Jesus: Man of Action, Part 1

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The second Gospel is anonymous, but it is almost certain that its author was John Mark from Jerusalem, cousin of Barnabas, and very close associate of Peter and Paul. Since the beginning of the second century, Mark’s authorship of the Gospel bearing his name hasn’t really been challenged.

Mark probably wrote his Gospel around 65 AD, shortly after the death of Peter during the days of Nero’s persecution but before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, there are those who believe that Mark’s Gospel was written much earlier, perhaps in the 50’s AD. That’s possible. What this speculation proves is that Bible scholars generally agree that the Gospel of Mark was written earlier than most of the rest of the New Testament.

The Gospels present, in abbreviated form, the life and times of one Jesus Christ, of Nazareth. Mark didn’t state the purpose for his, but John gave this reason for his Gospel and we may be sure that Mark’s reason is essentially the same:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 TNIV)

Mark wasn’t an apostle. Through the eye witness testimony of Peter and others who worked with and traveled with Jesus, John Mark caught a vision of Jesus as Messiah. But his vision of Jesus was slightly different from that of the other Gospel writers. Mark’s Jesus is strong and robust. He’s seen as a man of action, who moved swiftly and deftly from one place to another. This Son of God is seen engaging Satan and the demons of Hell and coming forth victorious. Mark also wanted his readers to understand that Jesus was also the Suffering Messiah, that He suffered even as they were suffering under the thumb of Rome.

Paul thought Mark was failure; a disappointment, but this young man got busy and told the story of Jesus in breathless fashion. He wrote using the historical present in the imperfect tense, as if the events of Jesus’ life were occuring right now. He often used the words euthus, meaning “at once” or “immediately” and kai, meaning “and” or “also” to demonstrate that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Man, was a man on the move.

Jesus: the picture of obedience

It was in God’s mind for a long time that John the Baptist would be the one to introduce the world to Jesus, the Messiah. The title of the Gospel is verse 1:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah… (Mark 1:1 TNIV)

Jesus, the Messiah, is the best news any lost sinner could ever hear! “Jesus” was probably the most common Jewish name at this time. It’s equivalent to “Joshua,” which means “Yahweh saves.”
The “beginning” of the Gospel about this Jesus the Messiah actually began way, way back in the history of Israel, and Mark indicates this:

…as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” (Mark 1:2, 3 TNIV)

John the Baptist was the “voice of one calling in the wilderness.” His job was to “clear the way” for Jesus; to tell anybody who would listen to prepare themselves for the Lord’s coming.  When royalty traveled in those days, state workers went on ahead of the royal procession to smooth out the road and announce the immanent arrival of the king. This was John’s job.

Another thing John was to do was to baptize our Lord as a way of beginning His earthly ministry. John had already been busy baptizing all kinds of people, and in due time, Jesus presented Himself for baptism.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9 – 11 TNIV)

Even though Jesus was sinless, and didn’t need to be baptized, He chose to be. The question is, Why? Jesus Christ considered Himself to be a man and He made it a point to everything – everything – God expected any man to do.   And not only that, Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, completely identified Himself with the sinful people He came to save. If they needed to be baptized, then He did to.

The other Members of the Trinity – the Father and the Holy Spirit – were all involved in Jesus’ baptism. Verse 11 is an important theological verse that testifies to the reality of the Trinity.

The TNIV says that the heavens were “torn open” when Jesus came up out of the water. The Greek word Mark used is schizomenous, an apocalyptic word. It must have been a sight to behold! In Isaiah 64:1, we read this prayer of anguish:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! (TNIV)

Well, it took a while, but that prayer was fully answered in the experience of Jesus.

Our Lord exemplified obedience in being baptized by John. But He also showed us what obedience means in relation to temptation to sin. Unlike the other accounts in Matthew and Luke, Mark records only the barest details of this incident.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12 – 13 TNIV)

There’s that phrase Mark will use time and again, “at once.” Jesus never stands still in this Gospel. The energy of the Holy Spirit is also in evidence; He was the one who “drove” (literally) our Lord into the wilderness. Going alone into the wilderness was for a purpose: To face Satan.

Many Bible students wonder about the temptation of Jesus. Being the Son of God, they wonder, could He really have given in? Was it ever even possible for Jesus to sin? In verse 13, to be “tempted by Satan” means that Jesus was essentially put to the test. But Jesus was being tempted to do far more than just sin. He was being tempted to step aside from His Father’s will; to leave His appointed path (C.E.B. Cranfield). A lot was at stake in this test. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of God’s plan of redemption hung in the balance. Dr McGee put it best when he wrote:

Jesus was not tempted to see if He would fall. He was tempted to show that He could not fall!

In Satan’s mind, the temptation was for the sole purpose of making Jesus fall. He tempts Christians today for the same reason. God allows temptation to come to us for the purpose of strengthening us, not to make us fall. It’s important to remember that the same Holy Spirit who gave our Lord the ability to resist temptation is available to us today. And while it may be true that temptation is a lifetime battle, as we experience each victory along the way, we are made stronger and able to do something positive for the Kingdom of God.

In complete obedience to His Father, Jesus strenuously fought Satan’s temptation and won.  But the obedience continued. Mark shows how intense the earthly ministry of our Lord was. Jesus is seen moving quickly from place to place, healing all kinds of people and casting out demons. People are looking for Him. Jesus is the man of the hour; a man in demand. And yet, was He really? The crowds came and were amazed by the miracles, but very few stayed around to believe the Gospel. This is a significant verse that deserves a moment’s attention:

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38 TNIV)

The people were thrilled with the miracles, but verse 38 tells us what Jesus thought was His most important job: to preach. That was why He came.

Verse 39 serves as a kind of summary”

So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. (Mark 1:39 TNIV)

In complete obedience to His Heavenly Father, our Lord began His ministry, faced down the enemy, and performed that which He was sent to do.

Jesus calls for discipleship

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:16 – 20 TNIV)

In between verses 15 and 16, there is an indeterminate period of time. That’s not a big deal, but what is a big deal is the context that connects the two verses. Repenting and believing (verse 15) is followed immediately by leaving and following (verse 16). That’s essentially what discipleship is all about: leaving your world behind to follow Jesus. A disciple is simply one who learns from a master or teacher.

Mark records the calling of two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew then James and John. An interesting point to bring up is that Peter and Andrew were originally John the Baptist’s disciples.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). (John 1:40, 41 TNIV)

These two brothers had been following Jesus before He called them to commit to discipleship. The call in Mark’s Gospel was the call to continuous discipleship. This a serious call; it’s the call that goes out to all believers. And while Andrew and Peter immediately left their business to follow Jesus, many believers today don’t; they insist on following our Lord from a distance. It’s not easy being a disciple. It calls for dedication and consecration; a commitment to follow, learn from, and submit to the Lord, continuously. It something that happens all day, everyday.

The TNIV tells us that Jesus was going to teach His new disciples of how “fish for people.” These guys were hardened fishermen. They had spent a long time out on the open waters and were good at catching fish. They had skill and they had patience. They could read the weather and the waves. But now they would need to acquire new skills if they would be disciples. The real purpose of discipleship is seen in the reason why Jesus called these men. He would teach them how to “fish for people.” He would make them into “fishers of men.” As one noted Bible scholar wrote:

Christ calls men, not so much for what they are, as for what He is able to make them become.

And Christ wants His followers to become disciples so that would be able to go out and make other disciples.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is the Man of action; the running Man. He came with work to do and nothing will stop Him. Jesus is seen as strong and capable. He is seen as the perfect Son and the perfect Man. Jesus is also seen as demanding. He demands complete loyalty and dedication from those who would follow Him.

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