The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark is one of my favorites in all of the New Testament. It showcases so many diverse aspects of Christ that I cannot help but be fascinated by it. It presents Jesus as a prophet, healer, Son of God, and more. Some of these perspectives are easy to accept while others are often rejected.
This is a shame. It is important to remember all the different aspects of Jesus. Not just the ones with which we are comfortable. If we recognize some aspects of Him, but deny others, then we run the risk of admiring a false Jesus. We need to guard ourselves against that possibility.
Please join me as we study through this great chapter and see the many impressive claims it makes about Jesus Christ.
Jesus as Mightier Than John the Baptist
The source of one of the easier claims about Jesus can be found in the person of John the Baptist. He preached a number of things, such as forgiveness of sins and repentance, but also about a person who would come after him. This is explicitly stated early in the chapter,
“He preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen’ ” (Mark 1:7).
John the Baptist was a prophet of God, and said that there would be one who would come after him. This person would be mightier than him. As we continue through the chapter it is obvious that this person was Jesus of Nazareth. John’s initial statement about Him would not cause a reason for concern for many of us.
I expect that many of us can think of someone who is stronger or smarter than ourselves (as humbling as that may be to admit). John simply said what he knew to be true through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In the next verse, John prophesied something else that was harder to believe. He spoke of Jesus baptizing people in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). That is a great topic, but something that we will not be studying in today’s post. Perhaps I’ll do so at another time.
It is true that John baptizes many people, including Jesus. We’ll revisit that event later in our study.
Jesus as Prophet
After Jesus’ baptism He is tempted in the wilderness. Upon His return we see that He is not only mightier than John, but also a prophet. This may be initially surprising. After all, Jesus doesn’t prophecy of the future in the first chapter of Mark. When we remember that prophets were people who spoke on behalf of God it is easier to view Jesus in this way.
Not all prophets foretold the future or performed miracles. Elsewhere in the gospels someone remarks that John did not perform any (John 10:41). As such, Jesus doesn’t need to perform any miracles to be shown to be a prophet. In verses 14 and 15 of Mark, it says,
“Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News.’ “
Jesus of Nazareth comes to Galilee and declares truths from God. He spoke of the Kingdom that was at hand, and urged people to repent and believe the Good News. This mention of repenting is similar to what John declared as well. By Jesus’ use of the same idea, and focusing on God and His Kingdom, we recognize that Jesus was also a prophet.
Jesus as Leader
In the very next verse the importance of Jesus of Nazareth continues to grow. In the last section we saw Him speaking words from God. Now He becomes a leader. He calls His first disciples. They weren’t among the most powerful or wise. They were just hard-working fishermen. The text reads,
“Passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you into fishers for men.’ 18 Immediately they left their nets, and followed him. 19 Going on a little further from there, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him” (vv. 16-20).
Jesus sees Simon and Andrew casting a net into the sea. As fishermen, they did an important and dangerous job. People needed fish for food and they were skilled in their labor.
When Jesus calls them, He tells them that they will be made into fishers for men. “Fishers for men”? That sounds bizarre. Nonetheless, they immediately left their nets and followed Him (vs. 18).
Even though Jesus’ ministry had just begun, apparently His way of communicating or influence was already great. Maybe they heard the preaching of John and were ready to follow Christ because of him. This man from Nazareth continues along the sea of Galilee. He calls James and John, the two sons of Zebedee.
While Simon and Andrew seemed to be by themselves, these two were working with others. It didn’t matter. They left their father. They left the other hired servants. They went after Jesus. This man who spoke of the Kingdom and repentance now had four followers.
He was becoming a leader.
Jesus as Teacher
After starting a movement and gaining some followers, Jesus goes to Capernaum and begins teaching. He does so at a place and time when people would expect such instruction.
The next two verses explain what happened next,
“They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes” (vv. 21-22).
Jesus goes to the synagogue in the city. He speaks to those who already knew the Law. He teaches them in a place (the synagogue) and time (on the Sabbath) that is appropriate for the Jewish people. The next verse has three key phrases that we should notice:
- They were astonished
- Taught them as having authority
- Not as the scribes
His listeners were amazed at what He taught. They recognized that He did so in a different manner than the scribes. He did not rely on the two primary schools of Jewish thought (Hillel and Shammai). He spoke with authority without using the Rabbis or famous sages for precedence.
The first half of verse 27 gives us more details of how people responded, “They were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching?…”
Later in the chapter we learn that this aspect of Jesus as a teacher was not an isolated case. He wished to teach many people, and preach God’s truth. He never planned on just staying in Capernaum,
“He said to them, ‘Let’s go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because I came out for this reason.’ 39 He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons” (vv. 38-39).
Jesus as Exorcist
Thus far, nothing that Jesus has done would be too disturbing for us. Except for the end of the verse that was just quoted. Many are fine with Jesus being a teacher or a leader. They may even be good with Him being a prophet so long as He doesn’t go into specifics.
That all changes here. We have the chapter’s first recorded miracle. It is found in the synagogue in Capernaum that was mentioned in the last section. The text reads as follows,
“Immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, 24 saying, ‘Ha! What do we have to do with you, Jesus, you Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy One of God!’ 25 Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’
26 The unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching? For with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him!’ 28 The report of him went out immediately everywhere into all the region of Galilee and its surrounding area” (vv. 23-28).
In the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit speaks to Jesus. The Lord responds by rebuking the spirit and commanding it to come out of the man. The unclean spirit obeys. It comes out in just a matter of moments. It does not take multiple days or hours to happen. Jesus speaks with authority and it is done.
The crowd is stunned. A report of Jesus of Nazareth goes out immediately into all the region of Galilee and the surrounding area. This was an amazing feat, but it wouldn’t be the only one. There would be many more.
Jesus as Healer
One of the most well known aspects about Jesus is His power to heal. As such, it is no surprise that we find examples of Him healing people in this chapter. Following His first exorcism, we also see Him heal someone. It happens just after He leaves the synagogue in Capernaum. Mark reports it as follows,
“Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 He came and took her by the hand and raised her up. The fever left her immediately, and she served them” (vv. 29-31).
Like the account of the exorcism, this healing is complete, dramatic, and without delay. This latter point is highlighted by the fact that the word “immediately” is used three times in the same number of verses. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever, and Jesus takes her by the hand and raises her up.
The fever leaves her immediately. Not after a day, an hour, or even a few minutes.
In addition to that, she responded as if she had not been ill at all. As the end of the passage tells us, “she served them.” There was no recovery period for her illness. It was there, and then it was gone. The change was instantaneous.
This wasn’t Jesus’ only healing in the chapter,
- He healed many of their diseases (vv. 32-34)
- He casts out more demons
- He cured a leper (vv. 40-42)
His fame grows greatly from these miracles. At one point Jesus departs to a deserted place and prays. Simon and the others search for Him. When they find Him they say, “Everyone is looking for you” (vs. 37).
Jesus as a Jew
By this point, a great number of people were seeking after Jesus of Nazareth. The multitudes wanted to be healed by Him. Even when He left the people they kept coming to Him.
If this happened to us today, I think many of us would become puffed up or proud. I know I would be tempted by such incredible power.
Thankfully, we always see Jesus being humble before His Father. He was a Jew and observed the Law. This may not seem like much, but I still wanted to stress this important facet of the Christ.
As we have gone through this study, we have seen Jesus become a leader, teacher, exorcist, and healer. He was also a Jew who kept the Law of God faithfully. After He heals the leper the text says,
“He strictly warned him and immediately sent him out, 44 and said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anybody, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them’ ” (vv. 43-44).
Jesus commanded the former leper to show himself to the priest and to offer the things which Moses commanded. He instructed the man to do things that were in accordance with the commandments of God. This demonstrates that Jesus viewed the Law as something that needed to be obeyed.
It also shows that He was humble before His Father. This isn’t the only instance where we get the indication that Jesus was a Jew. Earlier in our study I glossed over the fact that Jesus was baptized by John. I stressed John’s prophecies of Him instead. We are now ready to return back to that part of the book. Near the beginning of the Gospel it reads,
“In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (vs. 9).
Jesus’ willingness to be immersed was a physical acknowledgment that He recognized John as a prophet of God. It is unlikely that He would have allowed Himself to be baptized if John was teaching contrary to the Law of Moses.
As such, Jesus’ baptism is a second indication that He was a Jew.
Jesus as the Son of God
Remarkably, the account of Jesus’ immersion is one of two key passages that make the biggest claims about Him.
Throughout this chapter we have seen Jesus in many different ways. Some have been easy to accept. Recognizing Him as a Jew and a leader of a growing movement are easy. Believing that He was a healer is significantly harder.
We still haven’t examined the most challenging claim about Him. That being, that he was the Son of God, or divine. That changes now.
“Immediately coming up from the water, he saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 A voice came out of the sky, ‘You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ” (vv. 10-11).
In these two verses we find all three members of the Godhead being represented. Jesus comes up from the water and sees the heavens parting. The Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove. God the Father speaks from the sky and testifies about His Son.
It was surely an incredible event. Thousands were likely baptized by John and his disciples, but we never hear of anything like this for them. Jesus was different, and He was declared to be so at this point.
This particular declaration wasn’t made to shepherds living out in the fields. Nor was it to Joseph and Mary in Jerusalem. Instead, it was done before a crowd of people so all could hear the testimony that Jesus was the Son of God.
Everyone would have been stunned by what they heard. Some may have rejected it in disbelief. Others may have followed Jesus after hearing it. All of those people had to make a decision about their beliefs concerning this supposed man from Nazareth.
We need to do the same.
Was He mightier than John the Baptist? Was He just a Jewish teacher who had disciples? Many would agree with all of these aspects of Jesus.
What about the more offensive ones?
Maybe He actually was what was said about Him. That He was, and is, the Son of God. Such a statement is extremely upsetting to some. I don’t deny that it is. Even so, the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark makes that claim, and demonstrates that it is true by its accounts of Jesus healing people and performing exorcisms.
As I have said before, Mark never apologizes for proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. Not only is this bold claim made here, but also in the very first verse of the book. It says, “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
May we also confess Jesus as the Son of God, and be grateful for His sacrifice for our sins. Let’s not limit Him to being just a Jew, a leader, a teacher, or a prophet. If we pick and choose the aspects of Jesus that we accept, and never turn away from such mindsets, then we will end up admiring a false Christ. Strive not to do that. Follow the true Messiah instead.
Images UsedSculpture of Jesus With Arch and Columns by Couleur from Pixabay.
Sculpture of Jesus With the Heart Shining by Momentmal from Pixabay.
Jesus Sitting on a Boulder by Timeship from Pixabay.
Mosaic of Jesus With People Nearby by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.
Jesus Comforting a Boy by Momentmal from Pixabay.
El Greco Painting of Jesus With Piercing Eyes by 4222320 from Pixabay.
Jesus Replica Statue 2 by Tammy Sue from publicdomainpictures.net.