Mark’s gospel devotional

Quick off the Mark: Thinking, praying, and living Mark’s Gospel over thirty quick sessions.

Bible Discipleship Evangelism
An image of Matt Britton Matt Britton
An image of Matt Britton

Journey through Mark’s Gospel with accompanying devotional content.  Created for those on estates hungry for scripture, these thirty easy-to-follow bible notes help break down the gospel of Mark into manageable chunks of reading.

Whether you’re new to the revolutionary power of Jesus’s words and works, or a seasoned soldier, these bitesize ideas invite you once again to be amazed at the life of God’s son. With helpful thoughts, prayer suggestions, and simple ways to apply the Gospel to your everyday living, this series of devotions helps to refresh, refocus, and renew faith. 

Hello
You might be wondering, what’s the deal with reading your Bible anyway – after all, it’s just an old book full of ancient stories and outdated ideas, right? Well not only is it the most famous book on the planet, one with the power to change the world, but it could also change your life too!  Feeling sceptical? Put it to the test. For the next 30 days, let Mark’s Gospel grab your heart and bring you face-to-face with the story of Jesus. We’ll begin with the first half of Chapter 1. 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 1:1-15. 

Think
John the Baptist opens Mark’s Gospel by shining a light in your eyes and pouring water over your face. Wake up, he screams, get ready for the story of your life! You’ve been living your life upside down and now here’s someone to put you back on your feet: Jesus. The invisible God is being made visible. It all begins with the heavens saying, ‘I love you.’ And the next sixteen chapters are going to show us how God loves us. But we’ll get to that.

Pray
In Mark 1:11, God says to Jesus: ‘You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.’ This is a picture of how God feels about you too. Ask God to help you understand how much he loves you.  

Live It
Inspired by God’s love for you, try showing someone you care for them today. It could be as simple as messaging someone with a word of appreciation. Go on – show a bit of love!  

Repeat
Well, that’s it for Day 1! Easy enough, wasn’t it? Tomorrow we’ll be exploring Jesus in the desert as well as the calling of the first disciples. See you then!  

Say what?
Today’s story featured this idea of ‘Baptism.’ But what does Baptism mean? Basically, it’s plunging people into water. John the Baptist did his plunging in the river Jordan, as a way of cleaning people up, getting them spick and span, ready for Jesus’ arrival. Jesus was baptised as a sign he was ready to start his mission. Christians today are baptised as a way of celebrating being cleaned of their sins and signing up for Jesus’s mission too! 

Hello
For 30 days we’re unravelling Mark’s Gospel together. It’s one of the best places to start exploring the Bible because it gets straight into the life of the one the whole Bible is all about: Jesus. Yesterday we left John the Baptist announcing Jesus’ arrival in the desert. Today’s episode starts with John the Baptist locked in prison (this story moves faster than a Marvel franchise!) as Jesus moves centre-stage with his own brand of good news. Crack open your Bible and…  

Read
Read Mark 1:16-20.  

Think
At what point does your childhood dream get a dig in the ribs from harsh reality? Once upon a time you were convinced, you’d be rich and famous and now here you are scraping by on a zero-hour contract. Who or what burst your bubble? Did an unpaid bill force you to settle for a job you didn’t want? Maybe a missed opportunity or an unexpected illness threw you off track. Or maybe somebody told you to have a backup plan. Maybe you’re living somebody else’s idea for your life. This was true of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. In those days people had no choice but to follow into the family business. If your folks fished the waters, you fished the waters. Simon and his brother fished because their father fished, James and John prepared fishing nets because Zebedee, their dad, taught them how, his dad likely taught him, and so on and so on. Except Jesus was about to interrupt the cycle. He had a new sort of family business in mind: to catch people rather than fish. The old family business is being left behind as God’s business is taking over. And the same is true for you today. God can interrupt generational cycles and offer you something new. All it takes is to put down what you were doing and follow Jesus’s plans for your life.  

Pray
Jeremiah 29:11 says this: ‘I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.’ Ask God for a glimpse of the amazing adventures he has for your life.   

Live It
To follow Jesus, the disciples had to cut ties with their family business. Think if there are any unhelpful things you do which might need cutting out to follow Jesus.   

Repeat
Start that adventure tomorrow by checking in with us for Day 3 when we’ll be looking at Jesus’ power over sickness and health.  

Say What?
What does disciple mean? Jesus had 12 close friends in his inner circle that he lived with and taught every day for three years. A disciple is like a pupil or apprentice – a person who studies his teacher and follows his example. If you’re serious about following Jesus, you too will become an apprentice or a disciple. The more you stick with Jesus, the more you’ll start to look like him. No, not sandals and beards- but kinder, more patient, loving, and a hunger to bring out the best in those around you. It might mean God will knock a few sharp edges off you, but in the long run you’ll become more yourself than you ever were.  

Hello
It’s Day 3! Mark’s Gospel moves fast and there’s a lot to take in. We’ve just met Jesus’ first friends and now we are whisked away from town to town, where Jesus shows sickness and disease who’s boss. Let’s dig in… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 1:21-45. 

Think 
How do you get your content liked, retweeted, republished, commented on, and blogged about? Jesus went ‘viral’ without so much as a click on the internet! Mark says he did it by his powerful words and healings. So, whether it was shrieking demons, women with fevers, or people with skin diseases, Jesus became the latest big thing by ripping up the dark and pouring in the light. The crowds loved it. But that was two thousand years ago, and the miracles have dried up by now, right? Wrong! Jesus is still in the business of cartwheeling sickness into health. He chooses to do it through our prayers nowadays. 
 
Pray 
Instead of reaching for the paracetamol bottle, next time you get a thumping head, ask God to miraculously heal it!  
 
Live It 
Feeling dubious about today’s reading? Why not ask around church to see if anyone has a miraculous healing story of their own.
 
Repeat 
Just before we sign off until tomorrow, here’s an interesting aside: Jesus tells the man healed from leprosy not to mention a word to anyone (Mark 1:44). Are there times when we, today, should keep quiet about Jesus too? In some nations where faith costs the most, going public can lead to persecution and torture. It can also put underground churches in danger. Persecuted believers must be extra careful in how they choose to express their faith. It isn’t about being a coward; it’s about being wise. Here in the UK though, although you may become the butt of jokes, or hold to impossible standards, the cost isn’t nearly as steep. Making a noise about Jesus comes highly recommended. In fact, why not tell somebody today why you’ve become a Christian. 

Say What?
What does miracle mean? A miracle is a special act of God where his presence is shown by an amazing sign or display of power. Miracles tend to play outside our human understanding of how the world works. They are signs of how life will be when all is restored to how God wants it. 

 

Hello
Let’s face it – you could be doing other things right now… scrolling your phone, washing your hair, de-fleaing the cat. Sometimes we’re just too busy to fit this God-stuff in, right? When you choose to start your day with God, you’ll be surprised how things fall into place. Make Bible-reading and prayer top of your to-do list, and the rest will follow, or to put it in Jesus’ words, ‘Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need’ (Matthew 6:33). So, stick with this for the next three weeks and get into a rhythm of regular Bible time. Today we’re getting stuck in with a bit of improvisational DIY. Let’s start… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 2:1-17. 

Think
Word gets round that Jesus is home, and lines of autograph hunters and miracle seekers are squashed against his door. One bright spark jumps the queue by cutting a hole in the roof and lowering himself on a stretcher. Rather than charge him a bill for damage to household contents, Jesus applauds his faith. (Lesson learned: Don’t stay on the edge of the crowd; dig through God’s roof and get in his presence.) The paralysed man not only leaves the room breakdancing, but with his sins forgiven too. But surely only God can forgive sins? No wonder shock waves ran through the house – Jesus is claiming to be on par with God! Either he’s lying, deluded or he is who he says he is. God. Which is it? It’s the million-dollar question that Mark helps us answer with the rest of his Gospel. 

Pray
Today’s story tells us Jesus can forgive our sins, or in other words, wipe our slate clean. Own up to your mistakes before God and ask for a clean slate.  

Live It
Who do you say Jesus is: a religious man, a good teacher, a lunatic, or God? Why? 

Repeat
Have you noticed how people seem to drop things around Jesus? The fishermen dropped their nets, the paralysed man dropped his mat, and Levi the tax collector dropped his job – all to follow Jesus. Don’t be surprised if you also start dropping bad habits or attitudes after spending time with Jesus. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at Jesus dropping himself right in it. Find out why on Day 5…  

Say What?
What does sin mean? Some think of ‘sin’ as an old-fashioned word to describe what we really want to do but aren’t allowed. It’s much more than this. Sin is the opposite of God’s goodness. It’s what separates us from him. The consequences of sin eventually lead to death and destruction. God takes it so seriously he sent his Son to pay the price for it. 

Hello
Imagine going for a cheeky Nando’s and all your mates just sit and stare without tasting so much as a bite. Talk about killing a party atmosphere! The Pharisees start today’s reading by trying to sledgehammer Jesus’ atmos. They expect his disciples to go around with sour faces and rumbling tummies. (Note to self: don’t invite a Pharisee to your birthday bash!) Pass the chicken and dig into Day 5 of Mark’s Gospel… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 2:18-28.  

Think
Any celeb will tell you they can’t even make a Pot Noodle without some third-rate journalist snooping around their kettle. Clickbait depends on celebrities’ private lives to get their algorithms soaring. By Mark 2:23, Jesus has become Israel’s latest poster boy, and the Pharisees are poking around his private life to see if any mud will stick. The Pharisees were seen as holy men who knew the rulebook inside out, whereas Jesus had come to rewrite the rulebook. Why? Because all these rules and laws had made it impossible for people to connect to God. And Jesus was all about bringing people back to God. He still is today. Think about all the ways we can still make it difficult for people to relate to God. 

Pray
What stops you from connecting to God? Ask Jesus to help you.  

Live It
Later in the Bible, Galatians 5:1 tells us, “Christ has set us free! This means we are really free. Now hold onto your freedom and don’t ever become slaves of the Law again.” In other words, be careful not to become enslaved to the world of ‘do and do not.’ If you’re wrapped up in rules and still no closer to looking like Jesus, something has gone amiss. Likewise, don’t be a party pooper telling people what they can and can’t do (like the Pharisees). Instead live out God’s great gift of life with a spring in your step. Live like you’re free indeed! 

Repeat
Well, today was an important day because we met the Pharisees. These set of holy rollers oppose Jesus in more stories to come in Mark’s Gospel. They even have a hand in the events leading to Jesus’ death, which shows us that following God sometimes comes with opposition. In tomorrow’s reading the Pharisees begin to plot Jesus’ downfall. Not to be missed… see you then!   

Say What?
Who are the Pharisees? The Pharisees were a strong group of devout religious Jews. Their aim was to see the people of God made holy. The way they went about this was by observing strict rules and commandments. This made it difficult for your average person to feel connected to God. They saw Jesus as a threat to all they stood for. Eventually they played a big part in Jesus’ death. 

Hello
We’re near the end of our first week with Mark’s Gospel and so it’s apt today’s reading is about rest. Hard to imagine now, but only a couple of decades ago Sundays were a very quiet affair. No shops open, no Premier League football, no real sign of work going on anywhere. Our story today shares a similar background. The Sabbath two thousand years ago had become grim – you were barely allowed to breathe, never mind work. Jesus knew the heart of this special rest day was to enjoy God not to get tied up in knots. So, when he appears to drive a ten-tonne truck through the day’s customs, trouble is inevitable… 
 
Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 3:1-12.

Think 
Psycho alert! Why do the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus just because he does something good on the Sabbath? The day of rest was supposed to mark out the Jewish people as God’s specially selected people. Because God thinks of people more than just slaves or robots, he created us to live in a rhythm of work and rest. Things had got so out of hand by Jesus’ day that it felt harder work just to rest on the Sabbath day! Jesus uses a blatant example to expose what had gone wrong. Is it better to make people alive or only kill them, he asks? The Pharisees, however, have got so wrapped up in keeping the rules again they’d rather no work done on the Sabbath, even if that meant somebody staying ill consequently. Jesus knows when the rules aren’t working and so he heals the man. The Pharisees see this as a threat and begin to plot Jesus’ downfall. 
 
Pray 
When your phone is overworked you need to plug it into the mains to charge it. Feeling a bit dead on your feet? Overworked? Plug into God for an hour and ask him to charge you up. 
 
Live It 
Nowadays we live at the opposite of Jesus’ dilemma… Sundays are jam-packed, it’s difficult to stop and make time to enjoy God. So, our question today is: how can we live our lives with a balanced rhythm of work and rest? What can we drop from our busy schedules to leave time for God?  
 
Repeat 
It’s only Chapter 3 and already Mark is telling us what leads to Jesus’ death: clashes with the authorities. The Pharisees, who have no real power themselves, make friends with their natural enemies, the very influential Herodians. And so, the clock is ticking for Jesus. Don’t miss a second, tune in tomorrow for the calling of the disciples!  
 
Say What? 
What is the Sabbath? In the Old Testament, God declared every seventh day a rest day. This was supposed to be a time to enjoy God, enjoy family and friends whilst recharging the batteries. By Jesus’ time people had lost the plot and were too scared to even move on the Sabbath. Christians today enjoy a rest day also. 

Hello
Congratulations on reaching the end of your first week of Mark’s Gospel (your certificate is in the post). Day 7 starts with a bit of team building. Jesus gives special status to twelve of his followers who will be known as ‘apostles’. He chooses twelve so he can play four-four-two formation with one apostle spare to warm the bench, right? Er… no. Twelve was a significant number in Bible times, as there had been twelve tribes in Israel (for more info, flip back to Genesis 35 in your Bible.) By choosing twelve Jesus was saying, ‘I am building a new Israel.’ Or ‘I am rebuilding God’s people in a new way.’ And if that wasn’t fighting talk enough, he marches his men up a mountain, far from prying eyes, to shape his misfits into a world changing team… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 3:13-35.

Think
Jesus assembles his team and then seems to take a knock to the head. Why does he forget who his mum and brothers are? Well, this is more than a case of amnesia. It is Jesus using powerful language to describe how important God’s mission is to him – more so than his own family, in fact. Now, this isn’t a green light to disown your nearest and dearest, no, it’s about putting God number one in your life. First over everything – even over the people and things that matter most to you. It’s also telling us how much Jesus thinks of his new disciples. They are not merely ‘team members’ or ‘staff’ – they’re as good as family members. And that’s how Jesus sees you, too – a full family member.

Pray
Great conversations can be had around the family dinner table. You are God’s son or daughter, you’re family. Why not trying having lunch in a quiet place and start a conversation with God? After all, prayer is a chat between a heavenly Dad and his kids.  

Live It
Write a Top 10 list of things that matter to you most. You might want to include things like family, friends, money, clothes, job, music, happiness, etc. How high does God rank in your Top 10?  

Repeat
Did you notice that in today’s reading even Jesus’ own mum thought he’d lost his mind? Just goes to show when we start living differently because of God, tongues can start wagging. Mark’s Gospel challenges us to stick with it no matter what people think. That’s all for today. We’ll be looking at Jesus the storyteller tomorrow. Until then…   

Say What?
Who were the twelve tribes of Israel? In the Old Testament Jacob had twelve sons. Anyone seen ‘Joseph and his technicoloured Dreamcoat?’ Well Joseph and his eleven brothers are Jacob’s sons. Every one of God’s people appearing in the Bible can be traced back as a relative to one of these twelve brothers. They’re kind of a big deal! 

Hello
The Imitation Game is a film based on the story of Alan Turing, in which a British mathematician and his team crack coded messages from the Nazis during the Second World War. The parables (or stories) of Jesus are a bit like codes or puzzles that need cracking. Only these codes reveal the secrets of God’s kingdom. Mark’s Gospel shows us how to crack them. It’s Day 8 and we have three parables to crack… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 4:1-35.

Think
Let’s get code-cracking. The hidden message behind the parable of the Sower is answering why some people seem to grow with God, whilst others don’t. Some hear and forget, some begin enthusiastic but burn out, some have too much else going on to give him a second look. But the one who sticks with it will eventually see beautiful things spring up in their lives. If Jesus was talking about the lamp on the stand today, perhaps he might phrase it like this: ‘When you put on the big light, it’s so everyone can see in the house.’ In other words, let your faith shine out bright so that nobody is left in doubt how good God is. The tongue-in-cheek parable of the mustard seed compares something as infinitely big as God’s kingdom to something smaller than the pips of an apple. It reveals how God likes to work: turning the littlest things into the most impressive things. So, take heart: even if you’re not quite sure what to make of your baby-sized faith now, God can grow it into something impressive. 

Pray
Ask God for a situation this week where you can shine his goodness into it.  

Live It
Today Jesus urged us to ‘put on the big light’. Think of a way you can shine bright this week. It could be as simple as being there for a friend, or it could be something difficult, like forgiving someone who has wronged you. Whatever you do, shine bright!   

Repeat
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ – so goes an old Chinese proverb. At the beginning of your second week of regular Bible reading you’re probably about eight steps in. There’s still a lifelong journey to go but you’re heading in the right direction. So, keep on walking, you’re doing great. Don’t worry if there are bits that don’t yet make sense. They will. Remember that small beginnings lead to great things with God. See you tomorrow!   

Say What?
What does parable mean? In the Old Testament, prophets and teachers used stories to challenge people in their thinking. The same was true of Jesus – he used stories rich in meaning to describe what was happening or what God’s kingdom was like. These stories are known as parables, and they always contain God’s truth at the heart of them. 

Hello
Rain-macs on, umbrellas up, and seasickness tabs at the ready, today we’re starting with a storm. The sea is roused, the sky is angry, lives are at risk, and Jesus… is taking a cheeky nap?! Huh? On Day 9 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus literally tells the weather to put its finger on its lips, before going pig-crazy. All is revealed… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 4:35 to Mark 5:20.

Think
Whether you’re frightened for your life (like the capsizing disciples being pulled under by an enormous storm) or so messed up you feel like you have no quality of life (like the self-destructive human wreck who went by the name ‘Legion’) one thing Mark’s Gospel promises us is that Jesus is the answer! Both stories are coupled together here as illustrations of Jesus meeting people’s needs in their deep distress. Jesus shows his power over nature by shushing a storm, and his control over sickness by healing a man of a severe personality disorder. Jesus is being revealed as no ordinary man, but as someone with the power of God in his fingertips. This Gospel is painting a picture of Jesus as God. Mark’s invitation to us all today is to ‘go wake up Jesus’ – pray to him in your fear and anger – and see the storms of your life quieten down. 

Pray
If worries are keeping you from sleeping at night, ask Jesus to help your brain quieten down.  

Live It
People steered well clear of Legion. Who are the people you know who everybody steers well clear of? How can you change this around?  

Repeat
When you watch a good film a second time, you start to see the point of certain scenes for the first time – because you now know the end of the story. Well, it’s the same with Mark’s Gospel. By the end scenes of this Gospel (Spoiler alert!) Jesus will be much like the tormented man in today’s story: naked, tortured, left on the outskirts of town, shouting incomprehensible things to the sky. Jesus lets evil do its worst to him on the cross, so that others can be set free. From tomorrow we’ll be getting nearer and nearer to the climax of Mark’s story: Jesus’ death. Don’t miss out.

Hello
In true ‘buy one get one free’ fashion, today’s reading gives us one story tucked inside another. The outer story is about a dead twelve-year-old girl; the inner story is about a woman who has suffered with an illness for the same twelve years. Both stories work together, and show us how Jesus can take us from fear to faith… 

Read
Today’s reading is from Mark 5:21-43. 

Think
Imagine a rock star asking a stadium full of their fans, ‘Who just took a picture of me?’ Er… pretty much everyone! Well, Jesus asks something almost as daft when he says, ‘Who just touched me?’ Talk about oversensitive! Except, Jesus knows healing power has drained from his body. And he isn’t going to let this miracle go without the woman going public first. But it’s not about embarrassing the poor woman – it’s more about Jesus applauding her faith. This story gives us hope that when we reach out to touch Jesus, he responds by turning our fear into faith. A little while later we are placed in a room full of grieving people. Hope is surely dead – the girl has passed on. Only this time, it is Jesus who reaches out a hand. The life-giving power of God breaks into her lifelessness. The girl wakes from death as if she’s simply had her alarm on snooze.  

Pray
Do you have a situation where it seems all hope is dead? Take a leaf from these two stories and reach out to God in prayer.  

Live It
Jesus specialises in bringing hope to dead end situations. Do you know of anyone going through a tough situation? How can you show them hope?  

Repeat
Jesus must’ve been surrounded by death – so why didn’t he bring more people to life? Well, his mission wasn’t to put undertakers out of business, nor was he a one-man emergency hospital. His primary focus was walking the road to the cross. Of course, there would be miracles and teaching along the way, but this was not his destination. Mark includes them like road signs on the way to the journey’s end. The biggest miracle is still to come. So, keep on reading.  

Say What?
What does faith mean? Today we think about faith as somebody’s beliefs or religion. Faith in Mark’s Gospel is bigger than this. It covers human trust and loyalty to God. By putting their faith in Jesus, people were not just accepting what was true about him; they were placing their trust in him. This trust often unlocked the way to a miracle or healing. 

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