In an earlier blog, I wrote about the focus of the Gospel of Matthew, and below, I’ll share a few thoughts I have gleaned about the Gospel of Mark. Both of these gospels are found in the first few pages of the New Testament. Just to review, in Matthew, the author highlighted aspects of Jesus Christ’s earthly life that could help demonstrate to those following the Jewish history, that Jesus Christ is of King David’s line, thus giving Him the right to sit on the throne. If you’ve taken time to read Matthew, you might have noticed that the travelers from the East came to King Herod and asked, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” Throughout Matthew, Jesus is presented as the Promised One, the anticipated Messiah and the “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” is an often used phrase. Questions we could ask ourselves might be: Who sits on the throne in my life? Am I determining what to go after in life or am I consulting King Jesus? Perhaps more basic: Have I bowed before King Jesus and asked to become part of His forever kingdom?
The fast-paced second gospel in the New Testament moves quickly through the activities within the ministry years of Jesus’s life. In Matthew, we learned God’s Son can rightly reign, and will. What we discover in Mark is that Jesus takes upon Himself both the attitude and the role of being a servant. Because He is and was God’s Son, He could have had others wait on Him and continually bow in His presence or rush to see that all His needs are quickly met. That is not how a servant would act. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. In Mark 10:45, Jesus is speaking about Himself when He says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (New American Standard Version -NASB). We’ll think a bit more about the last half of that verse in a couple paragraphs.
So, what would you expect to read in Mark if God wanted the author to show how willingly Jesus came to earth to be a servant? In Mark, we read instances of Jesus caring for others’ needs. Let’s just wade in a few verses and soak up what we can learn about Jesus. If you have your Bible handy and can mark in it, note how many times the word “immediately” appears. If you don’t have a Bible handy, you can open the book of Mark by clicking here.
In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus encounters a man controlled by an evil spirit, so Jesus commands the evil spirit to leave the man. It does. A few verses later, Jesus and a few of his fishermen-becoming-disciples are in a home. There Jesus heals the woman who is ill. Word spreads “immediately” and Jesus, the Servant, continues caring for the needs of the people. He teaches God’s Truth and He cares of the people. Lepers are healed, demons are cast out, and the news just cannot be kept quiet. So by the end of the first forty-five verses that make up chapter one, crowds are eagerly gathering to meet Jesus.
Interestingly, even within the first chapter, we see that Jesus is in communion with Father God. When Jesus submitted to baptism at the beginning of His ministry, God spoke from heaven saying, “Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased” (Chapter 1:11). In verse 35, we read that after the busy day of healing, Jesus got up during the night and walked out to a quiet place to spend time in prayer. He’s God’s Son. He has the power to heal. He possesses wisdom. He can read hearts and minds. He will, after His crucifixion and resurrection, head on back to Heaven, but Jesus sets aside time to pray, to spend time talking to God in heaven. A question we might ask ourselves could be: Who do I think I am if I try to get through my days without praying?
A question we might ask ourselves: If we had a choice between having a prayer answered for healing or perhaps for a financial or other need we’re concerned about OR having our sins forgiven, which would we choose? Think about that for a moment. We read about the difference in Mark.
Sometimes our eyes are so focused on our “now” instead of “eternity.” In the early part of Mark, Jesus, because He is God, says to a paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” and the mumblers in the crowd rightfully claim, “No one but God can forgive sins…” It’s easy to criticize them from a distance of about 2000 years, but their statement was essentially accurate. God is the One who forgives sins. We can ‘make amends’ and ‘straighten things out’ when we’ve wronged another, but forgiving the sin to its bottomline? That’s up to God.
The critics in Mark have correct theology about who forgives sins, but they fail to realize God has just spoken to the paralytic. They didn’t grasp the truth that God was standing in their presence. Consequently, Jesus demonstrates His authority to forgive sins by doing a miracle – healing the paralytic. I’m thankful Jesus did the healing, but ponder a bit my earlier question – which is most important to you — healing/answered prayer or forgiveness? One would matter, perhaps, for a few months or years – the other matters for eternity. Forgiveness of sins is the difference between heading for hell or being welcomed into heaven and we cannot earn heaven; God will not permit a speck of sin in heaven and we can’t get all chummy and ask Him to overlook our sins. Jesus died to deal with the penalty our sins have coming. Jesus is our only hope for peace between us and Holy God. If you want a bit more on how Jesus is our only hope of heaven, pray for a heart to understand and peek ahead at the gospel of John and read until God convicts you of your sin, arrests you long enough for you to understand how to be forgiven and become one of thousands in God’s forever family. If you go there, this image will be even more meaningful:
Mark is action-packed. The Servant is on the move in the sixteen short chapters. He calls his twelve disciples, which includes one who will turn away from Jesus. These twelve will spend about three years walking throughout the region, listening as Jesus teaches in synagogues and situations and watching as Jesus ministers to those in need. He is often called “Teacher” in this gospel because teachers serve and teach their students. Incidentally, if you are someone who has trouble reading, you can catch a whole short story about Jesus within a few verses. If you do seem to have a short attention span or need a fast-moving storyline to keep your attention, Mark might become your favorite Gospel. Most of the incidents change rapidly, but you’ll want to try to capture all the truth you can from those short glimpses into Jesus’s earthly life.
Remember I mentioned earlier that we’d return to the second part of Mark 10:45? There we read that Servant Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many. Let’s take that apart for a moment. What is a “ransom”? In the dictionary we read that ransom refers to a payment in exchange for the release of captives. We sinners were the captives who needed to be ransomed; we needed someone to pay for our release? Otherwise, our sin debt would be left unpaid in God’s eyes and therefore we would have no right to become His family and spend eternity with Him. Would you not agree that our basic nature is selfish and sinful? Holy God cannot allow sinners into heaven. In Romans, we read that the wages we collect for our sinfulness is death, separation from God. That’s not what we’d want, right? Most of us would fear being sentenced to an eternity in hell and eagerly choose to spend eternity instead in the peaceful and loving presence of God. Being with God after our earth time ends is possible because of Servant Jesus Christ who gave up His life by dying on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sins. He was sinless, just as the earlier sin sacrifices had to be without blemish. God demonstrated that He approved of “the price” for our redemption because God raised Jesus Christ to life after Jesus had been buried for three days after the horrific crucifixion. Praise the Lord, the cross and the tomb are empty! Sin’s debt has been paid!
Perhaps it is fitting to close this brief summary of Mark with the reminder that each of us can act upon the fact that Jesus Christ has paid our sin debt. Does the price paid, however, do any good in bringing us into a loving relationship with God if we don’t ask that the ransom be applied to our “sin account”? After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to various people. When Mary Magdalene rushed to tell His other followers that she’d seen Him, they were reluctant to believe their beloved dead friend had come back to life. Jesus appeared to two of His followers and it took them awhile to realize it truly was the Risen Jesus. They rushed back to tell others Jesus was risen and those who listened just couldn’t believe that was true. Jesus then appeared to the eleven who had spent most of three years with Him, and the Bible says, Jesus “reproached” them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because of their refusal to believe reports others had given them. But, thankfully, their minds and hearts changed and they began spreading the “Good News” about the Risen Lord, even when it cost them their lives.
“Jesus said, in the last verses of Mark, God into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned….” (Mark 16:15, 16).