Gospel of Mark -Bible Study

This is the gospel of Mark, MarkFor Beginners, the subtitle is Mark, the Urgent Gospel, and I’ll explain thatin a minute. Lesson number one in this series and we’re going to do a littleintroduction and background. I call this gospel the urgent gospel because, acouple of reasons: one, it’s the shortest of the four gospel records. Probably wasthe first one written and we kind of see that, because if you read Lukeyou’ll see that 350 verses in Luke were taken directly from Mark. And Lukesays he studied different records and he’s put a history together, so part ofthat gathering of information must have come from Mark’s Gospel. Mark spendsabsolutely no time whatsoever explaining Jesus’s family background. It’s amazing, allthe other writers they give the birth and the prophecies.In John, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, andthis whole long philosophical thing Mark jumps right in verse one, Jesus,the Divine Son of God, period. We got that out of the way, let’s keep moving on.He’s a man, he’s driven and I mean, he’s driven. It’sas if he’s kind of in a hurry to begin making a witness for Jesus as soon aspossible.

Before getting into the text, as always when we’re studying a text ofthe Bible, I like to do a little bit of background information. There were twomajor periods in the first century in which the gospel was circulated, and itwas circulated in two different ways. First of all, it was circulated, what wecall the oral period from about 33 to 60 A.D. During this time the gospel waspreached orally and transmitted by the word of mouth by the apostles anddisciples, you see that in Acts chapter eight verse four. Some of Jesus’ sayings werecirculated in short form, like tracks, like little information tracks we give in the racks there, well some of His sayingswere transmitted like that at the beginning, or theywere carved. Some of his sayings were carved into bowls or they were carvedinto church meeting places on the wall or on the doorpost.That was the oral period. And then there’s the written period 60 to about180 A.D., as a demand for more permanent records grew, the Gospelswere provided, of course, by God, to meet this need. The number of eyewitnesses wasdeclining and so their witness needed to be recorded for future generations.Remember I’ve said this before when we were studying Thessalonians, rememberthat the early church believed that Jesus was going to return in theirlifetime, in their generation, and so they didn’t, they didn’t feel the needto record everything. Why record everything, why record anything for thenext generation, He’s coming back in our generation, but as they began to die offand as the Apostles were martyred and so on and so forth, theybegan to see the wisdom of recording this material. So 60 to about 100 A.D.,the majority of the Gospels and epistles were written, copied, and kept.

The Gospel of Mark is one of these texts, written between 60 and 70 A.D. Somepinpointed somewhere about 64 A.D., which makes it a very early writing. Now, weclaim that the Bible is inspired or authored by God for several reasons,again, this is just prep material, here. For several reasons, we’ve done this inother classes, but I just want to, for the record, kind of review this very quickly.We, as Christians, claim that the Bible is inspired, because the Bible makes thisclaim of itself, right, in John 14:26 Jesus says, “But the Helper, the HolySpirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, andbring to your remembrance, all that I said to you.” Jesus, in advance, issaying that what the Apostles are going to say in the future, they’re receiving from the Spirit, that He, Himself, sent. Then in SecondTimothy 3:16. Of course, “All Scripture is inspired by God andprofitable for teaching, for reproof, correction, for training in righteousness.”And the key word there is all scripture. All of it, not just some of it, all of itis inspired. And then in Second Peter, again, familiar versus Peter says”But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter ofone’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will,but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Again passages, all right, whereI’m trying to demonstrate that the Bible says of itself that it’s inspired.It isn’t someone that came along one day and studied the Bible and said, hmmmafter reading the Bible I’ve come to the conclusion it must be inspired. Well,you’ve come to that conclusion because as you’re reading through it, it saysthat of itself and the choice that you have is to believe that or not tobelieve it. And then, of course, why we believe that it’s inspired, as I say,it makes that claim of itself. Another reason we believe that the scripturesare inspired: fulfilled prophecy. Interesting to note that the Bible isthe only holy book that contains hundreds of prophecies that werefulfilled. There are plenty of holy books that are studied by scholars, the holy books of the Hindus and the Muslims, they all have holy books, but none of them have this featurecalled fulfilled prophecy, none of them. They have laws and rules and poetry anddescriptions of God and the afterlife and how the world was created. Yes, theyhave those features, but they don’t have the feature of prophecy and certainlynot fulfilled prophecy. I mean, just take one example to demonstrate that, the prophet Daniel prophecies600 years ahead of time what the four major world powers would be insuccession. How do you do that? You can’t do that unless God is doing that.You could make a guess for maybe 20 years down the road,you see some Empire beginning to build and you make an educated guess.

Their going to be the next. But 600 years down the road, the fourthworld power, and then of course the kingdom of God coming during that fourthworld power, that’s pretty precise stuff. So only the Bible has that. The onlyway to have so many fulfilled prophecies if the book itself has a supernaturalsource and as Christians we believe that God is the source of the Bible. And thenone other thing, the quality of the book itself. Sixty-six books written by over 40different authors, many of whom, many which didn’t know eachother, over a period of 1,600 years, no contradiction, no mistakes, only one storyis told. Nowadays you get a couple of reporters coveringthe same story and then they write their stories and you get all kinds ofcontradictions, they can’t agree on the story. This idea here of thequality of the book, again, not possible without divine guidance. And I always saywell if it’s man-made, how come man has not created something else like it withall of the technology that we have today and all of the education that we havetoday, why haven’t we been able to reproduce something like it. We haven’t.So there are other reasons as well, why we believe the scriptures are inspired.The witness of the risen Christ, of course, the impact and longevity ofthis one book over 2,000 years, but I just mentioned the few basic ones. Sowhen you take all of the reasons together, they can only be explained inone way, they lead to only one logical conclusion and that is that the Bible isnot just an ordinary book or a holy book, but rather, it is a text inspiredand produced by a superior being. And we, as Christians, believe that thatsuperior being is God. So it’s important to lay that foundation becausewe’re studying the book of Mark as an inspired work. TheBible was inspired by God, but God used men to record His thoughts and words andthe history of His people in their own style and in their own language. And oneof these men was John Mark, who’s book of Mark, is one of these Gospels. Interestingly, the book of Mark says nothing about its author.

Paul, Iam Paul, I’m writing to you, this is my signature, he nameshimself, and Peter. But there’s no reference to the author here. Nothing aboutits author, but early church tradition points to John Mark, who was the son ofMary, not of course Mary the mother of Jesus, another Mary, common Jewish name,who was a wealthy Jewish woman. Lived with her family in the city of Jerusalem.She was a friend of the Apostles and it was to her house that Peter went afterhe was released from jail. Remember when the angel released Peter from jail hewent to Mary’s house, well that Mary was John Mark’s mother, Acts 12:12.John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas, who was very active in the early church andit was through him that Mark met and began to work with Paul the Apostle.Mark’s association with the Apostles covered more than a 30-year span. So verybriefly I’d like to just kind of cover that, again, just give us some background.From 30 to 40 A.D. his association with the Apostles beginswith his mother who was, he and his mother among the first converts FirstPeter, chapter 5, verse 13. Her home was used as a meeting place for the Apostlesand early disciples, we saw that in Acts 12. Some believe that he was the youngman who ran away naked in the garden. In the Garden of Gethsemane, in Markchapter 14 when Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus, the servant, right,and then the guards are taking Jesus away and there’s a young man there, we’llread that when we get to that chapter, there’s a young man there, wrapped in asheet and the soldiers grabbed the sheet and it says he ran, the young man ranaway naked. Such an obscure, weird thing in the, just dropped in themiddle of the description of Jesus’ time in the garden and Judasbetraying him and all that drama, and in the middle of this, you havethis almost comical scene of a young guy running through the nightwith no clothes on. Who was that young guy?

Well, many scholars believethat young guy was Mark. It’s the only self-reference that he makes abouthimself in there. Otherwise, why do it. From 40 to 50 A.D. Saul andBarnabas deliver money for the poor in Jerusalem and they take Mark along withthem and they go back to Antioch, the jumping-off place for the firstmissionary journey. We read about that in Acts chapter 12, verse 25. Saul andBarnabas take him along on their first missionary journey, Acts 13, kind of ahelper an intern. And then we find out that he loses, John Markloses interest, and he returns to Jerusalem, doesn’t complete the trip. Andthis, of course, causes him to lose favor with Paul, not so much with Barnabas,because they’re relatives, but with Paul. And when Paul decides to goback and visit the churches that they had established Barnabas is game to gowith him and wants to bring Mark and Paul says no, no, no, he abandoned usbefore, we’re not taking this guy with us and there’s the dispute between Paul andBarnabas to the point where they kind of broke off association and Barnabas tookhis cousin Mark and they went one way and Paul took Silas and went off on thenext missionary journey. So that’s some of the actionbetween 40 and 50 A.D. Between 50 and 60 A.D., Mark is restored to fellowship withPaul, and Paul calls on him for help and even commends him to the church as afaithful servant, Colossians chapter four, verse 10 and Philemon verses 23 and 24.A wonderful story there. We can talk about Barnabas, whata facilitator he is, what a peacemaker he is, helping to rehabilitate John Mark’sreputation in the church and I like that story that there’s Paul and Barnabas andthey have a fight and have a dispute and they, yeah well, you go your way,let’s agree to disagree. Wonderful lesson for us,Barnabas didn’t quit the church and Mark didn’t quit the church, they just stoppedworking with Paul for a time, but then eventually they were reconciled.

A veryhuman thing happened and a very human Christian thing happened to kind ofreconcile these brothers together. And then 60 to 70 A.D. Paul, near the end ofhis life, while in prison, mentions Mark as a faithful co-worker, Second Timothy 4:11. And then later on we know that Mark is associated with Peter the Apostle, heserves as Peter’s secretary in recording the events and teachings that Peter hasseen and heard during his life as an apostle First Peter chapter 5, verse 13. When you’re reading Mark, you’re reading Peter. So over 30 years ofservice, finishing with a text dedicated to him by Peter, which we now refer to asthe Gospel of Mark. Let’s look at the gospel itself. We know that Markwas an eyewitness of what happened during Jesus’s ministry and theestablishment of the early church. Early church historians and writers tell usthat he was Peter’s secretary, as I said, during the period before Peter’s deathin Rome 68 A.D., and Mark’s work is a record of what Peter said and saw andtaught. Jesus’s family, the Apostles, and the early church all knew Mark andconfirmed his presence and work in the church for over 30 years. Very important,so that his work is accepted as legitimate, as inspired. It means thathe was a real person who lived and worked with Jesus and the Apostles, notjust a mythical figure, a real man. Early church historians, who recorded thepersons and the events surrounding the beginning of the Christian age, they allconfirmed that this text was written by John Mark. Papias in 115 A.D,Clement 180 A.D., Origen 225 A.D., all these early church scholars and fathers intheir writings confirm that John Mark was an associate of Peter and that heworked with Barnabas and that he did write this thing. This is where we getconfirmation for the information that we have about Mark. His text, Gospel of Mark,was circulated while some of the apostles were still alive; 64 A.D., not allthe apostles were gone by then, they were still alive. None of them disputed orcriticized its content or its author. At any time, any one of the Apostles couldhave said, this John Mark, he’s a fake, what he’s writing, it’s not good, butthey didn’t. We had no record of that. The reason I say all of this is to showthat Mark meets all the requirements to be considered an inspired book andincluded in the Bible, because there were lots of books that were circulating atthe time about Jesus. Do you think we only have 27 books that were written in thefirst century about Jesus Christ? No way. There were many books and articles andperiodicals, all kinds of things being circulated about Jesus.

So the task forthe early church was to draw out which of these books are the onesinspired, are the ones that should go into the canon. The word canonmeans a measure, a correct measure. The canon of the Bible are thosebooks that measure up. That’s where that term comes from. A lot ofbooks were written, but the criteria to be included in the Canon – three.Again, not going to spend a whole lot of time on this, because this is, this classis not about this subject matter, but just as far as Mark isconcerned, one who ever wrote the book had to be an apostle or a disciple of anapostle. You have Luke right, he wasn’t an apostle, but he was a disciple and anassociate of Paul, who was an Apostle. Mark, he wasn’t anapostle, but he was an associate of an apostle, Peter. Secondly, the work hadto be sound doctrinally, historically, authentically. Mark was a trueperson, he was the one who wrote. The church knew this, there was no criticismof it from the apostles or the early teachers about its doctrine or itsstatements. And then thirdly, it had to be widely circulated in the early churchesand accepted as inspired by the churches. Remember I’ve told you once before inanother class that they didn’t dig up books that no one ever heard ofand say, well we think this one’s inspired. What they did was they examinedbooks that had been circulating for centuries and had already beenaccepted by the church for centuries, those are the ones that they selected tobe in the canon. And Mark was one of those books. Mark has all of thesefeatures and so we can accept it as an inspired book of the Bible.Let’s look at the text itself. The text of Mark is clear, it’s very free ofabstract statements and concepts like, again, like John for example, the Gospelof John, which would not appeal to the Roman mind.

And Mark’s gospelis really directed towards Gentiles. A Jew can read it, but it’s really directedtowards the Roman mind, it’s very direct, to the point, rather, sothe book was written while Peter was in Rome working with Roman Christians. So it would make sense that this book, material, would appeal to Romans. It seemsthat Mark’s gospel was aimed at people who did not have a Jewish background,that’s why there’s very little reference to Jewish history, unlike Matthew. Whenyou read through Matthew, I mean, what are you reading? This was done according tothe Prophet. He’s very careful, Matthew is, not to show Jesus sayingor doing anything unless he supports what he’s saying and doing from someprophet in the Old Testament. Mark, none of that, didn’t even bother. And, ofcourse, Romans were mechanically minded, they wanted their information in summaryform; short, sweet, to the point. Give me the big picture, justgive me the big picture, that was their mindset. And so Mark is ahistorical narrative, meaning Jesus did this, and then He went there, and He didthat, and then He came over here, and He said this, and then after that, thishappened. Historical narrative that gives a description of Jesus’s life, and Hiswork, and His teachings, His death, His resurrection, with very little backgroundinformation and very little philosophizing. Mark doesn’t spend a lotof time saying, well, when Jesus said this, this is what He meant. No, he -just the facts. It’s like a snapshot. It’s like a postcard. John’s Gospel is like a letter to a friend, sharing deep thoughts.Mark – postcard. And Mark’s gospel is totally christ-centered,telling the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and then it just ends.Period. Mark is not interested in character analysis, he doesn’t dwell ondoctrinal development, his book is about action and reaction, and you’ll see thatas we go through it. A good example of this is that more space is given over tomiracles in this book than the other Gospels. Eighteen out of the 35 possiblemiracles are described in Mark. That’s a lot, more than half of all the miraclesare jammed into this short 16 – of course, when he wrote it, it didn’t havechapters, but very short book. Also, Mark takes time to kind ofdescribe the reactions of the people to Jesus, and these are carefully noted.There are over twenty-three references to people who were eitheramazed, puzzled, astonished, hostile, he describes the reaction that peoplehave. Mark’s Gospel is short, to the point, colorful and powerful. It tells thesimple story of Jesus without too much background information and then it endsboom, with the challenge, believe and be baptized and be saved. Disbelieve andbe condemned. That’s all there is to it.

Sometimes we offer theinvitation and people say, well, why be so direct? You might beoffending my sister-in-law who’s visiting from Boston or something.You went and said that if people don’t respond they’ll belost. Well, that’s how Mark does it, straight ahead. SoMark – from Mark’s perspective the reader is forced to deal with thefacts. It’s almost as if he says, okay, this is Jesus, these are the 18miracles, oh yes, by the way, did I mention the resurrection, okay, so those whobelieve in our baptize, you people are saying – you people who’ve read this withdisbelief, too bad, so sad, you’re lost. Pretty much. The central theme ofMark is very clear, we don’t have to have a debate about it, Jesus Christ isthe divine Son of God, period. This is the point of the gospel. And Mark divides hisbook into three very simple parts and here they are: first part, theintroduction of the divine Jesus, chapter 1, verses 1 to 13; second part, proof ofJesus’s divinity through His teachings and His miracles, chapter 1, verse 14 allthe way to chapter 8, verse 20; part number 3, proof of his divinity throughhis death, burial, and resurrection, chapter 8, excuse me, verse 27 to chapter16, verse 20. This is a book that appeals to the practical mind. Each bookin the Bible, as I’ve mentioned before, has a purpose and has aparticular audience. Matthew, of course, its purpose is the same, always toshow Jesus as the Divine Son of God, but more specifically, Matthew wants to showthat Jesus is actually the Messiah according to Jewish prophecy. And hetakes great care in building that case. Mark, on the other hand, as I said, notinterested in proving anything to the Jews, he’s interested in proving thatJesus is the divine Messiah to a more Gentile audience. So the audience of Mark is the world,everybody needs to know in no uncertain terms that the Bible declares that Jesusis the Divine Son, the savior of the world. You can deny this, you canreject this, but you can never say that Mark doesn’t teach this.

I saythat to people that I’ve studied with all the time, you don’thave to believe what I’ve just shown you, don’t have to believe it, but what you can’t dois, you can’t deny that this is what it says. Your argument is not with me,your argument is with the book. I’m just here, hopefully, to clarify it for you andanswer your questions. And then this book of Mark is a great first book to readwith a non-christian. If you have you ever wondered – people askyou, how do you start a Bible study? What do you do, whatdoctrine do you start with? Don’t start with doctrine, start with reading theBible. Most of you know that I have a Catholic background, I grew up Catholic. I went to Catholic school, taught inCatholic schools, taught religion, monastery, seminary, the whole thing. SoI’m really familiar with the Catholic Church and it’s practices. And peoplemany times asked me what’s the best way to convert or to approach someone who’s Catholic, who has questions. do you kind of, theythink, well the Catechism. So you could kind of go to the Catechism andshow them, this is wrong, that’s wrong, Mary was not ascendedinto heaven bodily. The assumption of Mary, where is that in the Bible?Wrong approach. My answer always is just get them to read the Bible. Period. Justhave them read the Bible and from there will come the questions, not yourquestions, their questions. I remember when I first started. I mean, Iwas on a train on my way to Vancouver and I bought a Bible to read on the train. Never had read it. Imagine 28 yearsold, had taught for the Montreal Catholic School Commission, had taught religion, Iwas the form teacher – never – imagine teaching a religion classand Christianity never having read the Bible, it wasn’t required. You had to readthe syllabus, you know had my syllabus. Every teacher had the syllabus, I hadthat and I had the Catechism, which I knew, because that’s what I studied as akid. A memory, the rote memory. The nuns, and later on the Christianbrothers – and I don’t knock my Catholic education, I had a great education. Youreally did learn how to read and write, you learned Latin, and all that kind ofstuff, but you didn’t have to read the Bible. And so when I began reading theBible, then the questions began. Wait a minute, this is the religion that Ipracticed for most of my life and this is the book upon which my religion issupposed to be based and yet there’s such a huge contradiction here. So Ispent a couple of years just trying to find somebody who could answer myquestions about the Bible. Remember, when we say, church of Christ, they’re the Bible people. I found one of those guys Jim Meder, he was a Bible guy, he was a preacher, he knew the Bible. So Ihad my questions lined up for a couple of years that nobody could answer. I’dask him a question, he said, okay, good question, I named make me repeat, is thatyour question?

Yes, okay. Well then, he’d take out this Bible and, okay goahead, read that, and I would read. What does it say? Well it says blah, blah, blah.Are you sure that’s what it says? Yeah, that’s what it says. Okay, nextquestion. And he would just go question to question, he wasn’t out to challenge me,he wasn’t trying to talk me out of, what, nearly 30 years of education,he just wanted to answer my questions and show me where the Bible answered thequestions that I had. And then when I needed a little more elaboration, okay well, we came tobaptism for example, I couldn’t understand, why did they use that word.Okay, well then it took a little bit of background in the Greek. What itmeans, but other than that, his answer was always let meshow you where it says that in the Bible and he let me learn the Bible and heallowed me to go at my own pace. So all this to say that if ever you’re going tosit down and read the Bible, not necessarily with someone who’s aCatholic or anything like that, but just especially with someone who’s notchurched, doesn’t know much, the lingo, church is even a littlethreatening, Mark is a great book to read. Short, to the point, lots ofmiracles demonstrated. Because the bottom line is, if you don’t believe that Jesusis the Divine Son of God, the basis, the cornerstone of our religion, well then itdoesn’t matter what else is there, right?

The fact that Jesus is the Son ofGod is the thing that motivates me to try this, do that, obey this, denythis. Because if He’s not the Son of God, He has no moral thing over me, He’s justa holy man, right. The Dalai Lama, a holy man, a good man, a morally upright man, aneducated man, but he’s got nothing over me. He can’t tell me what to do, right.So we’re going to stop there, because in lesson 2 we start thetext and we’ll just. It’ll be so This class is going to be a textualBible study. I just wanted to take only one lesson to give the background, alittle critical introduction. I think most of you know this already. Next weekMark chapter 1, verse 1, the thing I’m going to ask you to do, if you’re goingto stay in this class is to read ahead. It’s not a long book. Read it a couple oftimes, get it under your belt so that by the time I read it in class or put it upon the screen you’ll have read that passage, you’ll have read thatchapter once or twice and you’ll know about it. You may even have somequestions and in the material that I present you’ll get some answers.

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