Mark 1: The beginning of the gospel…

I had said when I started this blog that I would do my best to write about all that God is teaching me, including my own personal Bible studies, things I read about, and the sermon and Sunday school lessons that I get on a weekly basis. Well, I’ve kept up pretty good on my daily Bible study, but not on my weekly lessons that I am getting while at church. I think I have written 1 post on a sermon, several weeks ago when I first started this blog. So, this week I am going to write a post over our Sunday school lesson from this past Sunday, which was over the first few verses in the book of Mark. We are supposed to be going through the entire book of Mark over the next several months, so this should turn into a series before long.

About John Mark, the Author

The gospel of Mark is best known as the shortest of the 4 gospels and as most likely the first of the 4 to be written. It is believed to be written by John Mark, who is mentioned in Acts 12:12 when the Apostle Peter came to his mother’s house after being freed from prison by the angel. The fact that in this passage it says that many people had gathered there to pray, and the fact that Peter knew to go there, tells me that this was a place that was used regularly as a meeting place for Christians in Jerusalem. Therefore, John Mark probably somewhat grew up in the faith. It is believed by many that John Mark served as an interpreter for Peter, and that the gospel of Mark is actually based on the preaching and teaching of Peter. Peter calls John Mark his “son” in 1 Peter 5:13, so we can assume they were definitely close. In Mark’s gospel, it tells a short side story of an unnamed young man who, “wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” (14:51-52). It is said that this young man was probably the writer himself, since the story seems out of place and not worth mentioning unless it were being mentioned by the person to whom it happened.

This same John Mark is mentioned in Acts 13 as having traveled with Paul and Barnabas as their “helper” (v. 5). Later in this same passage it says that John Mark “left them to return to Jerusalem” (v. 13).  We might speculate here that the reason John Mark left Paul and Barnabas was because

  • he grew timid at the thought of crossing over the Taurus mountains, or
  • nervous about safety from bandits (see 2 Corinthians 11:26), or
  • was a little disgruntled at Paul taking over the lead of the team from his cousin Barnabas, or
  • he was uncomfortable with the Gentile mission and preaching the gospel to non-Jews (since he appears to have gone directly to Jerusalem without reporting the progress of the team to the church in Antioch from which they were sent in Acts 13)
    * See this site for a discussion of John Mark as a New Testament Jonah

Either way, we know from Acts 15:36-41 that later on, when Barnabas wanted John Mark to accompany him and Paul on a later journey, Paul refused. This caused the pair to split up, Barnabas going with John Mark, and Paul going with Silas. Barnabas may have felt an attachment to John Mark since they were cousins (see Colossians 4:10). Later on, Paul and John Mark most likely reconcile, since Paul mentions him in Colossians 4:10 as one who is with him, and tells Timothy to bring John Mark with him when he comes to Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11.

Theme of the Gospel of Mark

An introduction to the gospel of Mark states that his gospel records more miracles than the other gospels, which is the Mark’s way of relating Jesus as the true messiah. Jesus proved his divinity through his actions and gave us an example to live by through his service. Mark also focuses a lot on what I found was called the “messianic secret.” Throughout the first half of the book, when people deduce that Jesus is the messiah, he commands them to keep it secret. This includes the disciples (8:27-30), people he healed (1:43), and even demons (1:34). The reason for this secrecy is unknown, but I speculate that Jesus knew that everything he was supposed to do must be well timed. He told his mother that his time had not yet come when he turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2). And other speculate that perhaps he knew that people expected him to arise as a military and political leader of the Jews, and since that wasn’t His plan, he wanted “to suppress public fervor about himself until the opportune time” (see Wikipedia article).

Verses 1-3

My Sunday school lesson focused on the first 3 verses of the book. Verse 1 says “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Some things to notice about these words:

  • The word gospel means “good news.”
  • Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua, which is short for Yehoshua. This is the same as the name Joshua from the Old Testament, and it means literally “God saves.” (see here).
  • Christ is the English word for the Greek word, Khristós, which means “the anointed one.” It translates from the Hebrew word which we translate into English as Messiah.

In verses 2-3, it quotes a pair of prophecies, one from Malachi 3:1, and the other from Isaiah 40:3.

It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ “

These are a prophecy of the coming of John the Baptist as a messenger prior to the coming of Jesus. Looking at the one from Malachi in full context (see 2:17-3:5), we can see that the people have started complaining to God about the fact that those they see as evil-doers are being shown favor by God. They are saying to God “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17). Basically, they’re crying “this isn’t fair!” like a young child. God’s answer to them in ch. 3 is that “the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple…”(3:1).  But it isn’t the same “Lord” they are expecting – it is Jesus, who will come to be the “purifier” (v. 3).

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