Mark Lesson 1 - Introducing the Gospel of Action
The Gospel of Mark, the shortest and earliest of the four gospels in the New Testament. It begins with the story of John the Baptist, who was a prophet and the forerunner of Jesus Christ. John preached about repentance and baptized people in the Jordan River as a symbol of their commitment to God.
One day, Jesus came to John to be baptized as well. As Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. At that moment, a voice from heaven declared, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
In this sermon, Stephen emphasizes the significance of Jesus' baptism, which marked the beginning of his ministry and the fulfillment of God's plan for salvation. He also highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' life and ministry, and the importance of being baptized and repenting of our sins.
The sermon also touches on the theme of temptation, as Jesus is immediately led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Despite being hungry and vulnerable, Jesus resists the devil's temptations and remains faithful to God.
Stephen encourages you to follow Jesus' example of repentance, faith, and obedience to God, and to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and live a life pleasing to God.
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“INTRODUCING . . . THE GOSPEL OF ACTION”
I hope that you have study notes available. If you don’t, why don’t you lift your hand and one of the ushers will make sure that you have those to jot any notes that you’d like down. We begin, this morning, a new series. We will be racing through, as it were, the Gospel of Mark or, as I’ve called it, the “Gospel of Action.” And, I think, you’ll find that a very appropriate title as we get into the gospel. But before we do that, I would in fact, do an injustice to you if we were to jump into chapter 1 in verse 1, this morning, without answering a question that, I think, I am hearing more and more often. It’s a question that, perhaps, you have asked before yourself. Maybe you’ve come this morning with that question in your mind. It has to do with application. Perhaps you go to the Bible and the question that races through your mind is, “What is God trying to say to me? What is He trying to do with the pages of scripture in MY life? I can learn what happened then but what does it mean to me today?” That is one of the most popular questions today. That’s the question of application. And because, as we move into the Gospel of Mark, I want it to move into our lives, I think I need to take some time and answer that question this morning.
So, jot down just a couple of things. First of all, I want to give you three things that application is not. Application is not just accumulating knowledge. It is not just accumulating knowledge. You see, facts are very stupid things, if they are left alone. In fact, history records for us, some of the most brilliant philosophers who were, literally, ignorant when it came to the true meaning of life. If I am to apply the scriptures, I must do more than simply add a few more facts into the old noggin. It has to be more than that.
Secondly, application is not just illustration. Application is not just illustration. So I go to the Bible or someone speaks and he shows me how someone else handled the problem, by way of illustration. But that does not help me handle my problem. It’s not just simply illustration.
Then, finally, let me give you a third note. It is not just making comparisons between then and now. You see, I could get up here and I could prove that the problems that you’re having today are not new problems. They had them back then, in Corinth, in Ephesus. But that wouldn’t help you with your problems, would it? Would that help me? No. You see, these things are good in themselves but, if they are not somehow taken one step further, applications fall short. So they are not just accumulating knowledge or simply illustration or making comparisons.
One of the most desperate needs, I think, in the life of every believer, your life and my life, one of the most desperate needs is for me to have a willingness, an ability, a desire to make this book truth in my life. Let me give you three things that application is. First of all, it is focusing on the truth of God’s word. That’s where we begin. You need to understand that you begin with the truth, the propositional truth, of Jesus Christ in His word. That’s the start.
And then, the next step that you take is, making a biblical truth a personal truth. That is, something that they learned back in Corinth or back in Ephesus, I want to learn the same thing. I want to make that personal.
But we have to go one more step. You see, it’s not enough to simply show the reader what to do, that is, in making a biblical truth a personal truth, but we need to show the student how to do it. So, thirdly, making a personal truth a practical truth. I start with the truth of God’s word, I make it personal, and then I make it a practical or, literally, a practiced truth. I put it into practice - THAT’S application. You cannot say that you have applied the scriptures, in fact, you and I cannot say that we have learned the Bible until we put the Bible into practice. So, true application, not only teaches you the truth, and you can do this on your own as an individual priest before God, it is not only making then that truth personal, “Lord, make this live in my life,” but, it is taking that next step and saying, “Lord, tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., I’m putting what I’m learning into practice.”
Now, let me give you some barriers that are going to come up to genuine application. You see, if you make the statement, “Lord, I want to apply your word,” just make note, some things are going to happen. You’re going to enter the battle that you never knew existed. Because this kind of application produces, in your life, little changes. And one little change after another leads to a changed life. So, there are going to be some barriers. First of all, you’re going to face the barrier that we could call, “differences of opinion.” Differences of opinion. We have people running around today looking for the manual. You know, the black and white answers to all of the problems. You see, if this Bible seems to be saying this to me and I should put it into practice this way, and yet, So and So says it ought to be done this way and this person says it ought to be done this way, well, I’ll just chuck the whole thing, why bother? These guys are the scholars and they can’t even agree. It’s fascinating that when Truman dropped the bomb, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that the press went to the clergymen in this country. And the clergymen were asked the question, “Was it right?” Well, it was fascinating to study the fact that some clergymen over here felt strongly that it was this way and some clergymen felt strongly that it was this way and the majority of the clergymen felt strongly both ways. Fascinating. You’re not going to find an agreement on all of the points. You’re not going to find that everyone agrees with everyone else. And when you come to the Bible, in fact, try studying Romans, chapter 14. Romans, chapter 14, is where Paul says that you need to make up your mind as to what you are going to believe. Because, whether it’s right for you to eat meat and it’s not right for another individual to eat meat, the clue is this, that you have studied the book and that you know what God is teaching you and you are willing to live by it. So, make up your mind. One of the most tragic things that has ever happened to the church today is that the people who sit in the pew have given all of the rights of thinking and decision making to someone who stands behind the pulpit. You’re going to find a barrier of application being a difference of opinion among believers. Just try raising children. Should I spank them or should I not spank them? Go to the book store, you get all of the books. Somebody will tell you how hard to spank them. You’ve got it all and you’re left as confused as ever. But that does not negate the responsibility of application in your life and in my life. We are still responsible to apply what God teaches.
Secondly, another barrier to application would be pressures in our culture. You know, the world that has the mold and whenever I find something in this book that sounds a little revolutionary, maybe a little radical, the first thing I think is, “Well, wait a second, I can’t do that! Imagine what they’d think!” And the pressure of the culture that we live in today shapes our lives. A fascinating article was read by another man in the church and he shared it with me. The statement was made that the Bible is not intended to be influenced by our culture, the Bible is intended to produce a culture. The Bible was not intended to be influenced by our culture, it was intended, by God, to create a culture of it’s own. And the further away we get from God, the further away we move from those first century Christians, the more revolutionary, the more radical our lives will become when we match this book.
Let me give you a third barrier to genuine application. And that is, conflict between our prejudiced and biblical truth. You know, that’s the individual who says, “Well, I know God said it but I’ve always done it this way. Thirty-five years, been doing it this way. Don’t bother me with the facts.” That is the individual who says, “I’ve always headed in this direction and I’m not about to change now.” You see, ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing in this book that is up for grabs. You cannot treat this like you’re going to treat the salad bar at the Golden Coral this afternoon. You’ll go in and you’ll pick this item because you like that and this item and you’ll leave out those that you don’t, perhaps, like, they’re not appetizing. You cannot do that with this book. It all - “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction . . . that” - YOU - “may be . . . thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Now, with that as a background, the necessity of application. I want to simply introduce you to the gospel of action and then, over the next few weeks as we study it, I want to see it move into your life and move into mine. Because you cannot help but study the life of Jesus Christ without being changed. It would be tragic to go through a study that gives the account of the life of Jesus Christ and come away uninfluenced, unchanged. So, if you have your notes, you’ll find, on the second page, just some brief introductory notes to the Gospel of Mark, and that’s about all we’re going to be able to do this morning. Then next Sunday, we will begin our exposition. But we need to answer a few questions that will help us apply. First of all, to whom was it written and when? It’s fascinating that the years between AD 60 and AD 70 were probably some of the most difficult 10 years in the history of the Christian church. It was first century AD. During those ten years a man was ruling in Rome and this book was written to the believers in Rome. His name was Nero. He was a maniac. In fact, a persecution is about to begin. One night, in a drunken stupor, he torched a building in Rome. And it caught fire and spread and, before the next few hours were past, literally, the city of Rome was burned. And so, rather than take the blame, Nero had to find someone to nominate. And he looked at this new group of strange people, called Christians, and nominated them to take the blame. Thus became that great persecution, under Nero, that would ultimately take the life of the apostle Paul. And thousands and thousands of Christians, who had come to Christ, would taste death in the coliseum at the mouths of lions and gladiators. So he is writing a group of Christians who are meeting, perhaps even in the catacombs, by then. They have a lot of questions. You’ll find that Mark does not give a lot of what Jesus said. You see, if you were hiding in the catacombs, you wouldn’t want this long sermon. What you’d want to know is, “What would Jesus do?” Not, “What would He say?” “What would He do? How would He react?” And so, you find, in this gospel, more of what Jesus did than any other gospel, even though it’s the shortest of all the gospels. He leaves out the parables, many of them. He leaves out the discourses and he gets right into the miracles, right into the action of what Jesus Christ was doing. This is, in fact, the first account. It was written first. And, I’m afraid to say, that as I’ve studied the commentators, many of the older commentators would consider the Gospel of Mark, kind of, the runt of the litter. It was the smallest one and they paid it the least amount of attention. Yet, Mark was dynamic in his gospel account.
How was it written? I want to give you just a couple of notes. In fact, I’ve already mentioned how fast he seems to live. Twelve of the sixteen chapters, in this gospel, begin with the word, “And.” It’s like Mark just takes a breath (breath), and keeps going. It says, “And this happened also.” In fact, his favorite word, in this gospel, is the little Greek word, “eutheos,” which means, “immediately,” “straightway.” He was always interested in what was happening NOW! So he used the word, “immediately,” over and over and over again. I can just imagine Mark as a parent. “Son, do your homework. You finished yet?” You know, that kind of parent. I can almost imagine him as a child, if he lived anything like he wrote. His favorite statement, probably, to his parents was probably, “Are we there yet? Huh? Huh? Are we there yet?” You know, I can just see him.
Marsha was relating a story to me that she heard over the radio of a Dad who was taking his son to the grocery store. You know, that’s a trip in itself. I hardly shop with my wife, I’ll never shop with my boys! And, in fact, she said she just went shopping yesterday and took the boys to get a couple of pairs of shoes. And went by one store that had a little play area over in the corner with little toys. And you know, Keaton’s over there playing along and Seth’s jogging down the aisles shoving shoes off the display rack onto the floor. Not my son! But Dobson tells the story of a man who was in the grocery store and his little boy was just a terror. Have you ever been in that situation? He was pulling at everything. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, you know. The father was very calm and he was saying, “John, that’s okay. We’ll be out of here in no time. Just keep calm, John. No sweat. No problem.” And one of the ladies overheard him on several occasions, as she would go by him. And she just admired him and she went up to him at the checkout lane and she said, “Sir, I just want you to know, I’m impressed with the way you handled your son, John. Calmly talking to him.” And he said, “Lady, his name is not John. MY name is John!”
But I just imagined that this guy who lived with the word, “immediately,” in his mind, everything had to be done NOW! In fact, in Matthew, you only find this word, “immediately,” seven times. In Luke, you only find it twice. In Mark, you find it 42 times. You get the idea, from reading this gospel, that the speed just begins to accelerate as he writes to these believers.
Now, let me give you a portrait of John Mark himself. And I’ve given you, in your notes, several references that I want us to look at. The first one, turn to Acts, chapter 12. We’re going to have to piece together all of the different slots in this puzzle to come up with just who John Mark is. The first passage, is Acts, chapter 12, verse 25. In fact, why don’t we start with verse 12. Acts 12:12, notice what it says, “And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary” - this is Peter now who has just been miraculously let out of prison. You remember, the angel comes and knocks off all of the bonds and opens the door and lets him out. “He came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark”. This tells us something. It implies that, perhaps, John, or John Mark, had a Roman father. He’s known as Mark, that’s his Jewish name. John, was a Roman name. And his mother’s name was Mary, a Jewish name. Perhaps, he had a Roman father, a man who had been converted from among the ranks of the Romans. So John, his Roman name, Mark, his Jewish name. “where many were gathered together praying.” Evidently the house of John Mark was a haven for the apostles and the disciples. They were having a secret prayer meeting there, praying that God would let Peter out. They didn’t know how. Notice what happens, “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, - a servant girl - “named Rhoda.” Implying they were, perhaps, wealthy. “And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her,” - “Praise the Lord! Our prayers have been answered.” No, they answered, “Are you crazy?” - “Thou art mad.” I love this prayer meeting. They had faith! “Lord, let Peter out.” “He’s out.” “Are you nuts?” But then they let him in, eventually. And this, kind of, implies these different elements of John Mark’s home. Some have conjectured that his parents, being wealthy, actually had the home where the last supper was observed. Some even think that the parents of John Mark owned the garden that we refer to as Gethsemane.
Now turn to another passage, Acts, chapter 12, verse 25, and then into chapter 13. Notice what happens, “And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry,” - verse 25 of chapter 12 - “and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.” This was a chance of a lifetime for this new believer, this young believer. “As they ministered to the Lord,” - chapter 13, verse 2 - “and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul’” - underline that - “‘Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they” - the church “ sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews;” - notice - “and they had also John” - as - “their minister.” John Mark, he, evidently, had been invited along to be kind of a helper, maybe a cook, someone to take care of the books and the bags. But, I think, more than that, as some have conjectured, they brought this young man along to, perhaps, help with the teaching. He’d been a believer, had been raised in the home that had been a haven for the disciples. He had heard the accounts of Jesus Christ’s life. Maybe he took care of the young people at the meetings that Paul and Barnabas would hold. We don’t know. But this man had been given, literally, a chance of a Christian lifetime. What an opportunity - to travel with Paul and Barnabas! Man, can you imagine that chance?
But something strange happened. Look at chapter 13, verse 13, “Now when Paul and his company” - underline that phrase - “loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.” Now there again, we are not sure what happened. But the word, “returned,” Paul will use that same word in referring to Mark and will use the Greek word, “apostasia,” which means to apostasize, literally, “to depart from the faith.” Evidently, John Mark had come along so far and something happened. We don’t know. I had you underline those phrases, maybe it was jealousy because Barnabas’ cousin had started out as, kind of, the head of this trip. It would refer to him as Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas and Saul. But, you’ll notice, it then turns to “Paul and his company,” after his name change. Maybe he was jealous of the fact that Barnabas was no longer in control, there in his youth, in his ambition. We don’t know. Perhaps, it was seeing the persecution. Maybe it was now that he realized, “Hey, this missionary trip is not what I thought. I thought it was going to be seeing the distant lands, taking photographs and all of that.” It was much more than that and maybe he discovered that. We don’t know. But he turns back and goes back home.
Now turn to Acts, chapter 15. Acts, chapter 15, verses 36 to 40. All right, notice what happens here, Acts, chapter 15, verses 36 to 40. “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, ‘Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the lord, and see how they do.’ And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed” - or literally, apostisized - “from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to work.” Evidently he had, literally, deserted them. “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other; and so Barnabas took Mark, . . . And Paul chose Silas”. They had had a little split, here in this little church, and Paul said, “Not a chance,” and he checked him off. And Barnabas, having a little bit of compassion, as he was known. You see, it was Barnabas who introduced Paul to the new believers. No one else would touch Paul. “Hey, this is the guy that, you know, was out there stoning people, separating heads from bodies.” But Barnabas was so compassionate that he took Paul in and introduced him. He was the “son of compassion.” And he had compassion on John Mark and said, “No, I want to give him another chance.” And Paul said, “Not me. Huh-uh. I’m taking Silas and we’re gone.” And so that’s what happened.
Now, for 18 years, you will not hear of John Mark again. Turn to Colossians, chapter 4, verse 10. Colossians, chapter 4, verse 10. Eighteen years had gone by and no word of Mark. But notice what the apostle Paul says, I love this, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him)”. He gives his personal recommendation to John Mark. Something had to have happened and it drives me crazy trying to figure out what happened over these past 18 years. But let’s look at another clue. Turn to II Timothy, chapter 4, he’s mentioned again. II Timothy, chapter 4, verse 11. Notice what he says here, this is the later part of Paul’s ministry. He says, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” You see, only three people, evidently, were faithful to Paul while he was a prisoner at Rome. Guess who one of them was? John Mark.
Now, I think this will help us understand what happened during those 18 years. It’s a very slim clue. I Peter, chapter 5, verse 13. Somehow, Mark had proven himself. Somehow, Mark had grown up. Somehow, Mark, the deserter, had become a faithful companion in the persecution. What had happened? Look at I Peter, chapter 5, verse 13. The apostle Peter writes, “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.” You know, just as Timothy was the son of Paul, meaning that Paul discipled Timothy. Paul invested his life in Timothy’s life. Paul wrote letters to Timothy. Paul took it as a personal concern to see that Timothy grew up. Evidently, the apostle Peter had done that very same thing with the disciple John Mark. And had developed, over the years, a man who would become the pastor at the church in Alexandria. John Mark, who had once deserted, who had once thrown in the towel, over this period of years, had somehow, some way, by the grace of God and the work of another man, given himself to Jesus Christ, regardless. But, you know, who could understand any better the bitter taste of denial than the apostle Peter. Who, more than anyone else, would have been more compassionate to a young man who had thrown it in, who had run, who had deserted than one who had done it himself. Man, that’s precious. And so, Peter had taken him under and calls him, “my son.”
I’m going to close with just a couple of principles of application. Let’s call them, the marks of maturity. In the life of Peter and Paul and Mark, I think we can discover some things that the Lord has been doing in their lives. And it’s simply one word for each man. I didn’t discover this, this is not original and yet, I think, you can discover it yourself and make it personal by knowing that, as you live for Jesus Christ, He is constantly at work and you are constantly learning. For Peter, I think he learned compassion. Peter was the kind of guy who had his sword right here, you know. You get out of line and you’re going to lose an ear. You know, you say something about Jesus Christ, if you turn back, you’re in trouble. Peter, the impetuous one, and yet, somehow, in his later life, he had developed a sense of compassion where he would take someone who had checked out. I think, 20 years earlier, Peter would have checked him off too, but he didn’t. I think the element of compassion had been growing in the life of the apostle Peter.
For Paul, you ought to jot down the word, forgiveness. Because Paul had checked him off. Paul had said, “I don’t want anything to do with John Mark. He deserted me in Perga. He turned back. He’s no good for the cause. I’m taking someone else.” Yet, in his later years, we find that he has forgiven John Mark and he recommends him. And he will say, and he’s got to swallow his pride, he has to swallow the words that he had earlier said, “Yes, John Mark is profitable to me in my ministry.” I think God had taught him forgiveness.
What about Mark? I think you can jot down the symptom of maturity in his life that we see, it could be endurance. Endurance. The first sight of struggle, he’d gone, he’d left, he’d checked out, thrown in the towel, he was through. And yet, by the grace of God, you find the Lord building in his life, a characteristic that you and I need to have desperately, that mark of maturity which is endurance. No matter what happens. No matter what difficulty. No matter what the trial. “I am going to continue living for Jesus Christ.”
Now, if we wrap all of this up, I want you to jot down one little sentence. As I’ve studied the life of and the portrait of John Mark, and it is this, God gives second chances. God gives second chances. Man am I glad He does. How about you? If you are here this morning and you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, God, as it were, is giving you another chance to accept Him. If you’re here this morning, and I don’t know where you are in your Christian life, perhaps the difficulty, perhaps the trial, perhaps the strain, it’s been too much and maybe you’ve taken a step back. I’m so glad to know that God NEVER checks us off. He is FILLED with compassion. He is FILLED with forgiveness. And He will ALWAYS give those second chances.
I read a story, this past week, about a young man named Butch O’Hara. He was in the cockpit of his little fighter, in World War II, and he was bearing down on the planes of an enemy and he was able to knock, I believe, five of them out of the air into the Pacific Ocean as they headed toward the Lexington, which was his home base. And, by the time his comrades arrived, he had just about finished off the sixth of the nine Japanese pilots who were attacking his carrier. He was the first aviator personally awarded the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. A year later, Butch O’Hara would die in aerial combat. But his friends and his family from his hometown, Chicago, wouldn’t forget him. And the next time that you fly through the O’Hare International Airport, you ought to remember Butch, because they named it after him and the fact that he gave his life for his country. But the story really begins a little earlier than 1942. It begins in the 20’s, roaring 20’s. Chicago, the days of Al Capone and his colorful associates. One of which was named, Artful Eddie. He was the fast man’s lawyer. In fact, it was by his skill and finesse that he kept many of Al Capone and his gang members out of prison. (? End of tape. ?)
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