9.  It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Now our Lord arrives on the scene to be baptized by John.  Notice that, unlike Matthew, where we have recorded the birth of a King attended by wise men and angels, unlike Luke where we have a record of the technical aspects of the physical birth of a Man born of a virgin, and unlike John where we are introduced to this One Who is the eternal Word of God, in Mark the Lord comes on the scene as a humble man journeying from Nazareth of Galilee, a humble town in Israel, to be baptized along with the rest of His Israelite brethren.  This is a humble introduction, and one worthy of a Servant.  For that is how Mark presents Christ to us: as God’s chosen Servant.

10.  And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.

We are given a succinct glimpse of this important event.  Those who believe that baptism washes away sins have great trouble explaining why the Lord Jesus needed to be baptized, since He is sinless.  However, water baptism was never meant to wash away sins, but rather to signify submission to God.  The Lord was likewise pledging His submission to the Father’s will by being baptized, and God showed His approval of this action by the following miracle of the dove.

11.  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Notice that it does not say that this was the voice of God.  The only physical voice that God has is that of Jesus Christ.  This is what we call the “miracle of the voice,” wherein God causes a voice to be heard even though there are no vocal cords, tongue, mouth, or throat speaking them.  This miraculous voice is a voice from God the Father, and it states His approval of His Son Jesus Christ.  Indeed, even as the Father approves of Him, so should we approve of Him as well.  What could we do better than approve of this One Who is our Savior, the beloved Son of God?

12.  Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.

In Luke 4:1 and Matthew 4:1, we read that the Lord was “led” by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.  Here, however, we read that He was “driven” by the Spirit.  This is actually how the Spirit did the “leading” mentioned in the other books, so this is supplemental.  It would not be appropriate, however, for a King or even a Man to be driven, and so Matthew and Luke omit this detail.  John, of course, omits the temptation altogether, since God cannot be tempted.  But in Mark, we read of Him being driven.  This is totally appropriate for One Who was a Servant.  Servants are not requested to do things, or even led to do them.  They are driven to do them, as our Lord was driven here to face the temptation that the Father had planned for Him.

13.  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

As I pointed out in my study on Matthew, He was tempted by Satan for forty days.  It is impossible to believe that Satan only tempted Him three times during this entire period!  Those who will only accept three temptations see an insurmountable problem when they try to reconcile Matthew and Luke.  But if we will only accept that Satan might have tempted Christ more than once in very similar ways, we can see that the two books record two different sets of three temptations.

Christ was with the wild beasts while He was being tempted.  Again, this is supplemental information, and presents a situation appropriate for a Servant.  Yet what a strange statement to make of a Servant: that angels ministered to Him!  Even in the book written to set forth His Servanthood, we will often see His ultimate Lordship shining through.  In the end, the Servant will prove to be the Master!

14.  Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

Mark moves very quickly through this beginning part of the Lord’s ministry, bringing us all the way up to the imprisonment of John in just fourteen verses.

Now that John’s ministry has all but come to a close, our Lord comes to Galilee Himself.  Here He begins preaching the Kingdom of God.  Remember, as we learned in our studies of Matthew, the Kingdom of God is the same thing as the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew, only without using the popular Jewish figure of speech.  Since the Jews refused to say God’s name in casual conversation so that they would not risk taking it in vain, they often supplied words for the name of God whenever they could.  One of the most popular words to supply was “Heaven,” so Matthew gives us the figure of speech as it was actually spoken by Jesus and the others at that time.  As Mark was written to proselytes and Gentiles who would have no such taboo, however, he translates the figure for us into what it literally meant: the Kingdom of God.  That these Kingdoms are one and the same can be demonstrated by taking a look at parallel passages between Matthew and Mark and Luke, and in Matthew itself (Matthew 19:23-24.)  These passages should make this truth perfectly clear.

Some Bible teachers (like E.W. Bullinger in his Companion Bible) make a great deal out of the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. They think that these are two different kingdoms, one that just covers Israel (the kingdom of heaven,) and one that encompasses God’s universal sovereignty that applies to all places and all times.  I do not believe that this is the case.  There is no difference between these two phrases.  They both mean basically the same thing.

15.  And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

This is what the Lord was preaching here at the beginning of His ministry.  Again, He mentions the gospel, and, as John did, He calls on the people to repent.  Again, this is the Greek word metanoeo, and means to “have the aftermind,” or to make up their minds now to serve God whatever comes afterwards.  This time He also gives a command to believe the gospel.  Indeed, we should always believe any time when we are faced with a message from God.  In reading through the Scripture we come upon many things that we need to believe.  These people needed to believe the message that they were given, which was that the kingdom of God was at hand.

16. And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

Interestingly, this is not the first time we see Simon and Andrew.  In John 1:40-42 we read of the first time that these men met the Lord.  Andrew heard Him speaking and went and told Simon his brother, after which Simon came to hear the Lord.  This was long before John was put into prison (John 3:24), which places it long before this time.  It seems that Andrew and Simon had been following the Lord, but at some point had returned to Galilee and to their job as fishermen.  Now, however, the Lord comes to call them away again from their work and back into service for Him.
17.  Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

The Lord had not called Simon and Andrew at their earlier encounter in John 1.  Notice that Andrew was called a disciple of John the Baptizer’s (John 1:35), and when he heard John’s testimony he started following the Lord (John 1:40).  However, the Lord had never specifically called either John or Peter at this time.  Probably they had returned to their nets to earn money to support their families.  Now, however, the Lord has another purpose for them, and they are from now on to follow Him.

18.  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

The call of Jesus had a profound effect upon these men.  They immediately dropped what they were doing and followed Him.  Thus we see the power of the words of the One Who was the Word become flesh.  He has said that His words do not return to Him void, and in this case they were all that was necessary to begin the discipleship of these simple fishermen.  We need to remember, however, that they had already known the Lord previously and followed Him.  Thus, it seems that they were ready and eager for this call when it came.  In the same way, we should all be ready for the call of our Master, whenever and however it might come.

19.  When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets.

These men were working in close proximity to where Simon and Andrew were working.  These two sets of brothers had the same vocation and were from the same area, and it is very likely that they were friends even before they met the Lord.

20.  And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Remember, these men also had likely followed the Lord before.  Now they are ready for this new mission He is calling them on.  They drop everything, leaving their father and the hired servants behind, just to follow the Lord.  There is no wrapping things up first, and no getting ready to follow Him at some future, more convenient date.  They immediately respond to the call, and follow with eagerness the One Who has called them to follow.