13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted (narrow, difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Many Christians in the church had been taught to believe that the “Christian life” would be all blessings and prosperity. That they can “have their best life now” because God is for them and will give them what their hearts desire. Well, there is some truth to all that, but these same Christians move forward in their life only to become confused, discouraged, and depressed that what they were taught, what they expected, hasn’t happened in their experience.
Are there blessings that God graciously bestows on those He saves? Absolutely! Is this life the ultimate best we have to look forward to? Absolutely not! These verses help us to understand this a bit better.
In these verses, we have TWO gates that everyone will enter:
The narrow gate (which speaks of salvation in Christ), OR
The wide gate (which speaks of destruction, eternal damnation)
And we have TWO roads to travel:
The difficult road (which speaks of the Christians path of sanctification), OR
The broad way (which speaks of being wider, more accessible, more pleasing)
Our creator (author of the Bible) encourages each of us to enter, i.e., look for and pursue the narrow gate, not the wide gate. That goes against the grain, doesn’t it? We would much rather take the “path of least resistance,” and if we’re being honest about it, we would admit it, right? After all, we’re pretty good people aren’t we?
The gate or “door” is how a person can get into a home, building, or automobile. So, Jesus is saying, very directly, that there is ONLY ONE entryway into eternal life (which includes forgiveness of sin and peace with God), and that is through this one very exclusive entry point! And, so we wouldn’t be in the dark about what door this is, Jesus, in John 10:7, told those listening, including some Pharisees, that He is the door!
Coming to repentant faith in Jesus grants us entry into what the Bible calls “eternal life.” Positionally regenerated believers live in what Paul called “newness of life,” even now, although not yet to its fullest extent!
Before a person comes to Christ by faith or rejects His kind offer of forgiveness, they have before them two roads. One leads to eternal life, and one leads to eternal destruction (see above verses). But what about after we enter in the narrow gate (Jesus)? Those that will not repent and “look unto Jesus” enter the wide gate and travel the broad way that leads to their eternal condemnation. BUT, those who believe in Christ and His finished work at Calvary enter eternal life through Him and are now walking on the difficult road. The road is also known as experiential sanctification.
This road is the pathway in which God, through His Spirit and His word, conforms us to be more like our savior (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6)! We must be conformed unto Him because we have “been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so that we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
This road is not easy. As we walk through this world, we will witness and suffer the consequences of sin, ours, and other people. We will have trials and tribulations in this life (James 1:2; John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12; Romans 8:18). BUT, through them God, through His Spirit and Word and with the intercession of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), in His grace makes even these seemingly bad things work out for good (Romans 8:28), and that includes our “transformation” into the beautiful image of our savior!
BRIEF INTRO: It’s funny how I can, at times, look at a portion of scripture and, at least in my thinking, not see too much. What I am reading appears to be pretty straightforward, no doctrine to unfold, no theology to research and unpack, and the application is clear enough. But, I have learned over the years to “think again,” that is, I had to discipline myself to prayerfully look at the verses and meditate on what truth’s I could grasp from some seemingly “unimportant” text.
Such is the situation before me. These verses in Mark 1:16-20 appear, on the surface, to be all those things I just stated above. But thankfully, the more I reflect on these verses, or I should say, the main point of these verses, I have been blessed by the Holy Spirit as He has opened my mind and heart to some truths I needed to be reminded of. I think we all can benefit from such reminders. So, let’s get to it!
16 As He was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “(Follow Me,) and I will have you become fishers of people.” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 And going on a little farther, He saw [a]James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, [b]who were also in the boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away [c] (to follow Him).
FOCUS ONE: THE OBVIOUS
At our first reading of these scriptures, we come across some simple facts:
1. Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee
2. He saw and later called two men to “follow” Him
3. These men were brothers (Simon and Andrew)
4. They were fishermen
5. Jesus calls them to follow Him and “be made,” or “have you” become something other than what they were currently: fishers of men!
6. Immediately they leave all and follow Him
7. Going a bit farther, Jesus sees James and John (brothers)
8. They were in a boat mending nets (fishermen)
9. He calls them to follow Him
10. They leave everything ( including the hired servants and follow Him)
Those facts assimilated reveal Jesus was seeking, Jesus calling, and Jesus being obeyed!
FOCUS TWO: THE NOT SO OBVIOUS
Is it mere coincidence that Jesus comes upon these men that day along the Sea of Galilee? What would compel these men to follow Him? Why would they forsake all to follow Christ? “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed you; what then will there be for us?'”
Jesus speaks of “those He has chosen” in reference to His disciples in John 13:18. In chapter 17 of the same writing, He references the disciples as “men whom thou gavest me out of the world” (v. 6).
It is evident from these scriptures that God had, by His foreknowledge and for “the praise of His glory,” chosen or by way of “election,” decided that these men would be disciples of His Son and ultimately fearless martyrs; for the glorious gospel of God! These men were not extraordinary by any means as you and I would think. Like you and I, they were working men, family men, husbands, fathers, etc. They were not wealthy men or intellectual types; they were not mighty men. But such are those God chooses to serve Him!
26 For [a]consider your calling, brothers and sisters, that there were not many wise according to [b]the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the [c]insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no [d]human may boast before God. 30 But it is [e]due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, [f]and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
Did He need them? No, but He was pleased to use them in His glorious work among men!
Another not-so-obvious observation is drawn out in this question: What was His purpose in having disciples?
This purpose is primarily expressed in Christ’s prayer in John 17:5:19. Jesus called these men unto Himself and invested approximately 3 ½ years into them so that they would, as they followed Him, experience Him in every manner of His life. By walking and talking with Him, listening to Him teach, watching Him perform many miracles, and by being with Him ALL THE TIME, they would get to know Him as thoroughly as any human being can know another! They would “come to understand that all things (the message and the mission of Christ) which Christ had were ultimately from the father.”
The ultimate purpose in calling these men unto Himself was so that they would be a witness and testimony to the gospel of Christ. So that these men, after Christ’s ascension, would continue the work that he began, the proclamation of the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 28:18-20)!
FOCUS THREE: OBSERVATIONS THAT DIRECT APPLICATION
In this section, I aim to point out several things that I hope will be “food for thought” as you close your iPad, exit your phone, or do whatever you will do when you finish reading this post.
The first item to point out is that nets are associated with fishing, NOT rods within this context and any I know of throughout scripture! This fact has important implications for us as we faithfully seek to fulfill the great commission.
Unlike a fishing rod that is cast into the water and then yanked back hard to hook a fish, nets are CAST out and open wide (depending on size) with the sole purpose of catching as many fish as possible. Any fish in the area can swim into this net, which can mean a large number will be caught within it. The imagery we often see of using a lure and a line and then waiting for a fish to strike is foreign to the Bible.
Some fish will get away when the nets are closed and pulled back into the boat, but the net will catch many. This has its parallel in our fishing for men!
We are to cast our nets (the gospel) wide to draw in as many people as possible.
Evangelism can be tedious and tiring at times, seemingly lacking results. We can feel we cast our net in vain, once again. But, as we learn in Luke 5:4, we are to rest in Christ, faithfully continuing to share the gospel, trusting Christ for the results!
Only when we are with Jesus may we fully know just how many men were caught in our gospel nets!!
Some people will reject the gospel (fish falling out of the net), we cannot keep them in, but we can pray for their souls!
A second item that stands out to me in this text that we are looking at is that Serving Christ requires our willingness to forsake all else.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find a situation in which some men stated they wanted to follow Christ, and others had several excuses not to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62). Contrast those people to these men in our text: what a stark contrast! Christ’s answer to them seems plain enough, even for our ears today: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62).
I noticed one or two other applications, but I will leave it up to you to search them out in your study. Have fun.
Devotional verses: 21, 32 _ “ Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 32 So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Many things in life happen that we don’t understand. The loss of a teenager in a car accident in the prime of their life. The loss of a father or mother with a growing family. A baby in the womb not able to make it full term. We are at a loss for understanding in these times. We grieve, we question, and we ask why?
Such is the situation that Mary and Martha find themselves in at the death of their beloved brother, Lazarus. Jesus was notified about Lazarus (11:3), but he stayed two days longer where he was (v.6). Jesus eventually travels to Bethany with the disciples. Lazarus has been dead now, four days!
Mary and Martha were grieved at Christ’s delay in coming. In these verses, both ladies question His timing. Not in an outright manner, but more subtle: “if you would have only been here, my brother would not have died.” If only, Lord. We feel the weight of their grief and, at times, experience it ourselves.
“We question God’s timing, God’s seeming lack of concern, His seeming refusal to answer. But Jesus is never late. Jesus is never unconcerned. Did you notice how gentle He is with them? How gracious He is in reminding them of His deity, sovereignty, and power! He then calls their brother out from from the grave (vv. 43-44), and just as He said: “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23), He came forth bound hand and foot in grave cloths, to live yet again on this earth for a time! Jesus never refuses to answer.”
Are you struggling with a lack of understanding? “Are you asking the why questions? Remember, Jesus is always exactly on time. We may not understand, but maybe that’s the point.We aren’t supposed to understand. Instead, we must have faith. Whatever happens has a reason that can reveal His glory if we let it” (v.40).
PRAYER: Father, we find it hard to understand your working among us at times. We struggle with so many questions that seem to go unanswered. Please help us to trust you more wholly. Aid us in our desire for your glory to be on display, especially in those times we are the most conflicted in our thoughts and emotions. Amen.
Some parts adapted from the Travelers devotional Bible
BRIEF INTRO: In our study of Mark’s gospel so far, we have been introduced to John the Baptist, his message, his purpose, and then his baptism of Jesus (1-11). Mark begins telling his story of Jesus at the beginning of God’s preparatory works for God, the Son, to minister among men, not at the incarnation as Matthew and Luke do. This is only one “obvious” difference from Mark’s message compared to the other gospel writers.
Another striking difference relates to Mark’s lack of any information regarding John the B’s ministry after the baptism of Jesus, so, for that layout, I included this chart to help us with a “timeline” of sorts relating to what we read in v.14 of John being taken into custody.
In these following two verses (14-15), I have a few things that I want to emphasize. The first is Jesus starting to proclaim “the Gospel of God” and what that is. Second, I want to think through what “time” has been fulfilled and what it means that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, lastly, I want to focus on the only response to this preaching of the gospel of God that saves!
Are you ready to jump in with me? Let’s begin!
14 Now after John was [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [c]is at hand; repent and [d]believe in the gospel.”
FOCUS ONE: Jesus came preaching (v.14)!
Mark doesn’t share anything about John’s ministry. He just moves on to his imprisonment. But what he does share with us is the emphasis of Christ’s ministry: the preaching of the gospel of God (Mark 1:38; John 18:37). For that information, look a John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36; Matthew 14:3-5.
That verse above, Mark 1:38, clearly expresses that Jesus intended to proclaim this gospel in Galilee and other places. Yes, He did perform many miracles, but those, as much as they helped people with physical maladies and removed demons from some, were meant to provide validity of His authority, and also His message. One commentator notes as much:
“In spite of all the miracles evidenced in Christ’s life, the predominant characteristic of His ministry is described by the words Jesus came . . .preaching.“
What did He preach? This is probably a more important question to answer than you might currently think. Why? Because it has implications for us today and all succeeding generations if the Lord tarries! Such as:
Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
Is the gospel of God the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel of the grace of God, and other “gospel” uses throughout scripture (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24)?
So, let’s begin by addressing these questions in order. Is the gospel only for the Jews or only for the Gentiles? The answer:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faithin Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is NO distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. . . (Romans 3:21-23; vv. 28-30).
I could cite more references, but I won’t at this time because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and see if these things are so.
The next question could have severe implications for humanity if the references I cited above are different gospels. Romans alone uses the phrase “gospel of God” approximately 60 times, and its definition is good news! It is the message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
The next term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used often in connection to the Lord Jesus and His work on the earth. We already know from above that the word gospel means good news and hear; the word kingdom (basileia) implies the realm in which a sovereign king rules. “Throughout the New Testament, the word kingdom consistently refers to the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers, since, for the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
So, to sum this definition up with the help of one commentator who is more precise than I could be: “The gospel of the Kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. It is by grace alone that this offer is available to those who will receive it! Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal Kingdom (John 1:12).”
Our last term to look at (I am aware that I am not citing Paul’s “my gospel” in this section) is the gospel of the grace of God. Excitingly though, we find Paul’s concise definition of that very term my gospel in Acts 20:24.
24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.
This makes me reflect on what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is by His grace that we are saved. He imparts to us the gift of faith to believe in the finished atoning work of the king of the Kingdom, Jesus. And he draws us near the father by His shed blood (v. 13).
All of these terms speak of the same gospel and its effect on those who receive it! I hope you have.
FOCUS TWO: The time is fulfilled
When we read these words, the question that should arise in our minds is: what time has been fulfilled? How exactly is the “kingdom of God at hand?” So, let’s begin by answering the first question.
Mark is emphasizing a point in time of God’s decisive action, in which, in the past, He foretold what would happen and by whom. In this case, the coming of the Messiah, the king of the eternal, heavenly Kingdom! In the gospel of Luke, Luke testifies to an event in Christ’s public ministry, in which He went to Nazareth and into the synagogue, as His custom, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He opened it to where He wanted to read from, and read this: (Luke 4:16-21)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Paul rightly understood what was meant by the statement of Mark “fullness of time,” He used it as well. Take a look at what he says: And then, so as not to be misunderstood, He say’s: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir [d]through God.
There was a God-appointed time in history for the preparation and expectation of a people to be fulfilled. The Old Testament era was that time. When that appointed time, according to His providence, was complete, Christ came into the world, the incarnation! And He would fulfill all things (Ephesians 1:9-10). Don’t. Miss Paul’s usages of “fullness of the times” in those scriptures as you read it!
Hopefully, the above makes sense to you as you read scripture. But along with that question is another; how is the “Kingdom of God at hand? The Kingdom is a big slice of Christ’s message, and this statement is a key feature of that message. Remember that word kingdom (Basileia)? We touched on it early on in this study. It means “kingship” or “royal rule.” This term also involves the sovereign authority of a ruler, the activity of his ruling, and the realm and rule, including its benefits (Theological Dictionary of the NT).
The concept of Kingdom was familiar to the Jews of His day. In light of all the Old Testament prophecies they were aware of, they expected a future messianic (Davidic) Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37). Jesus’ statement in verse 15 informs them that the long-awaited king, the Messiah, has arrived. Jesus, the king of the Kingdom, the one with authority, has come, as John states in John 1:1!
FOCUS THREE: Christ” s imperative: repent and believe the gospel.
Repentance and faith are not as hard to understand as some people make them out to be. Repentance is when we come to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were, which can be very troubling to our hearts. This “acknowledgement” of our sinfulness before God is not merely a cognitive reality but involves the heart and will as well.
The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt, danger, helplessness, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. When a sinner understands and agrees with God regarding their sin and turns to Christ, the only one who can save them, for His mercy and grace, they receive it because God does not lie or change His mind!
8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The word believe in this verse is (Pisteuo), meaning to believe or to put our whole trust in something. In this case, the text directs our belief, our faith, to be in the good news of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They can not be separated. “Both these must go together: we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without he reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder (break apart).”
This is the message Jesus proclaimed. This is the message Peter proclaimed, Paul proclaimed, and preachers, missionaries, and everyday Christians declare today.
This work is a supernatural work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinful creatures. A “new nature” is given by Him a divine nature (John 3:3-8). Genuine salvation is manifested in the lives of those who proclaim faith in Christ. The way they now live their lives, the way they think, talk, and act, will evidence that they genuinely have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit within. And such a walk of faith and obedience will cause the believer to be increasingly like His savior: “conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
But the simple fact remains that sin fallen people cannot respond. In some manner, divine revelation must be made known to us before we can respond to it and agree or reject it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-17 of this very truth. God uses people like you and me to share the gospel that saved us with others. Just like us, they need to hear this divine truth before responding to it. And friends, there is only one thing that God uses to do this work of bringing repentant faith into our lives: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).
I have been trying to read this book for some time but have often found myself laying it aside amidst the ever-present pressures of priorities. Finally, I did it! I have finished Carson’s book and have now sat down to type my thoughts about this writing into my IPad.
I assume that many of you know who D.A Carson is, but I insert this brief bio from the back of this book for those of you who don’t.
“D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (book written in 1996, 2nd ed.). He has written or edited a variety of contributions, including commentaries on both Matthew and John and The King James Version Debate.”
This book is well written and easy to read, but I would have to read through it possibly two more times thoughtfully to grasp all the wisdom in it. If you are a pastor or teacher, I strongly recommend reading this 148-page paperback. I say that because correct hermeneutics, including but not limited to word studies, grammatical studies, and correct or incorrect presuppositions, are extremely important in faithfully expositing the Word of God accurately.
Honestly, I know that I have made many mistakes in my approach to exegesis over the years in my attempt to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” D. A.’s book reminded me of several. Sadly, many of those were from trusting some commentator’s conclusions, which may not always be wise, as this book points out. Everybody has a theological structure they work from, and sadly, some have to make sure everything lines up with what they believe, thereby falling into some of the fallacies that D.A Carson is writing about.
D.A includes a small but comprehensive index of subjects, authors, and scriptures cited.
In the introduction, the writer clarifies how vital a study like this is for those who want to understand God’s Word and relate it clearly and accurately to others. “Exegetical fallacies are painfully frequent among us-among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.” He rightly opines: “A critical interpretation of scripture is one, that has adequate justification-lexical, grammatical, cultural, theological, historical, geographical, or other justification” for our interpretation of the text.
The writer states that this book has limits: “this is not a highly technical discussion.” However, it was designated for seminary students who take their responsibility seriously. So, since it is not a “technical” study, the writer has not provided extensive bibliographical information.
This book studies exegetical fallacies, not historical or theological ones. I did appreciate his attempt at even-handedness when he used examples of other’s fallacies. D.A included his errors as well. One I quickly remember is on page 41 relating to his careless appeal to background material.
Under the heading “word study fallacies” he includes:
The root fallacy
Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings
Careless appeal to background material
Linkage of language and mentality
False assumptions about ethnically meaning
Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis
10. Selective and prejudicial use of evidence
11. Unwarranted semantic disjunction and restrictions
12. Unwarranted restrictions of the semantic field
13. Problems relating to the Semitic background of the Greek New Testament
14. Unwarranted neglect of distinguishing peculiarities of a corpus
15. Unwarranted linking of sense and reference
Chapter one, by far, is the longest chapter in the book. For example, chapter two is only half as long as chapter one, 22 pages.
Chapter two is a discussion on “grammatical fallacies,” Chapter three “logical fallacies,” and chapter four “presuppositional fallacies.”
The book closes with D.A’s “concluding reflections on what he has just presented. I appreciated his encouragement as he completed his writing. I was encouraged because such writing can lead us to the false conclusion that we are wholly inadequate and may want to sit down and shut up. Perhaps we should if it weren’t for the Lord Jesus Christ and His effectual calling upon our lives; first, in our salvation, second, in our service! Listen to D.A:
“but I do not want to end on so negative a note. There is a danger that readers will conclude their perusal of this little book enslaved to deep fears about their own inadequacies for the task of exegesis. A little self-doubt will do no harm and may do a great deal of good: we will be more open to learn and correct our mistakes. But too much will shackle and stifle us with deep insecurities and make us so much aware of methods that we may overlook truth itself.
I have no easy answer to this dilemma. But we will not go far astray if we approach the Bible with a humble mind and then resolve to focus on central truths. Gradually we will build up our exegetical skills by evenhanded study and a reverent, prayerful determination to become like the workman “who correctly handles the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).
With that encouragement in mind, I commend this book for your reading list. I have had this book in my library for several years, but I recently saw it on Amazon, the second edition, for $13.79.
This book has been helpful to me in three ways:
D.A reminded me how important humble discernment is in my attempt to interpret scripture correctly. Sometimes we can fall into the pitfall of “just going through the motions,” which is detrimental to our well-being and others as well.
No matter how blessed we may be with the many theologians, commentators, and professors available to us today, no one is more important to inquire of than the Holy Spirit. You have heard the quip, “discernment is key;” well, the Holy Spirt is the One who gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Much more time in prayer will allow greater interpretation accuracy than much more time in our inquiry of others.
I am inadequate. Left to myself and my wisdom, I will not be able to divide His Word rightly. I need help, His help, and an abundance of it! Preaching and teaching God’s word to others is holy work. It is a heavenly work; it is a work that we who are called to preach and teach are compelled to do: “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I want to get it right in so far as His Spirit leads me, and I trust you do as well.
This book can help in more ways than just meditating on exegetical fallacies!
BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, I focused on the overall context of verses 1-8, where Mark opened his writing with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” and then introduced the “forerunner” for Christ, John the Baptist. In this post, I will place our attention on Christ’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness, not only because they follow our previous verses but because they are instructive in teaching us about how God prepared His Son for the earthly ministry that was before Him.
Mark moves through his gospel with urgency (“and it came to pass;” “and immediately,” and “just then,” are statements made throughout his writing). So we would be wise to discipline ourselves now, at the on-set, to stay focused, or we might miss his point altogether!
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens [a]opening, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came from the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; in You I [b]am well pleased.”
FOCUS ONE: The Baptism of Jesus (1:9-11)
Mark tells us that Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee and submitted Himself to the rite of baptism that John was performing at the river Jordan. Mark lays out Christ’s baptism in straightforward language, unlike Matthew and Luke. He does not explain anything; he quickly states what happened.
The significance of the baptism lies in God’s public approval of His Son, which I will get to in a minute. First, we need to recognize that Jesus’ baptism does have some contrast related to all of those “from the country of Judaea” coming to John and being baptized.
“In contrast with all the others, Jesus made no confession of sins (Mark 1:5), since He was without sin (John 8:45-46). Mark did not state why Jesus submitted to John’s baptism; however, three reasons may be suggested: (1) It was an act of obedience, showing that Jesus was in full agreement with God’s overall plan and the role of John’s baptism in it (Matthew 3:15). (2) It was an act of self-identification with the nation of Israel whose heritage and sinful predicament He shared (Isaiah 53:12). (3) It was an act of self-dedication to His Messianic mission, signifying His official acceptance and entrance into it” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
The Fathers public approval of Jesus (v. 11)
This voice from heaven both qualified and identified Jesus to those around Him. The words “you are my son,” affirm His unique relationship with the Father. “Beloved,” seems to stress the intensity of the love between the Father and Son but can also “be understood in the Old Testament sense of an ‘only son'” (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16). In either case or as a whole, it seems clear that Jesus “preexisted” and did not, at His baptism, become a son!
The whole trinity involved
Don’t miss what Mark reveals in these following verses (v. 10-11). Mark states three things that set Jesus apart from all the others that he baptized:
The heavens were opened or parted! The Greek uses a “forceful verb,” which signifies “being torn open, or split.”
He saw the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. This imagery takes us back to Genesis 1:2, where we read about the Holy Spirits’ part in the creation and His creative activity. In the Old Testament, we find passages telling us that the Spirit came on certain people and empowered them for a particular service (Exodus 31:3; Judges 3:10). It appears that Mark is telling us that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus empowered Him for His messianic mission (Acts 10:38).
Jesus heard a voice from heaven (v.11). Words from the Father expressing His heavenly approval of the baptism that had just taken place! To put this simply:
The Son submits to the ordinance
The Spirit rests upon the Son
The Father voices His “good” pleasure
12 And immediately the Spirit *brought Him out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving Him.
FOCUS TWO: The Temptation of Jesus (1:12-13)
Here we feel the “urgency” in Mark’s writing again (v. 10). At once or immediately, Jesus is compelled by the Spirit to “go out into the wilderness.” Mark uses a pretty strong word, from the Greek verb (ekballo), meaning to drive out or send away. Mark used this word in other places to denote the expulsion of demons (vv. 34, 39; 3:15). Here “it reflects Mark’s forceful style. The thought is of a strong moral compulsion by which the Spirit led Jesus to take the offensive against temptation and evil instead of avoiding them.”
So, Jesus is led by the Spirit further into the wilderness region. Some commentators believe that the site of Christ’s temptation was northwest of the Dead Sea immediately west of Jericho.
Mark, in his brevity, states:
The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness
He was there forty days
Satan tempted him
He was with the wild beasts
Angels were ministering to Him
Satan sought to lead Christ into sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Matthew relates just how Satan attempted to do this. The word “tempted” means “put to the test, make trial of” to discover the kind of person someone is.” As I was reminded of by my pastor this past Sunday in his sermon, and then again writing this post, Matthew’s use of such a word can be in either a “good” way or a “bad “way.
In a good sense, God’s testing (1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 11:17). Or in a bad sense of enticement by Satan and his minions to sin. One commentator points out that both meanings are evident here! “God put Jesus to the test (The Spirit led Him), to show that he was qualified for His mission. BUT also Satan tried to draw Jesus away fro His divinely appointed mission” (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).
Only mark makes use of the phrase, “he was with the wild beasts.” Most likely, he is using the words to stress the “hostile” environment where Christ was placed. Desolate, lonely, and full of danger! Pretty descriptive of Satan’s domain!
So, whereas the baptism resulted in the Spirits’ control, here the wilderness tempting, the extent of Christ’s submission to the Father’s will, we see this in the forceful guidance of the Spirit, one element of Christs’ self-humiliation, and also in His dealing with our arch-enemy, “the serpent of old.” Praise God Jesus, the God-man, put the enemy to flight (Luke 4:13) by using scriptures to expose the lies of the evil one (Luke 4: 4, 8, 12)!
Through all of these forty days, the “angels ministered to Jesus.” Whatever they supplied Christ, and to what extent they provided it, is not explicitly mentioned, but whatever it entailed, it was enough! The Fathers protecting care was ever-present in the ministry of the angels attending the Messiah.
I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:
Relating to the Doctrine of God:
J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).
Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:
Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken
Relating to Divine Providence:
Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole
Relating to the incarnation:
Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.
Relating to Justification:
Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.
Relating to the Gospels:
Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).
Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!
I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”
The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.
Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!
God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).
Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).
The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children
NOT SO BRIEF AN INTRODUCTION: I am excited to begin this Bible study with you. Thessalonians and Philippians are both epistles that we previously studied. So I felt compelled to pick another type of genre for us to meditate on and the gospel of Mark is where I landed.
Mark is an amazing book, counted among the “Synoptics,” and as we go through it, we will learn more of Christ the servant and Christ the sacrifice! We will witness the beginning and growth of His ministry and the growing opposition to it by the religious leaders. But ultimately, we will be reminded of His triumph! Jesus rose from the grave and was “received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).
I will not be spending much time presenting who the author is. There are many commentaries that you can read for the various argumentations that exist. I will say this, however, I believe that Mark, a close companion of the Apostle Peter, penned these words. This is the testimony of the early church fathers. Mark was most likely written sometime in the early ’50s (AD). Again, if you are interested in a deeper survey on the author and date of the writing, I would encourage you to begin with the notes in your book introductions in a solid study bible (The MacArthur Study Bible, for example). From there, you can locate various theologians that have written on this particular book or even “introductions to the New Testament.”
Mark appears to have been written to gentiles, specifically Roman believers. We see this in several ways: “He reckoned time according to the Roman system (6:48; 13:35). He carefully explained Jewish Customs (7:3,4; 14:12; 15:42), He omitted Jewish elements such as the genealogies found in Matthew and Luke, and Mark includes less material that would be of particular interest to Jewish readers” (Macarthur Study Bible).
What is interesting in this gospel as compared to Matthew and Luke is that Mark. He is more interested in sharing what Christ had done MORE SO than what He taught with his readers. Also worth noting is the observation that Mark does not open with any ancestry information, he instead “jumps out of the gate” with John the Baptist and Christ being baptized!
“Mark uses an uncomplicated and vivid literary style. He also writes in such a way that the discerning reader feels addressed or questioned often. Mark does not aim merely to convey information. He seeks rather to furnish grounds for our decision to follow and keep following the main character of the gospel: Jesus Christ” (Liberty Annotated Study Bible). By Jesus Himself.
This study will benefit believers and unbelievers alike. So, if you are new to the faith or have been a Christian for many years, This study will encourage and strengthen you as you visit the life and sacrifice of Christ afresh for you. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, don’t go, stay, read, think upon what you are reading, and let Jesus disclose Himself to you. The most important question you have to answer is this: “Who do men say I am” (8:27-30)?
When you think of the Christmas season and what it means, do you think of it in the terms written out for us in Revelation 12? Probably not. We are so accustomed to thinking about a cute baby in a manger, wise men with gifts, and angels singing out in the fields with shepherds that we most likely miss God’s view of the Christmas story.
“The birth of Christ and Satan’s opposition to the event are graphically depicted in this scene. Jesus, the messiah, was born into this world to implement God’s plan for the world’s restoration. Satan had planted the destructive effects of sin into God’s good creation by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. So as Jesus was born to reverse the effects of that sin, Satan did all he could to destroy the infant savior” (remember what Herod did? Matthew 2:16-18).
“Thankfully, Satan was unsuccessful, and the future Ruler of the world was able to complete His earthly mission. As much as Satan desires to thwart God’s overall plan, he cannot stop God’s plan of salvation for us if we surrender our lives to Him by trusting Christ to pay for our sins.”
Some parts are adapted from “The every mans Bible.”