RECAP: Our approach to the various stories we’ll face in Mark.
1. We’ll always begin with the scene of activity.
2. We’ll look at any relevant questions not particularly addressed in the text.
3. We’ll make some simple observation that will help us dig below the scene of activity and enable us to uncover the deeper significance of the event.
Mark 1:12-13 “Immediately the Spirit drove 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.”
Scene of Activity:
Jesus came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River for two basic reasons:
1. He came to identify with sinful man.... so sinful man could identify with Him when they found themselves in need of a Savior.
2. He came to be identified by sinful man.... the sky violently parts in two - the Holy Spirit visually descends and rest upon Jesus - and then a voice declares from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The entire audience present at the Jordan that day witnesses this incredible scene, and we’re told that the Spirit immediately “drove Him into the wilderness” - literally, “to cast or drive out” or “to compel with a sense of urgency.” It could have been that the crowd wanted to make Jesus their king right on the spot.
While in the wilderness Mark tells us Jesus was tempted by Satan for a period of 40 days. Though Matthew and Luke record 3 specific temptations that occurred during this time period, Mark is clear the temptation was relentless for the entire 40 day period.
1. Could Jesus actually be tempted or solicited to do evil? Answer: No!
Because Jesus was the Son of God (God in the flesh - 100% God and Man) He possessed a sinless nature different from the rest of humanity.
I believe there was no way that Jesus “could have sinned” or “chosen to sin” as it would have gone against His very nature. Though there are many similarities between Adam and Jesus, Adam didn’t possess a divine nature like Jesus did.
We’re later told in Scripture that Jesus “became sin for us” - He never “choose sin.”
There is no way Jesus could have succumb to the temptations of Satan.
2. Does this mean the “temptation situation” Jesus experienced was less than the experience we have with temptation? Answer: No.... It was actually much worse!
Though we’re told in 1 Corinthians that we’ll never be tempted “beyond what we can handle,” the pressure of temptation does typically rises to our breaking point.
Like working out a muscle, God allows temptation to push our resilience, resolve, and dependance upon the Lord. In the process our faith and capacity to stand in the midst of incredible temptation grows stronger and stronger.
Jesus’ temptation situation was much worse than ours because Jesus didn’t have a breaking point. Since He did have a threshold, He experience a level of temptation you or I can’t even fully grasp and will never experience. You can make the case that during these 40 days Jesus experience the most extreme, intense period of temptation ever experienced by a human being.
3. How do we know Jesus remained sinless throughout this period of temptation?
Mark seems to provide two subtle details that are often overlooked in our text that seem to provide the indication Jesus remained sinless.
Mark says Jesus “was with the wild beasts.” In the original language Mark places a strong emphasis on the word “with” - Jesus was not spending 40 days running from mountain lions, but rather spent 40 days at peace with the wild animals. The animosity between mankind and the rest of the animal kingdom seems to be a bi-product of the sin of mankind. And yet, in His sinlessness, Jesus enjoyed total harmony with creation.
Mark also tells us the “angels ministered to Him.” As the sinless God of the universe the angels were in complete servitude to the will of Jesus.
First Observation: God purposefully leads us into tough situations.
The temptation situation Jesus faced wasn’t by accident and it wasn’t the bi-product of a series of poor choices He made. We’re told specifically “the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.”
We should understand “life with Christ” isn’t always a “walk in the park.” Following Jesus doesn’t mean life becomes simple or even easy. God purposefully allows temptations, trials, and difficult circumstances to come our way for a divine reason and purpose.
Our outlook shouldn’t be to avoid these seasons or pray for escape from these situations, but rather see them as ordained by God for my betterment not my destruction.
Second Observation: Jesus is qualified to help me through my own struggles.
Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”
The purpose of Jesus experiencing the human condition - the purpose of Jesus enduring temptation - was so that He could aid us in our own experiences.
It wasn’t a period of testing Jesus’ strength.
The temptation situation wasn’t a cosmic dual between Jesus and Satan.
The purpose was pure identification with the human experience.
As we’ve already mentioned Jesus’ temptation was the most extreme temptation anyone has ever experiences because He lacked a breaking point.... In my mind this gains Him so much credibility when it comes to helping me in my own experiences.
Climbing tips from someone who’s scaled Mt. Everest.
Golf lessons from Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods.
Guitar lessons from Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
Not only have we been promised that God will not allow temptation that exceeds our own breaking point, but we have Jesus (who endured the worst of the worst) available to help us in our time of need.
Mark 1:14-15 “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.... and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Mark is fast moving with his narration....
Verse 1.... Let me tell you the story of Jesus.
Verses 2-8.... Jesus had an Advance Man named John.
Verses 9-11.... Jesus was baptized by John revealing Himself to the world.
Verses 12-13.... He then spent 40 days being tempted in the wilderness.
Verses 14-15.... Let me summarize the first year of His ministry.
In summarizing the 1st year of ministry, Mark answers several important questions:
1. When did Jesus’ ministry begin? Answer: “after John was put in prison.”
John’s ministry and ministry style definitely ruffled some feathers mainly King Herod’s wife / live in mistress / brother’s wife - which landed him in prison - and ultimately would lead to his execution.
Don’t forget.... John’s role was to prepare the way. Once Jesus had arrived on the scene it was time for him to get out of the way. Many of Jesus’ earliest followers had been disciples of John. The progression from one to the other was crucial.
2. Where did Jesus’ ministry centralize? Answer: “Jesus came to Galilee.”
Galilee was a region comprised of approximately 15 cities that surrounded the Sea of Galilee (which was approximately 14 miles long and 7 miles wide).
Some scholars speculate the region itself contained a population in upwards of 2 million people. It was an area of high people concentration making it ideal for ministry.
Though the region is in Israel, during Jesus’ day it would have contain a high mixture of both Jew and Gentile communities.... it was under Roman control.
In contrast to Judea (which was the Bible belt of the day), Galilee was not a religious center with a high educational emphasis, but instead more of a blue-collar area.
3. What was the primary focus of Jesus ministry? Answer: “preaching.”
It’s interesting to me that though Mark will focus mainly on the deed / actions / activities of Jesus, before he get’s into any of this he makes sure His audience is completely aware what Jesus primary ministry focus will be.... preaching.
There are lots of terms you can attribute to Jesus: miracles worker, healer, visionary, revolutionary, leader, prophet, savior, maybe even entertainer.... but the one word Jesus would want attributed to His ministry first and foremost.... Preacher!
4. What was the message of His preaching? Answer: “the gospel of the kingdom of God.... the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Please understand, Mark is not saying this was the sermon Jesus would travel around Galilee preaching to the people, but rather this was the basis of His message. Some of you are thinking, “Jesus’ sermons were under 30 words and took less than 15 seconds to preach. Pastor Zach should really tighten things up a bit.”
Jesus’ message centralized on “the Kingdom of God” and He made it clear the “Kingdom of God was at hand” - it was here and the people should repent and believe.
It’s helpful to understand that there was an obvious disconnect between what Jesus meant by “Kingdom of God” and what the Jews were looking for in the “Kingdom of God.”
The Jews wanted and were looking for a physical, political kingdom and king who drive out the Romans and establish Israel as a world-governing superpower. Though it was true the Messiah would establish a physical kingdom on earth, the Jewish leaders had overlooked the initial role of the Messiah.... Savior of sins.
When Jesus spoke of “The Kingdom of God” He was referring to a spiritual kingdom where He’d transform the lives of people. Jesus was more interested in freeing people from the bondage of sin than the rule of the Romans.
Let me give you an example of His message we find in Luke 4:16-21, “So Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
It’s interesting to me that Jesus’ preaching was “Jesus-Centric!”
You know it’s true you can’t come to the kingdom of God until you’ve first repent of your sinful life (turn around - change your direction). And then believe in the gospel or literally “live a life of dependance” on Jesus.
Mark 1:16-20 “And 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.... Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men....” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.... When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets.... And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.”
Scene of Activity:
Jesus has been engaged in ministry in Galilee for one year. He’s been teaching and preaching to the people a message the centralized on the “Kingdom of God.”
The Gospel of John make it clear this was not the first time Jesus had met or interacted with Peter, Andrew, James, or John. These guys had spend a year listening to Jesus preach. They had spent personal time hanging out and getting to know Jesus.
One day Jesus decided to call them to be His followers. All four of them (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) immediately leave behind their businesses to embark on this new journey.
First Observation: If Jesus called these guys to follow Him, He’ll call anyone!
The educational system in 1st century Jewish communities was fairly simple....
If you excelled in your studies and showed a certain level of potential you were promoted to the next phase of the system....
Each phase weeded out the underachievers until you were left with the brightest....
At this point these graduates would be interviewed by various Rabbi’s for continued education and study....
In order for a student to be chosen by a Rabbi, the Rabbi would have to first conclude whether or not the student could replace the Rabbi at some point.... “If I invest into this student will he be able to represent me effectively?”
If the Rabbi was impressed, he would literally “call you to follow him” and “be his disciple.” You would then spend the rest of your time traveling with the Rabbi - learning from the Rabbi - and being discipled by the Rabbi - to one day represent the Rabbi.
At any point in this process if it was concluded you weren’t smart enough for furthered educational opportunities, the local synagogue leader would tell you to go home and learn your father’s trade.
The very fact we see Andrew, Peter, James, and John working jobs as fishermen tells us they weren’t very book smart and had no chance to be called to follow a Rabbi. The were common, run-of-the-mill guys who lives very simple lives.
And yet, as a Rabbi Jesus calls these four men to be His followers. Jesus chose them to travel with Him - learn from Him - be discipled by Him - and one day represent Him to the world.
Please note.... Jesus didn’t choose the wealthiest, or brightest, or most education, or best equipped people to be His disciples. He instead called men who were willing to forsake all to follow Him.
I like what David Guzik said concerning Jesus’ call.... “They were chosen not for who they were, but for what Jesus could do through them.”
Second Observation: Following Jesus requires letting go of your nets!
With both interactions (Andrew and Peter - James and John) we’re told they immediately “left their nets” to follow Jesus. Think about what was tied into these nets:
1. Their identities! They were known as fishermen. It’s not just what they did, in many ways it was who they were. Their fathers were fishermen and their father’s fathers were fishermen. Fishing was in their blood. If’s what they had always known.
But we see these men were willing to let go of their old identity for a new one they’d found in Christ. If Jesus called.... are you willing to let go of the person you are for the person Jesus desires to transform you into?
2. Their livelihoods! They made their livings as fisherman. It’s how they provided for their families. It’s how they put food on the table and a roof over their head.
But we see these men were willing to forsake the pleasures of this world for the joy found in a life following Christ. If Jesus called.... are you willing to let go of your job and trust the Lord to provide for you needs?
3. Their security! Their future security was tied into those nets. It was their retirement plan - their 401K. It was the inheritance they’d pass along to their children.
But we see these men were willing to forgo temporary security for the eternal security of the life they had found in Jesus. The greater inheritance would be Jesus - not a fishing company. If Jesus called.... and asked you to make a move into the unknown, would you have the faith to take the step?
No doubt the particular application of these points can vary from person to person, but one thing is clear.... To be a follower of Jesus three things are required: a new identity in Christ, complete trust in Christ, and faith to follow Christ wherever He might lead you.