This week we’re diving into the Gospel of Mark to begin our study of it. Last week we learned a little bit about the author, John Mark. We know he was from a wealthy family, and that that last supper may well have taken place in his family palace. After the crucifixion of Peter, Mark found himself in Alexandria, Egypt, planting a church there.
Like Peter, who probably co-authored or even dictated this book to Mark, the pass moves fast, is abrupt and full of pace, action and reaction. Look for this as you study the book! You will find the word “immediately” threaded all through this gospel.
Mark and Its Controversies
Each of the four gospels comes with its own audience and purpose. Mark is one of the Synoptic Gospels, and the earliest of the four. It most likely was the book that modeled the gospels of Luke and Matthew.
When the book of Mark was written, Nero hadn’t yet taken power, the followers of the Way hadn’t been martyred and Peter and Paul and the bulk of apostles were still alive. No introduction or background of Christ is given in Mark as we find ourselves introduced to John the Baptist straightaway.
This fact, that the birth of Jesus isn’t mentioned, along with the facts that Jesus is called the son of Mary, there is no mention of being seen after His resurrection and the book comes to a sudden end has led neigh-sayers to discredit the basis of the Christian religion. Christ was really born of a virgin, He didn’t resurrect and He’s not the Son of God, they say.
Scholars readily and easily dispel such blasphemy by noting that Mark was written decades earlier, as previously mentioned. Mark’s faith focuses, too, on Jesus’ words in Mark 14:28, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Scholars conclude that it was so obvious to Mark that Jesus would be in Galilee, it was too obvious to mention. The disciples would find Him there. And that is exactly where the other gospels give testimony of seeing Jesus. In Galilee. After the crucifixion, the New Testament testifies that the disciples fled to Galilee and went back to their original occupations. Some cast their nets into the sea when suddenly Jesus appeared. Mark believes Jesus was raised to the right hand of God once He ascended.
The Purpose of the Gospel of Mark
As the first half of this book covers the life and personhood of Jesus and His mission, the back half covers His ministry. The Gospel of Mark was written primarily to the newly converted Jews living in Rome. The whole gospel is a call of faith and endurance through trials and suffering.
It was important for Mark to begin his book with John the Baptist, who was making way for the Lamb of God, bearing witness of His coming. When one submits to the baptism of John, it’s and indication of his repentance, symbolizing a spiritual cleansing which bring forgiveness of sins and a new life.
There would be virtually no one in the Judean countryside that hadn’t heard of John the Baptist. In fact, the Bible tells us that all the people of Jerusalem went out to hear him! The response? Well, many repented, confessing their sins and getting baptized. Then one day John began to tell them one greater than him was coming, and He would baptize with the Holy Spirit. What in the world was he talking about? They must have wondered!
The middle portion of Mark 1 teaches us about the temptation of Jesus. How must He have been physically? And just how did He defeat Satan? What can we learn from this?
After Jesus fasted, when He was His weakest physically, Satan came in for the attack. He is wily and sneaky. God allowed this testing to verity and prove Jesus was obedient and was following the will of His Father. In fact, this number 40 is very significant. For 40 is the number of testing and you will find it all through the Old and New Testament. Jesus was physically starving after His 40 day fast, and the Tempter is counseling Jesus to meet His own needs and turn the stone into bread. We can relate this to our own lives.! Daily we strive to meet our needs, and most of our prayers are centered around these needs!
We must ask ourselves how much do we trust God to meet our needs?
The second temptation of Satan was for Jesus to be careless with His life and believe God would rescue Him no matter what. Some believers today fall into this same delusion. We are like the Jews before the exile who think that we are saved no matter what, and are in good standing. But I tell you, a lot of believers stop their walk when they reach the step of holiness. They never take this step. Consequently, when walking with God, the progression is step by step and you can’t skip steps or cut corners when advancing. If you don’t want to change, than the Holy Spirit hasn’t sprouted in your heart. You haven’t really been convicted! In order to grow and mature to the fullest, you must step up to holiness.
The third temptation was the most dangerous. It is the lie of serving Satan, thinking he can provide us with a rich, easy life, and a way out of suffering. It is full of instant self-gratification and relativism. It is a thought pattern that makes us want to have our own way, to be important.
Don’t gloss over this text! When we judge ourselves against these temptations, how are we doing? Jesus is our role model for everything!
The Power of the Word of God
We must understand that Jesus overcame all of these temptations by holding the Word of God before the enemy. Jesus did this for our benefit, as an example. Please, please, don’t be deceived. It’s not by gaining better position or getting more money that saves us. It’s not by worldly wealth or rank. It is by knowing the truth, the Word of God. This is what saves a man!
An example for us to grasp immediately follows this testimony as Jesus calls disciples to Him. They have watched and witnessed Him in recent days. It is at this point they are ready to abandon everything to Him, because they recognize they are sinners and they repent. This marks the beginning of our walk with Jesus. When we see our spiritual depravity and the need for Jesus, and then we live changed lives. It isn’t a sinners prayer that saves us!
What strength and power we see Jesus begin to reveal in this first chapter!
He has the authority and ability to command demons to leave, and they obey. This marveled the religious leaders. Jesus also forbids demons to speak. He doesn’t want the demons to profess that He is the Son of God, because demons notoriously lie.
Practices of Jesus and Faith
Jesus then heals the sick. Before he gets held captive in the cities and town, Jesus goes off to pray and then leaves. He doesn’t want to only be associated with healing and to be kept in one place for long periods to heal. He must continue with God’s mission. In order to do this, He needs to spend time alone with God, to be strengthened. If He needed this, how much more do we? Are we spending time alone with God? Or are we getting up and rushing off in our own strength, thinking we are strong and able?
Jesus preached and casted out demons for the sake of demonstrating God’s love and sovereignty and restoring us to Him. He healed of leper, too, and told him to go directly to the High Priest for verification to the healing. This is Mosaic Law, and Jesus was respecting it. He was probably also well aware that news of the healing would travel via the lips of the High Priest.
In Jesus’ day, there were many Charlatans performing fake miracles. In this age, Temple authorities would investigate healings to determine if sorcery was involved. And if it was deemed so, the sorcerer would be stoned to death.
Can you imagine how many less faith healers we would have today if we practiced this?
Again, look for the urgency, the mood, the drama set in the Book of Mark. It is practical and demands us to pay attention to the life and ministry of Jesus. We can readily apply these truths to live by into our lifestyles today, and keep Jesus in His place as Lord.
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…