Although the Gospel of Mark is almost unanimously ascribed to Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and associate of Paul and Peter, Mark’s telling of the life of Jesus is often considered among scholars to be sort of a Gospel of Peter. This is due to a strong tradition of the early church that, although it was written by the hand of Mark, it reflected much of Peter’s inspired preaching. The writing certainly bears the personality that we would expect from Peter, very action oriented. The word “immediately” is generously used throughout the book, the verbs are often in the present tense (e.g., “Jesus teaches them”; not “Jesus taught them”), and the story moves quickly from one event to another. Actions are emphasized, long teaching discourses are minimized.
Mark also is known for vividness of details not found in other Gospels: for example, the looks and gestures of Jesus, and the picturesque language used in the story of the feeding of the 5000. Mark may even feature himself in a “cameo” detail at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:51,52).
Lastly, Mark is usually considered to be the first written of our four New Testament Gospels, written somewhere between AD 50 and AD 70.
Humility does not mean weakness — Mark 1:7,8
John the Baptist is usually associated with the variety of preaching known as “Hellfire and Brimstone”. His was a bold, no-holds-barred call to men for repentance. So, we easily caricature him as rough, tough, judgmental, and overbearing. But note his attitude of humility and submission toward Jesus, the Messiah. Rather than being a one-dimensional, cut-out character, John was really a man who loved God deeply and sought to rescue others from the consequences of sin to the best of His ability. New Christians are often misunderstood and misjudged as they try to share what they’ve learned; but like John, they are just trying to serve God to the best of their ability. Sadly, they are sometimes criticized by older Christians for being overzealous — not unlike new employees are often told by older employees to stop working so hard (they make them look bad). Maybe we need more John the Baptists in the church, humbly loving and submitting to God and rescuing as many as they can from the terrible consequences of sin. Be humble and be bold — they’re not contradictory.
With authority — Mark 1:22
This phrase means not merely that Jesus spoke boldly or loudly or with swagger. It means that He didn’t quote the revered rabbis and their traditions, like almost everyone else did. Generally, when a question arose about the Law, rabbis would cite this rabbi or that rabbi to back-up his teaching. Jesus didn’t do this. When a question of the Law came up or when Jesus simply wanted to teach something about morality, about the love of God, or about anything else, He just taught it — no citations, no quotes, no references. In fact, you’ll remember that in the sermon on the mount Jesus said several times, “You’ve heard it was said…, but I say…”. He had / has authority above any rabbi or any other man. Authority also implies the power to hold someone to account for obedience or disobedience; and Jesus taught with this authority, too. So, let the Popes pontificate, let the councils counsel, let the preachers preach, let the teachers teach — but listen to Jesus!
On being a physician — Mark 2:14-17
Upon being called to follow Jesus Matthew, who was a tax gatherer, called together a number of his less-than-popular associates to introduce them to his new Teacher. This “meet and greet” was grounds for criticism of Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. Why would a righteous man hang out with sinners and tax collectors; shouldn’t He be associating with the good guys? Jesus’ answer cut to the heart of the matter, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Although we must always be cautious of sinful associations and influences in our lives (as 2 Cor. 6:14-28 teaches), we must also be aware that pure association with the righteous will never get the Gospel preached. Are you not grateful that some good Christian decided to hang out with you and introduce you to the Great Physician? We must not be of the world, while yet living in the world.
Grieved at their hardness of heart — Mark 3:5
Here’s one of those vivid descriptions of Mark that I mentioned earlier. You don’t get them often in the rest of the Gospels. Mark says that Jesus was grieved, deeply troubled, enough to show on the face. The synagogue leaders were waiting like watchdogs to see if Jesus would heal on a Sabbath — so they could accuse Him, tear Him down, eliminate the competition for local importance. We can easily understand how such judgmental hardness of heart would wound the Master. Do our hard hearts grieve Him still?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.