This book does not name it’s author but scholars are generally in agreement that it was written by John Mark. Many believe it’s was written after the death of Peter although some believe it was written while Peter was in Rome. This places the date of its writing somewhere between 50-70 A.D. Some point in the 60’s A.D. Is most probable. Unlike Matthew who wrote to a congregation of mostly Jews, Mark addressed his gospel mainly to Gentile Christians, perhaps those facing persecution in Rome. Because it was written to Gentiles, Mark often explained Jewish customs or translated Aramaic for his readers. Only once does he quote from Old Testament law. While many presume Mark wrote to encourage Christians under persecution, it also seems likely Mark wrote to preserve Peter’s account of the life and teachings of Jesus. As you read watch for not only what Jesus did but what He said and the emotional impact his words had on people. Watch for revelations of Jesus’ humanity. Mark revealed Him to be at the same time the Son of God and the Son of Man. There are several themes in Mark’s gospel. Jesus, the Son of God. Mark shows Jesus’ authority was a teacher, to forgive sins, and over the Sabbath, unclean spirits, nature, the law, the temple, and the mystery of the kingdom of God. Jesus the Son of Man. Jesus did not shrink from ritual defilement, physical contamination, or moral pollution. His loving touch displayed His compassion and accessibility. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus’ suffering, rejection and death were central to God’s way of salvation. Mark revealed the disciples initial inability to recognize Jesus’ Messianic identity and role. Jesus a model of suffering. Jesus spoke openly of His suffering and death and warned His disciples that they would also face tribulation. Jesus the Savior of all who believe. Jesus is the Savior of all who receive Him by faith. Mark’s gospel focuses on Jesus’ ministry in gentile regions, explains Jewish customs, records the confession of faith of a Gentile , and the sending of the first Gentile missionary. Mark records Jesus calling the temple a house of prayer for all nations.
Mark begins with an introduction. This gospel is about Jesus. Good News is a frequent term, translated gospel. The Hebrew word Messiah is translated Christ in the Greek. The Son of God emphasized Jesus’ unique relationship with God the Father. John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare people for the Messiah’s coming by instructing them to confess their sins and turn to God for forgiveness and be baptized. All who did this were prepared to receive Jesus’ message. John the Baptist created a lot of interest. He preached repentance like the ancient prophets and he dressed like the great prophet Elijah who was predicted to return in the last days. John knew that he was preparing for the Messiah’s coming but he did not yet know that Jesus was the one. Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth but He soon left Nazareth for Capernaum, a city on the Sea of Galilee. The fact that the heavens were torn open at His baptism shows that Jesus has unique access to God the Father. All four of the gospels refer to the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove. The Spirit, who was involved in the first creation, acted with Jesus in bringing the new creation. God announced Jesus as His Son at His baptism, but by age 12 Jesus was aware of His unique relationship with God the Father. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness of Judaea. Both the evil one and wild animals give the wilderness an evil aura. The wild animals included dogs, wolves, leopards, jackals, and bears. Mark announces that Jesus’ ministry began after John the Baptist was arrested. Jesus began preaching in Galilee at this time but John suggests that Jesus had had an earlier ministry in Judaea.
Jesus’ preaching is summarized by His announcement that the kingdom of God had come, and that people needed to repent and believe the good news. The kingdom of God is not tied to any specific territory but instead it began in Jesus’ person and extended to His followers. Jesus first called two pairs of brothers, fishermen all of them. Jesus invitation? Come, follow me. In this first reading we have seen Jesus cast out several demons, all of whom know Him. The first occurrence of this was when Jesus was entering the synagogue to teach. This suggests He was already known and had been invited to speak. Jesus’ teaching caused amazement because it was unlike any other. All the scribes, Rabbi’s, and other teachers taught by quoting other sources, but Jesus acted with real authority. When it comes to demons, Jesus commands them to keep quiet about who He is and as such they continually testify that He is the Holy One of Israel. These evil spirits recognized Jesus’ complete authority and they understood that He had come to interfere with and destroy evil. Jesus didn’t need to shout or utter magic words. He simply spoke with the authority of the Son of God and the evil spirit obeyed. He commanded the evil spirits to not make Him known. This is an instance of the “Messianic secret”, an expression for passages in Mark in which Jesus commands demons or people not to reveal His identity. Not only were the people amazed by Jesus’ teachings but they were also amazed by the exorcisms as well.
We find out that Peter is married and that the extended family lived together. Jesus went to Peter’s house and discovered his mother in law was sick. Jesus healed her instantly and she got up and began serving. Word spread and that evenings many of the townsfolk came to be healed or to have demons cast out. These took place after sunset following the sabbath and there were many witnesses. Jesus’ popularity among the crowds was growing, as was the rejection by the religious leaders. Jesus was busy but He has modeled for us how we are to pray. After the night at Peter’s house Jesus got up early and went off to a quiet place to pray. One of the things Mark emphasizes is the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life. Prayer equipped Jesus to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons. His ministry in Galilee centered on preaching in the synagogues. Paul later did the same thing. Jesus counted on hospitality when He traveled, mostly in the region of Galilee. This region was roughly 40 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west. In Jesus’ day Galilee was ruled by Herod Antipas. Jesus healed a man with leprosy and instructed him to go to the priest to be checked out. The man was also to bring a sacrificial offering. Most importantly, the man was instructed to say nothing and tell no one. His sacrifice would be the public testimony of his healing. But this was too good to be true and the man told everyone he could.
Chapters 2– 3 contain five controversy stories, grouped together by their common theme. They reveal Jesus’ great authority and the leaders hostility towards Him. Chapter 2:1-12 is not only a controversy story but also a miracle. The crowds kept growing because Jesus continued to teach, preach, and perform miracles. He was staying in a house with people and the town found out He was there. The crowds were so large the house was full and people pushed from outside to get in. Four men came carrying their paralyzed friend and couldn’t get in either. They were determined that Jesus would heal him so they ascended the outside stairs that led to the roof, dug a hole in the homes roof, and lowered their friend down right in front of Jesus. Jesus saw their faith and announced that his sins were forgiven. Those listening understood Jesus’ words as a claim to divine authority. But there was an issue here. Only God can forgive sins and this was Jesus. Yet, He had the authority to do so. Jesus showed His ability to heal in order to show His authority to forgive. The people were amazed once again. Mark often records Jesus creating amazement.
The second controversy centered on Jesus hanging out with the wrong crowd, in this case tax collectors and sinners. Jesus had called Matthew to follow a him and Matthew did. This kind of tax collector collected sales tax, customs and road tolls. This was in contrast with local tax collectors like Levi
/Matthew who collected the poll tax. These men were hated by the Jews because they were in the employ of Rome. They usually gouged the people and were regarded as traitors. Yet Jesus invited Levi, a tax collector to follow Him. Levi joined Peter, Andrew, James, and John. The fact that Jesus intentionally ate with the tax collectors and sinners showed that they were invited to share in the kingdom of God. Jesus answered His opponents with a parable, comparing himself to a doctor and sinners to sick people. Salvation is for those who know they are sinners, not those who think they are righteous. The next controversy dealt with fasting, which Jesus did not practice with His disciples. On the other hand, the Pharisees usually fasted twice a week, on Monday’s and Thursdays. They often made quite a show of this in a lame attempt to show just how pious and righteous they were. Jesus again spoke cryptically, telling them that one does a not fast while the bridegroom is around. That is a time for celebration and feasting. The disciples would fast when Jesus was taken away. It is quite likely that no one quite understood what Jesus was speaking of here. The patching of the old cloth and putting new wine in old wine skins points us to the fact that the old covenant is incomparable to the new arrival of God’s kingdom. A new patch will tear old fabric and the fermentation of new wine will cause the old skins to burst. The fasting of the old cannot mix with the feasting of the new. Next came a discussion about the Sabbath. Jesus and His Disciples are accused of breaking the sabbath laws. However, picking grain by hand in another person’s field was lawful. But the charge was that by rubbing the chaff off the kernels, that was working on the sabbath, which was forbidden. Jesus countered with a reference to an event in king David’s life. You can find this account in 1 Samuel 21. David and his followers ate the sacred bread that only the priests were supposed to eat. But there was more at work here. Since Jesus is the Lord of humanity and since the sabbath was made to meet he needs of the people, that makes Jesus Lord over the sabbath. This too was a claim to divine authority.
Jesus also healed in the sabbath, again in a synagogue, probably in Capernaum. The presence of a crippled man on the sabbath created a situation that Jesus’ enemies wanted to exploit if He healed the man’s hand. So they watched Him closely. Jesus challenged his enemies’ view that doing good deeds was forbidden on the sabbath. Jesus’ questioning of these enemies shamed them into silence but it did not change their hearts. The reference to doing evil or killing is probably a reference to an incident in which the Maccabees decided to fight if attacked on the sabbath. Jesus’ opponents hard hearts would not listen to sound reason, so instead of having changed attitudes, they began to plot on how to kill Him. Crowds followed Jesus and His disciples wherever they went, and the people came from all over the place. Word of what Jesus was doing and had done was spreading like wildfire. To get away from the crowds Jesus had the disciples have a boat ready because the crowds were crushing Him. They wanted to see, hear, and touch Him. Jesus traveled from the sea to the mountains. Remember mountains are places of revelation. Mark relates how Jesus called His disciples, which is reminiscent of God’s call of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus appointed 12 disciples to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and to proclaim that the kingdom of God had arrived. Jesus chose them to accompany Him and to be sent out to preach and to cast out demons. They represented Jesus and were endowed with His authority.
Mark listed the twelve disciples. James and John are nicknamed the sons of thunder. This probably spoke of their character. Philip is fifth on all four lists of the twelve disciples and James, son of Alphaeus is always ninth. Bartholomew might be Nathanael, and Matthew is Levi. Thomas is called a twin but there is nothing else said about that. Jesus included a hated tax collector, Matthew, who was also a government official, and Simon who was a zealot. This wide variety of men shows Jesus’ ability to change people’s hearts and overcome natural antagonism. Judas Iscariot is always listed last and always identified as the one who betrayed Jesus. Mark also introduces us to Jesus’ family, who think He is crazy. Here His family is aligned with the religious leaders in their opposition to Him. Early on Jesus and the disciples are so busy they cannot find time to eat. People are everywhere and always wanting a piece of Jesus. His family thought Jesus was out of his mind but Mark does not explain whether the attempt to seize Jesus was done out of sincere but misguided concern, or by hostility. Jesus’ brothers and sisters were not among His followers until after His resurrection. Eventually His brother James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. The teachers of religious law from Jerusalem attributed Jesus’ apparent madness to His being possessed by the evil one, crediting His miracle working to the evil one. Jesus showed the absurdity of this charge with several analogies. The evil one would not undo his own work. But the real reason was that someone stronger than the evil one had arrived and was able to loot his house. That would be Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was introducing God’s kingdom and rescuing people from the evil one. Jesus spoke, “ I tell you the truth”. This introduces many of Jesus’ sayings and gives emphasis to what follows. All sin and blasphemy can be forgiven but there is a sin with eternal consequences…blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit means to attribute the work of God to an evil spirit. Resisting and denouncing the work of God in this way prevents the convicting work of the spirit that leads to repentance, saving faith in God, and pardon for sin. At the end of chapter 3 Mark returns to Jesus’ family. Apparently Mary and Jesus’ brothers showed up, wanting to speak with Him. Again Jesus ignored them, asking who is my mother and my brothers? Because in God’s kingdom, ones true relatives are determined not by blood but by a faith relationship. They are those who do the will of the Lord instead of doing what they want to do. Doing God’s will includes repentance from sin, faith in God, and following Jesus.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W