Small Group Leader Study Guide
Date: February 24, 2019
Series: Son of God, Servant of Man: Gospel of Mark
Bible Text: Mark 1:14-20
This Week’s Printables:
With this week’s lesson, we see the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which lasted approximately three years. His ministry began with a clear proclamation of the gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The gospel is the beginning of discipleship. We cannot be disciples of Jesus apart from the saving knowledge and acceptance of the gospel. Spiritual birth comes before discipleship.
This is an important distinction. As we will see in this week’s lesson much of Jesus’ teaching was focused on his disciples. For the lost sheep among us, there is only one teaching that matters to them: “repent and believe in the gospel.” Nothing else matter. Following Jesus’ teaching apart from the gospel leads to the way of the Pharisee. You can be moral and you can be a good person, but you cannot be a disciple apart from the gospel. Salvation is step one.
We will also look this week at what the Bible means when it identifies “the kingdom of God.” What is the kingdom of God and how does one become a citizen of the kingdom?
Finally, in our book study, we will see the life of Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, a quiet, behind-the-scenes man who whose quiet testimony and witness brought many individuals to Christ, include his more famous brother.
Memory Verse for This Week
Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Core Practice: Simplicity
Simplicity (Matthew 6:33): I seek to live a simple life focused on God and his priorities for my life.
Take Home Truth
Biblical discipleship (i.e., following Jesus) is not an information pursuit, but a multiplication effort.
As you think of one of your favorite bosses, coaches or teachers, what was it about them that made it easy to follow their advice or example?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
The words after John was arrested indicate an interval between vv. 13 and 14, possibly as long as a year if this parallels John 4:3, 43. Mark did not include Jesus’s early Judean ministry (John 3:22–36). Further details about John’s arrest and execution appear in Mark 6:17–29.
Mark included two accounts of Jesus calling fishermen, two pairs of brothers, to become his disciples. These four formed the core of the group (v. 29; 3:16–18; 13:3; see notes at 5:37; 9:2; 14:33). Mark emphasized Jesus’s authority to call people to leave all and follow him. According to Lk 5:7–10, the two pairs of brothers were partners in the fishing business. [Ross H. McLaren, “Mark,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1559.]
Read Mark 1:14-20.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee
Jesus spent most of his life and ministry in the region of Galilee, a mountainous area in northern Palestine. Jesus grew up in the hill town of Nazareth, about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south of the Gentile administrative center of Sepphoris. Soon after he began his public ministry, Jesus relocated to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. By Jesus’ time, a thriving fishing industry had developed around the Sea of Galilee, and several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. [Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1894.]
In Mark 1:15, Jesus declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” As a group, discuss this declaration and come to a clear understanding of what is meant by “the kingdom of God.”
One of the best biblical definitions of the kingdom of God (referred to as the kingdom of Heaven in Matthew) comes from Matthew 13:24-46. To start your discussion, you can read this passage of Scripture and make notes about how Jesus describes the kingdom of God/heaven.
NOTE: We taught a complete series on the Kingdom Parables from Matthew 13 during the summer of 2013. You will find the teaching series here and a good overview of the chapter here with the first sermon in the series, “Why Parables?”.
For commentary on the kingdom of God/Heaven, John MacArthur provides a good, succinct understanding from his Commentary on Mark:
This was God’s great epochal moment. The promises of the Old Testament regarding Messiah and His kingdom of salvation were about to be realized. Christ had come not only to conquer Satan but to destroy sin itself, and its consequences for His people. The new King had come in order to initiate His kingdom. The message was unmistakable: the kingdom of God is at hand. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Because I am the King, wherever I am My kingdom is present.”
The kingdom that Jesus proclaimed ought to be understood in three dimensions: as a spiritual kingdom, a millennial kingdom, and an eternal kingdom. Though it is invisible and spiritual in the present, it will one day be manifest as a physical, earthly kingdom. In His first coming, the King preached the good news of salvation. Consequently, He established His spiritual kingdom in the hearts of all who believe (Luke 17:21). Christ’s kingdom is being advanced even now, as sinners come to saving faith in Him and are transferred out of the domain of darkness, and into the realm ruled by the Son of God (Col. 1:13). To follow Jesus Christ is to seek the expression and honor of His kingdom and His righteousness. Such is the spiritual and invisible sense of the kingdom.
At His second coming, the King will establish His kingdom in a visible and temporal way here on the earth. According to Revelation 20:1–6, that kingdom will last for a thousand years. During that time, all of the millennial promises of the Old Testament will be literally fulfilled. Jesus Christ will reign as the King in Jerusalem, and the entire world will be under His rule. After the millennial kingdom, God will inaugurate the final eternal kingdom by creating a new heaven and a new earth, where the triune God will reign forever and ever (Rev. 22:1–5).
In the present, the kingdom consists of all who embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The King rules over and is resident in the hearts of those who belong to Him. His kingdom advances one soul at a time. It will continue until He returns to establish His earthly reign followed by His eternal reign.
How does a subject of Satan escape that tyrant and enter Christ’s kingdom? Jesus’ answer is simple and straightforward: repent and believe in the gospel. The word repent (metanoeō) means to turn to the opposite way. Having turned from their sin and unbelief, sinners must believe in the gospel—meaning they turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in Him and His finished work of redemption from sin and victory over death. As Paul explained in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That kind of belief is not a nebulous faith but a wholehearted embrace of the person and work of Jesus Christ. [John MacArthur, Mark 1–8, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015), 48–49.]
How would you describe a citizen of the kingdom of God/heaven?
It is important to distinguish the difference between those who hear Jesus’ call for repentance and believe in the gospel and those who do not. Many of the teachings of Jesus found in the gospels are directed at and intended for his disciples, those who have heeded the call to salvation, repented of their sins and believed in the gospel. These are the citizens of the kingdom.
Those who have not heeded the call to repentance are often referred as “the lost” (Luke 15:3-7), those who are “children of the Devil” (1 John 3:10), or “children of the world” (Luke 16:8).
Disciple = citizen of the kingdom of God/heaven
Unsaved sinner = the lost or children of the Devil
We sometimes think of the four disciples mentioned in this week’s text as simple fishermen. Yet, if we read the text, we understand that they were men running a fishing business, not simply lone rangers. How do we know this? How does this change your perspective of the disciples?
The disciples of Jesus were successful, but sacrificial and considerate men. Zebedee and his sons, James and John, were successful businessmen. Note: the sons left their father with “hired servants.” Perhaps this is the reason John was able to enter the palace of the High Priest when Jesus was being tried for treason (John 18:15f). He probably provided fish for the palace.
Note two significant facts about what is said.
- James and John, despite their success as fellow laborers with their father, sacrificed their part of the business. They were either present owners or would be future owners by inheritance. They gave it all up to follow Jesus. This, too, was a rare quality found in few persons.
- James and John were considerate of their father. They did not leave him alone; they would have never done that! They cared for him; they left him with “hired servants.”
Was this encounter with Jesus the first time Simon and Andrew met Jesus?
This was not Simon and Andrew’s first encounter with Jesus. John 1:35-42 describes their first encounter. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. After meeting the Messiah, Andrew went and told his brother, Simon.
This is important because it shows a process. Remember, Mark is succinct. He doesn’t go into a lot of detail when describing many events in Jesus’ ministry. This is a good example. He simply records the “follow me,” statement of Jesus and tells us that these four disciples followed Jesus.
As you harmonize the gospels, you get a fuller picture of the process of becoming a disciple. John describes their first encounter with Jesus in which they made the decision to “follow Jesus” in salvation. Mark records the call of these disciples to ministry.
Discipleship Principle: Many times following Jesus both in salvation and in the call to ministry is a process, meaning, it takes consistent sowing and watering (witnessing & sharing the gospel) with a person before they ultimately believe. Don’t become discouraged if you have witnessed to someone for a long time. Pray that God will open their eyes to see the truth of the gospel and that they will surrender to follow Jesus.
Book Study: Twelve Ordinary Men
This portion of our group lesson is based on Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur. This week’s discussion is based on Chapter 3: Andrew–the Apostle of Small Things.
What do we know about Andrew?
- Of the group of four disciples closest to Jesus (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, & John), we know the least about Andrew.
- His name means “manly.”
- He is Simon Peter’s younger brother.
- He led his older brother, Simon Peter, to Christ.
- He was a fisherman by trade.
- He was born in Bethsaida and lived in Capernaum.
- He was a “behind the scenes” type of person and is often in the shadow of his more famous older brother.
How and when did Andrew meet Jesus? What indication do we have that Andrew was a devout Jew before following Jesus?
There are many indications in the Gospel of John that Andrew was perhaps one of the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus. As we see in John 1, Andrew was already a follower of John the Baptist when he first met Jesus. John MacArthur describes this encounter:
John’s Gospel describes Andrew’s first meeting with Jesus. It took place in the wilderness, where John the Baptist was preaching repentance and baptizing converts. The apostle John records the incident as an eyewitness, because he and Andrew were there together as disciples of John the Baptist. (The apostle John doesn’t identify himself by name. He keeps himself anonymous in his Gospel right up to the very end. But the way he relates the details of this encounter, right down to giving us the time of day, suggests that he had firsthand knowledge of this incident. He was obviously the other disciple mentioned in the account.)
Andrew’s personal encounter with Jesus took place the day after Jesus’ baptism (vv. 29–34). Andrew and John were standing next to the Baptist when Jesus walked by and John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35–36). They immediately left John’s side and began to follow Jesus (v. 37). Don’t imagine that they were being fickle or untrue to their mentor. Quite the opposite. John the Baptist had already expressly denied that he was the Messiah: “When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’ ” (vv. 19–20). When people pressed John for an explanation of who he was, he said, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (v. 23).
So John had already said in the most plain and forthright terms that he was only the forerunner of the Messiah. He had come to prepare the way and to point people in the right direction. In fact, the very heart of John the Baptist’s message was preparation for the Messiah, who was coming speedily. Andrew and John would therefore have been caught up in the thrill of messianic expectation, waiting only for the right Person to be identified. That is why as soon as they heard John the Baptist identify Christ as the Lamb of God, the two disciples instantly, eagerly left John to follow Christ. They did the right thing. The Baptist himself surely would have approved of their choice.
The biblical account continues: “Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day” (vv. 38–39).
It was about four o’ clock in the afternoon (“the tenth hour,” according to verse 39) when they met Christ. They followed Him to the place where He was staying and spent the remainder of that day with Him. Since this was near John the Baptist in the wilderness, it was probably a rented house or possibly just a room in a rustic inn. But these two disciples were privileged to spend the afternoon and evening in private fellowship with Jesus, and they left convinced that they had found the true Messiah. They met, became acquainted, and began to be taught by Jesus that very day. Thus Andrew and John became Jesus’ first disciples. [John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You (Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group, 2002), 64–66.]
Why does the church need both Simon Peters (strong, dominant leaders) and Andrews (behind-the-scenes, quiet influencers)?
First, and this is my personal opinion, it is because if the church was filled with strong, Type A leaders, they would probably all kill each other!
Seriously, we know that an effective team relies on a variety of people filling different roles to effectively work together. We see this displayed in the relationship between Simon Peter and Andrew.
As we know already, Peter tended to be impetuous, to rush ahead foolishly, and to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. He was often brash, clumsy, hasty, and impulsive. James and John were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” because of their reckless tendencies. They were also evidently the ones who provoked many of the arguments about who was the greatest. But there’s never a hint of that with Andrew. Whenever he speaks—which is rare in Scripture—he always says the right thing, not the wrong thing. Whenever he acts apart from the other disciples, he does what is right. Scripture never attaches any dishonor to Andrew’s actions when it mentions him by name.
There were certainly times when, following Peter’s lead, or acting in concert with all the disciples, Andrew made the same mistakes they made. But whenever his name is expressly mentioned—whenever he rises above the others and acts or speaks as an individual—Scripture commends him for what he does. He was an effective leader even though he never took the spotlight.
Andrew and Peter, though brothers, had totally different leadership styles. But just as Peter was perfectly suited for his calling, Andrew was perfectly suited for his. In fact, Andrew may be a better model for most church leaders than Peter, because most who enter the ministry will labor in relative obscurity, like Andrew, as opposed to being renowned and prominent, like Peter. [MacArthur, 63–64].
What qualities did Andrew posses that made him a valuable contribution to the Twelve Disciples?
MacArthur highlights three components of Andrew that made him a valuable team player within the circle of twelve:
- He saw the value of individual people. When it came to dealing with people, for example, Andrew fully appreciated the value of a single soul. He was known for bringing individuals, not crowds, to Jesus. Almost every time we see him in the Gospel accounts, he is bringing someone to Jesus.
- He saw the value of insignificant gifts. Some people see the big picture more clearly just because they appreciate the value of small things. Andrew fits that category. This comes through clearly in John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. When Jesus told his disciples to feed the large multitude of people who had gathered, it must have seemed an impossible task. Yet, Andrew spoke up. “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:9). Of course, even Andrew knew that five barley loaves and two small fish would not be enough to feed five thousand people, but (in his typical fashion) he brought the boy to Jesus anyway. Jesus had commanded the disciples to feed the people, and Andrew knew He would not issue such a command without making it possible for them to obey. So Andrew did the best he could. He identified the one food source available, and he made sure Jesus knew about it. Something in him seemed to understand that no gift is insignificant in the hands of Jesus.
- He saw the value of inconspicuous service. Some people won’t play in the band unless they can hit the big drum. James and John had that tendency. So did Peter. But not Andrew. He is never named as a participant in the big debates. He was more concerned about bringing people to Jesus than about who got the credit or who was in charge. He had little craving for honor. We never hear him say anything unless it related to bringing someone to Jesus. Andrew is the very picture of all those who labor quietly in humble places, “not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bond-servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6). He was not an impressive pillar like Peter, James, and John. He was a humbler stone. He was one of those rare people who is willing to take second place and to be in the place of support. He did not mind being hidden as long as the work was being done.
MacArthur notes what tradition has to say about Andrew’s death. How did he supposedly die? What can you glean from this?
As far as we know, Andrew never preached to multitudes or founded any churches. He never wrote an epistle. He isn’t mentioned in the book of Acts or any of the epistles. Andrew is more a silhouette than a portrait on the pages of Scripture.
In fact, the Bible does not record what happened to Andrew after Pentecost. Whatever role he played in early church history, he remained behind the scenes. Tradition says he took the gospel north. Eusebius, the ancient church historian, says Andrew went as far as Scythia. (That’s why Andrew is the patron saint of Russia. He is also the patron saint of Scotland.) He was ultimately crucified in Achaia, which is in southern Greece, near Athens. One account says he led the wife of a provincial Roman governor to Christ, and that infuriated her husband. He demanded that his wife recant her devotion to Jesus Christ and she refused. So the governor had Andrew crucified.
By the governor’s orders, those who crucified him lashed him to his cross instead of nailing him, in order to prolong his sufferings. (Tradition says it was a saltire, or an X-shaped cross.) By most accounts, he hung on the cross for two days, exhorting passersby to turn to Christ for salvation. After a lifetime of ministry in the shadow of his more famous brother and in the service of His Lord, he met a similar fate as theirs, remaining faithful and still endeavoring to bring people to Christ, right to the end.
Was he slighted? No. He was privileged. He was the first to hear that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He was the first to follow Christ. He was part of the inner circle, given intimate access to Christ. His name will be inscribed, along with the names of the other apostles, on the foundations of the eternal city—the New Jerusalem. Best of all, he had a whole lifetime of privilege, doing what he loved best: introducing individuals to the Lord.
Thank God for people like Andrew. They’re the quiet individuals, laboring faithfully but inconspicuously, giving insignificant, sacrificial gifts, who accomplish the most for the Lord. They don’t receive much recognition, but they don’t seek it. They only want to hear the Lord say, “Well done.”
And Andrew’s legacy is the example he left to show us that in effective ministry it’s often the little things that count—the individual people, the insignificant gifts, and the inconspicuous service. God delights to use such things, because He has “chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27–29) [MacArthur, 74–75].
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.
- WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
- PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
- WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
- Take Action: Are you involved in the process of making disciples? It isn’t difficult. It is simply helping one other person who is a little behind you in their spiritual walk to persevere in their walk with Jesus. Begin praying this week, “Jesus, show me who you would have me disciple.” Watch and see who the Lord shows you.
- Take Courage: Have you witnessed and shared the gospel with someone for years? Take courage, many times is does indeed take years before the seed of the gospel penetrates a hardened heart. Continue to pray for the salvation of your friend or loved one. Meditate in prayer this week over the assurance found in Isaiah 55:44–“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
This week’s Core Practice: Simplicity (Matthew 6:33): I seek to live a simple life focused on God and his priorities for my life.
Take Home Truth is “Biblical discipleship (i.e., following Jesus) is not an information pursuit, but a multiplication effort.”
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
The Work of the Servant
14] Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
…after John was put in prison… Here Mark passes over a full year of Jesus’s ministry. Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist in Machaerus Prison; it was then that Jesus began His Galilean ministry. He announced His mandate from Isaiah 61:1, 2 at the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4).
15] and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The First Disciples are Called
16] Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
17] And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Jesus said unto them… It was the Lord Jesus who took the initiative (Jn 15:16) This was not their initial call to faith and salvation; it was an call to discipleship. [Have you accepted the call to discipleship?]
…fishers of men. Jesus knew much more than He promised. He told these fishermen, His new disciples, that they would become fishers of people and left it at that. But He knew what that would include. There would be deprivation, pain, and exhaustion. But there would also be exhilaration and celebration. There would be occasions when the scene would be so dark they wouldn’t know what to do. There would be times of confusion. They would come under attack. They would be misunderstood and misrepresented and persecuted for walking with Christ. Most of them would become martyrs. But Jesus doesn’t tell them all that now. All He says is, “I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17).
When your focus in life is turned away from mundane nets and boats and water and God calls you toward people instead, you are in for one surprise after another. Your world will be turned upside down as you become a fisher of people. The Swindoll Study Bible NLT (Kindle Locations 117766-117775). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
18] And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
19] And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20]. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
They were not poor: they had servants who remained with their father. Apparently, as many as seven of our Lord’s disciples were fishermen (Jn 21:1-3).