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Tag Archives: Religion

New Wine And New Wineskins (Mark 2)

“And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “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.” (Mark 2:15-17)

What a remarkable scene we have at the house of Matthew! On the one hand, we have a group of some of the most despised scoundrels to be found in all of Israel. On the other, we have the religious and pious. Matthew, a publican or tax collector, belonged to an infamous profession hated by all strata of Jewish society. These were men more closely aligned with the occupying Roman government than to their own people whom they often cheated and swindled. But an interesting thing happened to Matthew one day as he sat working in his tax collection booth. The Lord Jesus Christ passed by and said to him, “Follow Me!”(Mark 2:14).

The call of Matthew is a poignant image of our Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd, seeking out the lost sheep and calling them into His fold. How many years it had been since Matthew had even entered a synagogue is anyone’s guess, but we can be certain that he would never have found Jesus by going into one to hear Him preach. Matthew, like so many other lost sinners, had resigned himself to his assumed destiny and in all probability gave little thought to the hope that he might one day be forgiven of his sins and find Salvation and reconciliation with God. Matthew was not searching for God when their paths crossed that day, but God was “searching” for him. Jesus came to him, even in all of his vile and wicked sinfulness, and spoke the life-bringing words that would forever change the trajectory of the life of Levi, Son of Alphaeus.

Contrasted against this we have the Scribes and Pharisees, men who were highly regarded and revered in society but most of whom had absolutely no interest in the Salvation that the Lord was offering. To them, this rabble of degenerates was offensive and the idea that Jesus, a Rabbi, would condescend to eat with such people cast doubt in their eyes on His own integrity. Yet while they stood by judging Jesus’ motives and scrutinizing His actions, the sinners and tax collectors present were said to be “following” Him. They recognized in Jesus something that the Scribes and Pharisees did not.

Jesus answered the religious leaders, declaring to them that He had come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous. I wonder what they thought when He said this. Did they hold fast to their belief that there was a vast distinction in the eyes of God between those tax-collecting miscreants who were clinging close to Jesus and themselves? Or did the words of the Lord bring to their minds the Psalmist’s diagnosis of the heart of man:

“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

These experts of Scripture had to be very familiar with this passage, and yet it seems they somehow felt that they themselves were excluded from the “all” who have turned aside and become corrupt. The very first step in the process of Salvation is conviction and, apart from it, there can be no repentance at all. If we fail to recognize our own sin and depravity, then there is no hope for our ever being saved. For if we say we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). In order for a person to call upon a Savior, he first must come to the realization that he is in need of one. There was, indeed, a distinction between the Pharisees and the Publicans present at Matthew’s house that evening, but it was not the distinction which the religious leaders imagined. The difference was that the Publicans knew that they were sinners and the Pharisees did not.

Of Garments Old And New

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)

The Lord’s words here are a continuation of what we have just considered. Self-righteousness and religious ritual are not the things which will save a person, but something, moreover Someone, completely different. Verses 18-20 describe a confrontation between both the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the observation of religious fasting. We should first understand that nowhere in the Old Testament is fasting prescribed as a religious observance. People would fast at times, especially when they were either mourning or humbling themselves before the Lord in petition for a need (cf. 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 12:16). But this was not done per God’s instructions, it was a tradition the people had adopted. Fasting, of course, can have a valid place in the Christian’s experience, but we must recognize that the issue taken with Jesus was not based upon His or His disciple’s disregard for the Law, but rather for the traditions which had grown out of Judaism.

Thus His reference to garments and wineskins has to do with relying on religious ritual, traditions, and the observance of ceremonies for Salvation. “Garments”, in the Bible, often refer to a covering of righteousness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with garments (Genesis 3:21). When Noah sinned, his sons covered him with a garment (Genesis 9:23). Isaiah compares self-righteousness to a filthy garment (Isaiah 64:6). Over in Revelation, we read of white garments which the Lord Jesus provides, that is, His righteousness clothing us and making us acceptable to God (Rev. 3:5, 18, 4:4). It is to these garments which Jesus refers in His parable of the Wedding Feast when He mentions “wedding clothes” (cf. Matthew 22:11-12).

Our own garments are stained with sin and it is not possible to make them white by patching them up with self-righteous rituals and religious ceremonies. Only by being clothed in the white garments which Christ alone can provide may we enter into Salvation. Similarly, we cannot pour the new wine of the Gospel into the wineskins of man’s traditions and self-prescribed observances and expect to be saved by such things.

The old garment and old wineskin may also be seen as the Law of Moses, or the Old Testament. The work of Jesus Christ was not to patch up or repair what was wrong with the Law of Moses (not that there is any fault in God’s Law, the weakness lies in humanity who is unable to follow it — as seen in Romans 7), but to bring His own garment of righteousness with which to clothe sinners: a perfect, pure, white garment untouched by patch or stitch. His blood is the wine of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), poured out for the sins of man and shed for new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), new wineskins which bear His name.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 10, 2015]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Jesus The Healer (Mark 1)

“And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.” (Mark 1:29-31)

The first chapter of the Gospel of Mark concludes with a series of miracles performed by Jesus. After leaving the synagogue in Capernaum, the Lord Jesus and His disciples enter into the house of Simon Peter whose mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Notice what the disciples do: they speak to Jesus about her. This should be a natural course of action for every believer concerning sickness; we ought to speak to Jesus about those in our own lives afflicted with sickness and disease. Let us go to the Great Physician in prayer, lifting up those who are sick to Him, asking for His healing touch.

Consider also what Peter’s mother-in-law does after the Lord heals her. She “waits on” Him and the other guests in the household. The term used here literally means to serve or to minister to. How remarkable! She did not expend her restored health on leisure and idleness, but she set about to serve the One Who had healed her. So often we pray for God’s healing in our own lives, but to what end? Do we wish to be healed so that we might serve the Lord in strength and vigor, or are we praying for God to heal us so that we can pursue our own interests without being in pain?

“When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door.” (Mark 1:32-33)

Some Bible scholars have pointed out that Mark often employed hyperbole as a literary device. He would use expressions like “the whole city” to mean a great multitude of people and not, literally, the whole city. Be that as it may, we can be certain that, wherever Jesus went, large crowds followed. Multitudes. Throngs.

Sometimes we get the idea that the Gospel writers recorded all or at least most of the miracles and healings that Jesus performed. But it seems that the intention of all four of the Gospel writers was to record a sampling of the miracles that Jesus worked and not to suggest that their writings included every miracle of the Lord. John, in his Gospel, tells us:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31)

and again,

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.” (John 21:25)

The Gospels contain just a few examples of the healings and miracles of Jesus. It is most likely that the Lord Jesus literally healed thousands of people during His earthly ministry.

 And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” (Mark 1:40-41)

The leper mentioned here recognized that it was not the ability of Jesus to heal that was in question, it was merely His willingness to heal that mattered. Jesus was often moved by the faith of those who had no doubt that He was able to heal. The Centurion who asked only that the Lord say the word for his servant to be healed was commended for having a rare and pure faith that Jesus had not seen amongst the Hebrews (Matthew 8:5-13). He, like the leper mentioned in this passage of Mark, never called into question the Lord’s ability to heal. Interestingly, Matthew wrote of the Centurion immediately after he wrote of this leper. Both of these men trusted that the Lord Jesus had the power to help them. And, as they both saw, the Lord was willing also.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published Jan. 30, 2015]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

At The Synagogue In Capernaum (Mark 1)

“They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.” (Mark 1:21)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, but it seems that He chose Capernaum as His home during His ministry (cf. Mark 2:1, Matthew 4:13). The Lord’s teachings were summarily rejected in His own hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-31) thus sending Him elsewhere to establish His base of operations, as it were. Capernaum was a much more prominent city within the region, serving as a commercial center for the Galilean fishing industry and billeting a Roman garrison. Jesus’ words and actions within the synagogue here elicited a very different response from that in Nazareth. For in this city the people were amazed, not enraged, by His preaching.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reference Capernaum as the location where Christ’s ministry really began; particularly His miracles. And Mark and Luke both focus on the Lord’s activities within the city’s synagogue as its point of origin. The Gospel of Mark paints the portrait of Jesus Christ the Servant of God, but the writer is also dutiful to establish His authority over all matters, physical and spiritual. The Servant, Jesus Christ, is also the Creator and, as such, retains all power and authority over His own creation.

Within the very first chapter of Mark, we see Christ’s authority over sickness (vv. 31 and 34), disease (vv. 41-42), the demonic (v. 25), and even Satan himself (v. 13). Jesus teaches with authority, Mark records, expositing authoritatively His own Word and Scriptures. Verse 22 highlights the fact that the Jewish religious scholars of the day taught by the authority of those who preceded them, quoting and referencing the masters of Judaic theology who had lived in times past, never daring to presume the weight of their own rhetoric with their listeners. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ was the very Author of the Words on which He commented! He alone retained the prerogative of resting on His own authority when teaching on their meaning.

Mark will reveal throughout his Gospel that the authority of Jesus Christ is complete and total over all His creation. He commands the winds and the seas and they obey Him (Mark 4:41). He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). Even death itself must yield to the authority of the Lord Jesus (Mark 5:41-42). By the time the reader gets to the Resurrection of Jesus, there should remain no doubt in their mind that the One Whose authority was pervasive over all other aspects of His own creation could just as easily conquer the grave.

 “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:23-24 KJV)

First, let us consider where the man possessed by the unclean spirit was. Was he imbibing strong drink with the drunkards at a tavern? Was he visiting with a harlot at a house of prostitution? Or perhaps conspiring with thieves and murderers in the dens where such men hide? No. He was in the synagogue! Let us never suppose that Satan and his minions lurk only in the shadows and frequent the places where evil is openly practiced. Their work of deception is carried out within the places of worship; it is the houses of God where the forces of Hell battle for control of the hearts of people. Of all places on earth, where was the devil on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion? He was not in Herod’s palace or Pilate’s judgment hall. Nor was he in the meeting place with the Sanhedrin as they conspired to arrest the Lord. Neither was he in the prison cell with Barabbas or the two thieves whose destinies would intersect with the Lord’s. No, he was in the upper room with Jesus and His disciples as they celebrated the Passover and partook of the Last Supper (John 13:27).

The demon then challenges Jesus with the words, “What have we to do with Thee?” This expression can be found in the Old Testament as a call for justification on the part of an aggressor by the one who is being threatened. Jephthah’s envoy asks a similar question of the Ammonites in Judges 11:12. David used the phrase to Abishai to stay his hand when he sought to vindicate the king’s honor when Shimei cursed him (2 Samuel 16:10). And the widow spoke like words to Elijah, fearing that he had been sent by God to torment her by convicting her of sin through the death of her son (1 Kings 17:18).

Even so, we also sense within the demon’s query a sort of recognition of the vast chasm which exists between the Kingdom of Light and that of darkness. The Apostle Paul, speaking of marriage between believers and non-believers, would reflect this sentiment in his axiom, “What fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). There exists such a huge expanse between the Lord Jesus Christ and this simple foot soldier in the army of Hell that the demon himself must have been astonished to suddenly be thrust into the presence of God Almighty. The unclean spirit seemed to be aware of his own fate, and that of his fellow fallen angels, by asking if this was the time set aside for his destruction at the hands of the Lord.

Finally, we have what might be the most potentially confusing aspect of this entire encounter (along with subsequent encounters between Jesus and the demonic, such as those mentioned in verse 34). Why would Jesus silence the demons who recognized Him and declared Who He was? Wouldn’t He welcome their testimony verifying His identity? I believe there are two reasons why He disallowed their “witness.”

First, Jesus would fulfill His purposes according to the will of the Father and based on His own timing and methods. Jesus did nothing haphazardly and without purpose and specific motive. He could have just as easily arrived on the scene, shouting from the rooftops, “I am the Messiah, the Holy One of God!” But Jesus’ purpose in casting out the demon was to reveal His authority, not His divinity. He sought to verify His teachings through His miracles so that people would first believe what He said and would trust Him based on that. Later would come the Holy Spirit’s authentication within the heart of Who Jesus really was (cf. Matthew 16:17). Jesus came, not as the conquering King, but as the suffering Servant and He would draw people to Himself through His words and His work of Salvation. Jesus did not come to force people into submission through the declaration of His power as God. We looked at the Lord Jesus’ exercise of authority over many things, but never do we see Him exercising His authority over the hearts and will of men.

Secondly, Jesus neither wanted nor needed the testimony of Hell. James reminds us that the demons know and acknowledge Who Jesus is and they tremble because of it (James 2:19). But their concession is made, not in faith, but merely as the recognition of that which is true. They are not trusting on Christ nor believing Him for Salvation, they simply are making a mental assent to the fact of Jesus’ divinity. Make no mistake, when a demon cries out in recognition of Jesus’ identity, it is for his own evil purposes. He is not paying homage to Christ as Lord, but is seeking to frustrate the purposes of God.

But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”” (Matthew 9:34)

“The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” ” (John 8:48)

Jesus would have enough accusations brought against Him that He was in league with Satan. He did not need demons going about “witnessing” for Him. The Apostle Paul had a similar motivation when he cast out the demon from the slave-girl possessed by a spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-18). The demon was accurately testifying that Paul and his companions had come to preach the Way of Salvation. But Paul cast out the demon, silencing its testimony because he did not want or need the help of Satan and his minions as he sought to make converts in a land which had not yet heard the Gospel.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published Jan. 8, 2015]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

Fishers Of Men (Mark 1)

 As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17)

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17)

We know by comparing John’s Gospel with Mark’s that the Lord Jesus had first made contact with Andrew and Peter prior to the events recorded in Mark 1: 16-20. John 1:35-42 reveals that Jesus had met the first of His disciples shortly after His Baptism and prior to His Temptation in the Wilderness. Thus the calling of the first four apostles in Mark 1 is to be differentiated from their initial coming to Christ.

Mark’s Gospel records the call to service and discipleship of the two sets of brothers, not the call to Salvation. It is their invitation to ministry and the office of apostleship (though they certainly knew not at this time to what end their call to follow the Master would lead).

With this in mind, let us consider a few features of this portion of Mark’s narrative with regard to the call of the Lord Jesus to serve Him:

First, it is the Lord Jesus Who calls people into service, it is not something that people simply decide to do on their own. Notice that it was Jesus Who came to them and told them to follow. Although they pursued Him in the first encounter in John’s Gospel, they were simply going about their business here. To want to serve the Lord is a commendable virtue and one that every Christian should possess to one degree or another. But we must never think for a moment that the desire to serve is a product of our own ingenuity. If Jesus had not come to the fishermen, they would have continued doing what they were doing.

Before we endeavor into any form of ministry, it is wise to make certain that we are following the Lord’s calling and not pursuing our own agenda by means of that ministry. I am hesitant to discourage any Christian from serving the Lord in any legitimate capacity, for truly the harvest is great and the workers few, but many a preacher has seen their ministry shipwreck simply because they had never listened to the Lord’s calling and had decided to enter into a vocation that God had never intended for them. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, it was not uncommon for talented students to be encouraged to enter the ministry because it was viewed as a desirable profession, one that would keep a person indoors and out of the elements while affording ample leisure time and a respectable salary. In other words, people would become clergymen, not to serve God and His people, but because it was a “good job” to have.

There are many, many ways in which a Christian may serve the Lord and He intends for every one of His children to do so. But it is important that we make sure that we are answering His calling on our lives, not attempting to serve Him in our own strength.

Which brings us to the fact that Jesus told the disciples that He would make them become fishers of men. He would do it. God has never called anyone to serve Him in their own strength and ability. His callings always carry with them the qualifier that it is He Who will strengthen and enable the person He is calling to carry out the work. “Apart from Me you can do nothing“, Jesus would tell the disciples (John 15:5). It is only through Christ that a person may really serve the Lord; but this should bring comfort, not despair. This means that whatever service God has called us into He will also give us the strength and ability to carry it out.

Next, let us consider that little word become in our Lord’s call to the would-be apostles. “I will make you become fishers of men.” This carries with it the implication that it is a process that will occur over time. Jesus did not say that if they followed Him He would instantly fill them with the skills to be successful. No, their ministries as apostles were filled with moments of doubt, fear, reluctance, and failure. Their pride would often overshadow their faith as the fishers of men seemed more interested in who was the greater fisherman than in actually casting their nets into the water. But in all these things the Lord Jesus was not yet done with them and He would ultimately finish the work in them which He had started.

Finally, we have that wonderful little word of which Mark the evangelist is so fond: immediately. James A. Brooks writes in the New American Commentary, “The disciples do not again appear in so favorable light as they do here”*. The fishermen immediately leave their nets and answer the call of the Lord. Verse 20 tells us that James and John left their father, Zebedee, with the hired workers and utterly abandoned their vocation in order to pursue another. What a perfect response for a child of God! The sons of Zebedee were not being rash or irresponsible, no, the family business would continue without them by means of the laborers employed by their father. But they were being wise and prudent, recognizing that the Lord of Heaven desired to use them for a far greater purpose.

The Lord Jesus has a calling to service and ministry for everyone who belongs to Him. For most Christians, this calling is realized within the context of their local church. To serve our brothers and sisters in Christ by teaching a Sunday School class, singing in the choir or playing an instrument, baby-sitting in the nursery, giving financially to missions work, or joining the prayer team are among the many ways that God calls His people to serve. Sometimes, He even calls us to write a Bible study blog.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published Dec. 29, 2014]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

*New American Commentary, Volume 23: Mark. Brooks, James A. –  General Editor: Dockery, David S. (c) 1992 by Broadman & Holman Publishers. All rights reserved.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

Introduction To The Gospel Of Mark

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)

It would be seemingly incongruous to preface any study of the Gospel of Mark with a lengthy introduction since the Gospel itself contains nothing of background or prologue. Mark’s is the gospel of action and urgency and he begins his narrative accordingly. Absent from his account are the genealogies of Matthew and Luke’s versions, nor do we find the theological profundities present in John’s opening. Instead, Mark commences his writing with a simple declaration: “Here follows the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…”

The Tempo Of Mark’s Gospel

From the very start, we see the pace and tempo that will define the entire book. In the opening chapter, we read of John the Baptist’s ministry, the Baptism of the Lord Jesus, our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, John the Baptist’s arrest, the calling of the first disciples, Christ’s teachings in the synagogue of Capernaum, His casting out of demons, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, the healing of the masses of sick and demonically oppressed, and the cleansing of  a leper. The ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ began with a bang and Mark is dutiful to show this.

The word “immediately” (also translated as “straightway” and “forthwith” in the KJV) appears nearly 40 times in the Gospel of Mark (ten times in the first chapter alone), thus reinforcing the sense of urgency with which Mark recounts the events of Jesus’ public ministry. Now is the time for action, now is the time to respond to the Gospel. Perhaps no other portion of Scripture so imperatively demands a response and decision as Mark’s Gospel.

Mark’s Audience And Purpose

Luke wrote for the philosophically and scholarly minded, Matthew for the religious and orthodox of Israel, but Mark wrote for the common everyman within the Empire of Rome. We do not find the abundant references to the Old Testament Scriptures for the sensibilities of the Jewish reader, or the minute details for the historically and academically curious, but rather the facts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ laid bare and insistent upon our verdict. Will we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or not?

For this is the overreaching theme and purpose of Mark’s writing: to convince us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sent to redeem us from our sins. Mark’s very first sentence declares Christ to be the Son of God (1:1). John the Baptist attests to Who Christ is (1:7-8). God the Father and the Holy Spirit witness to His identity (1:10-11), as do the demons of Hell (1:24), and the Centurion overseeing His Crucifixion (15:39).

Christ The Servant

Mark presents Christ, not as King or Priest, but as Servant, the faithful Servant of God. Therefore it is not His biological origins nor even His teachings and parables that are in focus, but His actions. The witnesses mentioned above testify to His identity and His miracles prove it. Miracles are emphasized in Mark’s account and they serve as the credentials of the Anointed Servant of God.

Mark’s Background

Colossians 4:10 reveals that John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s First Missionary journey (Acts 12:25, 13:5). When the missionaries reached Perga, however, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Later, when Paul enlisted Barnabas to return with him for the Second Missionary journey, Barnabas suggested that Mark accompany them again. Paul refused and insisted that Mark not be allowed to join them because of his earlier abandonment of the group. This caused a division between Paul and Barnabas resulting in their separation, with Paul choosing Silas to accompany him into Syria while Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41).

Without a doubt, Mark had failed his ministry at Perga and had abandoned his calling, yet we know that he later reconsidered and once again became profitable for the work of the Lord. Paul himself would later call Mark, along with Luke, his “fellow worker” (Philemon 24). Paul, toward the end of his life,  would also refer to Mark as “useful to me for service” in a letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:11).

Mark also had the unique privilege of being in close fellowship with another great apostle, Simon Peter. Peter refers to John Mark as “my son” (1 Peter 5:13) and Church tradition maintains that Mark’s Gospel is actually the “memoirs of St. Peter.” Thus it is suggested that Mark was in the unique position to learn the facts of the Gospel from the Apostle Peter and the interpretation of the Gospel from the Apostle Paul.

Studying Mark’s Gospel

For these reasons, I believe that Mark’s Gospel is a great place to begin a study of the Gospels, the New Testament, and even the Bible itself. In fact, when asked where someone who does not know Christ should begin reading the Bible, my answer is emphatically the Book of Mark. There are no lengthy genealogies to quickly lose the new reader’s attention, no list of Jewish laws and customs, no stories of the origins of the nation of Israel. These are all important areas of the Word of God worthy of the Christian’s thorough examination, but for those unfamiliar with the Word of God it is best to begin with the basics. After all, where would a medical doctor first direct his attention on a suffering patient? To a broken toe or to a wound gushing blood from her throat? Yes, the toe should eventually be addressed, but the potentially fatal injury is by far the more pertinent of the two. All manners of theological and doctrinal matters are vital for the total spiritual health of the child of God, but if a person lacks a solid foundation on the fundamentals of faith in Christ, they are of no avail whatsoever. To forego the basics in favor of the more advanced would make as much sense as attempting to teach the intricacies of the works of Shakespeare to the child who has yet to learn to read.

That being said there is, of course, much meat and not just milk within the Gospel of Mark for the mature believer, as well. It is my hope and prayer that everyone who joins me on this journey through Mark’s Gospel will find it edifying, profitable, and beneficial for strengthening their own walk with the Lord, regardless of how far along they have come.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published June 16, 2014]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

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