Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mark Strudy Lesson 5: The Temptation

In the first 4 lessons we looked at some of the background of Mark, authorship, Mark's views on the ministry of John The Baptist, and the Baptism of Jesus.

Now let's look at the Temptation of Jesus -- and how these short verses give us a "preview" of Jesus' authority over the powers of sin and death.

Mark 1:12-13:

12At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Again, we have only the barest of details in Mark. Matthew and Luke add details about the temptation -- such as the fact that Jesus fasted 40 days and the details of the temptation itself -- that they could have gotten from the Q source.

It seems that Mark is only interested in one detail here -- Jesus is victorious over the powers of the devil. We will see this time and time again in the Gospel of Mark. In the barest of details, Jesus is presented as God's son coming into the world to defeat the powers of the devil. Thruough healings, teachings, miracles, exorcisms, and other forms of ministry Jesus brings the will of God for healing, wholenes and righteousness into the world -- despite all that the devil does to try to keep this from happening. In these 2 short verses Jesus is depicted as the new Adam -- tempted by the devil, but remaining without sin.

We will see this theme of the victory of Jesus over sin many more times as we journey through Mark.

Until next time -- Peace! Bill

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mark Study Lesson 4: Jesus Is Baptised

In my last 2 posts I have looked at the background to the Gospel of Mark, the question of authorship, and the first 8 verses of chapter 1.

Let's now look at the next 3 verses -- Mark 1:9-11 -- and see Mark's version of the Baptism of Jesus.

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

We should not be surprised that all we have here in Mark is a description of the action itself -- with only the "bare bones" information. Mark is very much a "just the facts" Gospel -- as we discussed in my first post in this Bible Study.

Matthew 3:14-17:

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

gives more details -- and Jesus' explination of why the baptism was necessary.

Luke 3:21-22:

21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved with you I am well pleased.”

gives a slightly different sequence of events.

How many of detials of the story are historical fact? We can not be sure -- but it is probable that Jesus expereinced something at his baptism that confirmed for Him the speical ministry He was to have. Obviously something happened here to set Jesus apart for His special minstry as God's son.The descent of the Spirit and the voice of God also confirms Jesus as the Messiah -- and point to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 64:1, Ezekiel 1:1 , Isaiah 11:2 ).

Once again the messge of Mark is that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promises. The opening of the heavens and the voice of God signifies that God is doing a new thing through Jesus Christ.

In my next post I will deal with the beginning ministry of Jesus.

Until next time -- Peace! Bill

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mark Study Lesson 3: Mark 1:1-8: Along Comes John

In my last 2 posts I have looked at the background to the Gospel of Mark and who the question of authorship.

It's time now to begin studying the text itself.

Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with£ water; but he will baptize you with£ the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist is a central figure in the story of Christ. His presense here in the earliest recorded gospel gives testimony to his importance. Mark uses Old Testament references to refer to John -- specifically Malachi 3:1 --

1See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts

Matthew also used this verse from Malachi to refer to John the Baptist:

Matthew 11:10:
This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

Isaiah 40:3 is also referred to here:

A voice cries out:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

A century earlier the Jewish group known as the Qumran Community had used Isaiah 40:3 to defend their retreat into the wilderness while awaiting the Messiah.

The early Christian Church, therefore, had begun at an early time to take Old Testament scripture and treat them as prophecies about Christ, or in this particular instance, John the Baptist.

But -- didn't Mark 1:2 attribute the quote that was actually from Malachi 3:1 to Isaiah? Yes -- appartently so. Why? Well -- we do not really know -- but some conjecture that the Malachi passage was kept with passages that were to point to the Messiah -- most of which came from Isaiah. Since most came from Isaiah, the early church may have attributed all to Isaiah -- even those that did not actually come from Isaiah.

John the Baptist is considered an Elijah - like figure -- coming to turn back to God before the coming of the Messiah. Matthew 3:1-11, Luke 3:1-20, and, to a lesser extent, John 1:19-28 all mention John's preaching repentance in the wilderness. The description of John's clothing -- especially the "leather belt" could be a reference to the description of the clothing of Elijah found in 2 Kings 1:8.

The birth of John the Baptist was thought to be miraculous (see Luke 1:5-25 , 57-62 .) John was also thought to be related to Jesus through a kinship between John's mother, Elizabeth, and Jesus' mother, Mary (Luke 1:35-37).

With these 2 Old Testament references at the beginning of the gospel, Mark seems to say that God is fulfilling the Old Testament promises through Christ. John's message that God is doing a new thing in Christ -- and to repent and follow God's ways -- set the stage for the coming of Jesus.

Click here for Wikipedia's article about John The Baptist.

Until next time -- Peace! Bill

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mark Study Lesson 2 : Who Wrote It And When?

In my last post I gave some background information about the Gospel of Mark, along with some background about the synoptic gospels, but I failed to discuss authorship.

The truth is, we do not know who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Mark may have been his real name, but we can not be certain(the supersciptions to the Biblical books were not added until the second century). And if it was Mark, then the question is -- Mark who? Is it the same Mark mentioned in Acts (Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25) Colossians 4:10 or 2 Timothy 4:11? We don't know! Papias, a Bishop in Asia Minor around 130, held the opinion that Mark traveled with the Apostle Peter, and wrote down everything Peter told him about Jesus. Some have even held that the Apostle Peter wrote the Gospel of Mark, but again there is no concrete evidence for this.

So, we can not say with real certainty who wrote the Gospel of Mark. We can suppose that it was written in the early 60's. It has no mention of the Fall of Jerusalem (in contrast to Luke -- see Luke 21:20ff) which occured in 70, so the author most likely had no knowledge of this event.

So -- Mark -- the first Gospel wirtten -- was written about 30 years after Jesus' life and ministry on earth -- but we are not sure by whom.

For more information on the background of the Gospel of Mark, see the article in Wikipedia.

OK -- I think we have enough on the background -- in my next post I will jump into Chapter 1.

Until then -- Peace! Bill

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mark Study Lesson 1: Background To The Gospel


Welcome to my first attempt at posting commentary to the Minor Prophet. I will be posting to this blog site and also linking to the Minor Prophet web site.

I hope to make this commentary sound theologically, but also practical. So let's get to it!

Mark 1:1
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It is appropriate that Mark begins with the words "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ ..." for most scholars feel that Mark is the first of the gospels written.

There are several very good arguments for this point:

1. Mark is the shortest gospel -- so it is believed it was the "core information" the other gospel writers used.

2. Mark has mostly "action" and not as much "teaching" as Matthew, Luke, and John. This could mean that Mark was concerned with setting out the core information someone needed for salvation.

I guess first of all it would be good to talk a little about the gospels themselves. The 4 gospels that begin the New Testament -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- tell the story of Jesus. While each were inspired, they all had different reasons for writing -- and were written for different audiances.

Of the 4 gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are what scholars call "the synoptic gospels" -- the word "synoptic" meaning "viewed from the same lens" -- or with a vaugely similar purpose. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present the story of Jesus in essentially the same way -- some diffences but not a lot. John, on the other hand, is much more philosophical in nature and has much more of Jesus' teachings -- so is not considered one of the synoptic gospels.

So, most scholars believe Mark was written first -- followed closely by Matthew -- then Luke. John was probably written some time later.

Wikipedia has a good, concise article on the synoptics.

A good, more detailed look is at the Synoptic Gospels Primer at the Virtual Religion web site.

I see several themes in Mark:

1. Jesus is God's Son -- coming into the world to bring salvation
2. In the ministry of Jesus Christ, the reign of God is coming into the world to overcome sin and evil. In His ministry Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick - and in His death and resurrection He won the victory over sin and evil.
3. We are called to believe in Christ -- and follow Him in His ministry of love, justice, and voctory over sin and evil.

In my next post I will continue with Mark 1.

Until then -- Peace! Bill