentioned in Acts 12:12, (Peter getting out of prison from an angel) which may mean he was someone who was financially well off. The early church met in homes that could accommodate large groups, it seems that John Mark’s mother’s home was one of those homes! 

-One of the most well-known aspects of John Mark is the relational split he had with Paul, causing Paul and Barnabas to go their separate ways. Thankfully, at some point in the future Paul and John Mark were reconciled and Paul eventually asks Timothy to bring John Mark with him to visit because he’s “very useful to me.” 

-One other line of evidence pointing to Mark’s authorship comes from an early Church Father Eusebius, who quotes from another Church Father names Papias who was discipled by the Apostle John (who wrote the Gospel according to John, 1-3 John, and Revelation) Papias lived from 60-130 AD and wrote books that have been lost, but are quoted from in other Church Fathers. So Eusebius quotes one of these books from Papias who said:

-While it’s not chronological, there is a broad overview to Mark’s letter (and like any biblical idea, there’s debate and discussion about how best to outline this book!)

-It seems that Mark thought of this book like a good screenwriter as a story in 3 parts categorized by location: beginning in Galilee, turning to Jerusalem (which hinges on Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ), and finally Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem which culminates in His death and resurrection.

-Part of the reason I think this is a good outline is because it follows Peter’s summary of Jesus’ life in Acts 10

-Since Mark was Peter’s disciple, it would make sense that Mark would catalogue the story of Jesus in a similar order.

-3 keys to understanding the book/emphasis:

-Lots of debate about how to categorize the Gospels. Biography? Theology? Best summary: extended passion narrative. Mark flies through the preliminary stuff and then the last week of Jesus’ life takes up half the book!

-First: Who is Jesus?

-The most important question for anyone who has ever lived. Mark is bookended with this theme. Look at the first verse, and then at the very end a Roman guard utters the same phrase.

-A subset of this question is: because Jesus is the Christ, why did he suffer? Most likely written during an intense persecution from Nero, therefore it serves as a reminder that Jesus suffered too. This leads us to:

-Second: What does it mean to follow Him?

-AKA what does it mean to be a disciple? Just as Jesus was the suffering servant, in order to follow Him means we too will face suffering and persecution.

-But we also see a wide variety of responses to Jesus, and surprisingly the ones who get it aren’t his disciples. The book ends by describing the disciples as afraid and trembling. An appropriate response to a resurrected Savior! But it intentionally leaves the story unresolved, forcing the hearer to ask how will I respond to this good news?

-Third: Immediately. Count how many times Mark says it! I counted 4 in just today’s text! Like someone who tells a rambling story that you’re just waiting for them to pause so you can interject, but they won’t! “and then…”


  1. The Preparation (1-8)

-This first verse is loaded with massive implications, and also requires our careful attention to understand what Mark is drawing our attention to, as well as how it sets up the theme of the rest of the book. Let’s start at the beginning, which appropriately enough is the same place Mark begins!

-Mark doesn’t begin in the same place as John’s Gospel, Mark would rather dispense with the pleasantries and get directly into the important stuff! But this also is a reminder that God is doing something new in human history here. Just as in the beginning of the world God was working, here in the beginning of the salvation of the world, God is starting a new beginning.

-This beginning is about the gospel, literally the good news. Because this was written to a Roman audience that would have perked up their ears.

-Think of hearing someone walk by you shouting “Extra, extra, read all about it!” You’d think there was some major world event that was taking place. In many cases, the good news was related to a victory in battle. The Roman Christians would have then been waiting to see how this victory took place, but Mark would go on to subvert their expectations and reveal that the victory only comes about through suffering

-Jesus is his first name, Christ isn’t his last name. Christ is the title “Anointed One” or “Messiah” the one who God has promised all the way back in Gen. 3. The serpent crusher who would redeem the world and provide a way to be brought back to God.

-Not only is He the Messiah, He’s also the Son of God.

-No one would have expected God Himself to come to earth and redeem a wicked humanity, but that’s exactly how God accomplished redemption. In order to have us brought back to God, we need a redeemer who is both God and man. Therefore God sent His one and only Son into the world.

-This phrasing became somewhat of a motto for the early church, and one of the ways they determined who was a believer and who was not was using a little symbol that looked like this. Now, there’s LOTS in the Gospels about fish (the primary meat of the day), Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen, Jesus divides the loaves and fishes, but do you know what this symbol is called? Icthus: Jesus (iyasou), Christ (Christou), God’s (theou) Son (uios), Savior (sotar)

-Unlike the other Gospels, Mark spends no time on the miraculous conception or Jesus’ genealogy. Instead this story begins with a prophecy.

-His Roman audience wouldn’t have cared who His Jewish ancestry was. For the Jews, ancestry mattered GREATLY (just read Galatians!), the Romans wouldn’t have cared. Just like we in America today is largely comprised of “mutts,” the Romans were comprised of people from all over the known world who were Roman first and foremost.

-But having a prophet speak an oracle would have mattered greatly to the Romans, especially if that oracle turned out to be true.

-This prophecy quotes from a few different OT passages. Malachi 3:1Isaiah 40:3

-Malachi is a prophecy of judgment coming. God will judge the world, but not the way the Jews thought! And first was the coming of grace to provide salvation from the coming judgment. 

-Then in Isaiah the prophecy addresses the coming of a shepherd-like God who will care for His sheep. There is overlap between these 2 texts that both show the precursor to the Messiah, the one who will prepare the way for Him. Who is that?

-John appeared (once again, no build up, no explanation of the family connection going on here) just skip all the preliminary information about him and jump to this prophet. John came doing 2 things: baptizing and proclaiming. 

-Wilderness often serves as a place where people met God. Think of Moses and the burning bush, Elijah fleeing from Ahab, David fleeing from Saul, even in the NT after Paul is converted he goes to the wilderness for 2 years! Hold on to that thought

-He also proclaims that this baptism is connected to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repentance refers to a change of direction/orientation. Like when you turn down a dead-end street assuming it connected through.

-This ministry model (wilderness, baptism, proclaiming) was effective! “All the country” was coming, even those in the capital city of Jerusalem were being drawn to him! 

-This is meant to be in contrast to the positions of power at the time. Living in opulence in the city. Remember what I talked about during Christmas where in Luke’s account, we read of Zechariah who came from the right lineage, was in the right profession, married to a woman who was in the right lineage, and was serving in Jerusalem. But he’s not the Messiah, and neither is John! 

– The description of John’s and his lifestyle is intentional! The 1st century Jewish audience would have picked up on this reference to camel’s hear and a leather belt.

-In 2 Kings 1:7-8 it describes a man who “wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” Then the text says “It is Elijah.”

-This was such a well-known image in the day, it would be like me showing this picture and asking you to guess who it represents.

-Notice that Elijah 2.0 recognizes what his role is. He’s (as Isaiah prophesied) preparing the way for someone even mightier than him! Which is where Jesus intersects with this new prophet.

  • The Commission (9-13)

-Remember, all this is referring to real events that happened in a real place within real human history. John’s ministry was meant to get people ready to hear Jesus’ message.

-Apart from vs. (title), this is the first instance of Jesus being mentioned. Once again, scarce on the details of this event, almost in passing mentions that Jesus was one of the people baptized by John. But even that isn’t the point, the point is vs. 10-11.

-In the midst of Jesus’ baptism, heaven is torn open and the Spirit descends on Him. A couple things to note:

-This is a fulfillment of Isa. 64:1 “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Well guess what? He did! The request Isaiah asks has been granted in God made flesh. 

-But let’s also think about the way the Spirit works through the OT. He comes down on people for a specific time and for a specific purpose, and then leaves. Not so with Jesus. Instead of leaving Jesus, after Jesus dies the Spirit is sent to live in the lives of Jesus’ followers, and once again He will never leave them.

-Finally, the Father speaks out about His one and only Son and quotes from 2 other prophecies from the OT: Psalm 2:7 and Isa. 42:1

Psalm 2:7 “The Lord said to me ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”

Isa. 42:1 “Behold, my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”

-All 3 person of the Trinity, eternally existing in perfect union with each other are present in Jesus’ ministry. Church, don’t miss this reality, our faith is inherently Trinitarian! The Father plans salvation, the Son accomplishes salvation, the Spirit fulfills that salvation.

-Now notice who Jesus submits Himself to in His incarnation. He submits Himself to the Father by being sent, but now He submits Himself to the Spirit in vs. 12

-Season of prayer and preparation before He begins His ministry. How many times do we miss things because we don’t take enough time to pray and prepare, much less to submit ourselves to the Spirit?

-Wilderness – place of the wild animals, not a safe place, dangerous, where God must sustain, otherwise death is immanent. 

-This time in the wilderness also serves to signify that Jesus is a new Israel. Just as Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, so Jesus wanders in the wilderness for 40 days. Micah has preached an entire message on the temptation of Christ, go listen to that for more detail! But where Israel was found unworthy, Jesus is found worthy and moves to begin his ministry (after being ministered to by the angels)

-Jesus has been affirmed by His Father, tested in the wilderness (and unlike every person to go before, Adam & Eve, Israel) He remained faithful and refused to give in to the temptation, He has submitted Himself to the guidance of the Spirit, and only after that is it time to begin His ministry.

  • The Initiation (14-20) 

-Waiting for John’s ministry to finish before starting His own. The time of preparation is done, the “kingdom of God is at hand.” 

-Look at the difference between Jesus’ proclamation and John’s proclamation. One is just pointing to someone else, the other is saying I’m here!

-Kingdom of God is inaugurated by a person. Contrary to the way many people would assume it should be, instead of a place it’s a person. 

-“Believe in the gospel” Believe in the good news? That’s different! Just as the kingdom of God is inaugurate by a person, so the gospel is the message of a person. Who are the first people to believe in this good news?

-2 sets of brothers, both fishermen

-Invitation to follow unlike most Rabbis at the time. Generally, the pupil would look at the available Rabbis and choose one, asking to become an apprentice. Jesus doesn’t leave it up to them, instead He pursues them.

-Following (Discipleship) is a call to follow, which demands/expects immediate obedience.

-As we close today, have you taken that step of obedience? Have you decided to follow Jesus and become a fisher of others? And if you have, are you submissive to the Spirit’s role in your life?

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