Mark 1:1-11

These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Mark 1:1-11 Inductive Bible Study

Outline of Mark 1: Jesus baptized by John the Baptist (1-11)
Jesus in the wilderness (12-13)
Jesus calls the disciples (14-20)
Jesus casts out a demon (21-28)
Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law (29-34)
Jesus heals a leper (35-45)

I.

Discussion Questions
What do we know about the author?
Who was the book specifically written to? What evidence is there in the book that it was written to Gentiles (and not Jews)? What kind of different things might be recorded when reported to these two groups of people?
What differences have you noticed between the gospel of Mark and other gospels?
What do you hope to learn as we study this book? What goals do you have for yourself as we study it?
What was John the Baptist’s main task? What character qualities did he need to accomplish this?
What was the main content of his message?
What do we learn about him as a person from this passage? How about from other gospels?
In what ways do you think you need to be more like John the Baptist?
What was the purpose of water baptism? What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?
Did Jesus need to be baptized? Why did He do this? What does this show us about Jesus’ character?
How significant are verses 10-11? Why do you think God the Father said this? How do you think the people may have reacted?

Cross-References

Luke 3:7 – John the Baptist takes aim at the Pharisees and religious rulers.
John 1:29-34 – John’s statement about Christ.
John 3:30 – John stated Jesus must increase while he must decrease.
John 12:29 – Another case where God spoke from heaven. That time some thought it was thunder and some an angel.
2 Kings 1:8 – Elijah wore a garment of camel hair and a leather belt.

Teaching Points

1. Background
A. Author – The title of the book ascribes it to Mark. He is not actually mentioned by name in the book. Yet a historical study of the early church, shows that they ascribed this gospel to Mark. Many believe that the young man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 is Mark since this is the only gospel that records this incident. Mark participated in the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but for unknown reasons gave up in the middle (Acts 13:13). This led Paul to refuse to take him on the next journey. Barnabas, however, took him under his wing and forgave him and went together with him (Acts 15:37-39). Mark is then mentioned a number of other times as being close with both Paul (Colossians 4:10-11, Philemon 24) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13). This tells us that Mark learned from his mistakes and followed God faithfully later on during his life. It could be said that we have the gospel of Mark largely due to Barnabas being willing to giving Mark a second chance when others wouldn’t.

B. Audience – Most scholars agree that the gospel of Mark was intended for Gentiles, likely those residing in Rome. There is a lot of internal evidence for this. For example, Mark uses almost no Old Testament quotes (1:2-3 being the only one in the book). If his audience was Jewish, like Matthew, he probably would have peppered references to the OT in his gospel. In several cases Mark finds it necessary to explain certain aspects of Jewish tradition and geography (7:2-4, 13:3, 14:12) This would not be necessary if his audience was Jewish. He also spends less time on Jesus’ controversy with Jewish leaders, since this would have been less important for Gentiles. This is another reminder that difference in the gospels does not show contradictions. Rather it shows that the authors understood their audiences and included information that would be more useful and helpful to those they were writing to.

C. Other – Mark is the shortest gospel. As a result, Mark moves through the life and actions of Jesus very quickly. He focuses much more on what Jesus did than on what Jesus said.

2. Verse 1- In keeping with Mark’s fast paced style, what important truth does he reveal in verse 1? In the very first verse he reveals Jesus as the Son of God, deity. This could almost be considered his thesis (much like in John’s gospel). First he shows the essence of who Jesus is. The rest of the book is devoted to showing the proof, evidence, and result of this truth.

3. On John the Baptist and Elijah (John the Baptist’s ministry)- Mal 3:1, 4:5-6, Matthew 11:13-14, John 1:19-21, Luke 1:134-17, Matthew 17:3, 2 Kings 2:1, 11 – Conclusion – John came in the spirit of Elijah and has many similarities as a lone, bold truth-speaker. His ministry function was similar to Elijah’s and was blessed in a similar way to Elijah’s. But since the Bible does not teach reincarnation, we can conclude that he was not Elijah, but that Elijah will still come back as himself before the dreadful day of the Lord seen in Mallachi 4:5-6.

4. John the Baptist’s lifestyle – He did not go the biggest cities or the capital city Jerusalem to take his message. Instead he preached in the wilderness. Why? I am not sure I know the answer to this question. This is where God had called him to do ministry. He relied upon the power of God’s Word to draw people. He never used gimmicks. He simply preached to whoever would listen. The message he preached was from God and this drew many people out from the city to listen to him. A lesson for us is that wherever God has called you to share His words, do it faithfully and He will use it to accomplish His purposes. In addition, John wore camel’s hair, a leather belt, and ate locusts and honey. Clearly this clothing and diet was special or Mark would not have mentioned it. John led a very rustic and simple life. His clothing would probably be considered out of fashion and too simple. I know many of you may be getting hungry now, but his diet was also abnormal to most of the people in the world. I think the point is that he didn’t need luxuries. He didn’t focus on “eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage” like most people. His food was just a means to sustain him, nothing more. What can we learn from this? John was goal-driven. He wasn’t easily distracted. He put the top priority on the most important things, namely his service to God. It was almost like John’s entire life was a fast (cutting out everything extraneous) so that he could devote himself 100% to serving God.

5. John the Baptist’s message – John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Basically he told people to repent of their sins. If they were willing to do so, they could be baptized as a public symbol of their faith in God and the new direction in their life. According to verse 8, this baptism was just with water, not the Holy Spirit. Just like for Christians now, this water baptism is only an outer sign. For us it is a sign of what the Holy Spirit has done in our hearts. For them it is a sign of their repentance and God’s forgiveness. John’s message was simple. It wasn’t complicated. At the same time, he was bold. He was bold to call the Pharisees what they were. He was also bold to warn Herod about living with his brother’s wife. Basically John was a truth speaker. He didn’t sugar coat things and had not desire to tickle people’s ears or make them feel comfortable. He said what needed to be said.

Application – I think John’s simple message is very refreshing. Today most sermon’s, Bible studies, messages, etc. are knowledge based. Too often Bible teachers or preachers may even feel a sense of pride when they can rattle off all kinds of obscure facts about a passage that most people don’t know (give example of George Mueller’s sermon). But knowledge has the tendency to puff up. Would you say John’s message was focused on knowledge? If not, what? Remember in Matthew 28:18-20, what did Jesus command the disciples? He commanded them to teach their disciples to obey all that He commanded. Obedience is what God is looking for, not knowledge. Most of the time, we know what we should do as believers. If someone doesn’t know what to do, it is normally a simple matter to read a few verses which are easily understood and then we know what to do. The question is, are we going to obey it or not?

6. John the Baptist’s character – What can we learn about his character from these verses? In addition to what we have discussed above, I believe we can see one of the key aspects of his character, humility. He rightly recognized that Jesus was far superior to him. He realized that he didn’t deserve to even be associated with Jesus as a slave (slaves were normally the ones who untied people’s sandals upon entering a home). He did not claim to be Jesus’ peer or equal or even a lowly servant. See cross-references. As we learned in our study of John, John the Baptist willingly endorsed Jesus’ ministry even when it meant that his was shrinking. He uttered the famous line, “He must increase. I must decrease.” This is interesting when we take his humility and boldness together. Nowhere do we see that John’s humility made him weak. He willingly spoke out against sin wherever he saw it. Yet he did not do so in a prideful, self-righteous way. Rather it was his humility in realizing that God’s truth alone should govern our lives that forced him to speak about these things. He was bold not because of any power of his own, but because he recognized that he didn’t have power while God’s Words do.

7. Verse 9 – He we see that at the start of His ministry, Jesus went to John to be baptized. Since baptism was associated with repentance, why did Jesus do it? There could be several reasons, though since Jesus didn’t tell us we can’t know for sure

  • To identify with us as a man – Jesus’ was not an elitist. He didn’t come as a master, a boss, or a noble. He came as one of us. Many of the things he did demonstrated his humanity for all to see.
  • To connect with John’s ministry – This was a way to show respect for John for his service and make a connection for John’s disciples to begin following Jesus.
  • To make a public statement that He intended to follow God – While there was no repentance shown since He didn’t sin, His baptism was a public statement of His submission to God and plan to follow God fully.
  • To be an example to us – If even Jesus, who never sinned, was baptized, how much more should we!

Verses 10-11 – God the Father put a public stamp of approval upon Jesus and His ministry. This would be a pleasant reminder to Jesus of His Father’s approval. But more than that it was evidence to all the people that Jesus was truly the Son of God. They couldn’t very well claim that Jesus was just a man when God said this out loud in front of so many people. Interestingly, in John 12:29, God makes a similar statement. In that case many people found excuses not to believe it was God talking. This shows that even if God were to speak forth from the heavens, many people would refuse to believe it. That is how far the human race has fallen.

9. These verses show us the Three members of the Trinity.

STUDY MARK 1:12-34

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