Mark 1:14-31 Notes

Mark 1:14-31

1. Repent

To repent has more to do with  change than it does simply saying, “I’m sorry.” 

In Hebrew the word literally and figuratively means “turning.”

The greek word translated as ‘repent’ in Mark 1:15 is metanoeo - suggesting a change of mind or thinking. 

Repentance in the way the Jesus understands it is a radical “turning away” from anything which hinders one’s wholehearted trust in God. As such, the notion of “turning to” God in love and obedience is most often included. In this way - the call to repent is a not supposed to be only a negative, guilt-filled action but a also, and perhaps more importantly, a positive call to love God and live under his grace. 

Rev. Tim Keller defines repentance this way:

In “religion,” the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers. This means that religious repentance is selfish, self-righteous, and bitter all the way to the bottom. In the gospel, however, the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ to weaken our impulse to do anything contrary to God’s heart.”

(You can read his very practical article on repentance here)

The gospel writers understood command to repent as a summary term of what Jesus wanted people to do: “being poor” (Mt 5:3); “becoming as a little child” (e.g., Mk 10:14-15); “following in discipleship” (e.g., Mk 8:34) and simply “believing” (Mk 1:15; Mt 21:32) are closely aligned with it.

Another helpful description of what it looks like to ’repent’ can be found in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

2. One With Authority

The call to repent and believe, to change and obey, Jesus is the theme that runs through Mark 1:16-31. It’s a call that Jesus makes with authority. And this display of his authority serves to begin to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

The immediate change and response of the first four disciples points to the authority with which Jesus calls people to follow him. The gathering of people at the synagogues are amazed at how he teaches with authority (Mark 1:22). Lives are changed as evil spirits are cast out by his authority (Mark 1:25-27) and as physical illness are also healed by his authority (1:31). 

Jesus’ use of his authority reveals what he cares for and is concerned about as the true king over all things: the spiritual realm (as we see in the exorcism); the physical realm (as we see in the many hearings that follow in the passage). Basically, everything. 

3. This Will (Should) Change Everything

We can’t avoid this: to follow Jesus, to repent and believe, will lead to change of how things currently are. This is good news for all...and will feel like bad news for some! And there should disruption in our lives as we follow Jesus because we are being transformed more and more to be more like Jesus in our thoughts, words and actions. Change, as we know, can be at times difficult or painful; but with Jesus it will always be for the our good and the common good. 

The passage of how Jesus called the first disciples shows how great this change to life can be. Mark 1:16-20 indicates that none of these disciples left their business behind because it was going badly; they left behind decent jobs. They weren’t rich; but they weren’t poor like the majority of people. Fishermen fell between rich and poor. The fact that John and James could hire workers points to them being rather well-off. 

Many Jewish teachers in Jesus’ day felt that the greatest commandment was to honour one’s parents. To abruptly leave behind one’s family and the family business was a great sacrifice that went against everything the culture taught.

Following Jesus, believing Jesus, means that he's going to save every aspect of our lives. Everything is redeemed. Nothing is wasted. But nothing is spared. Yet, this is indeed good news. 

4. Fishers of men and women:

When a fisherman catches fish in a net or by hook, it has fatal consequences for those fish; life can’t go on as before. In the Old Testament prophets used the metaphor of fisher/fisherman for gathering people for judgment. It was a way of speaking of how easily a ruthless enemy can be like a hunter or a fisher (Jer. 16:14–16; Ezek. 29:4; Amos 4:2; Hab. 1:14–17). The oppressed or victims of the wicked are like fish or game trapped in nets (Mic 7:2). In addition to fishing, nets were used widely for hunting and war. It was mostly a negative image. 

Jesus, however, takes the same image, and uses it positively: as picture of gathering people to be spared God’s judgment or to be saved from oppression of sin and evil. The disciples are called to be agents who will bring a compelling message to others that will change their lives beyond recognition. Jesus’ call has the same effect on them. 

BONUS: 

Why is Jesus symbolized by a fish? Why is this on cars?

We don't know why they are on cars. 

However, the fish became a special symbol for early Christians because the letters of the Greek word for ‘fish’ (I.X.TH.U.S) formed an acrostic for the initials of several common names for Jesus: (Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Saviour).

Resources used for these notes:

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: NT is a really accessible one-volume option if you're looking for concise and necessary information to better understand what is happening in the passages you're reading.