Here is a free small group Bible study lesson on the book of Mark helping students understand who Jesus really is.
Bible: Mark 1:1, John 1:9-15, Mark 21-22, Mark 2:13-17, Mark 3:13-19
This one is a bit different than what we normally post online because it’s designed to be used in a small group setting, students dive deep into the Bible, and it’s meant to spark a good amount of conversation among students.
Enjoy the lesson!
–Ministry to Youth Team
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Note: All scripture references are from the New Living Translation, unless otherwise indicated.
What we call the book of Mark is one of the biographies of Jesus known as the gospels.
It was written around A.D. 55-65 by John Mark, a coworker of the Apostle Paul and a close partner of the Apostle Peter.
Mark’s book was the first of the four chronologically; appears second in our New Testament; and records more miracles than any of the other three.
Mark starts by telling us who he believes Jesus is and what this book is: “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)
After that, he tells about Jesus’ life and ministry so that you can decide who you believe Jesus is.
As we start this study on Jesus in the book of Mark, we have to keep in mind that the sections we are reading are part of a larger book.
Ideally, we’d sit down and read the whole book before even starting this series.
If you want to get the most out of this series, I’d like to see if you are up for that challenge.
Whether you want just to read it yourself or listen to an audio Bible like Streetlights, it will take about 90 minutes to read the whole thing – pretty short compared to most books you read now.
And if you want to read the context for this first lesson, you would read chapters 1-3 of Mark, which in most print Bibles is about three pages.
- Have you ever read or watched videos about someone so that you could learn more about them? What is one interesting thing you learned about that person?
- What questions do you have about Jesus as we begin this study?
- Each week, you’ll get the most out of this study if you read the main passages ahead of time. How can we help encourage and hold each other accountable for doing that? (Suggestions: YouVersion Bible reading plan on Mark or a simple checklist that students message to each other.)
Read John 1:9-15 – Jesus’ baptism and temptation
9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River.
10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove.
11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News.
15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Three big things happen in these short verses.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Mark doesn’t spend as much time as the other authors getting into details.
He totally skipped all of Jesus’ birth story. (I guess Christmas wasn’t a big deal at his house.)
He digs right into John’s baptism of Jesus.
For most of us, that’s a pretty powerful experience.
But when John raised Jesus out of the water to finish the baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove.
I’m not one hundred percent sure what that looked like, but it must have been pretty impressive.
Then they heard God speaking from heaven, saying, “You are my dearly loved Son, and You bring me great joy.”
Jesus was about thirty years old when He was baptized – much older than some of you who are here and have already been baptized.
God confirmed Jesus’ identity as His Son and told Him He was loved – before His ministry even began!
Then Jesus went from one extreme to another.
He went out into the wilderness and was tempted, not just by some random demons, but by Satan himself.
We know from other authors that Jesus resisted the temptations, partly because of how well He knew and understood scripture.
Mark doesn’t get into that. He’s a man of few words.
Mark points out that when John’s ministry hit pause because of his arrest, Jesus picked up and started preaching.
He told people, “The Kingdom of God is near!”
That’s quite an opening to a book!
Remember, Mark is now sharing words and experiences from Jesus’ life and ministry to help us understand and form our belief in the identity of Jesus.
- Have you ever stopped to read these verses slowly and imagined what that would have looked and sounded like, to be there for Jesus’ baptism? What sights and sounds come to mind?
- We know words from people we love and respect profoundly shape us. How do you think God’s words at Jesus’ baptism affected Jesus?
- How do you think they affected those around Him – like John?
- Sometimes in life, we question God when we go through hard times. Jesus faced a time of powerful temptation from Satan immediately after His baptism. How could God’s words about Jesus’ identity have helped him during his temptation? If you have read other Bible passages about Jesus resisting temptation, what role did scripture play in this?
- Although you probably have not heard God speak to you audibly from heaven when you were outside with friends, how have the words of people you love and/or look up to shaped how you face challenges in life?
Read Mark 1:21-22 – Jesus taught with authority.
21 Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach.
22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
The synagogue was a place where Jews gathered to worship and teach the scripture when they were not in Jerusalem at the temple for these activities.
It was common practice to allow a traveling teacher to be the guest speaker, especially on the Sabbath – a day of worship.
However, when Jesus taught, there was something different and unique about His teaching.
There are a variety of opinions as to why this is.
The best research seems to point out that a typical scribe or rabbi would often quote either Moses or another rabbi’s interpretation to give authority to their own words and teaching.
From what we see throughout the four biographies of Jesus, that was not His style.
He simply taught the scripture as if His own authority was enough to support the new or different interpretations.
This would explain why everyone was so amazed.
And whether people understood or agreed, it helped point towards His real identity as much more than a carpenter’s son or a random traveling teacher.
- Today, social media platforms, especially long-form ones like YouTube, allow anyone to teach whatever they like whenever they like. What kinds of teaching – good or bad – have you found on social media?
- As a child, you may have believed or thought certain things because your parents believed or thought those things. But now you are forming your own beliefs and thoughts. What’s the difference between someone who simply repeats what their parents believe and someone who can explain why they believe what they believe – whether or not it agrees with their parents?
- If you read what Paul wrote in Philippians 2, you’ll see that when God became human, He gave up all His powers. For Jesus, to know and understand scripture was not a supernatural act but the act of an obedient Jewish boy who grew up studying scripture until He had a deep understanding of it. Today, what would be the difference between a student who simply knows about the Bible and one who actually understands it well?
- What would be some differences in the habits and priorities of the two people?
- Our goal in explaining the scriptures to a friend or teaching/preaching to a group should never be to impress them. It should be to help them know and follow Jesus. But whether you were preparing to talk to a friend or record a teaching video for social media that thousands of people would watch, what would show that you are a genuine student of the Bible and teach with God’s authority? (vs. someone trying to show off or just go viral?)
Read Mark 2:13-17 – Jesus hangs out with Levi and disreputable sinners.
13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him.
14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)
16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Levi may sound like a strange name to you.
Mark is describing the same man that the other writers describe as Matthew.
Levi was his Jewish name, and Matthew was his Aramaic name.
But let’s get to the point of the story.
It is shocking to read how quickly Levi got up and followed Jesus.
However, we need to understand that the Sea of Galilee was like a headquarters for Jesus.
Levi has most likely heard Jesus teach several times.
And from the book of Matthew, we know that he had an understanding of scripture that seems like it could have only come from personal study.
This is special because, as a tax collector, he would have been seen as a traitor to his own Jewish people by collecting money from them to give to the oppressive Roman government.
At best, he most likely would have been ignored; at worst, he would have been forced away from all aspects of Jewish life.
So consider all that when you see him make the radical decision to go and follow Jesus.
Levi invited Jesus and His disciples – most likely just Simon, Andrew, James, and John at this point – to his house for a party.
And when you have a party, you invite your friends.
If you are seen as a traitor to your own people, you probably are friends with people others look down on.
That is confirmed when Mark describes the other party guests as “tax collectors and disreputable sinners.”
It is interesting to note that Mark, who is usually a man of few words, includes a parenthetical note here, saying: “(There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)”
The teachers of religious law see this and question who Jesus is choosing to be at a party with, knowing how this will affect His reputation and social status.
Jesus responds by pointing out the value He sees in these people.
- What types of students in your school or community are often isolated, hanging out by themselves or with a group of other “strange” people?
- Levi was probably the most unlikely person to become a follower of Jesus. Yet, he becomes not only a follower but a close apostle and author of one of the four biographies of Jesus. When you look around, consider your peers and even adults – who might be the most unlikely people to follow Jesus? [Tell your students this isn’t a time for gossiping, so they shouldn’t share names/details.]
- If you think of someone specific by name, how can you remind yourself right now to pray for them and maybe bring them to church? [Let students stop and set reminders for themselves.]
- Jesus was willing to hang out with people who could hurt His reputation because He saw everyone created in God’s image and worth saving. In a moment of honesty and transparency, who would it be hard for you to hang out with and not treat as projects but genuinely get to know as friends?
- When you process all that we have read, learned, and discussed about Levi, what does this whole encounter tell you about Jesus’ identity?
- What questions does it raise for you about His identity?
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