Sabbath School Lesson for June 29-July 5, 2024

Overview of Lesson 1, The Beginning of the Gospel

Memory Text: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’ ” Mark 1:14, 15 NKJV

The subject of Jesus’ preaching seems to be exactly that of John the Baptist. They both came to share the gospel of salvation, proclaiming that people should repent of their sins, in order to be ready for God’s kingdom.

All the authors of the New Testament either had firsthand knowledge of Jesus’ brief life on earth (such as the disciple gospel writers, Matthew and John), or mostly knew Him secondhand (such as with the gospel writers Luke and Mark). Apparently, Mark was a companion of both Paul and Peter. We, therefore, have great confidence in Mark’s rather short record of Jesus’ life.

We, too, know that Mark was a failed missionary at first. Like many of the disciples, he had some growing to do. But, in the end, he was successful in his appointed work of sharing God’s Word, as he does so effectively with his writing of this gospel.

Here’s what the week’s study of Mark 1:1-15 will include:

  • The Failed Missionary (Sunday)–How was Mark a disappointment with his first missionary attempts?
  • A Second Chance (Monday)–Why was Mark given a second chance, and by whom?
  • The Messenger (Tuesday)–How important was the ministry of John the Baptist?
  • Jesus’ Baptism (Wednesday)–What was the purpose and result of Jesus’ baptism?
  • The Gospel According to Jesus (Thursday)–What exactly was Jesus preaching in Galilee?

Sunday: The Failed Missionary

Mark is thought to be John Mark, referred to in Acts 12:12. After the resurrection, when Peter had been thrown in jail by Herod, the house of John Mark’s mother was fervently praying for Peter’s safety. Suddenly, Peter showed up at their door, surprising them all with the story of his miraculous rescue by an angel.

The writers of the Gospels seem to want to keep Jesus foremost in their stories, so they typically used anonymous ways to inject themselves into their own stories. John, for example, called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, not revealing the name John even once in his gospel record (John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, and 21:20).

Mark may also have identified himself earlier in his own narrative in the curious, stand-alone verse of Mark 14:51. Here he may have been describing himself as the “certain young man [who] followed Him [after Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane] having a linen cloth thrown around” him, which was torn off as he fled the mob.

Knowing about his young age might help explain why Mark left his cousin, Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), and Paul on their first missionary trip to Cyprus. He most likely was still young, because he was referred to as an assistant (Acts 13:1-5). Although we aren’t given a reason for his hasty return home, the issue caused enough distress between Paul and Barnabas that they afterward went separate ways, when Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany them on their next missionary journey.

Bible Verses to Explore:

Acts 12:12, Colossians 4:10, and Mark 14:51

  • How do these verses help us identify the author of Mark?

Acts 13:1-5, 13

  • What caused Paul and Barnabas to go separate ways after that first journey together?
  • How might we justify such a response to the problem, and in what other ways might it have been handled?

Monday: A Second Chance

Missionary life is often difficult, but Paul revealed that it was especially hard for those first Christian missionaries. They suffered beatings, imprisonment, dangerous travel, robbery, and other distressing circumstances (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). For whatever reason, John Mark decided to return home and did not complete his first missionary assignment with Paul and Barnabas.

We know Barnabas trusted the young assistant cousin enough though to request his aid again on their next journey. Paul, however, was not willing at the time to have him, It caused enough strife among the two evangelists that they thought it wise to split into two teams on their next missionary trip.

Evidently, Barnabas’ willingness to give John Mark a second chance was a move that paid off. Mark later became a trusted companion to both Paul and Peter. Giving someone a second chance, in many cases, is not a bad choice. After all, God does it all the time with us.

Bible Verses to Explore:

Acts 15:36-39

  • Why do you think Barnabas wanted his cousin John Mark along that second time, and why was Paul so opposed to the idea?
  • How willing are you to give people second chances? Give examples.

2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 23, 24, and 1 Peter 5:13

  • What does Paul calling Mark his “fellow laborer”, and Peter referring to Mark as “my son”, tell us about Mark’s later success as a missionary?

Tuesday: The Messenger

Mark dives into his action-packed narrative without any details about Jesus’ lineage or miraculous birth. For him, the real journey began with the unusual messenger, John the Baptist.

Amos 3:7 tells us that God does nothing without revealing it to His servants the prophets. As Jesus’ ministry drew near, a messenger was sent in the person of John the Baptist to prepare people for Him by calling them to repentance. The prophet Isaiah revealed that there would be a voice, crying in the wilderness, to help prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3). Mark 1:2, 3 even quotes that verse.

John the Baptist indeed was God’s messenger at the appointed time before Christ’s ministry began. Mark described this unusual prophet as a man clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, who ate locusts and honey in that wilderness setting (Mark 1:6). The ancient prophet Elijah, likewise, was said to be a hairy man with a leather belt around his waist (2 Kings 1:8). His task was also to call the Israelites back to God.

Bible Verses to Explore:

Mark 1:1-8

  • Why do you think John the Baptist is so prominent in the beginning of Mark’s gospel story about Jesus?
  • Why were more details not given about Jesus’ miraculous birth, like the other gospels?

Mark 1:2, 3, Isaiah 40:3, and Malachi 3:1

  • Why was a messenger mentioned by both Isaiah and Malachi?
  • What was the message of John the Baptist so needed at that time?

Mark 1:6 and 2 Kings 1:8

  • What was the purpose of the message of both Elijah and John?

Wednesday: Jesus’ Baptism

After introducing his readers to John the Baptist, Mark relates how Jesus came to be baptized by John. Later, Jesus went into the wilderness, where Satan tempted Him (Mark 1:9-13).

These two episodes of Christ’s journey are extremely important to our understanding of who Jesus was. The baptism itself gave a rare glimpse of all three members of the Godhead in one place.

  1. Jesus, the Son of God, who was immersed in the water by John the Baptist,
  2. the Holy Spirit seen in the form of a dove, and
  3. God the Father, the voice that was heard, confirming who Jesus was.

God’s voice of affirmation was valuable to Jesus’ public ministry that was just beginning. The memory of this anointing strengthened Him for the trying times He would soon encounter. The Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance was also noted. It was the Holy Spirit that “drove” Jesus to seek the wilderness as a means of growing closer to His Father. (The Greek word for “drove” was also used by Mark to describe driving out demons. God’s voice was evidently hard to resist.)

Jesus, who had never sinned, felt an urgent need to be baptized of God and anointed by the Holy Spirit. This event helps us see the dual identity of Jesus as both God and man (He’s been called the Son of God and the Son of Man).

Bible Verses to Explore:

Mark 1:9-13

  • Why do you think Jesus, who had never sinned, needed to be baptized?
  • Why do you think the Holy Spirit drove Jesus to the wilderness, knowing He would be tempted there?
  • What other Bible characters were strengthened by spending time in the wilderness, and in what ways was this a good place for spiritual growth?

Thursday: The Gospel According to Jesus

Mark wants us to know in Mark 1:14, 15 that Jesus came to preach the gospel. Apparently, this gospel message had three parts:

  1. “the time is fulfilled”–referring to Daniel’s 70-week prophecy that predicted when the Messiah would come (Daniel 9:24-27)
  2. “the kingdom of God is at hand”–speaking about the covenant promise that would bring them closer to God’s final reward
  3. “repent and believe”–giving them a call to discipleship, through their confession of sin and faith in God’s word

These three elements are still part of the gospel message being preached in sermons today. We often hear from the pulpit a statement of belief, a sense of the urgency to act now, and an invitation to do God’s bidding and follow Him.

Daniel’s 70-week prophecy is a firm reminder of God’s ability to predict and forewarn His people. It gives us hope that He will continue to fulfill His promises to us, as He had done so accurately in this prophecy. Daniel’s prophecy began with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem. The best date for that seems to be 457 B.C. with the decree of Persia’s king, Artaxerxes (Ezra 7).

With one week cut off from the rest at the end of those 70 weeks, using days for years as prophecy usually does, we are brought to the date of 27 A.D., the year Christ was anointed, or baptized. Daniel says the Messiah was cut off in the middle of that week. And it was three and a half years after Jesus’ baptism that He was crucified on a cruel cross. And after another three-and-a-half years in 34 A.D., Stephen was stoned and the gospel went fully to the Gentiles.

Bible Verses to Explore:

Mark 1:14, 15

  • What specifically did Jesus preach about as He traveled through Galilee after His baptism?
  • Why has the gospel message been the same for all these years, and why don’t people listen more to what God tells us about how to be saved?

Friday: Final Thoughts

When seen side by side, one must notice the similarity of Jesus’ message in Mark 1:15 with that of the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6, 7. They both talk about prophecy being fulfilled, that God’s kingdom or judgment had come, and that there was an urgent need to worship God, to believe and share the everlasting gospel.

Both messages are a much-needed call to repentance and discipleship, a message that is ongoing and everlasting. We are in constant need of being close to our Lord and Savior while this world of sin exists, and beyond.

Both Daniel and Revelation share many events and symbols, such as God’s judgment and beasts being powers that rise and fall. We are given a glimpse of those powerful beasts in Revelation 13, which helps us understand who is talked about in the second and third angels’ messages. These beasts represent a false god, identified as God’s enemy Satan. We must, therefore, continue to worship our Creator, Jesus Christ, who has promised to return someday for His people.

Next Week: A Day in the Ministry of Jesus

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