Monday, July 14, 2008

Mark, Chapter 1

Today, we switch gears back to the gospels and look at the second gospel, the book of Mark. I like to think of Mark as CNN Headline News. It doesn’t go into as much detail as some of the other gospels, but rather hits on the highlights in a very brief format. Mark’s style of writing seems to be more of a Reader’s Digest style. We get to see a synopsis of the events of Jesus’s life, and Mark’s gospel is one of the few that does not deal with Jesus’s birth.

Mark’s gospel begins with a focus on the work of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is easily one of the more important characters in the Bible because of the way that he fulfilled his mission. He was a bit of a radical, whose style of ministry was vastly different than what the Jewish culture was used to. Because of this, he prepared the way for Jesus’s ministry, which was even more radical. As always it seems, this was a fulfillment of prophesy as we see from the first few verses of this chapter.

7And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." – Mark 1:7-8

This is important because it shows that John the Baptist had a clear understanding of not only his mission, but his place. John knew that he was here merely to serve a purpose for Christ. He was the voice crying out in the wilderness that prepared the way for Jesus. This, in turn, gave more credence and power to Jesus’s ministry. In a way, God knew that the change that Jesus was going to bring about would be too radical to be accepted. Therefore, John the Baptist was sent to bring about that change more gradually. He lived a life that was closer to the great prophet Elijah, who was very well respected, making his message more easily accepted.

9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." – Mark 1:9-11

This is another significant event because it shows Jesus’s humble nature. Jewish culture used baptism as a symbolic act of cleansing for those who converted to the faith. This is a connection to Jesus’s side, as he did not think of Himself as greater than a man in need of cleansing. With this symbolic act, Jesus showed that He was prepared to fulfill what was asked of Him. It is from here that He was prepared to go out and begin His public ministry.

The rest of this first chapter deals with the beginning of that ministry. We see Mark’s account differ from Matthew’s in that it lacks the detail of many significant events, such as the calling of the first disciples and Jesus’s temptation in the desert. One of the main reasons I believe this difference is shown is to give truth to the Bible. If we had simply one account of Jesus’s earthly life it would be easy to discredit it. With the gospels, however, we get four accounts. Across them, many of the events mentioned are the same, yet viewed from different perspectives. God planned for this like any good lawyer making his case by providing multiple examples of the evidence before us, but He still allows for us to make our own decisions. We, therefore, can think of the book of Mark as merely “exhibit B” in the case for Christ.

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