Sunday School – 21January2024






Our text for today …

Mark 1:14-20 (NRSV)

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.’[d]    

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake — for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.  



WHAT IS THE MAIN TAKEAWAY FOR YOU?  What should we take away?


The previous CONTEXT …

  • John the Baptist Prepares the Way … Mark 1:1-3,4-8 
  • John Baptizes Jesus … Mark 1:9-11 
  • Satan Tempts Jesus … Mark 1:12-13
  • Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry … Mark 1:14-15   
  • Four Fishermen Called as Disciples … Mark 1:16-20 
  • Jesus Casts Out an Unclean Spirit … Mark 1:21-28   
  • Peter’s Mother-in-Law Healed … Mark 1:29-31 
  • Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset … Mark 1:32-34 
  • Preaching in Galilee … Mark 1:35-39 
  • Jesus Cleanses a Leper … Mark 1:40-45

The immediate CONTEXT …

Mark 1:12-13 (NRSV) 

The Temptation of Jesus

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.   



Mk. 1:12-13  

And immediately the Spirit thrust him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, and all the time he was being tested by Satan. The wild beasts were his companions, and the angels were helping him.

No sooner was the glory of the hour of the Baptism over than there came the battle of the temptations. One thing stands out here in such a vivid way that we cannot miss it. It was the Spirit who thrust Jesus out into the wilderness for the testing time. The very Spirit who came upon him at his baptism now drove him out for his test.

In this life it is impossible to escape the assault of temptation; but one thing is sure — temptations are not sent to us to make us fall; they are sent to strengthen the nerve and the sinew of our minds and hearts and souls.  They are not meant for our ruin, but for our good.  They are meant to be tests from which we emerge better warriors and athletes of God.

Suppose a lad is a football player; suppose he is doing well in the second team and showing real signs of promise, what will the team manager do? He certainly will not send him out to play for the third team in which he could walk through the game and never break sweat; he will send him out to play for the first team where he will be tested as he never was before and have the chance to prove himself. That is what temptation is meant to do–to enable us to prove our manhood and to emerge the stronger for the fight.

Forty days is a phrase which is not to be taken literally. It is the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days (Exo.24:18); it was for forty days that Elijah went in the strength of the meal the angel gave him (1Kgs.19:8). Just as we use the phrase ten days or so, so the Hebrews used the phrase forty days, not literally but simply to mean a fair length of time.

It was Satan who tempted Jesus. The development of the conception of Satan is very interesting.

The word Satan in Hebrew simply means an adversary; and in the Old Testament it is so used of ordinary human adversaries and opponents again and again. The angel of the Lord is the satan who stands in Balaam’s way (Num.22:22); the Philistines fear that David may turn out to be their satan (1Sam.29:4); David regards Abishai as his satan (2Sam.19:22); Solomon declares that God has given him such peace and prosperity that he has no satan left to oppose him (1Kgs.5:4). The word began by meaning an adversary in the widest sense of the term.

But it takes a step on the downward path; it begins to mean one who pleads a case against a person. It is in this sense that it is used in the first chapter of Job. In that chapter Satan is no less than one of the sons of God (Jb.1:6); but his particular task was to consider men (Jb.1:7) and to search for some case that could be pleaded against them in the presence of God. He was the accuser of men before God. The word is so used in Jb.2:2 and Zech.3:2. The task of Satan was to say everything that could be said against a man.

The other title of Satan is the Devil; the word devil comes from the Greek diabolos (GSN1228), which literally means a slanderer. It is a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man to the thought of one who deliberately and maliciously slanders man in the presence of God. But in the Old Testament Satan is still an emissary of God and not yet the malignant, supreme enemy of God. He is the adversary of man.

But now the word takes the last step on its downward course. Through their captivity the Jews learned something of Persian thought. Persian thought is based on the conception that in this universe there are two powers, a power of the light and a power of the dark, Ormuzd and Ahriman; the whole universe is a battle-ground between them and man must choose his side in that cosmic conflict. In point of fact that is precisely what life looks like and feels like. To put it in a word, in this world there is God and Gods Adversary. It was almost inevitable that Satan should come to be regarded as The Adversary par excellence. That is what his name means; that is what he always was to man; Satan becomes the essence of everything that is against God.

When we turn to the New Testament we find that it is the Devil or Satan who is behind human disease and suffering (Lk.13:16); it is Satan who seduces Judas (Lk.22:3); it is the devil whom we must fight (1Pet.5:8-9; Jas.4:7); it is the devil whose power is being broken by the work of Christ (Lk.10:1-19); it is the devil who is destined for final destruction (Matt.25:41). Satan is the power which is against God.

Here we have the whole essence of the Temptation story. Jesus had to decide how he was to do his work. He was conscious of a tremendous task and he was also conscious of tremendous powers. God was saying to him, “Take my love to men; love them till you die for them; conquer them by this unconquerable love even if you finish up upon a cross.” Satan was saying to Jesus, “Use your power to blast men; obliterate your enemies; win the world by might and power and bloodshed.” God said to Jesus, “Set up a reign of love.” Satan said to Jesus, “Set up a dictatorship of force.” Jesus had to choose that day between the way of God and the way of the Adversary of God.

Mark’s brief story of the Temptations finishes with two vivid touches.

(i) The beasts were his companions. In the desert there roamed the leopard, the bear, the wild boar and the jackal. This is usually taken to be a vivid detail that adds to the grim terror of the scene. But perhaps it is not so. Perhaps this is a lovely thing, for perhaps it means that the beasts were Jesus’ friends. Amidst the dreams of the golden age when the Messiah would come, the Jews dreamed of a day when the enmity between man and the beasts would no longer exist. “I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground.” (Hos.2:18.) “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den; they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” (Isa.11:6-9.) In later days St. Francis preached to the beasts; and it may be that here we have a first foretaste of the loveliness when man and the beasts shall be at peace. It may be that here we see a picture in which the beasts recognized, before men did, their friend and their king.

(ii) The angels were helping him. There are ever the divine reinforcements in the hour of trial. When Elisha and his servant were shut up in Dothan with their enemies pressing in upon them and no apparent way of escape, Elisha opened the young man’s eyes and all around he saw the horses and the chariots of fire which belonged to God. (2Kgs.6:17.) Jesus was not left to fight his battle alone–and neither are we.



Mark 1:14-15    

After John had been committed to prison, Jesus came into Galilee, announcing the good news about God, and saying, “The time that was appointed has come; and the Kingdom of God is here.  Repent and believe the good news.”   

There are in this summary of the message of Jesus three great, dominant words of the Christian faith.

(i) There is the good news.  It was preeminently good news that Jesus came to bring to men.  If we follow the word euaggelion (GSN2098), good news, gospel through the New Testament we can see at least something of its content.

(a) It is good news of truth (Gal.2:5; Col.1:5). Until Jesus came, men could only guess and grope after God. “O that I knew where I might find him,” cried Job (Jb.23:3). Marcus Aurelius said that the soul can see but dimly, and the word he uses is the Greek word for seeing things through water. But with the coming of Jesus men see clearly what God is like. No longer do they need to guess and grope; they know.

(b) It is good news of hope (Col.1:23). The ancient world was a pessimistic world. Seneca talked of “our helplessness in necessary things.” In their struggle for goodness men were defeated. The coming of Jesus brings hope to the hopeless heart.

(c) It is good news of peace (Eph.6:15). The penalty of being a man is to have a split personality. In human nature the beast and the angel are strangely intermingled. It is told that once Schopenhauer, the gloomy philosopher, was found wandering. He was asked, “Who are you?” “I wish you could tell me,” he answered. Robert Burns said of himself, “My life reminded me of a ruined temple. What strength, what proportion in some parts! What unsightly gaps, what prostrate ruins in others!” Man’s trouble has always been that he is haunted both by sin and by goodness. The coming of Jesus unifies that disintegrated personality into one. He finds victory over his warring self by being conquered by Jesus Christ.

(d) It is good news of God’s promise (Eph.3:6). It is true to say that men had always thought rather of a God of threats than a God of promises. All non-Christian religions think of a demanding God; only Christianity tells of a God who is more ready to give than we are to ask.

(e) It is good news of immortality (2Tim.1:10). To the pagan, life was the road to death; man was characteristically a dying man; but Jesus came with the good news that we are on the way to life rather than death.

(i) It is good news of salvation (Eph.1:13). That salvation is not merely a negative thing; it is also positive. It is not simply liberation from penalty and escape from past sin; it is the power to live life victoriously and to conquer sin. The message of Jesus is good news indeed.

(ii) There is the word repent.

    • Now repentance is not so easy as sometimes we think. The Greek word metanoia (GSN3341) literally means a change of mind.  We are very apt to confuse two things — sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for sin.  Many a man is desperately sorry because of the mess that sin has got him into, but he very well knows that, if he could be reasonably sure that he could escape the consequences, he would do the same thing again.  It is not the sin that he hates; it is its consequences.
    • Real repentance means that a man has come, not only to be sorry for the consequences of his sin, but to hate sin itself.
    • Long ago that wise old writer, Montaigne, wrote in his autobiography, “Children should be taught to hate vice for its own texture, so that they will not only avoid it in action, but abominate it in their hearts–that the very thought of it may disgust them whatever form it takes.” Repentance means that the man who was in love with sin comes to hate sin because of its exceeding sinfulness.

(iii) There is the word believe.

    • “Believe,” says Jesus, “in the good news.”
    • To believe in the good news simply means
      • to take Jesus at his word,
      • to believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about,
      • to believe that God so loves the world that he will make any sacrifice to bring us back to himself,
      • to believe that what sounds too good to be true is really true.



Mk. 1:16-20   

While he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting their nets into the sea, for they were fishermen.  So Jesus said to them, “Follow me! and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  He went a little farther and he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who were in their boat, mending their nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat, with the hired servants, and went away after him.

No sooner had Jesus taken his decision and decided his method than he proceeded to build up his staff. A leader must begin somewhere. He must get to himself a little band of kindred souls to whom he can unburden his own heart and on whose hearts he may write his message. So Mark here shows us Jesus literally laying the foundations of his Kingdom and calling his first followers.

There were many fishermen in Galilee. Josephus, who, for a time, was governor of Galilee, and who is the great historian of the Jews, tells us that in his day three hundred and thirty fishing boats sailed the waters of the lake. Ordinary people in Palestine seldom ate meat, probably not more than once a week. Fish was their staple diet (Lk.11:11; Matt.7:10; Mk. 6:30-44; Lk.24:42). Usually the fish was salt because there was no means of transporting fresh fish. Fresh fish was one of the greatest of all delicacies in the great cities like Rome. The very names of the towns on the lakeside show how important the fishing business was. Bethsaida (GSN0966) means House of Fish; Tarichaea means The Place of Salt Fish, and it was there that the fish were preserved for export to Jerusalem and even to Rome itself. The salt fish industry was big business in Galilee.

The fishermen used two kinds of nets, both of which are mentioned or implied in the gospels. They used the net called the sagene (GSN4522). This was a kind of seine- or trawl-net. It was let out from the end of the boat and was so weighted that it stood, as it were, upright in the water. The boat then moved forward, and, as it moved, the four corners of the net were drawn together, so that the net became like a great bag moving through the water and enclosing the fish. The other kind of net, which Peter and Andrew were using here, was called the amphiblestron (GSN0293). It was a much smaller net. It was skilfully cast into the water by hand and was shaped rather like an umbrella.

It is naturally of the greatest interest to study the men whom Jesus picked out as his first followers.

(i) We must notice what they were. They were simple folk. They did not come from the schools and the colleges; they were not drawn from the ecclesiastics or the aristocracy; they were neither learned nor wealthy. They were fishermen. That is to say, they were ordinary people. No one ever believed in the ordinary man as Jesus did. Once George Bernard Shaw said, “I have never had any feeling for the working-classes, except a desire to abolish them, and replace them by sensible people.” In The Patrician John Galsworthy makes Miltoun, one of the characters, say, “The mob! How I loathe it! I hate its mean stupidity, I hate the sound of its voice, and the look on its face it’s so ugly, so little!” Once in a fit of temper Carlyle declared that there were twenty-seven millions of people in England–mostly fools! Jesus did not feel like that. Lincoln said, “God must love the common people–he made so many of them.” It was as if Jesus said, “Give me twelve ordinary men and with them, if they will give themselves to me, I will change the world.” A man should never think so much of what he is as of what Jesus Christ can make him.

(ii) We must notice what they were doing when Jesus called them. They were doing their day’s work, catching the fish and mending the nets. It was so with many a prophet. “I am no prophet,” said Amos, “nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, `Go, prophesy to my people Israel’.” (Am.7:14-15.) The call of God can come to a man, not only in the house of God, not only in the secret place, but in the middle of the day’s work. As MacAndrew, Kipling’s Scots engineer, had it:

“From coupler flange to spindle guide I see thy hand, O God; Predestination in the stride Of yon connecting rod.”

The man who lives in a world that is full of God cannot ever escape him.

(iii) We must notice how he called them. Jesus’ summons was, “Follow me!” It is not to be thought that on this day he stood before them for the first time. No doubt they had stood in the crowd and listened; no doubt they had stayed to talk long after the rest of the crowd had drifted away. No doubt they already had felt the magic of his presence and the magnetism of his eyes. Jesus did not say to them, “I have a theological system which I would like you to investigate; I have certain theories that I would like you to think over; I have an ethical system I would like to discuss with you.” He said, “Follow me!” It all began with a personal reaction to himself; it all began with that tug on the heart which begets the unshakable loyalty. This is not to say that there are none who think themselves into Christianity; but for most of us following Christ is like falling in love. It has been said that “we admire people for reasons; we love them without reasons.” The thing happens just because they are they and we are we. “I,” said Jesus, “when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.” (Jn.12:32.) In by far the greatest number of cases a man follows Jesus Christ, not because of anything that Jesus said but because of everything that Jesus is.

(iv) Lastly we must note what Jesus offered them. He offered them a task. He called them not to ease but to service. Someone has said that what every man needs is “something in which he can invest his life.” So Jesus called his men, not to a comfortable ease and not to a lethargic inactivity; he called them to a task in which they would have to spend themselves and burn themselves up, and, in the end, die for his sake and for the sake of their fellow men. He called them to a task wherein they could win something for themselves only by giving their all to him and to others.








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