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Jesus Demonstrates Missions, Ministry and Evangelism -- all at once (a study of Mark 1:35-45)

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

We must care both about Jesus' mission and how He accomplished it.

Bible Study Ideas and Commentary for Mark 1:35-45

What can I say about this incredible passage? Not only do we learn about Jesus' mission to share the good news with God's people, or about how those very people can respond to that good news by telling others, but we learn that Jesus stayed connected to God in prayer, and that He prioritized ministering with compassion and according to God's Word. Wow!

This is why I have come. (1:38)

*Notice: Short Post*

This Sunday is a large-group session for our church where all of the adults come together for the morning, so my approach to lesson preparation will be very different from yours. Consequently, this post will be a little shorter than usual. And that's not a bad thing! The text is so rich that everyone -- even someone who doesn't know the Bible -- should "get" what's going on.

Lesson Overview

I think if I give you the very clear progression of the passage up front, it will be easier for you to start coming up with your own illustrations, discussion ideas, and questions.

  1. Jesus took His message to all of the towns around Him (i.e., He didn't stay in one place and build a passionate fanbase, and He didn't lose sight of His mission to take His good news to everyone He could).

  2. Jesus ministered in compassion to even the "nobodies" (i.e., He didn't let His mission get in the way of doing good when the opportunity arose).

  3. A man Jesus healed went and told everyone what Jesus had done for him (i.e., if Jesus has done something for us -- like salvation -- then we shouldn't help but want to tell the people we know about it).

The sky is the limit for this lesson. Just look at those topics:

  • "Missions" -- taking the gospel to people who have not heard it.

  • "Ministry" -- serving people in need in Jesus' name.

  • "Evangelism" -- telling people the good news about Jesus.

Pretty thorough, huh?

But wait, there's more!

The first section opens with a verse that Jesus had gone off by Himself to pray -- so that tells us the importance of prioritizing time with God even when we're being "busy for God".

And the last section includes the important detail that Jesus did everything in accordance with God's law -- which tells us the importance of knowing the Word of God and acting according to it.

[There's also an interesting look into the so-called "Messianic Secret", but I'll save that for another day. We will see that bubble up again, giving us plenty of time to dive into it.]

Getting Started: Things to Think About

Take your pick!

(1) The State of World Missions Today

Because we are a Southern Baptist Church, I would send curious group members to the IMB website:

In 2022, IMB personnel helped plant 21,000 churches and train 146,000 ministry leaders. I'm amazed by those numbers, but then I'm reminded that there are billions of people who do not have ready access to the gospel. Of the 12,000 "people groups" in the world, 3,000 are still considered "unengaged and unreached".

We talked in depth about world missions when we covered the Great Commission in 2017:

That's one of my favorite posts because I got to share something that was taught to me a long time ago about The Heart of Being a Baptist:

  • To be a Baptist is to be Jesus-centered

  • To be a Baptist is to be an evangelist

  • To be a Baptist is to be a disciple of Jesus

  • To be a Baptist is to be a part of a regenerate church

  • To be a Baptist is to teach the Bible in its entirety

I go into more detail what that means, but that's the gist.

What mission work does your church do? How about you personally?

[Aside: there are debates over the difference between "missions" and "evangelism". If that comes up, just punt. Arguing about that misses the point.]

(2) Ministry Projects Your Church "Does"

This would be an excellent lesson to talk about what your church "does". Every church has something their church members "do" for the community (and yes, there's always something more we could do).

What about your church? Do you support a local food bank? Run a clothes closet? Do volunteer work for people in need?

Warning: when you look into this, you may get caught up in the things your church doesn't do. I have two things to say about that:

  • No church can meet every need. Jesus did not heal every leper in Judea.

  • If there's a ministry you feel very strongly about that your church doesn't do, then you had better be prepared to lead it.

(3) How Do You Share the Gospel with Somebody?

I can't help but think that a good use of your time would be to make sure that everybody in your group both (1) knows the gospel, and (2) knows how to share the gospel.

That's not something to take for granted.

There are so many resources out there for sharing the gospel. So many that it's overwhelming! On our website, we have tried to simplify it as much as reasonable. We give an overview of a method called "The Romans Road", we link to an app called "The Three Circles Life Conversation Guide", and we list a few really good books that help you craft your "testimony".

How would you share the gospel with somebody who wasn't a Christian?

(4) The Importance of Your "Quiet Time" with God

Lifeway released a survey at the beginning of 2023 about "time alone with God":

They found that nearly 2/3 of Christians spend "time with God" daily. (Aside: I'm dubious, but hopeful.) Praying is the most common activity during a "quiet time", but there is also often Bible reading or devotional reading.

What about you? How often do you spend time alone with God? What do you do during those times? And most importantly -- how important are those times to you and why?

Lots of options for opening discussion!


Where We Are in Mark -- An Outline

I didn't develop this outline too thoroughly last week (there was plenty to cover in the passage itself); I mainly focused on the idea of a linear story:

  • Jesus ministers in Galilee (chapters 1-8)

  • Jesus reveals His mission; the disciples don't understand (chapters 9-10)

  • Jesus completes His mission in Jerusalem (chapters 11-15)

Matthew built his Gospel around a structure of "5 sections of teaching/5 sections of doing". Mark builds his on a growing scale of events. I'm just going to list the events in the first 8 chapters of Mark to give you an idea of what Mark is doing:

  1. Jesus announces the good news

  2. Jesus calls the first disciples

  3. Jesus heals many and casts out demons

  4. Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man

  5. Jesus calls Matthew and eats with sinners

  6. Jesus heals on the Sabbath

  7. Crowds follow Jesus

  8. Jesus appoints the Twelve

  9. Jesus spars with family and Pharisees

  10. Jesus gives four parables

  11. Jesus calms a storm

  12. Jesus casts out a demon

  13. Jesus raises a dead girl

  14. Jesus is a prophet without honor

  15. Jesus sends out the Twelve

  16. John the Baptist is beheaded

  17. Jesus feeds the five thousand

  18. Jesus walks on water

  19. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees

  20. Jesus ministers to a Gentile woman

  21. Jesus heals a deaf man

  22. Jesus feeds the four thousand

  23. Jesus warns the disciples about their blindness

  24. Jesus heals a blind man

  25. Peter declares Jesus the Messiah

  26. Jesus predicts His death

I didn't include chapter numbers because Mark didn't include them -- he developed his story to be read without breaks. Can you see the progression of events? Jesus' miracles get "broader" (in the sense of affecting more and a wider range of people), and the conflict with the Jewish leaders becomes clearer. Jesus gives more responsibility to His disciples, but His disciples still don't understand His mission on earth.

The old hymn "Just as I Am" captures (to me) what's going on:

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind; Yes, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

The disciples needed to realize that they were the poor, the wretched, and the blind. The physical miracles Jesus performed were "parables" of what Jesus could do for all people spiritually. Until they did, they could not appreciate the utterly self-sacrificial nature of Jesus' mission (and consequently their mission and ours).

But for now, we're just talking about the first few actions.


Part 1: Focused on a Mission (Mark 1:35-38)

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. 36 Simon and his companions searched for him, 37 and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.”

Like I said above, I'm just going to focus on some high points.

Jesus had a mission. He knew what His mission was, and nothing was going to distract Him from that mission. Note these two things in particular:

  1. Jesus might have been tempted to enjoy His celebrity for a time. He has already performed several miracles, and that has attracted crowds. But these crowds were more interested in the spectacle than the truth.

  2. Spending time alone with God was fuel for His mission, not a distraction for it. Many Christians, me included, can mistakenly neglect their personal relationship with God because they are so busy doing things for God. That's missing the point, the purpose, and the power. We should spend regular time alone with God.

Here, we see that Jesus' "quiet time" focused on prayer. But later, we will see how well Jesus knew the Bible, so I believe that our personal time with God should also include learning God's Word. Why might you think there should be a balance between praying and learning the Bible?

One thing I have really enjoyed about "The Chosen" television series is that it tries to show us the personal dynamics between Jesus and His disciples. In particular, Peter starts out as a temperamental young man who has a lot to learn about God's Word. Here is a video that just focuses on some of Peter's scenes from the first two seasons.

If you haven't watched "The Chosen", you had probably better watch at least the first couple of episodes so you know how they're developing Peter (Simon) as a character.

Anyway, remember that this is extremely early on in Simon-and-Jesus' relationship. Jesus hasn't even officially called the Twelve yet! Simon is probably amazed and excited about everything he's seen Jesus do. He wants more attention. He wants bigger things. He wants Jesus to solidify His standing in the community and build His brand.

And that's probably about right. We know that even years into Jesus' ministry, Peter is still telling Jesus that He can't die. Goodness, just think about what Peter said and did on the last night of Jesus' earthly ministry!

Simon didn't get it, and that's okay, because Jesus didn't need Simon to "get it" yet. He just needed Simon to observe and learn.

For our purposes, we see that Jesus came to preach His message to all of God's children (in this case, the Jews). And in the Great Commission (referenced above) He transferred that mission to us, expanding it to all the world.

One of my church's Sunday School teachers pointed out the similarities between this setting and Matthew 9:

35 Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

My takeaway from this is that Jesus always had this drive -- teaching and ministering to everyone around -- and He always did it with compassion (more on this below). In other words, this week's passage isn't unique in Jesus' ministry.


Part 2: But Always with Compassion (Mark 1:40-42)

40 Then a man with leprosy came to him and, on his knees, begged him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

If I can get too "busy" ministering to spend personal time with God, then you might guess that I can really have trouble with this point. In the midst of an incredibly busy and demanding schedule, Jesus still had time to take care of an individual need with compassion.

I'll throw out two questions to you, and then your brain can take over:

  • What is "compassion"?

  • What is the "Golden Rule"?

I am naturally cynical and pessimistic. Guess what I have trouble with? Compassion. Jesus always had compassion.

The leader guide does a good job setting the scene -- leprosy (which referred to any number of skin diseases) caused people to be completely ostracized from their society. Lepers could not approach non-lepers. This man's behavior was scandalous and desperate.

Go back to "Just As I Am" above -- shouldn't we all be desperate for a touch from Jesus? If we are at all moved by this man's condition, we should be equally moved by the condition of every lost person on this planet.

Yes, Jesus had compassion for this man, and He healed him of his physical condition. But Mark the author saw that Jesus used all of these physical miracles to point us to the greatest need/miracle of all -- how a sinful soul can be made right with God -- how a soul destined for hell can spend eternity instead with God.

I love, love, love the verbal exchange. Read the man's request, and read Jesus' response. Note that the man didn't doubt Jesus' capability. And hear the compassion that must have been in Jesus' tone.

This can lead into discussion (if you save time) -- what are the types of people you tend not to have compassion for and why? What would Jesus say to you about your reasoning?

Here's how we might apply these first two points: let's be laser-focused on the mission Jesus gave us, but let's also make sure we're doing the mission the way Jesus would have.


Part 3: Mission + Compassion = Proclamation (Mark 1:43-45)

43 Then he sternly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But he was out in deserted places, and they came to him from everywhere.

I encourage you not to focus too much on the so-called "Messianic Secret" hinted at in those first two verses. We'll get to that again in the future. This is the second reference to this idea -- that Jesus didn't want people saying out loud that He was the Messiah.

[Quick aside: skeptics say that the "Messianic Secret" is because Jesus didn't believe He was the Messiah, so He didn't want people spreading "false rumors" about Him. That's baloney. Even in Mark's Gospel, Jesus is very clear about His own identity. Here's the long and short about how we explain the "Messianic Secret" -- it comes down to something we recently studied in the Gospel of John:

6:14 When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore, when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

To the common Jew, "Messiah" had become a political figure. The Messiah/Prophet (capital P) was coming to overthrow Rome. Jesus did not want the distraction of the Roman military, and He also didn't want to spend His teaching time constantly correcting the people's false notions about the Messiah (think about how much time He spent on the subject with His own disciples, who should have known better!).

Again, we'll talk more about that in the future. Back to the passage.]

I want everyone to pay close attention to how well Jesus knew the Law of Moses and how much He respected it. This makes me think of the Sermon on the Mount:

Matt 5:17 Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

To make this as obvious as possible: our "quiet time" with God isn't about either prayer or studying God's Word -- it's both/and!

Now, let's get to the key application verse in verse 45. What did this man do with Jesus' action and His command? He couldn't help but tell everybody what Jesus had done for him!

Was this man disobeying Jesus? Well, technically yes. And it immediately caused some inconvenience for Jesus. But we will let Jesus work that out with this man in heaven. Jesus did not give us that command.

So, what has Jesus done for you?

And who have you told about it?

"What Jesus has done for you" is your testimony. In my opinion, sharing your testimony is one of the best methos of evangelism there is. People can argue about a lot of things, but it's harder for someone to argue with you when you say, "This is what has happened in my life."

We talked about testimonies when we recently studied John 9:

25 “Whether or not he’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!”

This man sidestepped a thorny debate to something no one could argue with.

In that post, I point you to two very in-depth posts about how to craft a testimony from when we studied the Book of Acts. (tldr, when Paul was standing trial before rulers, he focused on explaining what had happened in his life) If you're using your testimony as an evangelistic tool, then you want to "streamline" your testimony to clearly explain these things:

  • What your life was like before you "met Jesus"

  • How you met Jesus / became a Christian

  • How Jesus has changed your life

Don't ramble. Don't put the focus on your life and hardships -- keep the focus on Jesus. And make sure that the person you're talking to hears how they can also become a Christian.

The man here in Mark 1, like the man in John 9, only had a partial picture. Neither knew that Jesus was going to pay the price for our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross, or that He would rise from the grave as proof that God had accepted His sacrifice. All they knew is that Jesus had miraculously healed them.

We know the rest of the story. We need to share that.

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