The Bible in a Year, Week 2: Mark

This is the second weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Mark. It should only take about 5-10 minutes a day, or about 2-3 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Mark

Background: Mark was written by Mark, who is also known as John. John Mark was not one of the 12 disciples. However, Mark was very active in the early Christian church. His mother’s house seemed to be a meeting place for Christian gatherings (Acts 12:12). He was the cousin of Barnabas and traveled with him on missionary journeys. Mark and Barnabas also went with Paul on his first missionary journey. However, for some reason Mark left in the middle of the trip–a great point of contention between Barnabas and Paul.

Later, Mark must have grown up and matured because Paul speaks of him favorably. It was also later on that Mark became very close to the apostle Peter. Peter speaks of him like a son (1 Peter 5:13) as they both send greetings from Rome. From this and other information, it seems like that Mark became somewhat of an interpreter or scribe for Peter. He may have gotten much of his information from Peter. He also may have written this gospel shortly after Peter died, around 64 A.D.

The Gospel of Mark is much different than the other three in style. Mark is not much for details. Rather, he relates actions and events at a rapid rate. It also seems quite clear that Mark had in mind a Gentile audience–perhaps even the Romans–as he quotes very little Old Testament Scripture and takes time to explain Hebrew or Aramaic customs and phrases.

Through reading this gospel, it becomes very clear that Mark is presenting to us exactly what he mentions in the first verse:  Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Mark 1-3: Mark opens by informing us what this whole gospel account is about–Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. The rest of the chapters relate to us just that! Preparing the way for the Son of God was one whom Isaiah had prophesied 700 years before. So John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. This strange man who was living a strange and ascetic life lived the message he proclaimed–People are sinful and need to repent and turn to Jesus. We note that his baptism is similar to the baptism Jesus commands. It was with water and for the forgiveness of sins. Yet as great as John the Baptist was, Jesus was far greater for he has the power to “baptize” us with the Holy Spirit himself.

Jesus was also baptized with water by John the Baptist. Not because he had to. Jesus did so to fulfill all righteousness (cf. Matthew 3). That event was also the official beginning of his public ministry as he was anointed by the Father as the chosen Son whom he loves.

With that, Jesus’ ministry began and he burst onto the scene with many impressive and important acts. First he called several disciples to follow him. We should not assume that they had never heard or seen Jesus before, as if some stranger approached them and told them to follow. They likely heard him or heard about him before. Now they obeyed his call to follow–and oh the things they would see and do!

Jesus also began his ministry with many miracles. He drove out evil spirits (who even admitted that Jesus is the Son of God). He healed many sick and disease-ridden people. He healed a man with leprosy. He made a paralytic to walk. The results produced by these miracles varied:  Many crowded around and followed Jesus looking for more earthly blessings. Some wondered if he got this power from Beelzebub, or Satan. The Pharisees grew in hatred and jealousy and quickly began to plot how they could get rid of Jesus.

Yet there were still others that believed Jesus. Their belief was the reason for all of these miracles! Certainly Jesus showed his care and compassion for others when he helped them. But that was not the point. Jesus performed miracles to back up his message. Jesus performed miracles to prove his power. Jesus performed miracles to prove that he is the Christ, the Son of God. While the miracles were polarizing with the people, Jesus taught and showed right from the beginning that he is true God, he is the Lord, and he has the power to forgive sins!

Mark 4-6: Jesus often taught people with parables. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It is something spoken with worldly examples in order to communicate divine truth. Jesus did this to make things more clear for his followers. Yet for those who doubted and disbelieved, it confused them even more (4:12).

The parable of the sower reminds us that we are to keep preaching the Word of God. It falls on all kinds of people and has all kinds of reactions, but God will make it grow. We need not worry about that. We just keep spreading the Word! Further, as we share our faith with others, it is to be like a lamp which we put on a stand for all others to see. It may seem useless because the kingdom of God may appear small like a mustard seed, but it really is powerful and can grow quickly, especially when God is doing the work.

These chapters also record more instances of Jesus showing his divine power as true God. These miracles remind us of Jesus’ power for salvation. If he can speak and calm wind and waves, can he not also speak, “It is finished,” and accomplish our salvation? If he can raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead, can he not also rise from the dead–and cause us to rise from the dead? If he can feed over 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish, can he not feed us spiritually with the words of Holy Scripture? Surely, this is the Christ, the Son of God, who is our Savior from sin!

Mark 7-10: As Jesus continued to preach and teach that he is the Son of God and the Savior, the Pharisees grew in their hatred toward him. They tried numerous times to ensnare him in his words so that they had grounds to arrest and kill him. Chapter seven is another example of such. Yet while trying to trap Jesus in a teaching about cleanness, their spiritual blindness prevented them from seeing that they were filthy with sin and in desperate need of being washed clean through Jesus. That’s why Jesus warned in chapter eight about their “yeast,” or teachings.

We can only pray that God gives and sustains true faith in Jesus, faith like we see in Mark chapter seven. Though a Greek Gentile, the Syro-Phoenecian woman approached Jesus with great confidence and trust that his forgiving love was for all people. Jesus confirmed that she was right. We are also reminded right after this that Mark was writing this very gospel for Gentiles. When he explains the meaning the word Ephphatha in 7:34, we once more see that Mark had in mind the same thing as Jesus. The gospel is for all people, including the Gentiles.

Yet many people were confused about Jesus. Some thought he was Elijah or John the Baptist come back from the dead. Others thought he was just another prophet. But Peter knew. The man of action jumped forth to proclaim, “You are the Christ.” A beautiful confession of faith. But immediately after that he rebuked Jesus for talking about his coming death! In few words and with little detail, Mark reveals Peter as a disciple just like any one of us–a disciple that rides the highs and lows of the battle between sinful flesh and a new life of faith. Jesus calling Peter Satan was certainly one of the lowest points!

Equally shameful was when Peter thought it would be a good idea to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration. It seems harmless, but keeping Jesus on that mountain meant keeping him off of the cross. Thankfully the Christ was resolute in his mission! He came down from that glorious event and began to make his way toward Jerusalem. As he went he did much teaching, imparting wisdom and knowledge to many people that clearly did not understand much about him or Scripture.

It is also worth noting for a moment the importance of Mark 10:13-16. Jesus welcomed the little children because, “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” To be part of the the kingdom of God means that you have faith, for the kingdom of God is not a worldly kingdom, but a spiritual one. Thus, Jesus reminds us that little children can have faith. Further, Jesus used a Greek word for little children that means children ages 0-4. This section highlights the very important point that anyone of any age can have faith and can be part of the kingdom of God. Faith is not something we do, it is something God does to us! Therefore, this section can also serve as a commentary on the importance of baptism for anyone of any age because through it God offers forgiveness of sins and a new spiritual life.

Mark 11-13: Jesus then entered Jerusalem for the culmination of his life and ministry. He was to offer himself as the sacrifice and payment for all sins. While a crowd greeted him with shouts of praise, we might guess that most of them only wanted an earthly king to come and save them from the troubles of this life. The next few days of Holy Week give us a glimpse of the spiritual conditions in Israel. They were buying and selling (probably cheating too) in the Temple. They were led by Pharisees and Saducees that hated Jesus and tried to trap him with difficult questions. They didn’t understand God’s commandments, and they were bad stewards of their money and gifts from the Lord.

Thus the last few days before his death were spent answering challenging questions and teaching about the greatest commandment of all (Love!) and pointing to the strong faith of a widow who offered her best (not the biggest). In addition, Jesus also taught his followers to be prepared for the coming of the Last Day because he would return unexpectedly like a thief in the night.

God grant us a faith that understands his Word, that clings to his Word, and that is prepared every day for the return of the Christ!

Mark 14-16: Oh to have been there for the incredible moment that Jesus was anointed at Bethany! As many, including his own disciples, looked on with disdain, perfume was poured onto Jesus which would be worth perhaps $30,000-$40,000 in modern times. Many might see it as a waste of money. But Jesus saw it as a great offering of thanks and praise, an offering and anointing that was preparing him for his coming death and burial.

On Thursday of that Holy Week Jesus instituted a special meal by which his people would forever remember what he had done. The taking of bread and wine which at the same time is his true body and blood will always remind us that he gave his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. It is a special reminder and gift for people who often doubt, wonder, worry, and forget.

Then, as all of Jesus’ closest disciples fell asleep, ran away, or denied him, the suffering of our Savior began. He was arrested, falsely tried, falsely accused, beaten, battered, bruised, bloodied, and crucified. All this he quietly endured so that he might carry out his Father’s will and become the sacrifice and payment for sin. So he carried our sin, suffered the depths of hell, and then finished his defeat of sin, death, and hell as he gave up his life and died.

Yet the grave could not contain the Christ, the Son of God. On the third day he rose once more, triumphant and victorious, to prove that he had won, to prove that he is God, and to prove that we also will live.

Finally, we note that some Bibles share that some manuscripts do not have the last few verses of the gospel of Mark. This should not make us doubt their validity. While some do not contain those words, many other manuscripts do include these words. Regardless, the message of the Gospel of Mark is clear:  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who saved us from our sins!

Next Week’s Readings (starting 1/16/11):  Luke

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

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Posted on January 12, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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