These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, 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 1:12-34 Bible Study Guide With Questions – Jesus’ Begins His Public Ministry


I. Jesus tempted for 40 days (12-13)
II. Jesus calls the first disciples (14-20)
III. Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit (21-28)
IV. Jesus heals many (29-34)

I. Jesus tempted for 40 days (12-13)

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to the wilderness? What do you think God wanted to accomplish through this 40 day event? How could this time
  • help prepare Jesus for the ministry that the Father had called Him to do?
  • What additional insights can you gain into this from other gospels?
  • What do we learn about Jesus’ character from this experience?
  • How can the realization that Satan is real affect us?
  • How can we hope to make it through similar times of testing/trial/temptation in our lives now?


Matthew 4:1-11 – Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.

Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Jesus’ temptation – The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. While God did not tempt Him, it was part of His sovereign plan to allow Satan to tempt Jesus. This encounter would serve as an example for us of how to face temptation. It also shows us Jesus’ victory over temptation and evidence of His sinlessness.

It appears in this passage that Jesus was tempted the whole forty days. We only see the culmination of those temptations, not each individual one.

In the Lord’s model prayer in Matthew 6:13, we learn that we should pray and ask God not to lead us in to temptation. God Himself will never tempt us and He has also promised to never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. At the same time He may allow Satan to tempt us, but then use those temptations as a trial to teach us to rely on Him more.

Reflect: Can you think of any examples in the Bible where God allowed His people to be tempted?

In the book of Job, God allows Satan to tempt Job severely. At the same time, He uses it as an opportunity to teach Job and his friends (and by extension through the book of Job all of us) more things about God. While God may sovereignly use temptations in our lives, we should still do our best to avoid them.

Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

We learned here that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Jesus was tempted as we are. Yet I believe it is also true that He faced even many more temptations than we do. Think about it. If Satan could just get Jesus to sin one time, than he would win. All of humanity would be lost and would belong to him without any hope of redemption. Aren’t you glad that Jesus resisted? If during those 40 days almost 2000 years ago, Jesus, for even one second, compromised, then we would be separated from God forever. Think about that next time you face temptation and pray that God would give you the same strength that He gave to Jesus.

Application: How did Jesus respond to Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4:1-11)? Like Jesus, we should use the truth of Scripture to protect ourselves from temptation. Stand firm on the truth and don’t be deceived.

II. Jesus calls the first disciples (14-20)

Discussion Questions

  • Where did Jesus start preaching?
  • What do you notice about the content of His message?
  • What does it mean that the “kingdom of God is at hand?”
  • Why “repent and believe?”
  • Why do you think Jesus chose fisherman to be His disciples instead of more educated alternatives? What can we learn from this about what God wants in a disciple? Does one’s education level matter?
  • What do we learn about Jesus as a speaker from verse 17?
  • What did Jesus call them to? How did this call effect their lives? What did it change?
  • Explain the phrase “follow me” and “fishers of men.”
  • How would they become fishers of men?
  • What was their response?
  • What possible risks might they face by following Jesus?
  • What possible reasons/excuses might they have had for not answering His call?
  • How would this effect their futures?
  • What does this show us about those disciples?
  • Is there anything we need to do based on this passage?


John 1:40-42 – One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 10:38 – Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. When John was taken out of the picture, Jesus continued on. It seems that God planned for Jesus’ ministry to fully begin only after John had finished his. The harvest had been prepared and now it was time to start picking it.

2. The content of Jesus’ message was very similar to John’s. The main focus was on repentance. But He also asked them to “believe in the gospel.” Here we start to see how faith/belief are so important. Even if we repent, it doesn’t mean we will never sin again. Faith is trusting that God will forgive us even when we sin. We also see in verse 15 Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled.” The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries. They had thought perhaps John the Baptist was the Christ, but he said he wasn’t. Now Jesus is telling them that their time for waiting is over. God’s plan of salvation is now coming to fruition. His kingdom was at hand. They had the opportunity to be part of it right in front of them. All that they needed to do was repent and believe.

3. The calling of the four core disciples –

A. The four disciples who later would form Jesus’ inner circle were fishermen. They were not highly educated. They didn’t have a high position. They were not rich. They were part of a lower socioeconomic class. This choice was not by accident.

In general it is easier for poorer people to accept Christ than rich people, who have the tendency to be very self-confident and rely on themselves and the riches they have stored up. Jesus knew that for all the rest of human history His choice of disciples would be closely scrutinized. What can we learn from this about Jesus and what He was looking for in a disciple?

B. Jesus commanded them, “follow Me.” Here we see Jesus’ authority. This was a simple, but powerful instruction. There is a hint of Jesus’ deity inside. I would not dare to tell anyone “follow me” because I am not worth following. But Jesus did because He is the only one worth following. The command is a call to action. The disciples needed to respond in obedience. There was no room for passivity. A disciple must be active to obey Jesus wherever He leads.

At the same time, this instruction shows the new direction the disciples needed to go. They could no longer follow their own desires, plans, or pursue their own careers. Rather they must submit themselves to the Lord and agree to put Him as the first priority. Following Jesus also meant giving up something, namely their past lives. It is an important reminder that we cannot follow Jesus while still living our lives the same way as before.

C. “And I will make you become fishers of men.” – What would the result of following Jesus be? Jesus clearly told them what would happen if they submitted themselves to Him. They would become fishers of men. Men are a lot more valuable than fish are. Therefore their lives would be much more significant and meaningful than before. Fish brought temporal value in the money they could sell them for, but this passed quickly. Catching men was a mission with eternal value. While there is a high cost of following Jesus, the result is always worth it.

D. But how would they, poor, uneducated, fishermen, ever hope to be able to influence people’s souls for eternity? Jesus said, “I will make you become fishers of men.” They could never hope to achieve this lofty calling on their own. But Jesus could train them and transform them. Later in the book of Acts the Jewish leaders marveled that fishermen from Galilee could be such bold and persuasive speakers, and then remembered that they had been with Jesus.

Application: Jesus transforms. He is still in the business of transforming people today. He wants to transform us if we let Him. Will you let Him? Will you follow Jesus no matter what the cost?

We don’t become disciple makers because we are powerful. Throughout Scripture we see over and over that we are weak. But He is strong through us when we are weak.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 – For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Who is sufficient for these things? Who is powerful enough to save others? We are not. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But using us, He can and does accomplish great things (Romans 1:16).

4. Verses 18-20 – How did the disciples respond? They immediately left their nets and followed Him. The disciples had a lot of faults. Sometimes they were slow learners. At times they lacked faith and courage. They would argue about who was the greatest. But their response here was very commendable and many of their mistakes pale in comparison to the step of faith they took on this day when Jesus called them. The disciples faced a lot of risks because of their decision.

  • They were giving up their income and source of livelihood and trusting that God would provide for them.
  • They were giving up stable life and home to follow Jesus (who had no place to lie His head) traveling mostly on foot throughout the whole region.
  • They would face many increased spiritual attacks (Satan desired to sift Peter like wheat).
  • They would face all types of persecution.
  • Finally, they would die as martyrs, many of them far from home.

Any one of these would be enough to keep many people from making this commitment. At the time they didn’t know all of this would happen, but they knew some of it and they knew there were many risks. Yet they still gave up all to follow Jesus. That is what a disciple is.

Application: Will you give up all to follow Jesus? Or do you try to follow Jesus while still living your life the same as before?

III. Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit (21-28)

Discussion Questions

  • Where is Capernaum?
  • What insight does verse 21 give into what a synagogue meeting was like? What do we learn here about Jesus’ ministry?
  • How did they react to his teaching?
  • What difference was there between his teaching and that of the scribes? How might His authority make His actual teaching look different?
  • Why do you think this demon possessed man went to this service? What might Satan have been trying to accomplish?
  • What did this demon admit that most people in Israel denied? What does this tell us about what true belief is?
  • Why might Jesus have told this demon to “be quiet?”
  • Can we learn anything from these verses about Satan’s plan, demons, or demon possession?
  • How did the people react? What insight does their reaction give into this event?


Titus 2:15 – Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

James 2:19 – You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Capernaum was on the northwest bank of the Sea of Galilee.

2. A large part of Jesus’ ministry was teaching in synagogues on the Sabbath. The fact that He was able to go and speak in this and other synagogues tells us about the style of meetings there. The meetings appear to be open and allow any Jew to join and probably any male Jew to speak. I’ve actually been to a type of church called Brethren church. Every week they have a church service like this. Brothers prepare thoughts from the Word and stand up to share them as they are led.

3. The people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. He got this reaction a lot! His teaching was far more authoritative than the scribes they were used to. He surely didn’t use any “maybes” in His sharing. Beyond that, He taught with personal authority. He didn’t have to rely on the opinions or writings of others. Instead He could directly teach the truth, right and wrong. This powerful teaching tended to either really attract people or sometimes turn them off. Basically He was the source and didn’t have to give expert opinions since He was the expert.

4. The demon-possessed man –

A. Jesus’ work brought all types of opposition. It was common for Him to face these types of demon possessed people. Where God is working, Satan will also work to try to thwart Him.

B. The demon was speaking through the human “shell.” The demon’s spirit overwhelmed and suppressed the person’s spirit to the point that the demon’s words were coming out of the human’s mouth. We can see that by the question, “Have you come to destroy us?”

C. Demons clearly believed Jesus. It is amazing that the demon admitted both Jesus’ holiness and deity, while most Israelites denied both. It is clear that intellectual belief is not enough for salvation. While the demon believed, he would not have obeyed Jesus’ command to “Follow Me.”

D. Be quiet – The demon spoke truth about Jesus. But Jesus wanted no partnership or help from it. This demon was a distraction and sought to distract from the message Jesus was preaching. At the same time, Jesus likely didn’t want to open Himself up to any claims that He was in league with Satan, since some blasphemers would later say this anyway.

E. Come out of him! – Jesus showed His authority over the spirit world. Not only did the demon come out, but it didn’t speak any more. It certainly didn’t want to obey (as evidenced by the loud cry), but it had no choice. While Satan and demons are strong (strong enough to completely suppress and control the human), they are nothing compared to Jesus’ power.

5. The people were once again amazed. Word of mouth spread and the news of what Jesus was doing went like wildfire into the surrounding districts.

IV. Jesus heals many (29-34)

Discussion Questions

  • Where did Simon and Andrew live?
  • What do we learn about Simon?
  • Why might his mother-in-law have been living with them?
  • What do you think they expected of Jesus when they told Jesus about her fever?
  • What do we learn about Jesus from this passage?
  • Why do you think Jesus did not permit the demons to speak about his identity in verse 34?


1 Corinthians 9:5 – Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Luke 4:38 – And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Simon Peter was married. It seems his mother-in-law lived with him.

2. The fever must have been very serious since it caused her to be bed-ridden and not able to get up and show the normal hospitality one would have expected from her.
3. The fact that they told Jesus about it seems to imply that they expected something from Jesus. They had already witnessed Jesus’ power over the demon and likely some other miracles as well.

4. Jesus came and healed her. We see both His compassion and His power. The fever left her immediately. She completely recovered and was able to serve them.

Application: What can you learn from this passage that you can apply to your life this week?

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