1. THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
a. How does Mark open his account of the life of Christ? What does he immediately acknowledge about Jesus? Mark 1:1.
b. Explain what the “gospel” is. Romans 1:16.
“[God’s] mercy and goodness is wholly undeserved. The grace of Christ is freely to justify the sinner without merit or claim on his part. Justification is a full, complete pardon of sin. The moment a sinner accepts Christ by faith, that moment he is pardoned. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he is no more to doubt God’s forgiving grace.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1071.
“There is no defect in God’s plan for the salvation of men. If the gospel is not to every soul the power of God unto salvation, it is not because the gospel is at fault, but because men are not practical believers, practical receivers of the grace and righteousness of Christ. . . . The professed believers do not take Christ as their personal Saviour, but follow Jesus a great way off.”—This Day With God, p. 18.
2. THE FORERUNNER OF CHRIST
a. What was the work of John the Baptist? Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17.
“In every stage of this earth’s history God has had His agencies to carry forward His work, which must be done in His appointed way. John the Baptist had a special work, for which he was born and to which he was appointed––the work of preparing the way of the Lord. . . . His wilderness ministry was a most striking, literal fulfillment of prophecy.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1115.
“In John the Baptist the Lord raised up for Himself a messenger to prepare the way of the Lord. He was to bear to the world an unflinching testimony in reproving and denouncing sin.”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 147.
“Our work of heralding the second coming of Christ is similar to that of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ at His first advent. We are to proclaim to the world the message, ‘The great day of the Lord is near.’ ‘Prepare to meet thy God.’ We are to do much more than we have yet done.”—Reflecting Christ, p. 201.
b. What was John’s message, and who came to hear him? Mark 1:3–5.
c. To whom did John direct the people? How was John’s work different from that of the coming Messiah? Verses 6–8.
“John informed his disciples that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. As his work was closing, he taught his disciples to look to Jesus, and follow Him as the Great Teacher. John’s life was sorrowful and self-denying. He heralded the first advent of Christ, but was not permitted to witness His miracles, and enjoy the power manifested by Him. When Jesus should establish Himself as a teacher, John knew that he himself must die. His voice was seldom heard, except in the wilderness. His life was lonely. He did not cling to his father’s family, to enjoy their society, but left them in order to fulfill his mission. Multitudes left the busy cities and villages and flocked to the wilderness to hear the words of the wonderful prophet. John laid the ax to the root of the tree. He reproved sin, fearless of consequences, and prepared the way for the Lamb of God.”—Early Writings, p. 154.
3. THE SAVIOUR IS BAPTIZED
a. For what reason did Jesus come to see John? Mark 1:9.
“When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized in Him a purity of character that he had never before perceived in any man. . . . Never had he come in contact with a human being from whom there breathed an influence so divine. All this was in harmony with what had been revealed to John regarding the Messiah. Yet he shrank from granting the request of Jesus. How could he, a sinner, baptize the Sinless One? And why should He who needed no repentance submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt to be washed away?
“As Jesus asked for baptism, John drew back, exclaiming, ‘I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?’ With firm yet gentle authority, Jesus answered, ‘Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.’ And John, yielding, led the Saviour down into the Jordan, and buried Him beneath the water.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 110, 111.
b. How did the Holy Spirit manifest Himself at Jesus’ baptism—and God the Father as well? Verse 10.
“The Lord had promised to give John a sign whereby he might know who was the Messiah, and now as Jesus went up out of the water, the promised sign was given; for he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God, like a dove of burnished gold, hovered over the head of Christ, and a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ . . .
“Because of sin the earth had been cut off from heaven, but with His human arm Christ encircles the fallen race, and with His divine arm He grasps the throne of the Infinite, and earth is brought into favor with heaven, and man into communion with his God. The prayer of Christ in behalf of lost humanity cleaved its way through every shadow that Satan had cast between man and God, and left a clear channel of communication to the very throne of glory. The gates were left ajar, heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God, in the form of a dove, encircled the head of Christ, and the voice of God was heard saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ ”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 5, p. 1078.
4. LED INTO THE WILDERNESS
a. Where did Jesus go immediately after His baptism? Mark 1:12. Why?
“Why was it that at the beginning of His public ministry Christ was led into the wilderness to be tempted? . . . He went, not in His own behalf, but in our behalf; to overcome for us. . . . He was to be tried and tested as a representative of the race. He was to meet the foe in personal encounter, to overthrow him who claimed to be the head of the kingdoms of the world. . . .
“Our Saviour withstood on every point the test of temptation, and in this way He has made it possible for man to overcome.”—That I May Know Him, p. 32.
“When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted, He was led by the Spirit of God. He did not invite temptation. He went to the wilderness to be alone, to contemplate His mission and work. By fasting and prayer He was to brace Himself for the bloodstained path He must travel. But Satan knew that the Saviour had gone into the wilderness, and he thought this the best time to approach Him.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 114.
b. As Jesus was in the wilderness, with what did He have to contend? How did God help Him? Verse 13.
“Unless there is a possibility of yielding, temptation is no temptation. Temptation is resisted when man is powerfully influenced to do a wrong action; and, knowing that he can do it, resists, by faith, with a firm hold upon divine power. This was the ordeal through which Christ passed.”—Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 132.
c. How does God promise to help us in our times of need? Psalms 91:11; 34:7.
“[God’s] angels are appointed to watch over us, and if we put ourselves under their guardianship, then in every time of danger they will be at our right hand. When unconsciously we are in danger of exerting a wrong influence, the angels will be by our side, prompting us to a better course, choosing words for us, and influencing our actions. Thus our influence may be a silent, unconscious, but mighty power in drawing others to Christ and the heavenly world.”—My Life Today, p. 302.
5. EXPANDING ON THE MESSAGE OF JOHN
a. After John had accomplished his mission, what message did Jesus begin to preach—and why? Mark 1:14, 15.
“The gospel message, as given by the Saviour Himself, was based on the prophecies. The ‘time’ which He declared to be fulfilled was the period made known by the angel Gabriel to Daniel. . . . ‘Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks’ Daniel 9:25, sixty-nine weeks, or four hundred and eighty-three years. The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, as completed by the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see Ezra 6:14; 7:1, 9, margin), went into effect in the autumn of B.C. 457. From this time four hundred and eighty-three years extend to the autumn of A.D. 27. According to the prophecy, this period was to reach to the Messiah, the Anointed One. In A.D. 27, Jesus at His baptism received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and soon afterward began His ministry. Then the message was proclaimed, ‘The time is fulfilled.’ ”—The Desire of Ages, p. 233.
“Christ Himself was the originator of the Jewish system, the very foundation of the costly temple, the antitype to whom all the sacrificial services pointed. The Jews had watched with apparent anxiety for the coming of Christ. The scribes, who were learned in the law and acquainted with the declarations of the prophets regarding His coming, knew from prophetic history that the time of looking and waiting for His advent to the world had expired.”—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, p. 35.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. When does God pardon us? How complete is this pardon?
2. What was the special work of John the Baptist? What is our work today?
3. What happened at Jesus’ baptism? Why was this significant?
4. How did Christ overcome for us during His experience in the wilderness? What does this mean?
5. What did Jesus mean when He said that the time was fulfilled? To what time was He referring?