Today we begin an eight-week series from the Gospel of Mark. This series will lead up to and beyond Easter. The first four lessons emphasize following Jesus. The last four lessons emphasize trusting Jesus. Since we cast a vote in our salvation, what better words than “following” and “trusting” can we use to describe our response to this mysterious Savior of the second Gospel?
At the root of all religious issues is the question of authority. Particularly, who has it? The leaders, the laity, or the Lord? The Greek word for authority means “the power to act or the right to command.” It appears 102 times in the New Testament and 10 times in the Gospel of Mark.
Authority to Call Out the Fishermen
Mark contains no birth or boyhood narratives of Jesus. Mark blazed across the theological landscape to give us the best of the good news. Following the theme verse (Mark 1:1), John the Baptist had already started preaching (vv. 2-8) and Jesus, at age 30 (Luke 3:23), showed up to be baptized (Mark 1:9-11). Then the Holy Spirit “threw” Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. After John the Baptist was incarcerated, Jesus began his preaching career (vv. 14, 15).
Jesus may have preached to the masses, but he discipled leaders one by one, calling others to join him in his mission to multiply his ministry. In Jesus’ day students would usually closely follow a teacher and thereby come under the tutelage of that teacher. Jesus’ method differed from the typical model. He initiated the call to these four men by his own divine authority. In the next chapter Jesus called Levi (Matthew) and by chapter three all 12 disciples were in place (3:13-19).
Jesus used the Sea of Galilee (and Capernaum in particular) as the geographical center of his ministry. Along the shores of that pear-shaped lake (682 feet below sea level) Jesus encountered four men (two sets of brothers). When he encountered Simon (Peter) and Andrew, they were casting their small shoreline nets over their heads and into the lake for smaller fish that fed along the banks of the sea. Jesus gave them an imperative (“Come, follow me”) and a promise (“I will send you out to fish for people”). At once (one of Mark’s favorite words, occurring also in the Greek text of verses 20 and 28) the brothers followed Jesus. Was this their first encounter with Christ? No (John 1:35-42), but the immediacy of their following is still impressive.
Jesus also called James and John from their fishing business. Their father’s name (Zebedee) was mentioned as were his hired men (a family of means?). They were preparing (repairing or mending—the word was used for the setting of a broken bone) their larger nets that were to be pulled through the water by two boats at night. What did Zebedee think as they walked away from him and the fishing business? Hopefully Zebedee recognized Jesus’ authority, too. All four fishermen would have their lives radically rearranged in obedience to this authoritative figure.
Authority to Call Out the Demons
The first incident following the calling of the fishermen was a power encounter between the Son of God and the demons of Hell. This time they manifested themselves through a man in the Capernaum synagogue. Jesus’ habit was to attend synagogue services (Luke 4:16). He was allowed to teach, and the people were amazed (overwhelmed or struck out of their senses) at his teaching. Mark is the “amazement gospel.” Six different Greek words were used to emphasize this response to Jesus (a different one is used in verse 27). Mark records only two speeches of Jesus (chapters 4 and 13), but we are told that he taught often (2:13; 4:1, 2; 6:2, 6, 34; 8:31; 10:1; 11:17; 12:35; 14:49). And his powerful words were matched by his powerful deeds.
The needy man with an impure spirit (Mark’s typical way to identify demon possession), asked Jesus two questions and identified him as the Holy One of God. The demon in the man knew Jesus wanted something from it and evidently knew that Jesus would destroy (literally, “loose from”) it someday. A paraphrase of what Jesus answered would be, “Shut up and get out!” With a shriek the demon obeyed Jesus’ authority. Luther’s lyrics come to mind, “One little word shall fell him.”
The people in the synagogue that day were so amazed (surprised or astonished) that they spread news about Jesus. And Mark went on to tell of his authority to call out sickness (1:29-39), call out leprosy (1:40-45), call out paralysis (2:1-12), call out tax collectors (2:13-17), and call out hypocrisy (2:18-3:6). Recognize his authority on your life.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.