Tag Archives: Mark

Healing, Casting, and Praying

Sermon 5: Healing, Casting, and Praying

Text: Mark 1:29-39 – And immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they tell Him about her.  And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered to them.

And at evening, when the sun set, they brought to Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with demons.  And all the city was gathered together at the door.  And He healed many that were sick of various diseases, and cast out many demons; and did not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there [He] prayed.

And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.  And when they had found Him, they said to Him, “All are seeking for You.”  And He said to them, “Let’s go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for into this [work] I have come.”

And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out demons.

Introduction

Mark spends a good deal of time in the first part of his gospel account showing that Jesus is powerful and has authority.  He’s shown Jesus’ authority over His disciples, His authority in religion, and His authority over a single demon.  Mark’s original readers might have been thinking, “What does this matter to me?  After all, we’re not Jews, nor are we Jesus’ disciples, nor are we possessed by a demon.”  They might have even thought that Jesus’ victory over a single demon was alright, but it wasn’t as though He had to face a bunch of them.  But what comes next would overrule these objections.

The Text, part 1 – Authority over a Fever (Mark 1:29-31)

(29) Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

It is the Sabbath day, and Jesus, having exhibited His power over the kingdom of darkness, has planned to spend the rest of the day in the company of His four new disciples.  Simon and Andrew lived in the same house, not far from the synagogue (a Sabbath-Day’s Journey was around a half-mile), and invited Jesus (as well as James and John) to come there.  This is a show of hospitality and friendship that is severely lacking in the lives of many Christians and congregations.

(30a) But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever

Mark doesn’t give some of the details that Matthew and Luke do (they weren’t necessary to bring up for his readers).  But Matthew literally says she was “cast [or thrown] down with a fever,” meaning that it isn’t just that she’s laying down on her bed asleep while running a temperature (Matthew 8:14).  The fever has made her bed-ridden.  Luke says she was held by a “great fever” (Luke 4:38), which means it was a high temperature, and the fever wasn’t breaking.  But again, Mark doesn’t give these details, and if you look at the progression of healings going into chapter two, you’ll see why.

(30b) and immediately they tell Him [Jesus] about her.

Some people have scoffed at this part, saying, “Why didn’t they go tell a doctor?”  That’s an easy thing to say when we aren’t given details such as: how long had she had the fever?  Was it days?  Did it just hit her that morning while Simon and Andrew were at the synagogue?  And who’s to say that, if it had been a few days, they hadn’t called a doctor?  All of those questions and the objection are irrelevant to the discussion at hand.  The fact is, Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever at this point, and they came and told Jesus.

But why would they tell Jesus about it?  Because Jesus had just shown amazing miraculous power in casting out a demon—certainly it’s worth a shot to bring it to His attention.  We can better understand their confidence in telling Jesus about this when we remember that they’d already traveled some with Jesus and seen other miracles (John 1-4).

But the lesson we can learn from this is that when you’ve got problems, sickness, or anything else that you need help with, you go to the one with the power.  Take your requests to God who has the power to answer them.

(31a) And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her.

Jesus showed compassion on her, and also showed His power over sickness.  There was no long, drawn-out recovery period.  There wasn’t a “I think the fever is going down” period where they could all start to rest easily because she was starting to get well.  It was immediately gone.  Jesus took her by the hand, and poof!  The fever was completely removed—as though it had never been there in the first place.

(31b) and she ministered to them.

Simon’s mother-in-law had been tired, and the great fever would have normally left her quite exhausted and unable to do much as she was getting better.  But when Jesus healed her, she was well, whole, and felt like working.  She got up and began to serve them.  Most likely, this included preparing food, perhaps even washing their feet.  Meanwhile, you can imagine the awe in the eyes of Simon’s wife, and of the disciples, at this instantaneous healing.

The Text, part 2 – Authority over Diseases and Demons (Mark 1:32-34)

Lest one of Mark’s readers should shrug and say, “It’s only a fever, no big deal,” Mark shows Jesus taking on—and showing power over—progressively bigger illnesses.

(32-33) At evening, when the sun set, they brought to Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with demons.  And all the city was gathered at the door.

These people had seen (or heard from those who had seen) Jesus casting out a demon in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  Immediately, then, they went back to their houses and told their families and their friends about what wonderful things God had done through Jesus of Nazareth.  They couldn’t wait to spread the word and share their wonder and amazement with others.

Jesus, the King, who has come to announce that His Kingdom is near, now has an evangelistic army to help Him in Capernaum.  He’s still doing His work, but these people are making it a lot easier for His message to be spread.

So, at nightfall, when the Sabbath is concluded, Jesus is in Simon and Andrew’s house, conversing with them and James and John, when crowds gather around the house, standing by the door, all coming to Him for help.  They, being good Jews, waited until the Sabbath was over before doing what some might consider “work” by bringing their sick to Jesus and possibly walking more than the half-mile that constituted a “Sabbath Day’s journey.”

The ones brought to Jesus were suffering from diseases, that is, they were badly sick (the Greek word means “bad” or “miserable” or even sometimes “evil.”  The sicknesses under consideration were not minor things—people weren’t bringing their kids to Jesus saying, “Heal his runny nose.”  These were significant illnesses, usually long-term medical problems.

(34a) And He healed many that were sick of various diseases.

Mark is answering the potential challenge from his readers by progressing from Jesus healing a fever to healing multiple people of serious significant illnesses.  And lest the readers think that Jesus’ victory over a demon was a fluke, here come even more of Satan’s minions to face Him.

(34b) He…cast out many demons.

Several knights of the Kingdom of Darkness were brought to Jesus.  They had taken over people’s lives, tormenting them, hurting them.  As we’ll see later in the book of Mark, it appears that being demon-possessed was such a horrible experience that some people tried to kill themselves to escape it.  But the King, Jesus, was coming to set them free, to overthrow the powers of darkness.  It didn’t matter if it was one demon-possessed man or a whole crowd of them; Jesus stood unafraid and ready to take them all on.

Before we move on from this point, it would probably be a good time to point out that demon-possession was a first-century phenomenon, and that it does not still take place today.  Zechariah 13:2 says:

“It shall come to pass in that day,” says Jehovah of Hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.”

If you look at the context, you will discover when “that day” which Jehovah mentions took place.  The verse immediately before it says:

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness.

Go back five verses from there (Zechariah 12:10-11a) and we see what this “day” (it’s actually a period of time, like we say “back in my day…”) means.

I will pour out on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.  In that day, there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem…

So, in the context of the death of Jesus and the time in which forgiveness of sins would be offered to the Jews, Jehovah would cause the evil spirit (demons) to pass from the land.  If we were to keep reading in Zechariah, we would see, just eight verses after that statement by Jehovah, these words:

Behold, the day of Jehovah comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the midst of you.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city (Zechariah 14:1-2).

Sometime between the death of Jesus on the cross and the time in which God brought the nations to destroy Jerusalem (AD 70), demonic activity would cease.  But when Mark was writing, demons were still active, so his readers were at least familiar with the concept.

(34c) He…did not permit them to speak, because they knew Him.

Like we discussed in the last lesson, Jesus didn’t want the demons to speak because it wasn’t time for Him to be revealed as the Son of God, nor did He want the testimony of demons—which would have been counter-productive.

The Text, part 3 – Praying and Jesus’ Purpose (Mark 1:35-39)

If you were to ask someone “Why did Jesus come to earth?” you’re likely to get a lot of different responses.  One answer, though, that you probably won’t get is what Jesus Himself said in this next passage.

(35) And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there He prayed.

After a busy night of healing the sick, and casting out demons, Jesus most certainly would have been tired.  However, early in the morning, a great while before the sun rose, Jesus got up and left Simon and Andrew’s house so He could go somewhere to be alone and pray.  To Mark’s readers, this shows the King is not doing this work for the attention—He needs time to Himself to spend in prayer.

This goes along with what Jesus said in Matthew 6:6 – But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward your openly.  In other words, there is benefit to be had from (1) praying, and (2) doing it in a place where you’re alone with God.

Jesus—God Himself in the flesh—thought it was important to find a time when He could be alone to pray.  I’m convinced that prayer is one of the most under-utilized blessings that Christians have!  If prayer was important to our Savior, shouldn’t prayer be important to us as well?

(36-37) Simon and they that were with him searched for Him. And when they had found Him, they said to Him, “All are seeking for You.”

It seems as though Jesus left the house without waking anyone, but when morning came, the people all returned to Simon’s house, wanting to find Jesus.  Were they bringing more people to be healed?  Or was it (if we want to give them the highest possible motives) that they wanted to know more about the Kingdom of God, and to hear what this messenger of heaven had to tell them?  The text doesn’t say.  What we do know is that the people were anxious to spend more time with Jesus.

The King’s mission in spreading the word about the imminent arrival of His Kingdom is working.  Instead of it being exclusively Him finding people to tell about the Kingdom, now people are trying to find Him, presumably with an open mind to what He has to say.

(38) He said to them, “Let’s go into the next towns, so that I may preach there also: for into this [work] have I come.”

The King’s mission in traveling around was not to heal the sick—it was to prepare people for the coming of His Kingdom.  His mission wasn’t to cast out demons—it was to prepare people for the coming of His Kingdom.  Make no mistake, healing the sick and casting out demons helped to convince people of His message, but those things were not the purpose of His mission.

Instead, Jesus Himself said plainly that He needed to go elsewhere and preach [the gospel of the Kingdom of God], because it is “therefore” [literally “into this”] that He had come.  We can take a cue from our Lord here, realizing that helping others is a good thing, but it is not the purpose of our mission here on earth.  Our purpose is to bring people to the King, Jesus the Christ; aiding others in their misfortunes is something we can do that can help to accomplish that goal.  Never lose sight of the ultimate goal—bringing people to the Kingdom of God.

(39) He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out demons.

With this short sentence, Mark shows his readers that the King continued His work proclaiming the overthrow of the Kingdom of Darkness and defeating some of Satan’s minions along the way to prove His point.  It’s such a short sentence, but don’t for a moment think that means it is insignificant.  The people met in the synagogues on the Sabbath, once a week, and so this one sentence takes up potentially months of Jesus’ life.  What would you give to be able to have seen Jesus in action?  To be able to spend just one day with Him in person?  To see Him cast out demons?  Many people got to see it, and it is all condensed into the sentence, “He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out demons.”

Application

Spend Time with Your Brethren Outside the Worship Assembly.

Jesus didn’t limit His interaction with God’s faithful children to the weekly assembly.  Simon and Andrew didn’t either, nor did James and John.  Instead, they spent time together outside of the worship building.  They went into each other’s homes, ate together, spent time together.  The early church did the same thing, “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and eating their bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46).

The church grows stronger when it spends more time together.

Peter was Never a Pope!

I’m sure you noticed it in the text: Peter was married!  Mark 1:30 (and it’s mentioned in Matthew 8 and Luke 4 as well) says Peter’s wife’s mother.  The Catholic Church makes the claim that Peter was the first pope, and that no priest, or Bishop, or Archbishop, or Cardinal, or Pope can be married.  In truth, the doctrine that the “clergy” (priests, bishops, etc…) can’t be married came about hundreds of years after Peter was dead and gone.  The doctrine was made official Catholic Church policy, and they acted as though it had always been the case, thus saying Peter wasn’t married either.  This is one of those verses that many Catholics haven’t ever heard of.

When You’re Able to Serve Others, Do It!

Look at Peter’s mother-in-law.  She’s been sick with a horrible fever that has made her unable to get up and do anything.  She’s weak and tired.  Then comes Jesus who heals her—and her healing is absolutely 100% instantaneous and complete.  Now, everyone in the room would probably have had no problem if she had spent the rest of the day sitting and resting after the ordeal she’d been through.  But she was able to work, so she got to work.  The lesson we can take from her example is that if we are able to serve others, we should be serving others.  Whether that’s your family, your employer, your church family, your friends, or whoever, we need to spend time in service to others.

Don’t Enslave Yourself to Sin!

Citizens of the Kingdom of Darkness are really nothing more than slaves, being controlled by sin.  Demons were controlling some of these people, and that’s horribly sad, but being controlled by sin is even sadder, because you’ve chosen your enslavement.  Jesus calls you to freedom from sin, and He’s cleared the path to make it easy for you.

Invitation

Jesus cleared the way to lead you to freedom through His death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead.  All you have to do is take that path.

Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from here forward we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:3-7).

God be thanked that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heard that form of doctrine that was delivered to you.  Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).

Be set free from the powers of sin by accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God, making the choice to follow His path, acknowledging Him as the Savior, and being buried with Him in baptism so that you can be made free from sin.

Jesus the King pleads with you, and so do we.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Teaching the People and Casting out Demons

Sermon 4: Teaching the People and Casting out Demons

Text: Mark 1:21-28 – And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath day, He entered into the synagogue and taught.  And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.  And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “Let us alone!  What do we have to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God.”

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold your peace, and come out of him.”  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.  And they were all amazed, insomuch that they asked among themselves, saying, “What is this thing?  What new doctrine is this?  For He even commands the unclean spirits with authority, and they obey Him!”  And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Introduction

The King, Jesus of Nazareth, overcame a forty-day battle with Satan.  Afterwards, He began preaching that people needed to repent—to change their loyalties from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God, which was very near.  He called His first disciples, four men who were ready to join the kingdom and follow their King wherever He would lead them.   But Jesus didn’t stop there; His mission of calling souls to join His side had only just begun.

In the remainder of chapter one, Mark presents Jesus as an authoritative King, a caring King, but most importantly, a powerful King.

The Text, part 1 – Authority in Teaching (Mark 1:21-22)

(21) They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Day, He entered into the synagogue and taught.

Jesus and the two sets of brothers (Andrew and Simon, James and John) went to Capernaum, which was most likely the nearest town, and was also where Andrew and Simon lived.  We’re not told what Jesus did between His arrival in Capernaum and the Sabbath Day (remember, Mark’s readers were interested in action), but we are told that once the Sabbath Day came, He made a point to be at the synagogue (which, in today’s language, would be the “weekly worship service” for the Jews).

The synagogue in Capernaum was “a beautiful structure, built of white limestone, show[ing] by its architectural features that it was built in the time of the Herods” (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel, p 271).  And it was built by an officer of the Roman army—a Gentile.  Mark doesn’t mention this fact, but Luke does (Luke 7:1-5).  The first recorded synagogue sermon in Mark’s gospel written to a Roman audience, was preached in a synagogue built by a Roman Centurion.

The synagogues, according to most biblical historians, arose out of necessity while the Jews were captives in Babylon.  They had no access to the temple (for it was destroyed), and so these “meeting places” sprung up in various Jewish settlements where they could meet and devote time to learning God’s word each Sabbath.  Even after they returned from captivity, they continued to have synagogues (the Greek word being a compound of three words literally meaning the “coming-together-place”).   Jesus’ frequent visits to these synagogues showed that God approved of the set-up.  During the synagogue gatherings each Sabbath, they would pray, read the Scripture and hear a portion expounded to them.  It’s almost as though the synagogues were part of God’s plan to prepare the Jews for the worship assemblies of the church.

It was into this gathering of devoted Jews that the King went that Sabbath Day and taught.

(22) And they were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

This is the same reaction that the people had after hearing the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 7:28-29).  Their astonishment wasn’t necessarily at the content of the message (we’re not told by Mark what He taught), but at the way in which He taught it.  He taught them with authority.

Don’t let this escape your notice, Mark is presenting Jesus as the King, spreading the word about His Kingdom—announcing that the Kingdom of Darkness is going to be overthrown.  His teaching in the synagogue would have absolutely included a discussion of this topic.  The King has gone to the people, in person, and is making the case for them to prepare themselves for His Kingdom.  People aren’t going to follow a weak leader, and Jesus was absolutely not weak—He taught them as one who had authority.

They were used to the teachings of the scribes.  These scribes were known for their teaching style of “probably” and “maybe,” and “it could be…”  That is, they were rarely firm on any matter of doctrine or practice, often quoting competing rabbis and leaving it up to the people to decide which one they liked best.  Not Jesus, though.  He taught them with authority: “This is how it is,” and as He so often did, He would have proven it from Scripture.  And don’t forget that He called His first disciples (the two sets of brothers) with an authoritative, “Come!” (Mark 1:17).

The Text, part 2 – Authority over Demons (Mark 1:23-28)

Jesus presented Himself as one who should be heeded by means of His message and delivery.  Next, He proceeds to prove that the Kingdom of God is at hand (and thus, He should be heeded) by His authority over the demonic world.

(23) There was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit

To put this in modern language, he was demon-possessed.  The word “unclean” literally means impure or defiled.  Some believe that these demons are fallen angels that God permitted to torment mankind.  I tend to agree more with Alexander Campbell, who made a pretty convincing case that the “unclean spirits” or “demons” (“devils,” KJV) were the souls of those wicked men who died in the flood (but that’s a completely different lesson).

This demon was there with the worshipers, in the same building during their worship!  This demon was a representative of the Kingdom of Darkness that Jesus was planning on overthrowing.  Let no one for a moment think that Satan doesn’t attempt to get at us even when we are gathered together to worship!  Think back to Job 1, where the “sons of God” (followers of God) came together to present themselves before God—and Satan was among them.  Think about Nadab and Abihu, offering worship to the Lord—but in a way that Satan wanted done.

Among most ancient cultures (and even many present-day ones), there was a fear of being taken over by an evil spirit.  And in the first century, when it was actually happening, that fear increased.  Later, Mark will record a demon-possessed man who would roam among the tombs and shattered the chains that they tried to bind him with, cutting himself and crying throughout the nights and days (Mark 5).

(24a) He cried out, saying, “Leave us alone!  What do we have to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth?”

This demon recognized quite clearly that Jesus was different.   Most humans, the demons didn’t fear.  They could tell the demons “leave that man” and the demons could refuse—or as in the case of the seven sons of Sceva, they could turn on the pseudo-exorcists and attack.  But not Jesus.  The demon knew who Jesus was, and what He was there for.

Jesus is the King, announcing the establishment of His kingdom, taking citizens out of the Kingdom of Darkness, and now He comes face-to-face (so to speak) with part of the army of darkness.  It’s like the King we’ve mentioned before, traveling into enemy territory, telling the citizens that He is about to overthrow their ruler, and now meeting face-to-face with one of the powerful knights of the realm, sword in hand.  The knight says to the king, “Get out!  You have no business here!”  If the king backs down, all of his work is lost, no one will follow him.  He has no choice but to engage the knight in battle.

(24b) “Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Depending on the inflection of one’s voice as he reads this passage, it could be read as a combination of fear and pleading, something like in Luke 8:28, where Legion begs Jesus not to torment him.  On the other hand, it could also be read in a scoffing tone of voice, the demon chuckling at the thought that this Jesus could hurt him.

Again, imagine that knight, armed with a heavy, sharp sword, facing the king who has been trying to turn the hearts of the citizens to him.  He sits atop his horse and scoffs at the king before him, “Have you come to destroy us?” and laughs in derision.  “I know who you are.”

The demon identifies Jesus as “the Holy One of God,” or it could also be translated, “God’s Holy One” or “God’s Saint.”  For Mark’s readers, this was a reference back to the very first verse, where Jesus is identified as the Anointed One, Son of The God, as well as verse 11, where God spoke from heaven saying, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”  They would have seen this as the Kingdom of Darkness acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of the God.  They also would have seen this as a challenge to Jesus.

(25-26) Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold your peace and come out of him.”  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

There was no long, drawn-out battle between Jesus and this knight of darkness.  There was simply Jesus opening His mouth, ordering the demon to be silent, and commanding him to depart.  The demon fought against it, trying to harm the man in the process, but his power was pitiful compared to the power of Jesus.

Many have asked, “Why did Jesus tell the demon to be silent when it was proclaiming the truth about Him?”  There are multiple reasons for it.  First, Satan is a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44).  Thus, when a demon (a servant of Satan) proclaims the truth about Jesus, it can actually have the opposite effect of making people doubt the truth.  It’s like people say from time to time when they hear a story, “consider the source.”  Basically, you don’t want a chronic liar on your side, because it will make you look bad; the Pharisees could have used this event as evidence that Jesus was in league with Satan (as in Mark 3:22).  Second, though the statement from the demon was true, Jesus’ plan did not involve a public declaration to everyone of who He was (the Son of God) at that point.

(27a) They were all amazed.

And why wouldn’t they be?  Obviously, they knew that this man had an unclean spirit, and though Mark doesn’t describe for us the way the man had acted before (remember, Mark does very little in the realm of backstories), there must have been an incredible difference before and after Jesus spoke.  Before, the man may have been writhing in agony, moaning and crying, having seizures, or any number of other symptoms of his being overwhelmed by the dark knight.  After, the man would have been normal, in his right mind, most likely smiling, perhaps even having tears of joy running down his face.  The transformation would be amazing for certain!

(27b) they asked among themselves, saying, “What is this thing?  What new doctrine is this?  For He even commands the unclean spirits with authority, and they do obey Him!”

The devout Jews who gathered at the synagogue were amazed first because Jesus taught with authority, but now they are even more amazed, because His authority is even over the demons.  The demon said, “You leave us alone!”  And Jesus basically said, “No, you leave.”  And then the demon obeyed.

Mark’s readers couldn’t help but be surprised by this exchange between Jesus and the demon.  Like the people in Capernaum, they would have been amazed, wondering just how powerful this Jesus must be.  In the mythological stories of the Greek and Roman gods, there were always long, drawn-out battles, epic battles between the gods which sometimes lasted for years.  Yet this Son of the God won this battle by speaking a single sentence, a simple sentence.  It’s hard to place ourselves in their position, understanding it from their point of view, but what you’re reading right now in Mark is a description of sheer power.

Jesus, the King, had been promising that the Kingdom of God was “at hand,” and if there was any doubt as to His message, this absolute victory over one of Satan’s evil knights silenced them.

(28) Immediately His fame spread throughout all the region round about Galilee.

The people in Capernaum told their friends and family about Jesus, they in turn told others, and Jesus because very famous very quickly in that area.  And how could He not be?  Imagine that a doctor moves here, and he has the ability to genuinely cure cancer in one day—without chemotherapy, without surgery, without any of that stuff.  He heals a person who everyone knows is suffering horribly from that awful disease—it’s gone completely, and the person who before was weak and frail from this cancer is now healthy and energetic.  And not only that, people watched as this doctor did it.  Word would spread very quickly, and thousands of people would be pounding at his door begging to be healed in the same way.  It would be a very big deal.  This is what happened to Jesus after He healed this demon-possessed man (see verse 32).

Mark records this miracle of Jesus to show his readers (both then and now) that God’s Kingdom was indeed coming, and clearly had the power to overthrow the Kingdom of Darkness.

Application

Jesus Attended Worship Services, Do You?

Do not let this point escape your notice.  On the Sabbath Day, the day in which the Jews gathered together to study God’s word, to pray, to read the Scripture, and to hear a lesson from God’s word, Jesus was there in the synagogue with them.  To put it in modern language, Jesus “went to church.”  We can learn a lesson from that.  Jesus attended the worship services, and so should we.  And if you keep reading the gospel accounts, you’ll see that Jesus was frequently found in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  It wasn’t an isolated incident.

When Jesus died on the cross and was raised again, establishing His eternal Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost, He did away with the Old Testament Law.  From that point forward, the Lord’s Day, the day when citizens of the heavenly kingdom meet together in worship, is on the first day of the week.  It is a day to honor our King, remember His death, and celebrate each week the day that He came out of that grave, victorious over the king of Darkness.  Our King thought assembling for worship was important—do you?

Demons Confess Jesus, Do You?

Regardless of the motivation behind the demon saying “I know you, who you are, you’re the Holy One of God,” the fact remains that the demon openly acknowledged Jesus before others.  Still, how many people claim to know Jesus, claim to follow Jesus, claim to serve Jesus, yet outside of the church building, they never mention Him?  Can we really claim to be a follower of Jesus if the demons themselves do a better job of confessing Him than we do?  James says “the demons also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).  The King says, “If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).  How good of a job are you doing at confessing Jesus?

Jesus is the Authority.

Sad, so very sad is the fact that people who claim to follow Jesus Christ and who want the salvation He has to offer reject His very words when it comes to obtaining it.  Jesus is the authority.  He taught with authority, and in fact, He made the statement, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).  Since Jesus is the one with “all authority,” why don’t people simply follow it?

Invitation

For example, Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).  It’s not that hard of a statement, yet there are those who say good, religious Jews will be saved today without a belief in Jesus.

Jesus, the King with all authority, said that “repentance” was to be preached “in his name [that is, by His authority] among all nations” (Luke 24:47).  But, how often do we hear the cry of “faith only!”?  My friends, if it’s “faith only,” then there’s no need to repent, and Jesus’ authority means nothing!

The Lord and Savior of the world said that we must acknowledge Him as the Christ.  It is that very fact upon which His whole kingdom is based (Matthew 16:15-19).  He does not admit anyone as citizen in His Kingdom who does not acknowledge Him as King.

The Conqueror of demons said plain as can be, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).  And yet those people claiming to be His friends deny the very thing which He said, denying that obedience to the King’s command to be baptized has anything to do with being a part of His kingdom.

The great Hero who overthrew the Kingdom of Darkness gave the order: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

This great King loves you and wants you to be saved.  But you’ve got to make the decision to obey His commands.  Won’t you do that today?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Preaching and Calling

Sermon 3: Preaching and Calling

Text: Mark 1:12-20 – Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: you all repent, and believe the gospel.”  Now walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, “You come after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”  And immediately they forsook their nets and followed Him.  And when He had gone a little further from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.  And immediately He called them: and they left their father, Zebedee, in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Introduction

Mark introduces most of the major characters and themes in the Bible in the first twenty verses of his account of the gospel.  Look at it for yourself.  There’s Jesus Christ, baptism, remission of sins, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, the kingdom, Satan, angels, preaching, repentance, the apostles, Old Testament prophecy, and temptation.  Mark didn’t waste any time, he just dives right into the important things of the Bible.

But as you read today’s text, you’ll notice that Mark doesn’t do much explaining—and that there are very familiar aspects to some of these events that he simply leaves out.  Remember who he is writing to: the Romans.  They were people who liked continuous action, so Mark doesn’t slow down much in giving extra details.  What he does give, though, is enough to get the point across.

The Text, part 1 – The Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:12-13)

Matthew and Luke describe the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, as well as the response that Jesus gives in order to rebuke Satan.  Mark, on the other hand, does not give us much information at all.  Some people have said that this proves Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke simply “embellished” the account—which isn’t true at all.  All it proves is that Mark knew his audience.  They were interested in action, not in the use of 1,500-year-old Jewish writings (which they didn’t believe in at this point) to overcome temptation.

(12) Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.

Note the action here.  Immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness.  The word “drives” is ekballo in Greek, which literally means “cast out” or “drive out.”  It’s translated “expelled” (Acts 13:50), “thrust out” (Luke 4:29), and is used to describe the “casting out” of demons.  Thayer gives as one of the definitions, “to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist.”  Matthew and Luke (chapter 4 of each gospel) both say Jesus was “led” by the Spirit into the wilderness, but Mark’s account is much more forceful.  The Holy Spirit was taking Jesus to the wilderness, whether He wanted to go there or not.  I doubt very strongly that Jesus would have tried to resist, but at the same time, I can’t imagine that he’d be looking forward to having Satan pull out his entire bag of tricks on Him there in the wilderness.  Remember that as a human, Jesus was subject to temptation just like we are (Hebrews 2:16-18).

Jesus had already come into the wilderness to be baptized by John (Mark 1:4-5, 9), but now He was being taken to another wilderness.  The word “wilderness” simply means “uninhabited place.”  With John preaching and multitudes come to him to be baptized, that area wasn’t as much of a wilderness—there were lots of people there.  So Jesus is taken to another place where it is just Him and the wild animals…and Satan.

(13a) He was there in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.

The temptations of Jesus were far more involved and lengthy than we might generally think.  Matthew and Luke give three specific temptations, but Mark states that Satan spent forty days tempting Jesus.  Luke says the same thing (Luke 4:2).  The three specific temptations given in Matthew and Luke took place at the end of that period, after Jesus was “a hungered” (Matthew 4:1-4).  But Mark simply states that Jesus—after being taken there by the Holy Spirit—was “being tempted” by Satan for forty days.

This is what you might call a “testing ground” for Jesus as the Son of God—as the anointed King of prophecy.  In some cultures, it is common for the son of the king (or the tribal chief) to be tested in order to prove his worthiness to inherit the throne.  When the testing period was completed, and the heir successfully completed the task, his claim to the throne was solidified.

This testing, or tempting (the Greek word can mean either one), was done by Satan himself.  There are those who argue that “Satan” should be translated as “adversary,” and that it isn’t really a proper name.  Remember that Mark is writing to a Roman audience.  If he had wanted to use the Greek word for “adversary” (antidikos), he could have; Matthew, Luke, and Peter all used it.  He could have even chosen to use a Latin equivalent, but he didn’t.  Instead, Mark used “Satanas”—the Greek spelling of the Hebrew word “Satan”—with no explanation of the meaning of the word (like he does in other places where Hebrew/Aramaic words are used).  The only way this word choice makes sense is if Mark was using it as a proper name.  Satan is a real being, and he is the one who tempted Jesus for forty days in the wilderness.

(13b) He…was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

Mark describes the wilderness as a place that was only inhabited by the wild beasts.  There were no other people around to help Jesus with this task of being tested directly by Satan.  He was by Himself against the greatest enemy in the history of mankind.  Mark doesn’t come out and say what the outcome of this combat was, but it will become very clear in the next verse.

The angels, the heavenly messengers, were sent by God to serve the needs of His Son who had successfully completed this battle-testing.  It would have been a grueling forty days, fasting, being attacked by Satan; so the Father sent ministers to His Son to help Him.  Imagine a prince being sent on a quest to test him; and as he returns after a vicious fight—victorious, but exhausted—the king sends some of his servants to carry the weapons, to take him food and water, to assist him back from his victory proving his complete loyalty to his father.  The angels of heaven ministered to Jesus in a similar way.

The Text, part 2 – The Preaching of the King and the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15)

Mark showed that Jesus was taken by the Spirit and tempted by Satan, but unlike Matthew and Luke, he doesn’t show how Jesus overcame those temptations and won the battle.  But make no mistake about it, Mark is very clear that Jesus won.

(14a) Now after that John was put in prison…

Mark throws this in almost as a side note, but the readers almost certainly would be asking, “Wait! What happened to John?  Why was he put in prison?”  He does answer that question, but not until chapter six.  In the meantime, this helps to transition the narrative from “the King is coming!” to “the King is here!”  Because look at what Jesus is doing in this verse.

(14b) Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Jesus has returned from His victory over Satan in the 40-day Battle of Temptation, and now He is going around Galilee (His home area) proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God.  This would have been impossible if He had lost the battle with Satan.  Thus, the fact that Jesus is going around preaching about the “kingdom of God” proves that He won the battle.

This is the same “gospel” or “good news” that Mark opened the book with—the “gospel” or “good news” of Jesus Christ, Son of the God.  This is the same “gospel” that must be believed and obeyed in order to be saved.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the Kingdom of God because Jesus is the King, the anointed one of God.

(15a) Saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

For Mark’s readers, this is a reference back to verses 2 and 3.  There he gave ancient prophecies about the coming of a King preceded by the arrival of His messenger.  For those who heard Jesus speak, however, this was a reference to several Old Testament prophecies, including Daniel 2:44 and 9:24-25.

And in the days of these kings [of the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.

Seventy weeks are determined upon your people [the Jews] and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince shall be sixty-nine weeks…

The message of Jesus was that the kingdom of God was “at hand.”  This phrase means something is very near; if something is within arm’s reach, it is literally “at hand.”  If it is not within arm’s reach, then it isn’t “at hand.”  It’s a very simple concept, but people have seriously twisted its meaning and tried to contort Jesus’ words to mean something completely different from what He was actually preaching.  Jesus, the Anointed One, the King, was proclaiming to people that the kingdom of God was very near.  In fact, later in this same book, Mark records Jesus saying, “Truly I say to you that there shall be some of them which are standing here which shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).  It was coming in the lifetime of those people who were alive when Jesus spoke!

(15b) “You all repent and believe the gospel.”

The message of Jesus was much like John’s.  John preached “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).  Jesus preached “repent” and “believe the gospel [of the kingdom of God].”  John proclaimed that a great King was coming, now Jesus [the King] is proclaiming that His kingdom would soon be established.

The command to “repent” has a dual (yet still singular) meaning: it means to leave sin behind, and change your allegiance from the “prince of this world” (John 12:31, Ephesians 2:2) and his “kingdom of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) to the King of kings and His “marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  So, as Jesus is going about preaching, He is also—as a King—inviting people to prepare themselves to join His kingdom.

It’s like if a king went through enemy territory, telling all the inhabitants that he was about to overthrow their leader.  He’d say to those who would listen, “His kingdom is going to fall, and you need to decide now which side you want to be on.  If you join with me, you will live.  Otherwise, you will certainly die.”  This is basically what Jesus is doing, getting people to change their allegiance from the kingdom of Satan (serving sin) to the kingdom of God.

The Text, part 3 – Calling His Representatives (Mark 1:16-20)

This section could also be entitled “The First Converts” or “The First Citizens,” because Mark’s purpose is to show that the preaching that the “kingdom of God is at hand” was effective—the King was gaining subjects.

(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 fishermen.

Except during what’s called the “Triumphal Entry,”  (recorded in Mark 11), there is no record of Jesus traveling over land any other way but walking (and sometimes his sea travels were done by walking as well—as in Mark 6).  This may seem unimportant, but remember that Mark is showing his readers that this King is different.  Earthly kings would likely have ridden horses, or in chariots, but not this King.

Simon and Andrew lived together with their families in Capernaum (which is shown later in this chapter), and worked as fishermen.  According to J.W. McGarvey, “Fishing was then a prosperous trade on the lake of Galilee.”   The net that they were using  was an amphiblestron, a circular bell-shaped net that was tossed in the water and sank, catching any fish that it fell upon (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel).  Fishing was not considered to be a high-class trade, but it was an honest one.  The fact that they were fishermen is what brings about Jesus’ words in the next verse.

(17) Jesus said to them, “You come after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

The word “come” is not a request, as it might seem as you read the text.  The Greek word is a command, and the experts say it means “Come here!” or “Come!  Come now!”  Thayer and Strong both use exclamation points in the definition, showing just how strong of a command this is.  This is Mark showing the authority of Jesus and that He expects His subjects to put Him above everything—including their own (profitable) occupation.

Instead of spending their time gathering fish, Jesus promises Simon and Andrew that they will be gathering men—that is, people.  Jesus is building up His army, starting with these two brothers, and this army’s job includes recruiting—recruiting people to join the Empire of the new King, Jesus of Nazareth.  These two men would later be called “apostles,” and would be responsible for bringing thousands of souls over to the side of Jesus.

(18) And immediately they forsook their nets and followed Him.

Mark doesn’t usually stop and tell the backstory behind the events he records.  Here, he simply introduces Simon and Andrew to the narrative at the point in which they were called.  He could have, like John (John 1:35-51), told about how Andrew was introduced to Jesus by John the Immerser, and how he in turn found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus some time before, and that this event at the Sea of Galilee was something that took place afterwards.  But he didn’t, because those things weren’t necessary elements in his gospel account.  Remember, he is writing about Jesus, the King, Son of the God, and he’s writing to people who wanted constant action—not backstories of the supporting characters.

Simon and Andrew, upon hearing the command of Jesus, immediately left their nets behind and obeyed the command from the King to join Him.  They were the first of millions to answer the call to come to Jesus.  Notice that they didn’t hesitate; they didn’t argue; they didn’t say, “Well, I need to discuss this with so and so.”  They simply obeyed.

(19) When He had gone a little further from there, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.

James and John, according to Luke 5:10, were partners with Peter in the fishing business.  These two brothers were together in their boat with their father, Zebedee, getting their nets ready.  The word translated “mending” can also mean “adjusting” or “preparing.”  Jesus could see that these men were workers—they weren’t lazy.

(20) Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Zebedee is someone about which we know very little.  His name appears 12 times in the Bible (all in the gospel accounts), but it is always with a reference to his sons.  It is obvious that he was a Jew, for his sons observed the Passover meal with Jesus.  It is likely that he was a faithful Jew, based on the fact that he had two sons who were prepared to follow Jesus at a moment’s notice, and on the fact that his wife (though misguided) was a firm believer in the kingdom of God (Matthew 20:20-21).  Zebedee was also Jesus’ uncle, having married Mary’s sister (see John 19:25 and Matthew 27:56; also McGarvey’s Fourfold Gospel, pages 220-226).  Some have made a big deal about Zebedee not leaving the ship with his sons, and have tried to imply that he wasn’t a believer in Jesus.  The fact is, Jesus didn’t call Zebedee to leave his ship—he only called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to do so.  He had selected them for a specific work that necessitated their leaving the fishing business.  Jesus never made “quit your job” a requirement for being a disciple—but it seems He did make that part of being an apostle.

The two brothers left their father with the hired servants [employees] and followed Jesus.  By making sure to point out that they left their father in the boat, Mark is pointing out that loyalty to King Jesus takes priority over family as well.

Application

Repentance is a Change of Loyalty

Jesus, the King, was preaching the good news that God’s kingdom—God’s empire—was near.  He wanted people to change their loyalties and join Him.  That is, He was calling on them to repent, to change, and follow Him.  When we call people to come to Jesus today, we need to help them understand that repentance is a change of loyalty—it is removing the crown off our own head and placing it before Jesus Christ.  It’s saying “My life is no longer being lived in the service of me, but in the service of Jesus.”  It’s leaving sin behind (for sin is serving self), and dedicating yourself completely to your new King.  Repentance isn’t merely being sorry for your sins, it is a complete change in the object of your life.

Maybe you’ve already pledged allegiance to the King of kings, declaring your loyalties lie with Him through baptism.  But then something else happens; someone starts courting you to come back to your old king.  And maybe you’ve done things that show your loyalty to the King isn’t what it should be.  Maybe you’ve done things that show you’re still loyal to your old masters, sin and Satan.  This happened to a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom named Simon.  Another man named Simon (also known as Peter), said it quite clearly: “Repent!”  Be sorrowful about your sins, pray to God for forgiveness, and re-establish your loyalty to Jesus, the King of God’s kingdom.

As a point of comparison, the Christian who goes back into sin is like a citizen of the United States who is convinced to send money to terrorists.  On one hand, he claims to be loyal to the United States, while on the other hand he shows that his loyalty is to the enemies of this nation.  You can’t do both!

Loyalty to Jesus Trumps All Other Relationships

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, He expected them to leave their fishing business behind in order to follow Him.  When He called James and John, He expected them to leave their father behind in order to follow Him.  The first two brothers could have said, “We get off in a couple hours; we’ll follow you then.”  They could have said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, can we reschedule?”  But they didn’t.  They followed Jesus.  Following Jesus has to be the most important part of our lives if we expect to be counted among the faithful.  That means we cannot let our jobs keep us from serving Him.

The second set of brothers could have said, “But Jesus, we’ve got to take care of our father.”  They could have added, “This is a family business, and we can’t leave dad in a lurch like that!”  They could have even said, “Jesus, hold on, we’ve got to talk this over with the family before we decide whether or not to follow you.”  But they didn’t.  They heard the invitation of Jesus and followed Him.  Far too many people let family or friends influence their decision on whether or not to follow Jesus.  Even after pledging their loyalty to Jesus, some Christians let their family keep them from being a productive citizen in God’s kingdom.  Sometimes they even let family convince them to renounce their loyalty altogether.  This is why Jesus said that we must “count the cost” of being His disciple—of becoming part of His Kingdom (Luke 14:26-33).

If there is no Kingdom, there is no Salvation.

The “gospel” must be believed and obeyed in baptism in order to save someone (Mark 16:15-16).  However, the “gospel” that Jesus preached was “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14).  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of the kingdom of God (one translation renders it as “God’s Empire”); they are one and the same.  There are those who claim that Jesus came to earth to set up a kingdom, but was thwarted by the unbelieving Jews.  If that is the case, then the gospel that Jesus preached was a gospel that failed.  A gospel of failure isn’t “good news” at all!  And a gospel of failure certainly has no power to save souls.  Can you believe that there are those who teach such nonsense?

The truth is that the Kingdom exists; that Jesus is the King over His kingdom; and that it is the only place wherein you can have safety.  It is the church—His church—over which He reigns in love.  That, my friends, is truly good news!

Invitation

The gospel is the good news that the King came from heaven, lived among His people, died for them, and then came back to life to reign from heaven—and that those who become citizens of that kingdom are adopted into the royal family and can “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6, John 14:1-3).

The offer to be a part of the Kingdom of God, to have all of your sins forever removed, and to live eternally with the victorious King is made to everyone.  But sadly, not all believe.  The question today is this: do you believe?  Do you believe in Jesus, Son of the God of heaven?  Do you know that through His death, burial, and resurrection, He established His Kingdom—a Kingdom that will never fall?  If you believe, then won’t you pledge your loyalty to Him and become part of that eternal Kingdom?  Decide now to change your life; stop serving yourself and start serving Jesus (in other words, repent).  Make it known that you want to be on the Lord’s side, and then through your own death (to sin), burial (in water), and resurrection (to walk in newness of life), you can be part of His Kingdom.

The King awaits, and so do we.  Please come…

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Coming of the King

Sermon 2: The Coming of the King

Text: Mark 1:2-11 – As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!’”  John did immerse in the wilderness, and preach the immersion of repentance for the remission of sins.  And there went out to him all the land of Judea, and those of Jerusalem, and were all immersed by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.  And John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a belt of leather around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, “There comes one mightier than I, after me, the laces of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I indeed have immersed you in water: but He shall immerse you in the Holy Spirit.

And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was immersed by John in the Jordan.  And immediately, coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending on Him.  And there came a voice from heaven, saying, “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

Introduction

Mark wrote to a Roman audience; an audience that grew up hearing the stories about various gods, hearing the legends about the children of the gods, and even tales about prophesies regarding these various supposed deities coming to earth.  But if they started reading the gospel that Mark wrote, they’d instantly be captivated by his statement that there is only one God (Mark 1:1 literally says that Jesus Christ is “Son of the God”).  And Mark follows that by quoting two prophecies that pointed to a theophany (appearance of deity on earth).

The Text, part 1 – The Prophecy (Mark 1:2-3)

(2a) As it is written in the prophets

With this statement, Mark subtly asserts the superiority of this prophecy to those supposed prophecies of Greek and Roman legends.  When “prophecies” appear in Greek and Roman myths, they’re almost always introduced in the same story where they are “fulfilled.”  That is to say, there are no examples of a “prophecy” being given in the name of Zeus or Hermes or whoever that was written down and then fulfilled at a later period of time.  All the “prophecies” appear for the first time in the stories that they supposedly point to.

Meanwhile, Mark starts off with “As it is written in the prophets…”  This bold statement invites his readers to do some research and look at the fact that these prophecies have been on record, foretelling a theophany, for hundreds of years!  This is a massive distinction made between the gods of Rome and the God of heaven whose Son is the subject of this short book.

Some translations follow a less-trustworthy Greek text and have the phrase “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,” but the first quotation isn’t from Isaiah—it’s from Malachi.

(2b) Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, which shall prepare the way before You

If one of the Roman readers of this book were to take Mark’s challenge and look for this prophecy, he’d find it in the book of Malachi, written about 450-500 years before Mark wrote his book.  While this prophecy foretells the work of John the Immerser (Jesus quotes it as such in Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27), its primary focus is on the coming (theophany) of the Lord.  Malachi 3:1 says “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before ME.”  If you continue reading that verse, you’ll see that it was spoken by the Lord (Jehovah).

Now, Mark knew that the majority of his original readers wouldn’t take the time to look up the original prophecies, and so—as the narrator—he only brings up three in his entire book, two of which are right here.  There are other Old Testament prophecies mentioned, but they are mentioned by Jesus, and Mark is simply quoting Him.

In the ancient times, when a king was going to visit a city, he would first send a messenger, a herald, first to announce his coming so that the people could be prepared.  Oftentimes this would be done months—sometimes over a year—in advance of his arrival.  The cities that received an arrival of the king were considered to be specially favored, because the king didn’t make trips to all the cities.  It was an incredible honor to have the king visit your city.

When it was announced that the king was coming, the people would work hard to beautify their city.  They would many times build new buildings, would repair older ones, painting them, repair the city streets, and anything else they could think of to make a good impression for the royalty that was blessing them with his presence.  It was the job of the messenger, the herald, to encourage the people to be ready.  He would point out the things that needed to be fixed in the city, and would give suggestions on how to best be prepared to welcome the king.

Since this was true of people preparing to meet a physical king, how much more should they be preparing when it is the God of heaven whose coming is being announced?  Since the great kings of the earth would announce their arrival months in advance, how much greater is the King whose coming was announced hundreds of years in advance?

(3a) The voice of one crying in the wilderness

This is an interesting contrast with the historical background.  A messenger would go into cities to announce a future visit of the king, but this messenger of prophecy would make his announcement in the “wilderness.”  This was another clue to the original readers that there was something different about this theophany, about this arrival of a monarch.

Verse 3 is a quotation from Isaiah 40:3.

(3b) Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight

In addition to beautifying the buildings and the city, prior to the arrival of the king, the inhabitants of the city would do road work.  They would smooth out bumpy roads, straighten out twisting roads, and not just inside the city.  They would work on the path to their city gates for several miles outside their town, just so the king’s journey to their city would be a pleasant one.

Of course, Mark is about to drop a figurative bomb on his readers when he tells them that the preparation for this king has nothing to do with fixing roads and beautifying buildings.

The Text, part 2 – The Messenger (Mark 1:4-6)

Mark doesn’t dwell much on John the immerser—John is only a part of about 30 verses (less than 5% of the book of Mark).  The messenger was an envoy of the king, but everyone knew that while he was an important person, he was nothing compared to the one whose coming he announced.

(4) John did immerse in the wilderness, and did preach the immersion of repentance for the remission of sins.

Mark began this section with the words “As it is written in the prophets…” or “Like it was written in the prophets…” and then gives the quotations.  But verse 4 is a continuation of that phrase.  “Like it was written in the prophets…John did immerse in the wilderness, and preach…”  Mark’s point in this verse is to show (1) the person—the messenger, John—who was foretold, (2) the place—the wilderness—that was foretold, and (3) the preparation—immersion of repentance for the remission of sins—that was foretold.

The preparation for the arrival of the great King—God in the flesh—didn’t involve fixing the streets or building new buildings.  It involved preparation of the people.  The Roman readers would have been perplexed by this.  “What kind of king seeks moral cleansing, spiritual betterment prior to His arrival instead of physical improvements?”

The work of the messenger, John, was to get the people to think about their spiritual condition, believing in the coming of the King, the Messiah, repenting, and being immersed for the remission of sins.  This is how the “way of the Lord” was being prepared.  This is how His “paths” were being made straight.  When the King arrived, He preached the same thing, and commanded that the same thing continue to be preached even after He left (Luke 24:47, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, etc.).

Because John’s work was one of spiritual preparation, his immersion was one with spiritual effects when coupled with repentance.  It had the same effect as the baptism commanded by the King (Jesus Christ), through Peter, on the Day of Pentecost three years later—the remission (removal, forgiveness) of sins.

(5) And there went out to him all the land of Judea, and those of Jerusalem, and were all immersed by him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

The ancient heralds would go to the city gates or to public place inside the city to make their announcement, and all the people would come to hear it.  John made his announcement in the wilderness, but still all the people came to hear it.  He was (as seen in verse 7) announcing the coming of the King, and the people who believed him wanted to make themselves right in anticipation of His arrival.

(6) John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a belt of leather around his waist; and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Mark adds this information about the appearance and diet of John for a very important reason.  The heralds of kings in the ancient days would be clothed in fine clothing, expensive clothing, and would expect gifts of clothing from the people.  They also expected, as emissaries of the king, to be “wined and dined,” eating the best food that the city had to offer (without paying for it, of course).  Not all were like that, for certain, but it was common for the heralds of kings to take advantage of the people in the city, with the implication “I’d hate to have to tell the king you were uncooperative…”

In stark contrast to these well-dressed and well-fed men, John came dressed in camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist.  And he didn’t feast on the best the people had to offer—his diet consisted of things he could get for himself, provided by nature.

The thoughtful Roman reader couldn’t help but be struck by the imagery.  What kind of king sends his messenger dressed in poor man’s clothing and eating locusts?  But at the same time, they would have also had a level of admiration for the king whose messenger refused to use his position to line his own pockets and fill his own stomach.

The Text, part 3 – The Announcement (Mark 1:7-8)

The prophecies quoted by Mark for his readers started with the messenger, and Mark identified the messenger.  The prophecy then spoke of the preparation, and Mark described the preparation.  The prophecy spoke of the place where this work was to be done, and Mark showed the location.  The prophecy then gave the announcement—the Lord is coming!

(7) And he preached, saying “There comes one mightier than I after me, the laces of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”

This is John being the herald, the messenger, announcing the coming of the King.  The people listening to his message didn’t know exactly who this King was yet (they knew He was the Messiah, but they didn’t know it was Jesus yet), but Mark’s readers were given the answer at the very beginning: Jesus Christ, Son of the God.

As important as the herald was, and as much respect as he was to be given, he was nothing compared to the King which would follow.  This is the imagery that Mark, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is presenting to his readers.  John, the messenger of the King who is the Son of the one and only God, should have been—by worldly standards—the most important herald in the history of mankind (and Jesus even said there was no man greater than John, Matthew 11:11).  But even the greatest messenger in the history of the world wasn’t worthy to touch the feet to untie the shoes of the King he was announcing.

How powerful and mighty must this King be!

(8) “I indeed have immersed you in water, but He shall immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”

This is a continuation of the announcement of the coming King and a description of His greatness and power.  John had immersed people in water—that common item that covers the majority of the globe.  And it wasn’t even pristine water, it was the not-exactly-clean water of the Jordan River, which was inferior to the rivers in Syria to the north (2 Kings 5:12).  The point is that John immersed people in a common element, but that the King who would come had the power to immerse people in power from heaven.  What an incredible contrast!

While John’s listeners were familiar with the Holy Spirit, Mark’s original readers probably weren’t.  And so it comes as no surprise that just a few verses later, Mark shows the source of the Spirit: God Himself!

The Text, part 4 – The King Arrives (Mark 1:9-11)

(9) And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was immersed by John in the Jordan River.

The reaction of the readers must have been much like the reaction of Nathanael, who said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  That is, if they’d even heard of Nazareth.  They had probably heard of Galilee, and that would probably have elicited a similar reaction.  Galilee was an insignificant area, so far as the Romans were concerned.

But they’ve already been told that Jesus is the Anointed One, son of the God (1:1), they’ve been shown the prophecy about the messenger announcing the arrival of this Lord (1:2-3), and they’ve read his might and power described (1:7-8).  So their expectations were probably something completely different from what happens in this verse.  It’s no surprise, since that’s what happened with the Jews as well.  They expected a Messiah much different than the one that God sent.

John described the coming King as someone who was so mighty that He had the powers of heaven at His command (will immerse you with the Holy Spirit), and so regal that John wasn’t even worthy to untie this King’s shoes.  The expectation, then, would be someone who thought of themselves as above everyone else, who couldn’t be bothered with the common person.  Yet here comes Jesus, going out into the wilderness, coming to the same person for baptism, going down into the same dirty, common waters of the Jordan River, allowing the one who wasn’t worthy to untie His shoes to immerse Him like he had done so many others.

This verse reveals Jesus as a King who is humble, not like the kings of this world.

(10) And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened and the Spirit like a dove descending on Him.

Take a moment to picture this scene in your mind.  Jesus has come to be immersed in the waters of the Jordan River by John.  Jesus steps into the water and stands next to the Immerser.  John then takes hold of Jesus, and plunges Him beneath the water’s surface before lifting Him back up.  And at that moment, the heavens open up.  Do you see the clouds parting in the sky?  Do you see a bright ray of sunlight shining down towards our Lord?  Don’t just read over this verse and miss the incredible scene that took place, because this is part of the proof of what Mark stated in the first verse: Jesus Christ, Son of the God.

Jesus, the King, was described as the one who would have the power over the Holy Spirit (baptizing people in the Holy Spirit—verse 8).  Now, in this verse, it is shown that the Holy Spirit comes from heaven—from God—and resides with Jesus.  Some view this event to be the moment when Jesus is anointed as King.

(11) And there came a voice from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Here is the public proclamation of Jesus as Son of the God.  The heavens have opened, the Spirit has descended, and now the voice from heaven itself—the realm of the one true God—speaks, announcing that Jesus of Nazareth is His Son.

Mark concludes the opening section of his account of the good news of Jesus by showing that Jesus is the Son of God, just like he stated in the first verse.

Application

The Old Testament was Written for our Learning.

If you look through the book of Acts, you’ll see that the apostles used the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  While we do not live under the Old Testament (nor did the apostles after the Day of Pentecost), we can increase our faith and learn more about God by studying those writings.  Even though Mark doesn’t spend a lot of time bringing up the Old Testament prophecies, he does show that he is familiar with them, and that they can still be used to prove the truth of Jesus as the Christ.

The Messenger of God Cannot be Focused on Himself.

There was no one greater than John the Immerser, according to Jesus Christ, but John didn’t let that status, as the messenger of the King, go to his head.  He didn’t wear fancy clothes when he proclaimed his message—the Pharisees did, but John didn’t.  He was dressed in common clothing.  He didn’t try to abuse his role and make demands of people, catering to his whims and opinions.  Instead, the only demands he made of people were those that involved their spiritual condition (Luke records these in greater detail).  The ones who were trying to run others’ lives, he called a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 3:7).  Likewise, if we are to truly be God’s messengers, we need to make sure we focus on making people spiritually prepared for the Lord’s coming.  Making an issue, demanding that someone cater to your opinion, is putting the focus on you and not on God.

Jesus was Humble, We must be Humble.

There are baptized believers who are arrogant instead of humble.  Sometimes it is seen in how they talk about those in denominations, as though they are so much smarter than those denominationalists because of a proper understanding of baptism—as though the denominationalists are intentionally keeping themselves out of heaven.  Other times it is seen in how they treat other Christians, specifically those who are struggling spiritually, as though they never have any spiritual struggles.  Jesus came to save the lost and to give us an example of the attitude we are to have towards others—brethren and non-brethren alike.  Jesus lived a life of humility, of humble service, not using His status as King to make people bow down to His every whim, but showing them the right way to live.  We need to follow that same example.

Baptism Involves being able to “come up out of the water.”

The largest religious denomination in the world teaches that sprinkling water on someone is considered baptism.  Others teach that pouring water on someone’s head constitutes baptism.  But when Jesus was baptized, He “came up out of the water” (Mark 1:10).  That means He first had to be “in” the water.  You can’t “come out of the water” after having some sprinkled on you.  You can’t “come out of the water” after having some poured on you.  But you have no choice but to “come out of the water” after you’ve been immersed in it.  Baptism is immersion.

Invitation

The King of kings, the Son of the one true God of heaven, did come to the earth to visit mankind.  When He did, He lived a life of perfect service and obedience to the Father, giving us an example to follow.  He gave those who believed in Him and wanted to be saved a very simple command: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins.”

Why don’t you come follow the King now?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of THE God

Another one of our many “in progress” projects is a sermon commentary on the book of Mark.  Each section is broken down into a sermon, complete with introduction, points from the text, application, and invitation.

Starting today, and following each Friday for the foreseeable future, we will be posting a sermon from this collection.  It is ready to preach, so if you think it is worthwhile, preach it! (that’s why it’s being put here).

Sermon 1: The Introduction

Text: Mark 1:1 – The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Introduction

The book of Mark is a biography of Jesus Christ that differs from each of the other Gospel accounts in the Bible (Matthew, Luke, and John) in some significant ways. (1) Its size—Mark is significantly shorter than any of the other accounts. (2) Its speed—Mark pictures Jesus constantly on the move doing the Father’s will, and uses the word euthus (translated “immediately” or “straightway”) over forty times in his short book.  To put this in perspective, this word appears more times in the book of Mark than it does in the rest of the New Testament combined! (3) Its focus on Jesus’ final week—almost 40% of this book is dedicated to Jesus’ passion week. (4) Its starting point—Matthew and Luke both deal with the birth and some of the early life of Jesus; John goes all the way back to creation to show Jesus [the Word] was there; but Mark starts his record with the baptism of Jesus by John.

Mark most likely wrote his account of the gospel to a Roman audience.  He had to interpret certain Aramaic [the spoken language of the Jews] words and phrases so that his readers would understand them (Mark 3:17, 5:41, 7:34, 15:22, 34).  He also used several Latin words instead of their Greek counterparts; and Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire.  “Bushel” (Mark 4:21), “executioner” (Mark 6:27), “tribute” (Mark 12:14), “farthing” (Mark 12:42), “scourged” (Mark 15:15), “Praetorium” (Mark 15:16), “band” (Mark 15:16), “centurion” (Mark 15:39).  The Greek equivalents of each of these words appear elsewhere in the Bible, but God inspired Mark to use the Latin in those places instead, because this was written to a Roman audience.  It is also said that Romans had a penchant for fast-moving reading, and didn’t want to be bogged down with explanations and commentary on a story—Mark definitely fits the bill on that as well.

The book of Mark is controversial among biblical scholars and commentators in two ways: (1) the absence of the last twelve verses of the book in two ancient manuscripts, and (2) the date of its composition.  We will deal with the validity of Mark 16:9-20 when we cover that passage of inspired Scripture.  The date is controversial because some want to make the claim that Mark wrote his first, and that Matthew and Luke simply copied from him and embellished it—in other words, they’re claiming that an apostle of Jesus Christ wasn’t able to tell the story of Jesus’ life without first reading it from someone else and plagiarizing it.  The date of the original composition is truly irrelevant to its truthfulness (except that it obviously must have been written during Mark’s lifetime), but here are some things to consider about it.

  • Mark records the prophecy of the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1-2), but says nothing about it having been fulfilled, which places the writing of the book prior to AD 70.
  • Biblically speaking, there is no evidence that Mark had any influence with Gentiles until Paul’s first missionary journey—which he abandoned (Acts 12:25, 13:13). Given his retreat to Jerusalem, abandoning the mission to the Gentiles, it would be difficult to believe that Mark’s writings would have been accepted among that same group.
  • It isn’t until at least fifteen years after the conversion of Paul that Mark does any more missionary work (Galatians 2:1, Acts 15, especially verses 33-37). Until that point, he had been in Jerusalem among the Jewish Christians.  This is usually estimated to be around AD 49.
  • It isn’t until AD 60 or afterwards that Mark’s name appears in the Bible in any kind of authoritative way, (a) as a fellow-worker with Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and (b) as a “profitable” minister for Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).

Taking these biblical pieces of evidence into consideration, it would appear the book of Mark was written somewhere between AD 50-65, probably close to the latter half of that timespan.  The book of Matthew, by comparison, was most likely written between AD 40-50; the early Christian writers unanimously stating that his was the first gospel account written.  Mark was not written first.

Mark’s name has always been attached to this book, and no one among the early Christians had any doubt that he was the one who wrote it.  To put it another way, there are no copies of the book of Mark that have another name put in his place as the writer.

The Text (Mark 1:1)

The Beginning

The apostle John starts off his account of the good news of Jesus Christ with the words “In the beginning was the Word.”  Mark uses the same Greek word for “beginning,” but he isn’t speaking of the creation week that starts the whole biblical record.  Mark’s focus is on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, culminating in His victorious death on the cross.  It is when this gospel is believed and obeyed that people can be saved—this is the good news (Mark 16:15-16)!  Mark doesn’t start with “Jesus died,” but with the beginning of Jesus’ work on earth.

It’s also worth noting that Luke uses similar wording to describe his written account of the life of Jesus.  He says in his sequel (the book of Acts) that his gospel account recorded “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).  This implies that there was still more to come.  The book of Acts records more of the things that Jesus did and taught—through His servants.  The same idea is apparent in Mark’s use of the word “beginning” as well.  The death of Jesus on the cross was not the end—there was more to come.  That great event still has powerful effects to this day to save souls!

Of the Gospel

The word “gospel” comes from the Greek compound word, euangellion, which is where we get the English word “evangelize.”  It’s made up of two Greek words: eu, which means “good,” and angelia, which means “message” (see 1 John 3:11).

What makes the things contained in the book of Mark “good news”?  The answer to that question can be found by cheating a bit and skipping ahead to see how the book ends.  If you turn to Mark 16:15-16, you’ll see that the “gospel” [good news, same as in 1:1] is to be proclaimed to the whole world.  So, from that, we know that the same subject is under consideration at the end of the book as at the beginning.  But notice what this message has the power to do: he that believes [the gospel] and is baptized [obeying the gospel] shall be saved.  Salvation?  Being able to have all of our sins removed?  That certainly is good news!  Of course, the opposite is also true: he that does not believe [the gospel] shall be damned.

Mark introduces the book with “the beginning of the gospel [good news] of Jesus Christ,” and ends with the gospel being proclaimed to bring about salvation.  So we have seen what the good news does, and why it’s good news.  It’s the information between the beginning and the end of this book that shows what the good news actually is.

The apostle Paul described the gospel as that “which I preached…, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I have preached [that is, the gospel] to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).  He then states that the what he preached [the gospel] was “that Christ died for our sins…and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day,” and that His resurrection is proof that we will be resurrected as well (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 12-28, 51-58).  Is it any wonder, then, that Mark spends close to forty percent of his book describing the events surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?

Some people have a hard time with the idea of “obeying the gospel,” because they see the gospel as a series of events, and not as any kind of command.  But God’s inspired writers said that vengeance will come on those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  Thankfully, we are not left in the dark as to what it means to obey the gospel—to somehow obey the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:2-5).

The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf; it is the good news about salvation that comes through Him; it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we obey when we are baptized into Christ.

Of Jesus

The phrase “of Jesus” is in the genitive case in Greek, which means that this is the good news that belongs to Jesus Christ.  It is His gospel; He lived it; He revealed it; and He confirmed it.

“Jesus” is the name that was given to the baby born to Mary after she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25).  It is common to hear people say that “Jesus was at the beginning of creation” and that “Jesus created everything.”  While those statements express truth, the wording could use some fixing up, because He did not have the name “Jesus” until He was born as a human.  The name “Jesus” expresses His humanity.  Prior to His incarnation [coming to earth as a human], He was known as “the Word” (John 1:1), as “Jehovah” (Isaiah 6, compared with John 12:36-41), and as “the Angel of Jehovah” (Exodus 3:1-6, see whose appearance caused the ground to be holy).  But He was not known as “Jesus” until Matthew 1:25.

The name “Jesus” is the same as “Joshua” in the Old Testament.  “Jesus” is from the Greek, “Joshua” is from the Hebrew.  In fact, there are several Bible translations online and in print that use “Yeshua” (the Hebrew form of the name) instead of “Jesus.”  The name itself means “Jehovah is salvation.”  No other name captures the essence of who Jesus is and what His life and death means to the entire world.  It is the perfect name for the Son of God!

Even after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, He is still called “Jesus,” showing that He retains His humanity, even after taking His place at the right hand of the Father.

Christ

The words “Jesus Christ” appear together so frequently in the Bible that a lot of people mistakenly think that “Christ” is part of Jesus’ name.  It is not.  The word “Christ” is a title, and it means “anointed one.”  In the Old Testament, anointing was done to “consecrate,” “sanctify,” and turn men into God’s “minister[s]”—that is, to make someone a priest (Exodus 28:41).  Prophets were also anointed to the position as spokesmen for God (1 Kings 19:16).  And we must not forget also that kings were anointed to make their selection official (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16).  Jesus of Nazareth was given the title “the anointed one” because He is all three: prophet, priest, and king (Acts 3:20-22; Hebrews 9:11; 1 Timothy 6:15).

The Hebrew word “Messiah” (Daniel 9:25-26) is translated “anointed” everywhere in the Old Testament except for the prophecy of Daniel.  In that passage, it is given as a title—the one that the Jews had been waiting for would be known as “the Messiah” or “the Anointed One.”  So when Peter announces by inspiration that Jesus is “the Christ” (Matthew 16:16), he proclaims that Jesus is the “Messiah” or “the Anointed One.”

It’s also interesting to look at Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost and notice that he’s discussing the “Christ” of prophecy, and showing how “Jesus” fits those prophecies.  We tend to think “Jesus” and “Christ” are interchangeable terms when they’re not.  Peter starts his sermon by proclaiming the murder and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God by miracles.  He states that David prophesied this event, and then says “he…spoke of the resurrection of Christ [the Anointed One]” (Acts 2:31).  Then he points out, “This Jesus, God has raised up, we are all witnesses of it” (Acts 2:32).  The conclusion of his sermon is that the Messiah and Jesus are one and the same: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Most of the people there believed in Christ, believed in the Messiah, or the Anointed One, but they didn’t know that Jesus was Him!

Son

A thousand years or so before Jesus was born, a king in a relatively tiny country along the Mediterranean Sea wrote these words:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah, and against His Anointed [Hebrew Messiah], saying “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”  He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure, “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”  I will declare the decree: “Jehovah has said to me, ‘Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.  Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen [Hebrew Gentiles] for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”  Therefore now be wise, O you kings: be instructed you judges of the earth.  Serve Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.  Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him (Psalm 2:2-12).

The Old Testament prophesied that the Anointed One would be called “the Son” of Jehovah.  From the very beginning of Mark’s gospel account, he makes that point clear: Jesus Christ [the Anointed One] is the Son of God.

There are some religious groups who maintain that since Jesus is the Son of God, He cannot also be God.  What they seem to miss (some of them intentionally) is that this phrase is referring to the nature of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus frequently refers to Himself as “the Son of man,” but not a one of these groups would dare use their same argument and say that Jesus cannot be human because He was the Son of man (the Greek word means “human”).  The son of a human is human—that is his nature.  Jesus, being the Son of God, is therefore God—that is His nature.

The Son is the heir to all that belongs to the Father.  In the passage quoted from Psalms, the Gentiles are offered as an inheritance to the Son.  When we come to Jesus Christ, obeying His gospel, we become fellow heirs with Him (Romans 8:16-17).  He inherits all things that belongs to the Father, and He is willing to share it with us!

Of the God

Most English translations simply say “the Son of God” at the end of the verse, but the Greek says “Son of the God.”  This is a very important point, especially when you realize that Mark was writing to a Roman audience.  The Romans, like the Greeks, had a plethora of gods that they worshiped.  The legends that sprang up around these mythical deities included having children with humans.  For example, Hercules was the son of Zeus [Jupiter] in these legends; and he was not the only one.  The Romans would have been very familiar with the idea of someone being as son of one of the gods, or the son of a god.  But with the insertion of the word “the,” Mark immediately got his reader’s attention.  With just this one word, he denied the entire worship system of the Roman culture.  With just this one word, Mark said, “All the Roman and Greek gods are fake.”  With this one word, Mark said, “There is only one God.”  This would have grabbed his readers’ attention immediately.

Mark’s gospel account was probably written as an evangelistic tool.  Written to people who believed in many sons of many gods, Mark tells them “Let me tell you about the good news of the one Son of the real God, and why it’s important.”

Application

The Gospel is still good news!

For far too long, most Christians have been afraid to spread the “gospel” because they seem to view it as some theological concept that they would have to explain and defend.  Instead, we need to recognize that “gospel” simply means “good news”!  It’s not hard to spread good news to people—especially to friends and family, but even to strangers.  Do you view what Jesus did for you as good news?  Then share it as good news!  Tell people “I’ve been saved from my sins and it is so wonderful!”  It’s important that we remember that salvation through Jesus Christ really is good news.

The focus of the Gospel is Jesus the Christ!

The good news about salvation is that Jesus Christ—God in the flesh—came to this earth as a King, but lived as a servant; that He overcame temptation; that He lived His entire life without sinning even once; that His apparent defeat in being crucified was actually His triumphant victory over Satan; that though He was buried, He was raised up on the third day to live forevermore.  The good news is about what Jesus did.  Sometimes we focus so much on what our response should be (obeying the gospel) that we forget to focus on why it matters in the first place.  Never forget that the gospel is first and foremost about Jesus Christ and what He accomplished.

The good news of Jesus Christ requires a response!

While Jesus Christ is the focus of the Gospel, He has also given us the opportunity to join with Him in His victory.  It is good news for us as well!  But it requires a response.  Jesus told His disciples that the good news was to be spread to the whole world.  The ones who believed the good news and were baptized would be saved.  But the ones who refused to believe the good news would be damned.  Those are the two choices that Jesus gave—there is no third option.  You either believe the good news, and therefore obey it, or you don’t believe the good news.

Invitation

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, as written by Mark, was designed to show that the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is truly good news.  It is only through the gospel that there is salvation (Mark 16:15-16, Romans 1:16).  But in order for the good news of Jesus Christ to do you any good, you have to believe it.  In fact, before Jesus told His apostles to preach the gospel, He severely criticized them because they hadn’t believed the gospel when it was proclaimed to them (Mark 16:14).  But believing it isn’t enough, you must also act on it.  You must let the good news of Jesus Christ change the way you live—that is, you must repent of your sins.  You must acknowledge that you truly agree that the gospel is good news—that is, confess that you believe the good news of Jesus Christ.  And you must also obey the gospel of Jesus Christ—that is, you must be baptized.

The gospel is truly good news to those who will obey it.  Won’t you?

-Bradley S. Cobb