The first recorded act of Jesus' ministry in Mark is not something sensational—a spectacular miracle or a mighty sermon—but a simple summons of four common laborers into fellowship with himself. The setting is the Sea of Galilee. In this account – Jesus’ first day on the job – we learn right away two key things:
1. His supreme authority and 2 His priorities
But before that – take a glance at the handout you have. The Structure of Mark – done by Dick Lucas, retired rector of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate (London).
Mark’s structure is simple. Mark, part 1, 1.1-8.30 asks the question – who is this man? Answer: Mark 8.30 – you are the Messiah
Mark, part 2 begins at that point and asks this: what kind of Messiah are you? Answer Mark 10.45
Mark 10:45 (ESV)
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And also in 15.39
Mark 15:39 (ESV)
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
So – who is he. He is one of supreme authority and with clear priorities.
Back to our outline:
Point One: His Supreme Authority
Over every area of life, especially those areas which pose such hardship on us – sickness and death. (not taxes).
a) Over Men
Peter, Andrew – then James and John – fishing for fish are called to become fishers of men.
As soon as Saul or David were crowned king in the OT they began to collect a little band of faithful followers around them, who would face danger or death for their sake. Jesus did the same, and the reality of the danger he faced is shown by v 14 NBD
And what did he tell them to do? Follow me. They are drawn, not to an agenda, but to Jesus, the man.
No job description – not yet. In chapter 3, Jesus will call others and their task is clear – they are to with him and they are preach. Already we see the beginnings of a fellowship around Jesus – a little like the church.
Our first task is to make sure we are following Jesus – for he is the head of the church, as he is the head of everyone of us.
To call him Lord means just what it says. He is the boss over me, and what a wonderful boss we have –
The NBD says something else which is very helpful:
One of the things that Mark is anxious to explain is that this coming of God's kingdom was a silent one, unnoticed by most people, for the world was not changed dramatically overnight
b) To teach – to the synagogue – a place to gather for worship and instruction 21-22
The scribes often get bad press. They were not dummies.
In the first century, before the advent of universal education and literacy, there was a great demand for scribes throughout the ancient world, and especially in Judaism where the written code of the Torah regulated Jewish life. Their erudition and prestige reached legendary proportions by the first century, surpassing on occasion that of the high priest
The scribes derive their authority from the "tradition of the elders" (7:8-13)—the fathers of Judaism, we might say; whereas Jesus receives his authority directly from the Father in heaven
It was no denigration of the scribes, but acclamation of the self-derived authority of Jesus.
c) Over demons v23-28
His authority is not just over men, and superior to that of the scribe, but also over the underworld – the world of the demons.
One of the surprises in early Mark is the reaction of the crowd to Jesus’ exorcism. Look at v 27. The link is made between his teaching and the exorcism. It is the truth of the gospel that both enrages all the powers of evil, but overcomes them as well.
Beginning with this story (see also 3:7-12; 5:1-20), the exorcisms in Mark depict the gripping conflict between the kingdom of God and the dominion of Satan, between the one anointed with God's Spirit and those held captive by unclean spirits.
d) Over Sickness 1.29-31
What a day! Now to Peter’s home where his mother in law was sick with a fever. Take an aspirin. Fevers in those days could mean the end of life. Jesus, showing that he towers over all enemies of mankind – including sickness – at a touch of his hand brings her back to good health.
Notice, however, her response – which is significant – he serves him. She deacons him – Just as he has come to serve us, by dying on the cross, so too are we called to serve him – the word for serve is the word translated in English as deacon. We are saved to serve the Lord – and we serve him in all kinds of ways.
Point Two: Crisis and Priorities
Jesus prays 3 times in Mark – not that he doesn’t often pray – only that when Mark records a prayer – it is significant in the life and ministry of Jesus.
His prayer – verse 35 – all by himself. And what is his next action? V 38
Mark 1:38 (ESV)
38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”
What’s the problem? Imagine you had a man who could heal everyone with a touch of the hand – as in verse 32-34 – yet his primary purpose is not to work healing miracles, but to teach – where do you think most people want him to do?
A healed body is wonderful; but the forgiveness of sins is far more wonderful. And how can that happen? It can only as we hear and respond to the word of Jesus.
Here must be our priority as well. Yes, of course, we are to have a healing ministry (in its broad sense) – yes we are to respond to the material needs of others – but uniquely, our most important task is one no one else will do – to point men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of their sins and their entry into the kingdom of God and its early manifestation, the church.
At this point, the heads of the apostles must be spinning. They leave their jobs to the call of Jesus on their lives, and then enter into the ministry that soon will bring them trouble.
We really are like the young child (mine, yours) who look at us and defiantly say –‘you aren’t the boss over me.’ We laugh at this – but are we not like this toward God?
He is the boss, the Lord, the giver of light and life. We’ll see this every more clearly as we continue our look at the gospel according to St. Mark.