Mark

Peter’s Story: Jesus is the Son of Man

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An Introduction to Courses

Choose your course based on your needs -

Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Mark’s gospel is to understand that Mark, who was Peter’s assistant, is recording the stories of Jesus that he has heard Peter tell again and again over many years. Actors have successfully performed ‘Mark’, throughout the West End of London and Broadway, New York, simply by reciting this gospel on stage as if they were Peter himself. Either just after Peter’s death, or perhaps just before, Mark wrote down the stories he had heard Peter tell many times throughout his ministry. The Gospel of Mark is riveting narrative; it’s like a feisty, tough little bulldog that simply demands attention!


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above to hear an audio version of Mark.

 

Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car, etc …

 

 

Listen Here

Or listen to David Suche read Mark’s Gospel using the link above.


Read
Read

 

Mark’s Gospel was written to be read aloud. With only about 10% of the population (rising to 20% in some cities) being able to read, Mark wrote in order to communicate the stories he had personally heard Peter recount over thirty years since the resurrection.

 

It takes about an hour to read Mark’s gospel. If you have never done this, set aside an hour and read it through aloud with a few friends taking a chapter each from beginning to end.


Watch
Watch

 

Watch the film ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ directed by Zeffirelli.


Study
Study

Study the BfL material and answer the BfL Questions.

 

Do a ‘word study’ on one of the key words such as Faith, or Kingdom, or Ransom. A word study is a study of the meaning of the word every time it is used. To do a word study, choose a word, get a concordance and list all the times that word is used in ‘Mark’, then study what the word means in each case and finally summarise what the word means.

 

Read the introduction to Mark in a study Bible (in the NIV or ESV translation).

 

Make a list of your own questions for a Pod discussion with Nick.

 


Meditate
Meditate

 

Begin your time with God each day by taking one or two verses, ‘wallowing in them deeply’, and then live the rest of the day in the light of their truths.

 

Suggested verses for meditation

 

1:1      The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

 

1:15   ‘The time has come, he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”’

 

4:24   ‘”Consider carefully what you hear”, he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”‘

 

8:34    ‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”’

 

10:45  ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

 

12:24   ‘Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”’

 

14:62   ‘And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”’

 

16:6    ‘And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”’

 


learn
Learn

 

Consider learning:

 

10:45    ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

 

11:24    ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.’

 

 

 


Challenge
The Challenge

The Challenge

 

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that being challenged spurs them on to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘Mark’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

Easy:

Q1  Who was Mark’s main source for these stories?

Q2  Name six of the twelve apostles.

Q3  How many times does Jesus specifically predict his death?

 

Straightforward:

Q4  What does Mark demonstrate to be Jesus’ two main activities?

Q5  Mark records two of Jesus’ teaching discourses. In the first (Mark 4:1-34), Jesus teaches about the coming age of the Kingdom. What is the subject of the second discourse in Mark 13:1-37?

Q6  Mark portrays Jesus shaping his identity and ministry around a leading prophecy in Daniel. Which two features did Daniel prophecy about Jesus?

 

Difficult:

Q7  There are two main parts to Mark’s gospel. The first builds up to Peter’s ‘confession’ that Jesus is the Christ (8:29). The second builds up to Jesus’s betrayal, trial, death and resurrection. What type of miracle does Jesus do immediately before both these events?

Q8  What are some of the ‘Holy Habits’ that Jesus himself practices?

 

Testing:

Q9  What was behind Jesus’ assertive challenge to his apostles: “Do you still not see or understand?” (8:17)?

Q10  Mark presents the apostles as making only the most frustratingly slow progress; indeed their chaotic desertion and collapse at the end demonstrates that they are little better than the crowds that hear and see but do not understand. Nevertheless the apostles did get some things right; can you name some of these? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers:

A1 – The apostle Peter.

A2 – Mark 3:17-19.

A3 – Three times on the way to Jerusalem (8:31, 9:31, 10:33).

A4 – Preaching the Kingdom and making disciples (clearly summarised in Mark 1:14-20).

A5 – The end of the present age.

A6 – He is the Son of Man, establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.

A7 – He restores the sight of a blind person (8:22-26, 10:46-52). The point is: Are your eyes open? Can you see what God is doing?

A8 – Prayer (1:35, 6:46, 14:32); Solitude (1:12, 35); Worship (14:12, 26); Feasting (2:15, 6:30-44, 8:1-9).

A9 – They were failing to see the deeper truth that Jesus is the Messiah.

A10 – They gave up everything to follow Jesus (1:17, 10:28); they obeyed Jesus’ instructions to proclaim the Kingdom and deliver the demonised (6:7, 6:30); they did come to understand Jesus’ identity (8:29).

 

 

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
      Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary

     

    Summary and Exhortation

     

    Each of the four gospels touch in different ways upon the heart and essence of the greatest life ever lived; but each gospel also reveals the character of the author. The Gospel of Mark is Peter’s account of Jesus’ ministry, and throughout we hear Peter speaking. It is brief, focused, with a compelling narrative, and a sudden ending. Since Peter died in the mid-AD60s during the persecutions under Nero in Rome, it seems that around that time Mark, who had been Peter’s assistant, wrote down the stories that he had heard Peter tell many times over the previous three decades in the narrative biography that we call ‘The Gospel of Mark”. Mark is almost certainly the first gospel to be written. Almost every verse is included in Matthew’s gospel, and most of Mark is included in Luke’s gospel.

     

    The very opening sentence Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ introduces the main theme. This truth is also ‘confessed’ by God (1:11, 9:7), demons (1:34, 3:11, 5:7), Mark (1:1), the Centurion (15:39), and Jesus himself (12;6, 13:32, 14:61-62). This confession marks the difference between non-believers and believers. This is the secret truth that is being revealed. Mark attributes several leading titles to Jesus through the mouths of those around him: Messiah, Son of God, Holy one of God, King of the Jews; but Jesus usually referred to himself as ‘Son of Man’. This is a clear reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, and in twelve of the fourteen times it is mentioned it refers to the theme of suffering and future vindication.

     

    With every story and sequence, Mark drives home the message of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t just teach the Kingdom, he brings it! So the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus must be seen against the cosmic warfare which begins in 1:13 with Jesus routing Satan. The signs and wonders are further evidence that Satan’s whole dominion is crumbling.

     

    Who can read Mark’s gospel and not be moved by the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Jesus? This ‘being’ from beyond this earth quietly and gently walks among humanity and humbly, with seemingly endless patience and kindness, shows and teaches us how to live. It is the Cross that is at the centre of Mark’s understanding of Jesus; Jesus is hailed as king when he enters Jerusalem in lowliness, anointed as Messiah when he is anointed for burial, proclaimed as Israel’s king by the high priest when he is condemned to death, and believed in as the Son of God when he dies. Mark links the death of Jesus with his glory. It is through suffering that he gains his throne. Mark presents Jesus in Gethsemane and on the Cross as utterly desolate; draining the cup of suffering to the dregs. But the Cross has become the Messiah’s throne. He died in order to be proclaimed and enthroned as Messiah. Mark presents Jesus as the suffering servant of the Lord who dies for his people’s sins. Those who wish to be great must be least; those who wish to rule must serve; those who wish to save their lives must abandon them. What is true for Jesus is true for his followers. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. He taught that human beings are held captive to sin, guilt, and judgement, and that we cannot save ourselves. So he gives himself as a ransom.

    The central passage on discipleship is 8:34-9:1. Those wishing to follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. The call to discipleship is the call to follow Jesus as Messiah, Son of God, into a death like his and receive the benefits of his death and resurrection. Perhaps it is through the following imperatives that the call to discipleship is seen and understood most clearly;

    Repent and believe (1:15); follow (1:17); listen (4:1); deny yourself, take up your cross and follow (8:34); love (12:30); watch, keep alert, be on your guard (13); go into all the world and preach the good news (16:15).

     

    Summary of the key questions and answers:

    Who is Jesus? The Christ.

    What did he come to do? To serve, to suffer and to die as a ransom.

    What does he ask of his disciples? To take up our cross and follow him through the ‘death’ of self-denial into the glory of the resurrection.

     

    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever met someone really great? What impressed you about them?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    Have you ever seen a miracle? Do you know someone who has?


    Question 3 -

    Almost all of Mark’s gospel is the written record of the stories that Peter told about the three years he lived with Jesus. Have you ever had to be a witness in court? Did you find the experience easy, or was it frightening? What issues does a witness face?


    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    The Son of Man

    Faith

    The Failure of the Apostles

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    With the deaths of the first apostles, which we could reasonably place in the period from 50-70CE (assuming they were in their early twenties when called by Jesus), the maintenance of their apostolic testimony to the ever-widening diverse Mediterranean church became an increasing necessity. There is some debate about whether or not Peter was still alive when his assistant Mark recorded the stories he had heard Peter tell on numerous occasions over the years, but it seems likely that the substance, if not the final version, was substantially formed around CE62-63. Peter is understood to have been executed in Rome in 64CE. Throughout Mark lets Peter ‘speak’; that is, the narrative of his biography of Jesus and his ministry is properly heard, and Peter’s testimony recognised, when this ‘book’ is read aloud.

    Genre:

     

    The Gospel of Mark is a ‘biography’ of Jesus; it describes Jesus’ life and teaching in such a way as to call humanity to follow him as disciples. The gospel is presented as a series of stories. The author is highly skilled in storytelling and employs a number of sub-genres; encounter stories, calling stories, witness stories, miracle stories, conflict stories, along with parables, proverb sayings and discourses. The document has the marks of preaching, and was clearly written to be read aloud (in a society where at best only 20% were literate). Mark’s gospel from beginning to end is full of drama and action. It is peppered with occasional, fascinating details of an ‘eye witness’ (6:39, 10:50, 14:51-52).   The message is presented vigorously; it has been said that it was impossible for Mark to write a boring sentence!

    The Structure of Mark:

     

    Some Bible books have a very clear structure but others, such as the Gospel of Mark, don’t. Mark the author seems to be more concerned with the flow of the stories and the way the events reveal the disciples’ understanding, particularly Peter’s, of who Jesus was, what he meant by his teaching about the Kingdom, and what it meant in practice to be one of his disciples. Mark’s stories also recount the developing religious opposition, the increasing power of Jesus’ miracles, the faltering progress of the disciples, and the revelation of the necessity of Jesus’ death. Since these concurrent themes complicate the task of outlining a structure for Mark’s gospel, I have chosen to use an approach that is often taken by scholars; a straightforward geographical structure with three main sections.

     

    Sections:

    1:1   Title introduction

    1:2-13   Preparation

    1:14 – 8:26   Jesus’ ministry in Galilee

    8:27 – 10:52   Journey to Jerusalem

    11:1 – 16:8   Jesus in Jerusalem

    16:9-20   Summary reflection

     

    Themes:

     

    1. Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God (Mark 1:1, 8:29) – Jesus’ identity is ‘confessed’ by God (1:11, 9:7), demons (1:34, 3:11, 5:7), Mark (1:1), the Centurion (15:39) and Jesus himself (12;6, 13:32, 14:61-62).
    2. Jesus is the Son of Man bringing in the Kingdom of God – Mark portrays Jesus as the fulfilment of the leading prophecy of Daniel; the Son of Man, God’s agent bringing in the Kingdom of God (Daniel 7:13-14). As such, he is destroying Satan’s rule and the signs and wonders are demonstrations of his victory and reign.
    3. The failure of the twelve apostles – The slow and frustrating process whereby Jesus’ disciples both fail and then slowly succeed as his apprentices. Jesus teaches about discipleship and the revolutionary lifestyle of the Kingdom of God.
    4. Jesus gives his life as a ransom – He gives his life as a ransom to ‘buy back’ humanity from bondage to sin and evil (10:45). Jesus is the King who attains his throne through suffering.
    5. Faith – From the appeal of 1:15 to ‘repent and believe’ to Jesus’ final commission in 16:15-18, Mark recounts Jesus’ appeal that men and women believe in him. Story after story hinges on humanity’s response of faith (or unbelief) in Jesus.

     

    Literary Genre >
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    If you were writing the biography of the greatest person you have ever met, what would be the leading matters you would want to describe? What are the leading issues in Jesus’ life that Mark records?


    Question 2 -

    Jesus calls his followers to suffer with him. In recent years the persecution of Christians has grown very significantly throughout the Middle East, South Eastern Asia and Northern Africa. What can we do to stand with them?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    Someone has said that it was impossible for Mark to write a boring sentence. These short 16 chapters are some of the most feisty, dramatic literature ever written and they stand at the very heart and beginning of the records of the man who has most influenced the world. If Mark’s gospel reads as a record of Peter’s anecdotes, what do passages such as 8:17, 8:32, 14:29-30 show us about Peter?


    Question 4 -

    Although the apostles did give up everything to follow Jesus, and they even went on mission and saw the power of his name work in people’s lives, nevertheless they were desperately slow in understanding Jesus’ identity and his teaching about the Kingdom. When the real test came in Jerusalem, they all failed him terribly. What does their behaviour show about you and me, and what did change them for ever?


    Question 5 -

    In what sense were Jesus’ miracles pushing back the dominion of Satan (Daniel 7:13)?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Title Introduction: Mark 1:1
    • /
    • Preparation: Mark 1:2-13
    • /
    • Galilee: Mark 1:14- 7;23
    • /
    • Gentiles: Mark 7:24 - 8:21
    • /
    • Journey to Jerusalem: Mark 8:27 - 10:52
    • /
    • Jerusalem: Mark 11:1 - 16:8
    • /
    • Final Summary: Mark 16:9-20

    1:1   The Title Introduction

     

    The opening sentence is a title introducing several leading themes that will be developed throughout the whole of the book. There is a double meaning present in that it is both the gospel about Jesus, and also the gospel proclaimed by Jesus. Mark is breaking new ground; he is for the first time writing down a message that up to this point had only been proclaimed orally. The Gospel of Mark is also one of the very first, perhaps even the first, document to recount a history of the ‘working class’, and as such this is a ground-breaking document.

     

     

     

     

    1:2 – 13   Preparation

     

    1:2-8   John the Baptist prepares the nation

    John the Baptist comes in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets (wearing the same clothing and eating the same food), preparing the way for the Messiah (Christ) and stating that he will baptise with the Holy Spirit. John’s ministry gripped the nation: ‘the whole Judean countryside, and all the people of Jerusalem’ (v5) responded. The focus on repentance and on the gift of the Spirit is the exact application of Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).

    V2-3   This is a combination of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.

     

     

    1:9-12   The Holy Spirit prepares Jesus

    It is the Spirit that descends on Jesus at his baptism and then immediately drives him into the desert both to be tested and prepared for ministry. The baptism is a completely Trinitarian event, as is the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. It is in standing in the will of God that every disciple will succeed in seeing Satan flee and be overcome.

    V11   The Father’s voice from heaven affirms Jesus’ divinity, and his sinlessness. Jesus’ voluntary participation in John’s baptism demonstrates that he embodies his nation, just as his nation is chosen, or elected, to represent and embody all of humanity’s ethnicities.

    V12   Jesus goes into the desert to be away from all distractions. Since he alone is chosen and anointed by the Spirit, the destiny of humanity is in his hands. He must now decide what to do and how to lead human progress into the will of the Father for all the universe. Numerous options are open to him, but the most pernicious are the good plans and strategies that are nevertheless not the very best. He chooses to win humanity’s loyalty not through demonstrations of power, but through serving and ransoming humanity back to God by dying in humanity’s place. He thereby wins not only the loyalty of men and women, but their deepest love, and because he wins their love, he wins their obedience. This decision is a conscious choice for rejection, conflict and appalling suffering.

    1:14 – 8:26   Stage 1: Jesus’ ministry in Galilee

     

    1:13-20   Jesus preaches the Kingdom and makes disciples

    This section both introduces and summarises the first phase of Jesus’ ministry; he goes to the region of Galilee, he calls the people to repent and believe his preaching that the Kingdom of God is near, and he calls specific individuals to follow him.

    V14-15   Jesus steps up into ministry by building directly on the foundation that John the Baptist had established and preaches exactly the same message (Matthew 3:2). Jesus therefore emerged as a successor to John after John had been imprisoned. The message that the Kingdom of God is near is drawn directly from Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 7:13-14) that the Son of Man would come and establish the Kingdom of God. There is an interesting parallel between the process by which Paul emerged as the apostle to the Gentiles out of ministering with and for Barnabas, and the way Jesus emerged as the movement’s leader only when John had been imprisoned.

    V16-20   Mark seems to understand the calling of these two pairs of brothers as the defining extension and development of John’s ministry. While John did have disciples, he did not seem to engage in Jesus’ highly developed ‘discipleship’ training which Mark records in substantial detail, which came to define the movement and which provided the foundation for its continuation after Jesus’ death.

    V16   Simon (Peter) is the first apostle. Mark always presents him as the leading apostle, and the apostle that represents all the other apostles. The Gospel of Mark is the collection of Peter’s stories that Mark has recorded first hand for the church.

    V17   Every person who gives up what they have in order to follow Jesus will find that their life changes beyond expectation. To join the revolution is to become revolutionary.

     

     

    1:21 – 39   Galilean ministry: the beginnings at Capernaum

    The little fishing village of (the now uninhabited) Capernaum is situated on the northern side of the sea of Galilee. Perhaps it was because of the combination of its distance from (the religious authorities in) Jerusalem and its potential for travelling by boat throughout Galilee that Jesus chose it to be the centre the beginnings of his ministry. Since Peter’s mother-in-law lived in Capernaum, he would have known it well. The three events Mark records clearly made a huge impression on Peter.

     

    V21 – 28   Jesus’ authority and teaching

    It was both Jesus’ authority and his teaching that astonished the worshippers at Capernaum. His teaching was not only absolutely clear and instructive, it was utterly compelling. Indeed, the reality of the presence of authority so unnerved and frightened one who thought he had everything in the synagogue under his control that his evil spirit could do nothing but scream out in defiant challenge. I like to muse that the demon-possessed man was the ‘church-warden’.

    V25   Mark will show that it was only over time that his disciples came to the realisation that Jesus was the Messiah (8:9), and this was always Jesus’ intention. All the attempts by the demons to short-cut this process of dawning love and loyalty were summarily dismissed by Jesus. We should realise that to the worshippers in the synagogue at Capernaum that Sabbath morning it would have appeared that Jesus was severely rebuking the man for the substance of what he had said; ‘you are the Holy One of God-’…’Be quiet!’’: the congregation would have been left thinking the man had been rebuked for his blasphemy.

     

    V29-34   Jesus heals many

    Mark is recording Peter’s stories so it is not surprising that the very first healing story is the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. It is a ‘simple’ healing of a fever, but it left a deep impression on Peter. I noticed in Zimbabwe that the healings we saw Jesus do often opened up new vistas of future ministry. A Catholic man was healed of skin cancer on his head, and as a result an Alpha Course started at his church and then spread to Catholic churches all over Harare. Following the healing of a young woman with a particularly dangerous form of anorexia, different members of her family opened up to the gospel.

    V32   The Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath rules forbade people to walk more than a short distance, so it was when Sabbath ended after sunset that the entire village crowded around Jesus to seek his healing. Many were healed, and many were delivered of demons. Again, Jesus silences the demons (v25).

     

    V35 – 39   Jesus prays, and moves on to other villages

    Jesus’ own spirituality was rooted in solitude and prayer. These were his foundation and well-spring, so that when Peter requests he return to carry on the exciting ministry in Capernaum, Jesus focuses on the necessity of preaching, twice mentioned in v38 and v39. It is essential that as Jesus’ apprentices we establish the same foundations of prayer and the word of God in our lives (Acts 6:4, Acts 18:5).

     

     

    1:40–3:6   Galilean ministry: the religious authorities oppose Jesus

    From the earliest beginnings of the Galilean ministry, religious opposition emerged and grew against Jesus. Mark now records five incidents where, in different ways, the opposition from those with religious authority develops from disquiet through to challenge, before culminating in a full blown public confrontation which led to the Pharisees stating their intention to kill Jesus. However, Mark is careful to record that Jesus himself began by initiating an approach to these authorities through healing a man with a skin disease.

     

    1:40-45   Jesus restores an unclean man

    This simple, beautiful story of the healing of a leper is really about the restoration of a man who, because of his uncleanliness, was separated from society. Lepers and those with contagious skin diseases were banished from society by the Mosaic religious law. They were isolated from and feared by the whole society, and had to shout out “unclean” wherever they went. It is hard to imagine the horror of the isolation such people suffered. Unsurprisingly the man does not ask to be healed, he asks to be ‘made clean’. Jesus responds ‘Be clean’ (v41). Jesus then instructs him very strongly to do two things: firstly, not to tell anyone, and secondly, instead to follow the Mosaic instructions until the priests have themselves testified to the healing by declaring him clean. But the man is so over-excited that he disobeys both of Jesus’ instructions. Although Mark’s narration implies that this healing brought Jesus such popular acclaim that his ministry was quickly impeded by crowds mobbing him, Mark has included the story at this point as the first of a series of incidents involving the religious authorities. Jesus had intended this man’s restoration to be a sign to the priests and the world that the Kingdom revolution of restoration was now operating powerfully, and to assuage any misgivings the priests might have. Jesus’ healings were often strategic; in healing the Centurion’s servant, Jairus’ daughter, and the royal official’s son, Jesus protected his ministry by winning the hearts and support of the three centres of power at Capernaum: the Romans, the synagogue leaders, and Herod’s official.

     

    2:1-12   Jesus forgives a man’s sins

    The remarkable healing of the paralytic is described in such wonderful detail and drama that one can almost hear the eye-witness Peter speaking. Although the religious authorities were absent in the previous story, they are not only present in this one, but their misgivings play a crucial part in developing the incident. The process of what happened is instructive in terms of how faith and revelation operate, but Mark’s focus is actually on the religious issue of forgiveness, the word appearing in key places in v5, v7, v9 and v10. The healing is in a sense secondary, because it serves to vindicate Jesus’ greater claim that he has authority to forgive the man’s sins. The focus is on Jesus’ authority to forgive, just as in the previous incident the healing demonstrated Jesus’ power to restore an unclean man back into society. The healings were very understandably bringing huge crowds to Jesus, but his focus is already on greater matters: the restoration of humankind back to God through the forgiveness of sins, and the restoration of human communal interrelations (1:40-45).

    V5   ‘When Jesus saw their faith…’ – Jesus heals when there is faith present, (contrast 6:5-6), even if it is not the faith of the sick person.

     

    2:13 – 17   Jesus calls sinful people to follow him 

    This wonderfully vibrant story further illustrates the growing realisation that Jesus was different from the religious authorities. Jesus not only associates with ‘sinners’ but he calls them to follow him as disciples, and by including a tax collector within his inner circle, he makes a very public statement of this to both his supporters and opponents. Just as the word ‘forgiveness’ was the leading word in the previous story, so ‘sinners’ is in this, occurring four times in v15-17. However, this story takes us to a new point, in that Jesus not only calls ‘a sinner’ to follow him, but he states ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’. In Jewish culture, the meal is a symbol of fellowship, peace and reconciliation, and it is his eating with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ that provokes the Pharisees to verbalise their concerns (v16). Mark is already pointing us to the heavenly banquet where the participants will be very different from those that the Pharisees expect.

     

    2:18-22   Jesus discards the practice of unhelpful fasting

    It is not surprising that opposition next arises in connection with the most demanding spiritual discipline practiced by all religious enthusiasts: fasting. This means abstaining from food, and if the situation is serious, from drink also. Jesus’ answer does many things: it points to the ‘wedding banquet’ that his ministry was bringing to Galilee with himself as the bridegroom, it exposes the danger of those blindly caught in routine religious discipline, and it also hints at the cross: ‘the day when the bridegroom will be taken from them’ (v20). The parables of the new cloth and the new wine skin speak of the new ‘Holy Habits’ that his disciples will need to discover, learn and practice in order to enable them to engage with ever increasing effectiveness in their new Spirit-life with Jesus in the Kingdom. Dallas Willard’s book, ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ is a masterful classic on this subject which I recommend wholeheartedly and without reservation to all who are serious about their apprenticeship of Jesus. Willard’s teaching has influenced my life more than any other author, apart from the Bible.

    V22   Although there are exceptions, fasting in the Old Covenant was an expression of mourning, regret, repentance and confession. However, the four examples of New Covenant fasting are of a different order. Jesus’ own fasting in the desert (Matt 4:1-11), Anna’s life of fasting and worship in the temple (Luke 2:37), the Antiochan elders fasting (Acts 13:1-3), and Paul and Barnabas’ fasting before appointing elders (Acts 14:23) each demonstrate that this spiritual discipline should be used by the apprentices of Jesus to establish bridgeheads for the advancement of his Kingdom (Saul’s severe fast in Act 9:9, on the other hand, was an ‘Old Covenant’ perspective).

     

    2:23 – 3:6   Jesus severely challenges the Pharisees’ practice of Sabbath 

    Mark brings this sequence of interactions between Jesus and the religious authorities to a climax by narrating two incidents involving the Pharisees’ practice of Sabbath. In the first, Jesus dismisses their petty objection that his disciples are ‘harvesting’ contrary to the fourth commandment, and points out that God made Sabbath for humanity’s benefit and not to bind us cruelly. However, the growing tension bursts in the second incident where Jesus himself takes the initiative and publicly challenges them to state whether the purpose of the Sabbath is ‘to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ (3:4). As in the incident in the house at Capernaum (2:1-12), Jesus then does the miracle to vindicate and prove the veracity of his teaching. The evil in the hearts of the Pharisees is then publicly demonstrated by them plotting how they could kill Jesus. There is much that apprentices of Jesus must learn from this chilling behaviour. We must beware whenever our zeal, our enthusiasm, our dedication and commitment to Christ leads us to anything remotely near to hatred, let alone an intention to kill. We should zealously practice ‘Holy Habits’ that plunge us ever more deeply into the freedom of the Spirit-Kingdom life, as Jesus himself challenges us that the purpose of spiritual disciplines is ‘to do good … and to save life’ (3:4). Whenever our spiritual disciplines become tyrannical, it is time to stop those spiritual disciplines.

    V5   In seeking to understand the dynamics of the Sabbath dispute, we must recognise that this is one of Jesus’ most astonishing miracles. The man’s hand was shrivelled. As such Jesus heals someone who was maimed! This restoration is not a healing, it is an act of (re)-creation! Since the only creator is God himself, Jesus’ miracle not only vindicates his claim to be ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ (2:28), but demonstrates his divine nature. Mark has brought us to the same point as Matthew does in Matthew 9:27-34. The gift of the Sabbath touches directly on God’s creation, his redemption and his provision for his people. By instructing the man to ‘Stretch out your hand’ (3:5), Jesus was reminding the religious leaders that when God gave the Sabbath rest, he redeemed them from Egypt with ‘an outstretched arm’ (Deuteronomy 5:15).

     

     

    3:7 – 35   Galilean ministry: Jesus instates the ‘new Israel’

    Undeterred by the religious leaders’ intention to kill him, Jesus takes the renewal movement to a new level by appointing twelve apostles in a move that symbolised the establishment of a new Israel after the original pattern of the twelve tribes. This provokes two strong reactions: his family fear that he has gone mad and that the movement is out of control, and the religious authorities from Jerusalem publicly state that he is demonic.

     

    3:7 – 12   Immense popularity 

    Initially there are two responses to the religious authorities’ intention to kill Jesus. First, Jesus withdraws in order to quieten the immediate tension, as he does on similar occasions (John 10:40). Nevertheless, the exponential growth of his popularity means that ‘crowd control’ has become a serious problem (v9, v20).

    V9-10   Even today with advanced policing there are accounts where large numbers of people being crushed to death by excited crowds (for example the Hillsborough disaster of 1989).

     

    3:13 – 19   Jesus appoints twelve apostles 

    Jesus then calls and appoints twelve followers to ‘be with him’ (v14) in order to then ‘send them out to preach’ (v14) and have ‘authority to drive out demons’ (v15). With this decisive move, Jesus very dramatically takes the movement to a new public level. There are several features to note: first, in appointing twelve apostles Jesus makes an overt political statement: he is forming this movement into a new Israel. Second, the move is instructive for all concerned, with discipleship-coaching; Jesus calls the twelve ‘in’, in order to send them ‘out’. Third, we should not overlook the very practical aspect of crowd control; Jesus needed trusted men around him to ‘manage’ the crowd.

    V16-19   Peter is always mentioned as the first apostle, and Judas Iscariot as the last. Note the gentle way Jesus teases James and John and ‘pulls their legs’ by calling them ‘sons of thunder’ (see Luke 9:54-55). The way to disarm a zealot is to gently tease them by overstating their zeal!

     

    3:20 – 35   Two extreme reactions to Jesus’ institution of the ‘new Israel’

    If the significance of Jesus’ appointment of the twelve apostles is lost on us, it was certainly not lost on either his closest family, nor his fiercest opponents. Their two different, but extreme, reactions demonstrate the shock and horror with which they understood the significance of his appointment of the twelve apostles. His family conclude that the whole movement is escalating completely out of control, that his sensational popularity has gone to his head, that ‘He is out of his mind’ (v21), and they go ‘to take charge of him’ (v21). Jesus’ response (v31-35) is severe. In stating that ‘whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother’ (v35), he not only publicly distances himself from them, but by implication states that it is he, and not they, who is fulfilling God’s will.

    V22-30   Here Mark uses a literary device of including one story within another in order to tell us that the two incidents should be understood as being related (see Mark 11:12-26). While narrating the response of his close family (that he is mad), Mark inserts the response of the religious authorities that Jesus is evil; that ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons’ (v22). There are three parts to Jesus’ response. He first explains with painstaking logic that Satan is not so foolish as to allow his forces to attack each other. Second, he explains the spiritual dynamic: someone stronger than Satan is pillaging Satan’s house before their very eyes. Third, he explains that in stating that his spirit is evil, they are committing an unforgivable sin. If I state that Jesus is evil and warn people against trusting Him then there is no way left for me to be saved, since I am strictly avoiding the very means God has provided for me to be saved. There is no means by which my blasphemy against the Spirit of Jesus can be forgiven as long as I maintain that the Spirit of Jesus is evil. Once again Jesus is pointing beyond what he does, to what he is – the Messiah, the Son of God.

    V23   Do we not sense a tone of great mercy running through Mark (Peter’s) description of the way that Jesus takes time to explain carefully to those who are set against him why they are wrong and are themselves in danger of appalling sin?

     

      

    4:1-34   Galilean ministry: Jesus explains the emerging Kingdom

    Undeterred by the vehement reactions (3:20-35) to his instatement of the ‘new Israel’ (3:13-19), Jesus now begins to explain what is going on. From the very beginning (1:14-15), Jesus has been preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God, but from this point onwards he expressly explains how the Kingdom is coming, that is, how it is growing. Jesus chooses to do this by including in this teaching and preaching new forms of illustration – pictures, metaphors and stories – that describe truths about the Kingdom of God. Mark now lists four interrelated parables, each of which teaches an important feature about how the Kingdom comes and how it grows. It is important to recognise that Mark only includes two of Jesus’ teaching discourses in his gospel. In this first discourse, he recounts Jesus’ teaching about the ‘new age’ of the Kingdom of God that he is bringing and establishing on earth. In the second (Mark 13:1-37), Mark will recount Jesus’ teaching on how this ‘current age’ will end.

     

    4:1-20   The parable of the four types of soil

    The first factor determining the growth of the Kingdom of God throughout humanity is the character of the different types of people who hear and receive the gospel message of the Kingdom (1:15). The parable has been called ‘the parable of the sower’, but this is badly misleading since the bulk of both the parable and its explanation focuses on the way the different types of soil receive the seed – how different types of people receive and engage with the gospel message of the Kingdom. Jesus is explaining that the way that men and women respond to the gospel message can be summarised into four general categories. There are those who never properly begin to either hear or make any progress, they neither understand the message nor begin to live the Kingdom life. Others start well, but have no ‘root,’ no character to see it all through, and give up once they face serious opposition. A third group engage well with the kingdom until they are slowly compromised by ‘the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things’ (v19). Only those in the fourth group who ‘hear the word’, and who ‘accept it, … bear fruit’ (v20), but these then ‘reproduce’ far out of proportion to the normal crop (one grain usually produces about seven grains). So in his first parable, Jesus not only introduces the ‘parable’ genre, but he also uses it to explain how the Kingdom of God grows not only in human communities, but also in individuals. It is helpful to realise that every disciple of Jesus reacts in each of these ways on different occasions. The point that Jesus is making is that the growth of the Kingdom in us as individuals, and in our communities, is directly related to the different ways in which we hear, respond and engage with the Kingdom of God.

     

    4:21 – 25   The illustration of the lamp

    In a dark house, no one is so stupid as to light a lamp and then cover it up so those in the house can’t see anything. Jesus is explaining that he is that light that has come into the world and he is not going to stay silent and ‘cover himself up’. No, he is in the process of explaining clearly what is going on, and the really important thing is how individual men and women ‘hear‘ and listen. Verses 24 and 25 are arguably the most important instructions Jesus ever taught on the subject of discipleship. He articulates exactly how disciples can grow in the Kingdom. Study carefully Jesus’ repeated and emphatic emphasis on how we listen (v3, v9, v23, v24). Those who truly meditate on and ‘consider carefully’ (v24) how to engage in the Kingdom will find they are given more, and more, and more insight and ability to participate fully in the Kingdom, while those who don’t will find (like the first three soils) that their understanding of the Kingdom and participation in it ebbs away until there is nothing left.

     

    4:26-29   The parable of the growing seed

    Building on the ‘figures’ of the sower, the seed and the soil, Jesus teaches a short parable that also addresses the way that the message of the Kingdom affects the lives of those who receive it. The interaction of the seed and the soil – the message of the Kingdom and the type of person who receives it – produces ‘all by itself’ the full grain of the new harvest. The emphasis seems to be on the silent, quiet, hidden work of God bringing growth and development that is beyond the farmer’s understanding. With this parable, Jesus assures his disciples that the work that God is doing through the message of the Kingdom (the seed) and its reception by individuals and communities (the soil) will certainly reach maturity and fulfilment.

     

    4:30-34   The parable of the mustard seed

    In another parable, that could hardly be explained more succinctly, Jesus makes the point that just as a mustard bush grows to a substantial size from only a tiny seed, so the Kingdom of God that he is establishing may appear very small and weak, but it will grow and develop into an astronomical size, in both the lives of the individuals who hear and receive the Kingdom, and throughout the world. Jesus’ little band of followers may appear tiny, weird and odd, but this movement will grow until it fills the earth (Daniel 2:35,44; 7:14).

     

    In all of these parables, Jesus’ discourse focuses on way that the Kingdom comes and grows both in the lives of individuals and throughout human society. The illustration of the different soils demonstrates that the growth of the Kingdom is directly related to the character of those who hear it and their determination to engage with and enter the Kingdom. The illustration of the lamp in the dark room develops this, emphasising that Kingdom disciples must listen, and consider the Kingdom message very carefully because only those who invest in it fully will engage with it fully. The illustrations of the growing seed and the mustard seed assure the disciples that it is God himself who is working in ways beyond our understanding, that he will cause the Kingdom to grow to herculean proportions, and the day will come when the entire crop is fully prepared and ready for harvest.

     

     

    4:35 – 6:5   Galilean ministry: greater miracles

    Since the incident over the Sabbath that led the Pharisees to state their intention to kill him, Jesus has taken the movement to a higher lever through the appointment of the twelve with its implied instatement of a ‘new Israel’ (3:13-19), and through a greater level of teaching about the Kingdom (4:1-34). Jesus’ third response is to reveal his power over nature, over evil, and over death itself.

     

    4:35-41   Jesus has power over nature

    Having taught about the new age of the Kingdom, Jesus’ disciples now experience first-hand Jesus’ power over nature in an event where they fear for their lives. Their deliverance from a frightening near-death experience evokes exactly the question that will drive the development of Mark’s narrative; ‘Who is this?’ (v41). Legion will answer this question in 5:7, Peter in 8:29, the voice (of God) in the cloud in 9:7, Jesus himself in 14:61, and the centurion in 15:39. Apart from introducing the issue of ‘faith’ in 2:5, Mark has not yet shown that this is the primary response Jesus is searching for in men and women, but from this point on (v40), Jesus focuses on it.

     

    5:1-20   Jesus has power over evil

    This longer story (which is recounted in detail by Matthew and Luke) exhibits Jesus’ ‘terrifying’ authority and power over all evil. The story is dramatic and the detailed narrative communicates the huge impression the event had on Peter and all the apostles. The local people are beside themselves with fear and beg Jesus to leave their area (v17), but the healed man(on this unique occasion) is allowed by Jesus to report openly what had happened so that when Jesus is next in their vicinity the entire local population comes to listen to him (6:53). Although Jesus may have allowed the pigs to be destroyed because they should not have been in the country, it seems more likely that their destruction demonstrates the inherent incoherence and self-destructive nature of evil. We see in this story something of the raw ‘terrible’ authority and power of Jesus; if it wasn’t for the cross all humanity would live in absolute fear of him. ‘A thousand’ demons were powerless to prevent Legion from running up to and worshipping ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ (v7). Every believer is a royal priest in the heavenly Father’s family (1 Peter 2:9), and in our discipleship we are growing and being tutored by the Holy Spirit and within the governance of the mother church to properly exercise the authority of royal priests.

     

    5:21-43   Jesus has power over death

    For a second time (see 3:20-35), Mark weaves two stories together. This wonderful cameo of two powerful healings not only illustrates Jesus’ authority to heal the sick and raise the dead, but highlights the imperative need for faith (v34, v36, v40).

    V30   This incident gives a fascinating insight into both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity. Through the divine Spirit, he knows that the Father has healed someone, but he then uses his body, his mind, and his humanity to find out what has happened. We therefore see an interaction and the interdependence between Jesus’ divinity and his humanity, both natures working with each other.

     

    6:1-5   Jesus is rejected by his own home community

    This stage of ministry ends once again with rejection, this time not from the Pharisees (3:6), but from his own home community (6:3). Mark narrates the incident to highlight the theme of faith by interpreting their rejection in this light: ‘He was amazed at their lack of faith’ (6:5), in contrast to the woman in 5:34.

     

      

    6:7 – 7:23   The culmination of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee

    Mark now relates five events that mark the culmination of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, each of which speaks to a different aspect on the developing movement; the progress of the apostles, the dangerous political context, the future Kingdom celebration, Jesus’ supremacy over nature, and the strengthening opposition of the religious leaders.

     

    6:7-13   Jesus sends the twelve out on mission

    Mark gives a short description of the disciples’ first mission. It was accepted practice for rabbis to send out their disciples in this way. Jesus reduces their ‘resources’ to an absolute minimum so their means of living is entirely dependent on them focusing only on the message (v12), and the demonstration (v13) of the Kingdom. It is an excellent thing for all apprentices of the Kingdom to step out in faith and do such mission trips.  Those who do will remember the experience all their lives!

     

    6:14-29   The pioneer of the Kingdom movement is executed

    Mark reports the story of John the Baptist’s execution within the period while the disciples were on mission, although the execution had taken place sometime earlier. Mark does this to make the point that the miracles done by Jesus (and his disciples (v14)) were becoming so widespread that even the political authorities were being forced to recognise what was happening. John the Baptist was the one who had pioneered this reform movement (1:4-5), but since his imprisonment Jesus had become established as its preeminent leader. The incident at Herod’s party was a toxic (and frightening) mixture of wealth, brute political power, provocative lap dancing and vicious jealousy and hatred. John’s execution was a setback for the movement and will have escalated the political and religious tension throughout the nation. The execution of John was itself an ominous sign of political forces opposing Jesus, and his own imminent death.

     

    6:30-44   The Messianic banquet in Galilee

    Richard France is surely correct to view the dramatic provision of food for 5,000 ‘men’ not only as the culmination of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee but as a deliberate miracle pointing to the promised eschatological banquet. Although Jesus does travel through Galilee again (9:33), he appears to do so in a way that avoids attention from the crowds, so the ‘feeding of the 5,000’ (which is narrated at length in all the gospels) is also a ‘farewell banquet’. The story is recounted in a way that focuses on Jesus’ expectation that his disciples should act and take initiatives of faith in his name. The event also points to Jesus’ plan that the disciples should ‘regroup’ with him in Galilee after his resurrection (14:28, 16:7).

     

    6:45-52   Jesus’ supremacy over nature

    Once again, Jesus’ authority and divinity are revealed in this exceptional miracle. Unlike all the healing and provision miracles, this miracle focuses directly on the identity of Jesus, and is shown only to Jesus’ close disciples. From one perspective, it is simply a demonstration that Jesus is greater than Leviathan, the ‘god’ of the sea (evil), but verses 51 and 52 show how far the disciples were from understanding even the question, let alone the answer.

    V53-56   These people had heard the story of the woman in the crowd (5:34), and were determined to receive from him. This is a foretaste of the Gentile mission that begins in 7:24.

     

    7:1-23   Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders

    The growth and development of the movement in Galilee has now become so significant that the religious authorities in Jerusalem sense a challenge to their own authority. Their verbal challenge (v5) reveals their insecurity, Jesus is not encouraging the religious behaviour that the elders in Jerusalem demand. This is about power and control of the masses, it is about man made religion and man’s attempt to approach God. All of it has at its root various demonstrations to prove loyalty to God, demonstrations involving food, hair, clothes, washing ceremonies, demonstrations of loyalty to do with time, and place, and very classically, circumcision. Because these demonstrations originate from human beings, they rapidly degenerate into power systems, that bind and control, mislead and dehumanise, even to the point of inflicting injustice. It is a feature of the answers that Jesus gives that he always answers the root question and issue behind the question put to him. The root issue was their complete spiritual blindness and their resulting ineffectual worship. Jesus sites the abuse of the ‘Corban’ principle to prove his point. But the heart of the issue is more serious because this whole issue is actually about the inherent (deceptive) wickedness of the human heart (v21-23). This dispute occurs at the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, and is recorded at much greater length and with more detail than usual by Mark. Jesus’ ministry strategy is always to work in an area until the opposition reaches just below boiling point before then going to the next phase of ministry (v24) – until the final phase when he brings everything to a crescendo in Jerusalem – so we must understand Mark to be instructing us on his atonement theology with this longer account; Jesus’ death is to do with the humanity’s real root problem, the deceptive wickedness of the human heart.

    V18   An uncomfortable challenge to the disciples. There is an urgency about Jesus’ ministry and they need to respond! In this culminating phase of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, we watch Jesus beginning to challenge his apostles in a new way. First there was the probing question of 4:40, ‘Do you still have no faith?’, then the exploring question to Philip (6:37), but then much more directly in this verse and in the challenge of 8:17. The apostles must have taken this to heart because when Jesus asks the leading crucial question in 8:29, Peter shows that he (and the disciples) have started to understand what is really going on.

     

    7:24 – 8:21  Stage 2: Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles

    Although it is likely that Jesus left Galilee in order to diffuse the tension after the dispute with the religious authorities (7:1-23), it seems that Jesus’ more important  intention in journeying north was to take the message of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. Almost all the place names in this phase of ministry are Gentile towns: Tyre, Sidon, Caesarea Philippi, Decapolis and Bethsaida. Mark has noted that ‘Jesus declared all foods clean’ (7:19) and understands Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles as the logical extension of this truth. Mark briefly highlights the extraordinary faith of a Greek woman leading to the deliverance of her daughter, an exceptional healing, and a nature miracle which ends the mission with a similar ‘Messianic banquet’ to the one in Galilee. Mark then focuses on Jesus’ provocative challenges to the apostles.

     

    7:24-30   The faith of a Syro-Phonecian woman

    The Gentile mission had two aspects to it; first, to let the religious temperature in Galilee cool down (after the public disputes of 7:1-23), and second to establish a base for future (post-resurrection) ministry in the north of the country. Although Jesus is taking every action to minimise publicity, it is the woman’s faith that he has brought his disciples to Tyre to witness.

    V27-28   Although Jesus’ comments seem uncomfortable to our ethnic sensitivities, Jesus’ conversation with the woman is part of his more important mission to take the gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. He has already dramatically healed a demon possessed Gentile (5:1-20). He seems to be pushing the woman to speak out a great statement of faith.

     

    7:31-37   Jesus heals a dumb and mute man

    Decapolis was the region to the east of the sea of Galilee populated by non-Jews. This exceptional healing is the only other miracle Mark records from the Gentile mission, and we must note that it specifically fulfils the Messianic expectations of Isaiah 35:5-6. Mark records this healing here, ahead of his challenging questions in v17-21, to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah.

     

    8:1-10   The Messianic banquet for the Gentiles 

    Just as the feeding of the 5,000 was the culmination of the Galilean ministry, so the feeding of the 4,000 is the banquet celebration at the end of Jesus’ ministry in the northern and eastern Gentile regions.

     

    8:11-13   The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees

    The Pharisee’s spiritual blindness is illustrated by their insistence on asking for signs, despite Jesus continuing to do exceptional miracles in fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 35:5-6. So Jesus leaves and returns to the Gentile town of Bethsaida. There are times in our discipleship when we are so out of step with Jesus that His best remedy is to leave us alone until we come to our senses, stop pursuing our own agendas and begin once again to seek him again with all our hearts.

     

    8:14-21   The spiritual blindness of the apostles

    While Jesus’ warning about the Pharisees (v15) is clear enough, the point behind his two questions (v19,20) is the subject of much confusion. Since the whole of Mark’s argument is leading to 8:29, I take the view that he records this conversation because Peter came to realise that the abundant over-provision at the two banquets was ample evidence to anyone who has read the Messianic passages of Isaiah 12, 25 and 35 that Jesus is the Messiah and that his Kingdom is the ‘year of Jubilee’.

    V18     With these penetrating questions, Jesus is challenging his disciples: despite all they have witnessed, are they as spiritually blind as humanity in general, as specifically articulated in Isaiah’s call (Isaiah 6:9-10) and taught by Jesus in 4:12? It is Jesus’ persistent, and increasingly assertive, challenges to his disciples (4:40 leading to 6:37, leading to 7:18, leading to 8:17, leading to 8:21) that provoke and lead Peter to make the declaration of 8:29: the fulcrum of Mark’s gospel.

     

    Mark 8:27 – 10:52   Stage 3: Journey to Jerusalem

    Three important developments take place during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. First, Peter (on behalf of the twelve apostles) ‘confesses’ that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus’ immediate response is to teach them that in Jerusalem he will be rejected, betrayed and killed, but he will then rise again. This is the second significant development. The third is that on the journey to the capital, Jesus teaches his apostles the leading radical values of the Kingdom that must characterise the future community of disciples (the church).

     

     

    1. and 2. The revealing of Jesus’ true identity and his essential ‘work’

    8:22-26   The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida

    The recording of this unique two-stage healing after Jesus’ assertive challenge to the apostles (v17-21), illustrates that the disciples had, up to this point, only partially understood Jesus. They understood that Jesus was unique but nothing more, spiritually they were partially-sighted, ‘seeing men (Jesus) walk like trees’ (v24). Jesus seems to have two purposes in taking his disciples and the blind man outside the village. First, he seems to want to drive the point home to the apostles that they that are the ones who are ‘spiritually partially sighted’! Second, perhaps he took this action in order that they alone were the ones who saw him do a healing that at first appeared ‘unsuccessful’. This healing, which once again is a specific fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophetic statement of the Messiah’s unique ministry (Isaiah 35:5), immediately precedes the key question of Mark’s gospel; verse 29. It shows us that people come to Christ in stages, their eyes are opened gradually stage by stage, in response to hearing the gospel as faith grows in them (Romans 10:17). Apprentices of Jesus should ask him all the time to help them understand what he is trying to reveal to them; we should remember that if Jesus used ‘events’ to teach his apostles, then it is more than likely that he will be doing the same with us now in the 21st Century. We should meditate carefully on the fact that Jesus never imposes himself and his identity on people; he waits for them to come to the full realisation of who he is.

     

    8:27-30   Peter ‘confesses’ that Jesus is the Messiah

    Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, is the fulcrum of Mark’s gospel. Everything before has been leading to this point, and everything afterwards leads to Jerusalem and Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Jesus and his party of disciples are still north of Galilee in a Gentile area; ‘Caesarea Philippi’. Jesus instructs the disciples to keep the truth of his identity to themselves. The title ‘Messiah’ was too full of baggage, political risk was too serious, so he chooses the title, ‘Son of Man’, a direct reference to Daniel 7:13-14.

     

    8:31-36   Jesus states that he will be killed in Jerusalem 

    Jesus immediately begins to instruct them that he must be killed in Jerusalem, but that afterwards he will rise from the dead. Peter, (no doubt encouraged by his success in identifying Jesus as Messiah) takes it upon himself to rebuke Jesus, but is himself rebuked by Jesus publicly in front of the disciples for thinking in a human way and not considering the concerns of God. Nothing demonstrates the apostles’ confusion more than this, they are still ‘seeing men like trees’ (8:24).

     

    8:34 – 9:1   Jesus calls his followers to a lifestyle ‘of the cross’

    Jesus then teaches that his apprentices must walk the same road that he is about to walk. The Christian life is a life characterised by ‘denying’ yourself, and ‘taking up’ your cross and following Christ. Apprenticeship to Jesus will involve losing your life for Christ and the gospel. The crucial issue at the judgement is whether or not a person has been ashamed of Christ and his teaching (v38), but the return for genuine loyalty to Christ is to see the Kingdom come powerfully in this life now (9:1)! This is what happened to the apostles as recorded in Acts. The Kingdom is ‘now’, it is ‘near’, it is ‘delayed’ and it is ‘not yet’; all these statements are 100% true but viewed from different perspectives. Even now in this life, through faith in Christ, we experience ‘the powers of the age to come’ (Hebrews 6:4-6).

     

    9:2-13   The three leading disciples encounter God

    This ‘transformation’ encounter is a direct endorsement of Peter’s confession (8:29), and it happens only a few days after it (v2). Verse 7 is the crucial statement: ‘This is my Son whom I love. Listen to him.’ It is the second time that the Heavenly Father’s voice directly endorses Jesus (1:11). The statement affirms and confirms many things. It affirms Jesus himself, his identity and the love the Father has for him. Second, it affirms Peter’s ‘confession’ of 8:29. It also confirms the essence of Jesus’ teaching; all apprentices should listen to Jesus (4:24).

     

    9:14-29   Jesus delivers a boy with an evil spirit

    This story roots all that has just been revealed, stated and confirmed about Jesus’ identity (8:29-9:13) in the messy, difficult, evil of this world. The (other) disciples had failed, and Jesus is critical of their failure (v19). The whole event has an unsettling feel about it. However awkward and challenging the deliverance ministry is, we nevertheless believe that God has given the church both the power and the authority to heal and deliver (6:7; Matthew 10:7). Although we do need theologies around both suffering and ageing, we also need to ‘lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of us’ (Phil 3:12).  Athough the Kingdom is both ‘now and not yet’, there will be periods in church history when all who come to us are healed (Acts 5:15-16). Throughout church history, and especially in recent centuries, some apprentices of Jesus have exercised exceptional healing and deliverance ministries in his name.

     

     

    3. The radical Kingdom values and characteristics of the church

    From 9:30 to 10:45, Mark records a number of events and discussions which demonstrate a change of focus in Jesus’ teaching. While his first priority is to prepare the disciples for his death and resurrection in Jerusalem – something they find almost impossible to understand – his second is to prepare them to lead the community of believers (the church) after his resurrection. Broadly, Jesus instructs his disciples about authority and governance, marriage and divorce, and wealth.

     

    9:30 – 32   Jesus predicts his death for a second time

    Perhaps because of the severity of Jesus’ challenges in 8:17-21, and because they cannot countenance the possibility of Jesus actually dying, the disciples are afraid to ask Jesus what he fully means by his repeated ‘death warnings’.

     

    9:33 – 41   Features of the Kingdom: handling power and authority

    This short section, along with 10:35-45, ‘bookends’ Jesus’ teaching on Kingdom community characteristics. This double emphasis demonstrates that the most serious difficulty the community of disciples will face is the handling of power, authority and governance. In v38-40, Mark has included a short incident involving an individual outside of the twelve exercising Kingdom power in Jesus’ name. In correcting the apostles for rebuking the man, Jesus is demonstrating that those who are given the governance of the church must encourage Kingdom ministry and should use their authority to control and limit it – ‘everyone gets to play’. Jesus will not allow his community to be ruled by an oligarchy or religious tyrants. His Kingdom is for all to participate in (by faith), and all who have faith in Jesus are to be welcomed and encouraged. They must not be excluded because they are not in the inner circle.

    V41   No matter how small the gift or participation in the Kingdom, everyone who seeks the Kingdom will be rewarded in some way.

     

    9:42 – 50   Teachings relating to governance in the Kingdom community

    What at first appear to be random teachings are more likely to be teachings by Jesus that Peter reflected on as ‘a collection’ in the aftermath of the events of v33-37. The incident in v38-41 has demonstrated that engagement with the Kingdom is open to everyone, but v42-50 change the focus in order to emphasise that all those seeking to participate must take the serious steps to dissociate from all evil. No one can move forward to two opposite directions at once. No one ‘sowing’ to please the sinful nature can make progress in the Spirit-life of the Kingdom (Galatians 6:8).

    V42   A warning that all who are ‘advanced’ and ‘making progress’ in the Kingdom should take great care not to crush the faith of the weak – those who may be confused or appear to be making little progress. A prophecy about Jesus says that ‘a dimly burning wick he would not put out’ (Isaiah 42:3), and we Christian leaders must help the weak in faith, the confused, and those who may with the very best intentions actually be meandering in the wrong direction. We are to help them, not bruise and discourage them, or criticise them. If we do, then we shall answer to God for our bullying.

     

    10:1 – 12   Features of the Kingdom: marriage and divorce

    Having experienced public humiliation in their encounter with Jesus at the end of his Galilean ministry (7:1-23), the Pharisees now attempt a subtler trap by serving up the leading ethical dilemma of their day: is divorce (or more specifically re-marriage) permitted? Typically, Jesus answers their question with a question, and in doing so takes them straight to God’s original creation ordinance: heterosexual, life-long, monogamous covenant. Although the question is about divorce, Jesus’ answer widens and explains the subject in terms of marriage and sexual behaviour. Jesus’ affirmation of God’s creation ordinance must therefore be the starting point for all our contemporary sexuality and gender discussions.

    V6   Jesus’ return question takes the discussion straight to the high court of the Mosaic law, and in doing so demonstrates that Jesus’ entire ministry and teaching operate within the bounds of the authority of scripture. This is underlined by his clarification that Moses’ leniency was a temporary permission allowed because of the hardness of the human heart (very significantly this was the subject of his final teaching in the previous dispute, 7:22-23).

    V8-9   Jesus emphasises the one flesh union. This is the root reason why remarriage, or more specifically sexual engagement with a second partner after divorce, is adultery. Adultery is specifically forbidden by the seventh commandment; Exodus 20:14, and Malachi 2:15-16 expressed God’s hatred of divorce, because of the appalling destruction to those involved.

     

    10:13 – 16   Features of the Kingdom: children

    In this short story Jesus teaches that children have a full place in the Kingdom. He also teaches that the proper way for every adult to enter the Kingdom is to receive it in the way that a little child receives a gift; trusting that it is a good gift and receiving it wholeheartedly.

    V13   Religious people always tend to ‘protect’ their privilege and separate themselves from others, and who easier to exclude than little children. Jesus will have none of this exclusivity and once again the ‘blindness’ of the disciples is exposed (9:38-41). Remember once again Peter is telling this story against himself.

     

    10:17 – 30   Features of the Kingdom: handling wealth

    In contrast to the open welcome into the Kingdom extended to the children (v14), Jesus states that the rich man needs to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor before he can enter the Kingdom and possess the its treasure (a direct application of 4:19). The rich man has led a godly life (v20), so Jesus leads him, once again by asking a penetrating question, to consider his own identity just as he did with Peter (8:29). Godly living, the Kingdom and the identity of Jesus are all interwoven together. The whole event is a living example of Matthew 6:19-24.

    V26   The disciples’ question perfectly illustrates the common misunderstanding between salvation and the Kingdom. Every person is saved by believing in Jesus; this is absolutely clear from Romans 10:9-13 (and the door is very wide – v13)! But engagement in the Kingdom, that is, participation and growth within the realm of heaven that Jesus (as the king of heaven) is establishing on earth, is only for those who through persistence, discipline and sacrifice learn to obey the commands of king Jesus so they live the very life of heaven here on earth now. They alone are the ones who receive the full treasures of the Kingdom (v21, 30), who bear much fruit (4:20), and see the Kingdom of God come with power (9:1).

     

    10:31 – 34   Jesus predicts his death for a third time

    This third ‘passion’ prediction is notable for its clarity. The context is Jesus’ assertive leadership of the group of followers as he marches ahead of them towards the capital city. The details of Jesus’ prediction are stated unambiguously, almost like facts that haven’t yet happened (v33-34). Beyond any doubt, Peter understood Jesus to have an absolutely clear idea of what was ahead of him.

     

    10:35 – 45   Features of the Kingdom: authority and power

    If the request made by these brothers was not about such a serious issue, this story of their attempt to manipulate Jesus would be comic farce – ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask’ (v35)! Once again, while Jesus answers their question he goes further and addresses the underlying truth which is that it is impossible to have power and authority in the Kingdom of heaven without first demonstrating through extreme suffering and death that you are entirely faithful to the will of God and therefore worthy of handling genuine power and authority. So once again Jesus addresses the twelve and teaches them that leadership is only given to those who serve, and serve genuinely (v43-44). Given the appalling history of bullying, manipulation and sheer violence of the leadership in the Christian church throughout 2,000 years, we can see that Jesus’ repeated teaching on this issue, and the repeated recording of it by the gospel writers, was firstly necessary and secondly often still unheeded.

    V45     This verse is rightly viewed as one of the key verses, if not the key verse, of the gospel. Mark (Peter) understands the atonement in terms of ‘ransom’; to buy back in order to release the captives from the dominion of slavery. We are not enslaved to political powers, we are enslaved to the evil which emerges from our hearts (7:20-23).

     

    10:46 – 52   The healing of the blind man outside Jericho

    Just as Jesus heals the blind man at Bethsaida just before Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, so Jesus gives sight to ‘blind Bartimaeus’ just before he does his great work of atonement in Jerusalem. The point is clear: are your spiritual eyes open? Can you see what is really happening? The incident is narrated immediately after Mark’s atonement statement (v45). Mark is underlying the two axiomatic truths: Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) (8:29) who died to ransom us for God (10:45).

    V52   The healing once again demonstrates that faith is the essential means by which a person engages and participates in the Kingdom.

    Mark 11:1 – 16:8   Stage 4: Jerusalem

    Jesus’ ministry crescendoes in Jerusalem, where at the end of a week of tension, debate, conflict and teaching he is arrested, tried and executed. Mark’s gospel ends with the announcement that Jesus has risen from the dead. This culminating section falls into four parts:

    • Jesus confronts the religious authorities (11:1 – 12:44)
    • Jesus teaches about the end of this age (13:1-36)
    • Jesus is betrayed, tried and executed (14:1 – 15:47)
    • The report of Jesus’ resurrection (16:1-8)

     

     

    11:1 – 12:44   Jesus confronts the religious authorities

     

    11:1-26 Jesus enters Jerusalem with three Messianic prophetic acts

    Jesus the Messiah enters Jerusalem. Mark describes this in three phases; First Jesus makes three clear public prophetic demonstrations, 11:1-26, which lead secondly to several public disputes with the authorities; 11:27-12:24. After which in a third phase Jesus challenges the authorities; 12:35-37, and teaches his followers; 12:38-44.

     

    11:1 – 11   Prophetic sign 1 – Jesus enters Jerusalem

    By entering Jerusalem on a young donkey, in specific fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9, Jesus was intentionally making a very clear prophetic act to the capital city, the nation, and especially the religious leaders. It may first appear that Jesus is using his authority and prophetic foresight in requesting the use of the young donkey, but on closer examination, given the immense significance of this prophetic act and the careful preparation Jesus takes in making it, it seems more likely that Jesus had privately planned this carefully with the owner (just as his use of the upper room for the last supper was carefully planned).

     

    11:12 – 26   Prophetic signs 2 and 3 – Jesus curses the fig tree and cleanses the Temple

    Mark then interweaves two further very deliberate prophetic acts done by Jesus. By describing (rather briefly) the cleansing of the Temple within the story of the cursing of the fig tree, Mark is clear that Peter understands Jesus to be making the same point in both events. The vine and the fig tree are symbols of the Jewish nation. The curse on the fig tree is a curse on the entire Jewish national religious praxis, and the forceful cleansing of the temple (in order to provide a place for the Gentiles to pray) is a prophetic sign – once again foretold in Old Testament prophecy (Zech 6:1-8) – that God’s judgement on this decrepit religious system had begun. But to conclude at this point is to miss Marks’ main point. Within only a few days the authorities will have killed Jesus, but, just as Mark has already indicated in 10:45, although Jesus curses the fig tree (symbolising the religious system), it is he himself who then bears the curse and is executed.

    V15   All human religion, all our religious practice, even our very best Christian religion, falls short of God’s supreme perfection. This will always be the case until Christ has returned.

    V18   As early as 3:6 the (humiliated) Pharisees and Herodians had decided to kill Jesus, but now it is the Chief Priests and teachers of the law who see murder as their only option.

     

     

    11:27 – 12:24   The religious authorities dispute with Jesus

     

    11:27 – 35   Dispute 1: the religious authorities challenge Jesus’ authority

    Forced into a corner by Jesus’ immense popularity and then his three public prophetic challenges (and his continued healings and teaching), the Temple authorities challenge Jesus. They cannot deny that he has authority, but they question its source. Jesus will not be drawn on the issue (at this point) and he counters their challenge by questioning their rejection of John the Baptist. The Temple authorities are left paralysed by the logical result of their own lust for authority and power.

     

    12:1 – 12   The parable of the tenants in the vineyard

    ‘The vineyard’ is an Old Testament metaphor for Israel (Isaiah 5). So the meaning of Jesus’ use of this parable cannot have been lost on the Jewish religious authorities. But Jesus’ point is not just that God is about to take away the mandate he has given the Jewish authorities and give it to others. In direct answer to their question in 11:28, Jesus is also stating that he is God’s son and he has authority over the vineyard. This is a further explanation to the question of why Jesus cursed the fig tree. He is the son of the owner and (quite justifiably) has come to the tenants expecting fruit from the vineyard. He found no fruit, only murder and dereliction, so with the authority of the owner (God himself) he executes judgement.

    V7-11 These verses have an underlying atonement theme. The stakes are high – both sides speak of ‘killing’ – but Jesus’ use of Psalm 118:22-23 turns the issue to the deeper matter of atonement; God himself is about to do something very, very glorious.

     

    12:13 – 17   Dispute 2: paying tax to Caesar

    The Pharisees once again try to trick Jesus with another ethical issue over which they themselves were struggling; should the godly, righteous person pay taxes to the secular, pagan, tyrannical emperor? Jesus’ exemplary reply not only directly answers their question, but publicly exposes their trickery and deceitfulness, and humiliates them in the process. However, his answer goes far further and the sheer wisdom of his reply has become the central axiom for all Christian ethics regarding involvement with the secular; the apprentice of Jesus not only continuously affirms both the human and the divine arenas but also the interaction between them. Just as Jesus is both fully human and divine, and the scriptures are fully human and divine, so the righteous life is both fully and continuously both fully human and divine. Every disciple of Jesus who grows as an adopted child (son) of God, also grows to be a greater human being.

     

    12:18 – 27   Dispute 3: a ‘quibble’ question from the Sadducees

    Despite their trickery and deception, the Pharisees did actually put an important ethical question to Jesus in v14, but this is not the case in this third dispute which is little more than sheer nonsense. Jesus criticises the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, but he dismisses the Sadducees for their complete ignorance of two axiomatic spiritual dynamics; the Scriptures and the power of God (v24). He then corrects their error (of denying the resurrection) by quoting back to them their own foundational verse, Exodus 3:6. This is like quoting John 3:16 back at an Evangelical, or Acts 2:4 at a Pentecostal, or 1 Corinthians 14:1 to a Charismatic. The force of his final phrase (v27b) should be felt for what it is; a scolding criticism and warning. How shocking that when this ‘churchmanship’ has the chance to meet the Messiah himself, they could only come up with such an irrelevant comment while their nation was on the brink of Messianic revival.

     

    12:28 – 34   A genuinely helpful question

    Although included in the ‘debate’ section, this question from a teacher of the law is recorded by Mark in a positive tone with the endorsement from Jesus that ‘you are not far from the kingdom of God’ (v34). Love for God and one’s neighbour must always be the leading priority for every apprentice in the Kingdom of God.

    V34   Having had their chance to put their questions and challenges to Jesus, and in each case (with the exception of the helpful question of 12:28-34) having been assertively dismissed by Jesus, it is now Jesus’ turn to challenge his accusers, which he does in the following incident.

     

     

    12:35 – 44   Jesus questions the religious leaders and teaches the people

     

    12:35 – 37   Jesus questions the religious leaders: whose son is the Messiah?

    In quoting the first verse of the royal psalm 110, Jesus presses on the crowd the logic that the Messiah, as David’s son, is according to the promise of this verse the beneficiary of this promise from God himself, and as such is ‘the Son of God’. This truth has already been made throughout Mark’s gospel and specifically by Jesus in 12:6 in the current ‘dispute’ section. Jesus therefore has the final word in the ‘dispute’ engagements.

     

    12:38 – 40   Jesus warns people about the privileged religious life 

    Beware the privileges of the religious life, its beguiling honour and comfortable status. God will judge the teachers of the law ruthlessly because they know what to do and therefore have absolutely no excuse when they don’t do it (James 3:1).

     

    12:41 – 44   The widow’s gift: a moving example of genuine godliness 

    This short event is clearly linked to the previous section through Jesus’ reference to the widows (v40). The exceptional story of this widow’s godly commitment and love for God stands in sharp contrast to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (v38). The widow gives 100% of the tiny amount she has, with the result that she has nothing left. Her gift is a sacrificial act of love for God in which she entrusts herself completely to his keeping.

     

     

    13:1 – 36   Jesus teaches about the end of the age

    In the first teaching discourse (chapter 4), Mark records Jesus’ description of the coming age of the Kingdom. This second discourse conversely describes the end of this current age.

     

    13:1 – 4   Introduction to the discourse

    Jesus’ teaching about the end of this age is introduced by two leading questions:

    1) When will these things (the destruction of the temple) happen?

    2) What will be the sign that they (the temple’s destruction) are all about to be fulfilled?

     

    13:5 – 31   Jesus answers question 2: what will be the signs that (the destruction of the temple) is about to happen?

    Throughout Mark’s gospel we have seen that when Jesus is questioned, he not only answers the question, but more importantly gives the answer to the root issue underlying the question. In this case, Jesus answers his disciples’ question by describing the trauma that humanity will experience: deception (v6), wars, earthquakes and famines (v7-8), which he summarises using traditional apocalyptic language in v24-25. But the bulk of the chapter (v9-23) is about the persecution that his followers will experience in their mission to take the message of the gospel of the Kingdom to all nations (v10). This is the only ‘sign’ Jesus gives in answer to their question (v4).

     

    13:32 – 37   Jesus answers question 1: when will the temple be destroyed?

    Jesus is quite clear that he does not know, only the Father in Heaven knows (v32-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). This strongly implies that this current human age will end, and the age of the Kingdom of heaven will come fully only when his disciples have accepted the Kingdom and are living in it so fully that ‘the bride’ is ready, and the bridegroom comes to take her to be with him for ever. But he instructs his disciples to ‘Be alert’ (v33), and ‘Keep watch’ (v37). He also gives the illustration of the fig tree ripening its fruit just before summer and teaches that his return will happen in a similar way; when the message of the Kingdom has been planted in the earth and has grown to the point of bearing fruit, then Son of Man will come in great power and glory (v26). Should we understand the ripening of the fig tree in terms of the Jews becoming jealous of the power of the Kingdom within the community of disciples and thereby causing them to turn to Jesus as Messiah?

     

     

    14:1 – 15:47   Jesus is betrayed, tried and executed

     

    14:1 – 11   A woman anoints Jesus

    Mark (Peter) and Jesus clearly understand this story as the beginning of Jesus’ suffering and death (v8). The woman had come to realise that the religious bullies would kill him sooner or later (v1), and led by the Spirit, she rubs perfume onto his skin (his feet, legs and shoulders). There are two or three incidents like this in the gospels which perhaps suggest that such a practice was more widespread within society. Many of the greatest works of God in scripture begin with women: Exodus 1-2, Ruth, 1 Samuel 1-2, Luke 1-2; and primarily Mark 16:1-8. Conversely, this incident is the tipping point for Judas, who by this point had become a thief, stealing from the disciples’ common purse, and he then takes his first steps towards betraying Jesus, a leading example that the love of money is at the root of all evil. We disciples should give sacrificially to Jesus, and fear ‘the love of money’.

     

    14:12 – 26   Jesus’ last supper with his disciples

    Jesus enacts the Passover supper (v12) understanding that through his death (v12, 21) a new covenant will be established, as a result of which there will be an immediate incremental advance in the incoming Kingdom of God.

    V16   Jesus had privately taken immense trouble to make preparations for this supper (see 11:2).

    V20   Jesus’ reply implies that more disciples than just ‘the twelve’ were present; perhaps there were 20-30 people present?

    V26   The only recorded occasion when Jesus sang a hymn. Worship strengthens us to do God’s work.

     

    14:27 – 31   Jesus predicts Peter’s denial

    In foretelling their imminent desertion, Jesus is already preparing them for their recovery from it. Although he states that they are to return to Galilee and meet him there, they do not understand him, with the result that when it happens they completely fail to obey him. Once again, the Old Testament scriptures are Jesus’ absolute authority (v27; Zech 13:7), even when it comes to the desertion of his closest followers. Peter insists that he is loyal even to death, but this was not to be the case.

     

    14:32 – 42   Jesus is tempted to flee, but overcomes this through prayer

    Acutely aware of the violence he is about to face, Jesus resists the temptation to flee by engaging in the most earnest prayer. Here is a window into advanced prayer. Jesus’ prayer is straightforward, specific, but also completely submitted to the Father’s will. This was the point of temptation, where Jesus needed his friends like at no other point in his life because, there is unique power in twos and threes praying together. And yet, they failed him because they were completely exhausted.

    V37   This is the only time in scripture where the length of time in prayer is mentioned.

    V41-42   A petition can be made three times, but if after three (seasons) of petition God has not changed his mind then the matter is fixed. When God says something once it is his desired will. When he says it a second time it is his confirmed will. When he says it three times it is his confirmed will and it must happen immediately; that is why Judas arrives immediately at this point. Paul engaged in three seasons of prayer for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, and then God revealed to him that he was more effective living weakly and dependent on Christ than in a powerful condition (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

     

    14:43 – 52   Jesus is arrested  

    The crowd, armed with clubs and swords, arrest Jesus. Although the other gospels identify Peter as the one defending Jesus, Mark does not. Perhaps there was some disagreement as to who it actually was, so Mark leaves the identity open. Once the disciples realise Jesus is not resisting his arrest, they flee for their lives.

    V51-52   This short incident is so unexpected and so detailed, and yet inconsequential to the main story line at the crucial point that a strong argument can be made for identifying the young man as Mark the author. If this is the case, then it is surely significant that Mark records the identity of neither the disciple who defends Jesus (v47), or that of this young man.

     

    14:53 – 65   Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin

    The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish religious court; it had 70 members. Jesus’ silence exposes the inconsistency of his accusers’ charges since their ‘evidence’ is exposed as self-contradictory. Importantly, by being silent he provokes them to ‘raise the bar’ until the High Priest himself is forced (in desperation) to play his highest card and challenge Jesus to say publicly whether or not he is the Messiah (the anointed servant king prophesied by Isaiah). Mark has been building up to this point from the very first verse (1:1). Jesus not only affirms the statement publicly, ‘I am’ (v62), but then in addition immediately claims to be ‘the Son of Man’ (v62) in fulfilment of the leading prophecy of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus therefore controls the entire event and turns his own trial by the Sanhedrin into a platform from which to make the greatest claims of his entire life and ministry; he is Messiah and Son of Man, the one promised and foretold throughout the entire salvation-history of the Old Testament.

     

    14:66 – 72   Peter’s final desertion  

    Peter, who slept when he should have been preparing himself in prayer, is completely unprepared for the test when it comes. Once again the principle of ‘three statements’ applies. The first is a statement of intent, (but there could be ambiguity), the second is confirmation, but the third is further confirmation with immediate consequences, and so the cock crows in immediate judgement, Peter remembers what Jesus had already said and breaks down weeping.

    V71 Peter says ‘I don’t know this man’. He did not know that Jesus was weak. Peter didn’t know that Jesus was like this.

     

    15:1 – 15   Jesus is tried by Pilate

    For a second time, Jesus is silent and refuses to defend himself. The result is that the both the religious leaders and Pilate are exposed for what they are.

    V2   Jesus could be simply stating that Pilate himself had privately said to others that Jesus was ‘the king of the Jews’.

     

    15:16 – 20   The soldiers flog Jesus and mock him

    Perhaps the violence of the soldiers, and the ‘special attention’ they give him, springs from their own earlier fears that he was planning to lead a violent rebellion against them. The evidence of Pilate’s question (v2), the purple (royal) robe and the soldiers’ mock worship of the ‘king of the Jews’ give some indication that the Romans were themselves both genuinely frightened of the massive national support Jesus commanded, and correspondingly relieved that they had the opportunity to remove that threat once and for all.

     

    15:21 – 32   Jesus is crucified

    Mark’s narrative accounts have been brief throughout his gospel, and characteristically, so is his account of the crucifixion.

    V21   The two sons of Simon are mentioned with an ease and confidence that indicate that they were very well known in the early Christian community.

    V31-32   The murderous hatred of these religious leaders is horribly shocking, they are responsible for crucifying the only righteous man who has ever lived, and whose life has since been the inspiration of all true godliness for every person who genuinely and truly seeks to live a righteous life. This is a horrifying display of what happens when blind religious zeal is joined with the lust for power.

     

    15:33 – 41   Jesus dies

    Jesus was crucified at 9.00am and he died six hours later at 3.00pm. The last three hours, it seems, were the time of greatest testing ‘when darkness covered the earth’ (v33). Mark only gives one of Jesus’ sayings from the cross; Jesus’ quotation of the first phrase of Psalm 22 appears to some to be a desperate cry of failure, “God why have you deserted me?”. But since Psalm 22 is a vivid description of someone being crucified, and the results which ensue, it is more convincing to assume that Jesus is interpreting the whole event for humanity. We could hardly expect him after 6 hours to quote the entire psalm. He quoted the experience of desolation which everyone who experiences extreme suffering experiences, “Why has God deserted me and allowed me to suffer in this horrendous way?” But in quoting this first phrase, he is guiding humanity to read the remainder of the psalm and understand his own perspective on his crucifixion and death. Through this one phrase, uttered with great effort at the point of extreme weakness and suffering, he both changes the believing apprentice’s perspective on suffering forever, and teaches all humanity about the ‘ransom’ atonement (10:45) he has just established between God and humanity. This is why the detail of the ripping of the temple curtain is important, and included precisely at this point.

    15:39   The centurion is the last and final witness to the true identity of Jesus (1:1, etc). Jesus even converted the man who killed him.

     

    15:42 – 47   Jesus is buried

    Joseph of Arimathea’s intervention is important because not only is it a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:9 – a detail in the other leading Old Testament atonement prophecy – but it clarifies any ambiguity about what happened to Jesus’ dead body. The two Marys are specifically stated as witnesses.

     

     

    16:1 – 8   The report of Jesus’ resurrection

    Even though the subject matter is exceptional, Mark’s narrative account of these verses is simple and factual. Given that the details relate to all that Jesus has already told Peter and the disciples (8:31, 9:9, 9:31, 10:34, 14:28, 16:7, and we could include 13:10 and 14:9), I take the view that Mark’s original ending seems to have been removed, and later replaced by what we now have as verses 9-20. Although it is interesting to speculate as to what Mark’s original ending was, ultimately, we simply do not know. My own speculation is that since Mark’s gospel reads as Peter’s own testimony, the original text contained a narrative of Peter’s encounter with Jesus (Luke 24:34) – no doubt a deeply personal and emotional meeting – which was later deemed too candid and subsequently removed.

    Mark 16:9 – 20   Final Summary

    This summary has an objectivity about it which together with the noticeable difference in literary tone leads almost all scholars to conclude that it was a later additional editorial comment. The leading theme is ‘belief’. First, the apostles’ unbelief leads to their rebuke by Jesus in v14, and then Jesus’ gives the commission to them which is expressed in terms of ‘belief and salvation, and unbelief and condemnation’, and the signs that will follow those who do believe. The final two verses state that the disciples then did what Jesus had commanded.

    Preparation: Mark 1:2-13 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of Mark:

     

    Stated very briefly, Peter’s assistant Mark is recording his gospel in order to answer three questions:  

    1. Who is Jesus? He is the Christ.
    2. What did he come to do? He came to serve, to suffer and to die as a ransom so that many will be brought to God.
    3. What does he ask of his disciples? To take up our cross and follow him through the ‘death’ of self-denial into the glory of the resurrection.

    The leading imperatives:

     

    1:15     The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news. 

    2:13     Follow me.

    4:3       Listen!

    4:24     Consider carefully what you hear. 

    6:8-11  Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave as a testimony against them. 

    8:33     Get behind me, satan!

    8:34     If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

    11:25   And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

    12:17   Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

    12:29-31  “The most important one,’ answered Jesus ‘is this, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

    13:5     Watch out that no one deceives you.

    13:7     …do not be alarmed …

    13:9     You must be on your guard.

    13:11   Do not worry beforehand about what to say.

    13:13   He who stands firm to the end will be saved.

    13:14-18   Specific instructions about fleeing the desolation.

    13:21   Do not believe it (the false claims of the return of Christ).

    13:23   So, be on your guard.

    13:32   Be on your guard! Be alert!

    13:35   Keep watch.

    13:37   Watch.

    16:15-16   Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

    The implied imperatives:

    When we study the development of Jesus’ ministry strategy through the book of Mark, it becomes clear that Jesus is looking for different types of obedience and response at different stages. The progressive revelation of his identity in the first eight chapters builds up to Peter’s ‘confession’, ‘You are the Christ (the Messiah)’ (8:29). This is the obedience which Jesus is seeking. From that point onwards, Jesus actively seeks a response of increasing faith from his disciples. He challenges them, expecting a higher level of action motivated by their faith in him.

     

    1:5       Confess your sins and repent.

    1:38     (We should) minister to everyone.

    1:44     Act within the religious law.

    2:20     (We should) fast.

    3:4       Do good (and heal) on the Sabbath.

    3:14-15   We should exercise our authority over demons.

    3:35     Do God’s will.

    4:40, 5:34, 5:36, 6:6    Jesus wants us to have faith in him.

    6:46     We should pray.

    7:13     Don’t nullify the commands of God in order to keep human religious traditions.

    9:35     Don’t try and be the greatest.

    9:39     Don’t stop others ministering in Jesus’ name.

    9:42     Don’t cause the little ones who believe in Christ to sin!

    10:7-10   Jesus affirms heterosexual monogamous lifelong marriage.

    10:14   Let children come to Jesus.

    10:21   Sell what you have and give to the poor.

    10:43   Don’t aim to be powerful – the kingdom is for servants.

    11:23   Speak and bring faith into different situations.

    12:24   We must make sure we know the scriptures and the power of God.

    12:38   Beware of the attractions of the honour of the religious life.

    12:42   Give simply, totally, privately and throw yourself on God’s mercy.

    13:31   We need to know Jesus’ teaching.

    14:22-24   Participate in celebrating the bread and wine.

    14:37   We should pray for an hour.

    14:69-72   Don’t deny Christ (see 8:34-9:1).

    16:14   Jesus rebuked them for their stubborn refusal to believe the reports of his resurrection.

    Applications:

     

    • Repent
    • Believe
    • Follow
    • Listen, consider carefully …
    • Love
    • Take up your cross and follow Jesus
    • Watch, keep alert, be on your guard …
    • Take the gospel of the Kingdom to all the world

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    • Since the applications address all the leading issues across the breadth of discipleship, these Holy Habits could be directed in numerous ways. Nevertheless, the main imperative is the one that troubled Peter most and seems to have influenced Mark’s composition quite strongly precisely because Peter himself failed to obey it: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (8:34).
    • So, as apprentices following Jesus (and Peter, and Mark), we will learn to instinctively obey 8:34 in the big matters of life whilst we practice the principles in the small matters of life. Rhythms of fasting, identifying publicly with Christ, simplicity, etc will establish deep patterns of lifestyle obedience in us.
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    Why did Jesus deliberately not tell the disciples that he is the Messiah, and wait for them to come to that realisation only after a long and quite torturous process? Why did he do this when once they had realised this truth, he immediately began to instruct them very clearly that he would be killed and rise again in Jerusalem?


    Question 2 -

    Mark contains two only two ‘teaching discourses’, both of which describe a profound transition in the whole existence of humanity. Mark 4 describes the beginning and growth of the new age of the Kingdom of God. Mark 13 describes the end of the present age of humanity (believers currently live in the ‘overlap’ of these two ages.) Study these two chapters. What are the key features of each of these two transitions, the end of the old age and the beginning of the new?


    Question 3 -

    Mark 10:45 is a leading verse in Mark and it reveals and addresses one of the main perspectives through which Jesus understood his ministry and work. What does 'ransom' mean, and how is the word used today? In what way can it be used to describe the atonement?


    watch video

    Question 4 -

    Mark seems to record the story of the two-stage healing of the blind man (8:22-26) just before Peter’s ‘confession’ of Jesus’ identity (8:27-30) as a deliberate example of how men and women come to understand the true nature of God in Jesus. What does this teach us about our approach to non-believers and members of other religions?


    watch video

    Question 5 -

    Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:34 – 9:1 gives important instruction insight into the essence of loyal discipleship. What are the issues he specifically highlights and looks for?


    Question 6 -

    Again and again throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus calls men and women to believe in him. Study these stories and write down your own understanding of ‘faith’ in one or two sentences: 1:15, 2:5, 4:40, 5;34, 5:36, 6;6, 9:23, 11:22-25, 16:14-16.


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on the Gospel of Mark 

     

    Father, through your Spirit open our eyes to see Jesus, to listen to him, to repent and believe in his message of the Kingdom of God, to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses and to follow him. Help us to watch and be alert, and loyally stand firm all the days of our lives as we preach the good news to all the world. In his name, Amen.

     

    Commentary:

    Father, through your Spirit open our eyes to see Jesus (8:22-26), to listen to him (4:1, 9:7), to repent and believe in his message of the Kingdom of God (1:15), to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses and to follow him (8:34). Help us to watch and be alert (13:5,37), and loyally stand firm (13:13) all the days of our lives as we preach the good news to all the world (16:15). In his name, Amen.

     

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on Mark 

    (Updated: February 2018)

     

    Commentary Comment
    Richard France NIGTC Series In my opinion this is the most convincing perspective on the Gospel of Mark. France’s commentary is very readable and he combines informed and intelligent scholarship with a godly and sensible spiritual perspective (which after all is the very reason the document was written).

     

    Morna Hooker:

    The Message of Mark

    A delightful little treasure trove on this Gospel (120 pages), listing and describing the key themes of the ‘Jesus Story’ that Mark emphasises.
    C.E.B. Cranfield

    Cambridge Greek Series

    Good quality commentary, but now rather dated.

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Suggested Sermon Series on Mark

    (Updated: 5th March 2018)

     

    Series Title:            The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God

     

    Strategy:

     

    • One surprisingly effective way of preaching through a gospel is to simply preach chronologically one chapter after another each week from beginning to end. No special titles, no need to identify themes, simply identify and preach whatever is in that chapter for that Sunday! I’ve always been surprised at just how rich and rewarding this approach is, especially if a team of preachers (perhaps four, five or six) are allowed to contribute.  It is excellent practice for the preachers to meet and study the chapters together before the sermons are given.

     

    • A second approach could be to preach on the leading themes of Mark:

     

    1. Jesus is the Christ (Mark; 1:1, 8:29): This is ‘confessed’ by: God (1:11, 9:7), demons (1:34, 3:11, 5:7), Mark (1:1), the Centurion (15:39), and Jesus himself (12;6, 13:32, 14:61-62).

     

    1. The Kingdom of God (and the end of this age): Jesus has come as Lord and ‘Son of Man’ (as prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14) and is destroying Satan’s rule. The parables of the Kingdom (4:1-34) describe the new age initiated by Jesus, while in chapter 13 Jesus describes the end of this present age.

     

    1. The twelve disciples, and discipleship: Jesus teaches about discipleship and the revolutionary lifestyle of the Kingdom of God. Key passages are: 2:18-22, 6:7-13, 8:34-9:1. Community discipleship issues such as greatness, marriage, children, wealth and authority are addressed in 9:33-10:45.

     

    1. Jesus gives his life as a ransom: He did this to ‘buy back’ humanity from bondage to sin and evil (10:45). Jesus is the King who attains his throne through suffering (see also 7:1-23).

     

    1. Faith: From the appeal of 1:15 to ‘repent and believe’ to Jesus’ final commission in 16:15-18, Mark recounts Jesus’ appeal that men and women believe in him. Story after story hinges on humanity’s response of faith (or unbelief) in Jesus.

     

     

    • A third approach could be to preach through the leading discipleship imperatives in Mark:

     

    Text Title Theme
    Main verse

    1:15

    ‘Repent’ Introduce the book. Define and explain repentance.
    Main verse

    1:15

    ‘Believe’ Faith is a leading imperative in Mark’s gospel. Study examples of faith in 2:1-12, 5:21-43, 7:24-30, 8:29, 10:46-52. Explore also examples of unbelief in 6:1-6, 16:14, and examples of the challenge to believe in 9:14-29, 16:16.
    Main verse

    1:17

    ‘Follow’  Teach on the lifestyle of discipleship (2:14, 8:34, 10:52).
    Main verses

    4:1, 4:21-25

    ‘Listen … consider carefully’  Jesus always put the responsibility for understanding on those that heard what he said (4:9, 9:7, 13:28).
    Main verses

    12:28-34

    ‘Love’ The greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbour.
    Main verses

    8:34-9:1

    ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross’ The immediate application was that the apostles should walk with Jesus to Jerusalem, where he was going to be crucified. The wider application is to willingly identify with Jesus and be publicly known as his disciple (v35-38). The reward for loyal engagement is to experience the Kingdom of God coming in your life.
    Main verses

    13:5, 37

    ‘Watch, keep alert, be on your guard’ 13:5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 18, 21, 23, 34, 37.
    Main verse

    16:16

    Take the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the world’

     

    6:7-13, 16:14-20.

     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Why do you think that Mark (Peter's assistant), when compiling Peter's account of Jesus' ministry, chose to leave out some of the stories about Peter (Matthew 14:17-32, Luke 5:1-11, 24:34, John 21)?


    Question 2 -

    Jesus often commanded his disciples and those he healed not to speak about him. Study these verses carefully: 1:43, 5:43, 7:36, 8:30, 9:9. What exactly did he forbid them saying? Why would he have emphasised this?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Questions relating ‘Mark’ to 21st C.

     

    Taster Course:

     

    QQQ

    Have you ever met someone really great? What impressed you about them?

     

     

    QQQ

    Have you ever seen a miracle? Do you know someone who has?

     

     

    QQQ

    Almost all of Mark’s gospel is the written record of the stories that Peter told about the three years he lived with Jesus. Have you ever had to be a witness in court? Did you find the experience easy, or was it frightening? What issues does a witness face?

     

    Comment:

    A witness can find the experience of court very frightening. There can be pressure both to withhold the truth or to exaggerate it. In the thirty years after Jesus’ ministry, Peter must have told these stories on hundreds of occasions as he travelled around speaking at the first church congregations.

     

     

    Starter Course:

     

    QQQ

    If you were writing the biography of the greatest person you have ever met, what would be the leading matters you would want to describe? What are the leading issues in Jesus’ life that Mark records?

     

    Comment:

    In terms of events: Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration, death and resurrection.

    In terms of his life: his integrity, astonishing courage, exceptional love, compassion, mercy and care.

    In terms of impact: his perception of true religion, his literary brilliance and articulation, his wisdom and skill in leading and building his movement through all the political and religious minefields that he faced.

    In terms of power: to reverse sickness and even death, command nature, free human beings from the demonic, and the sheer power to initiate a Kingdom that grows after he has ‘left’ the earth.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Jesus calls his followers to suffer with him. In recent years the persecution of Christians has grown very significantly throughout the Middle East, South Eastern Asia and Northern Africa. What can we do to stand with them?

     

    Comment:

    This issue is becoming very serious, and apprentices of Jesus need to become much more aware and vocal about what is happening.

     

     

    QQQ

    Someone has said that it was impossible for Mark to write a boring sentence. These short 16 chapters are some of the most feisty, dramatic literature ever written and they stand at the very heart and beginning of the records of the man who has most influenced the world. If Mark’s gospel reads as a record of Peter’s anecdotes, what do passages such as 8:17, 8:32, 14:29-30 show us about Peter?

     

    Comment:

    Peter seems to exhibit the best and worst moments of the twelve disciples that he represents. He seems to embody their struggles, their failings and their highest achievements, and in that sense he represents us all. This is why 8:34 seems so crucial as it stands near the fulcrum of the gospel, and seem to be the litmus test of all discipleship.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Although the apostles did give up everything to follow Jesus, and they even went on mission and saw the power of his name work in people’s lives, nevertheless they were desperately slow in understanding Jesus’ identity and his teaching about the Kingdom. When the real test came in Jerusalem, they all failed him terribly. What does their behaviour show about you and me, and what did change them for ever?

     

    Comment:

    Mark portrays the disciples making only the slowest of progress, and apart from coming to the realisation that Jesus was the Messiah, they fail at almost everything else (until they are filled with the Spirit at Pentecost).

     

     

    QQQ

    In what sense were Jesus’ miracles pushing back the dominion of Satan (Daniel 7:13)?

     

    Comment:

    The evidence of Satan’s dominion is such things as sickness, sadness, death, broken relationships and suffering. Jesus countered and reversed all of these.

     

     

    Main Course:

     

    QQQ         

    Why did Jesus deliberately not tell the disciples that he is the Messiah, and wait for them to come to that realisation only after a long and quite torturous process? Why did he do this when once they had realised this truth, he immediately began to instruct them very clearly that he would be killed and rise again in Jerusalem?

     

    Comment:

    There must be something about the process of dawning revelation that human beings need to go through themselves. Perhaps only in this way will conviction and loyalty to Christ be established.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Mark contains two only two ‘teaching discourses’, both of which describe a profound transition in the whole existence of humanity. Mark 4 describes the beginning and growth of the new age of the Kingdom of God. Mark 13 describes the end of the present age of humanity (believers currently live in the ‘overlap’ of these two ages.) Study these two chapters. What are the key features of each of these two transitions, the end of the old age and the beginning of the new?

     

     

    QQQ         

    Mark 10:45 is a leading verse in Mark and it reveals and addresses one of the main perspectives through which Jesus understood his ministry and work. What does ‘ransom’ mean, and how is the word used today? In what way can it be used to describe the atonement?

     

    Comment:

    It is essential that the ‘ransom’ motif for the atonement is expressed carefully. We should never imply that God somehow owed the devil a debt. In the same way, although the New Testament speaks clearly about ‘the wrath of God’ we must be extremely careful about how this is expressed. God himself ‘satisfied’ his own ‘wrath’ through the ‘ransoming’ work of the whole Trinitarian Godhead. As Cranfield has written: “God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.”

     

     

    QQQ         

    Mark seems to record the story of the two-stage healing of the blind man (8:22-26) just before Peter’s ‘confession’ of Jesus’ identity (8:27-30) as a deliberate example of how men and women come to understand the true nature of God in Jesus. What does this teach us about our approach to non-believers and members of other religions?

     

    Comment:

    Many people see Jesus as a unique religious leader, but only some see the deeper truth that he is God.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Jesus’ teaching in Mark 8:34 – 9:1 gives important instruction insight into the essence of loyal discipleship. What are the issues he specifically highlights and looks for?

     

    Comment:

    In these verses, Jesus addresses issues of public loyalty and identification with him.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Again and again throughout Mark’s gospel Jesus calls men and women to believe in him. Study these stories and write down your own understanding of ‘faith’ in one or two sentences: 1:15, 2:5, 4:40, 5;34, 5:36, 6;6, 9:23, 11:22-25, 16:14-16.

     

     

    Dessert Course:

     

    QQQ         

    Why do you think Mark left out some of the stories about Peter (Matthew 14:17-32, Luke 5:1-11, 24:34, John 21)?

     

    Comment:

    Possible reasons could be:

    1) Shortage of space to write on forced Mark to be brief.

    2) Mark did not want to elevate Peter above the other disciples.

    3) Mark (and Peter) understood the whole story in the perspective of Peter’s failure to be loyal to Jesus and obey 8:34-9:1.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Jesus often commanded his disciples and those he healed not to speak about him. Study these verses carefully: 1:43, 5:43, 7:36, 8:30, 9:9. What exactly did he forbid them saying? Why would he have emphasised this?

     

    Comment:

    Jesus seems to have instructed those he healed not to speak about him for various different reasons; in some cases the ‘mob’ popularity was hindering the development of his ministry, at other times he seems to have actively avoided promoting the crowd’s wrongly held political features of his Messiahship – see John 6:15.  

     

      Coaching Questions -

    Coaching Questions for the Mark Pod Sessions

                                                                                    

    Podder:

     

    Sections Point to be noted
    Opening: What’s the main thing happening with you at the moment?

     

    At the end of our last pod you said you would be happy for me to ask you this question …How have you got on?

     

    How did you go about engaging with Mark?

     

    Are there specific things you want to talk about today from your study of Mark?

                …any questions,

                …or things you don’t understand?

     

    What verses made the greatest impression on you?

     

    Substance – Message and Theology:

     

    QQQ – According to Mark, what response is Jesus looking for from us?

     

    QQQ – What is faith?

     

    QQQ – When is the Kingdom of God coming? When will we know that it is here?

     

    QQQ – Why did the twelve apostles fail so badly at almost everything Jesus expected of them?

     

     

    QQQ – Ask some of the Menu Questions

     

     

    Your insights:

     

     

    Application:

     

    Holy Habit:

    QQQ – What Question shall I ask you when we next meet in the light of the application that you have made from our study today?

     

    QQQ – On a scale of 1 – 10, how good at you at welcoming (v17) those who are very different from you, and come from very different backgrounds?