WE’RE number one! … The greatest, strongest, prettiest … champions! Daily those proclamations boldly assert claims of supremacy. Everyone wants to be and be with a winner. Losers are those who finish less than first. In direct contrast are the words of Jesus, “And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:44, 45). Jesus is the greatest – – God incarnate, our Messiah – but he entered history as a servant.
This is the message of Mark. Written to encourage Roman Christians and to prove beyond a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, Mark presents a rapid succession of vivid pictures of Jesus in action – – his true identity revealed by what he does, not necessarily by what he says. It is Jesus on the move.
Omitting the birth of Jesus, Mark begins with John the Baptist’s preaching. Then, moving quickly past Jesus’ baptism, temptation in the desert, and call of the disciples, Mark takes us directly into Jesus’ public ministry. We see Jesus confronting a demon, healing a leper, and forgiving and healing the paralytic lowered into Jesus’ presence by friends.
Next, Jesus called Matthew (Levi) and had dinner with him and his questionable associates. This initiated the conflict with the Pharisees and other religious leaders who condemned Jesus for eating with sinners and breaking the Sabbath.
In chapter 4, Mark pauses to give a sample of Jesus’ teaching – – the parable of the sower and the illustration of the mustard seed – – and then plunges back into the action. Jesus calmed the waves, drove out demons, and healed Jairus’ daughter.
After returning to Nazareth for a few days and experiencing rejection in his home town, Jesus commissioned the disciples to spread the good news everywhere. Opposition from Herod and the Pharisees increased and John the Baptist was beheaded. But Jesus continued to move, feeding 5,000, reaching out to the Syrophoenician woman, healing the deaf man, and feeding 4,000.
Finally it was time to reveal his true identity to the disciples. Did they really know who Jesus was? Peter proclaimed him Messiah, but then promptly showed that he did not understand Jesus’ mission. After the transfiguration, Jesus continued to teach and heal, confronting the Pharisees about divorce and the rich young man about eternal life. Blind Bartimaeus was healed.
Events moved rapidly towards a climax. The Last Supper, the betrayal, the crucifixion, and the resurrection are dramatically portrayed, along with more examples of Jesus’ teachings. Mark shows us Jesus – – moving, serving, sacrificing, and saving! As you read Mark, be ready for action, be open for God’s move into your life, and be challenged to move into your world to serve.
Purpose: To present the person, work, and teachings of Jesus
Author: John Mark. He was not one of the 12 disciples but he accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13).
To Whom Written: The Christians in Rome, where he wrote the Gospel
Date Written: Between A.D. 55 and 65
Setting: The Roman empire under Tiberius Caesar. The empire, with its common language and excellent transportation and communication systems, was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation.
Key Verse: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45).
Key People: Jesus, the 12 disciples, Pilate, the Jewish religious leaders
Key Places: Capernaum, Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, Bethany, Mount of Olives, Jersualem, Golgotha
Special Features: Mark was probably the first Gospel written. The other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of Mark. Mark records more miracles than does any other Gospel.
Birth and Preparation of Jesus, The Servant (1:1-13) Jesus did not arrive unannounced or unexpected. The Old Testament prophets had clearly predicted the coming of a great One, sent by God himself, who would offer salvation and eternal peace to Israel and the entire world. Then came John the Baptist, who announced that the long-awaited Messiah had finally come and would soon be among the people. In God’s work in the world today, Jesus does not come unannounced or unexpected. Yet many still reject him. We have the witness of the Bible, but some choose to ignore it, just as many ignored John the Baptist in his day.
Message And Ministry Of Jesus, The Servant (1:12-13:37) Jesus had all the power of almighty God – – he raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, restored deformed bodies, and quieted stormy seas. But with all this power, Jesus came to mankind as a servant. We can use his life as a pattern for how to live today. As Jesus served God and others, so should we.
- Jesus’ ministry in Galilee
- Jesus’ ministry beyond Galilee
- Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem
EXPLANATION: Jesus Christ alone is the Son of God. In Mark, Jesus demonstrates his divinity by overcoming disease, demons, and death. Although he had the power to be king of the earth, Jesus chose to obey the Father and die for us.
IMPORTANCE: When Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that he was God, that he could forgive sin, and that he has the power to change our lives. By trusting in him for forgiveness, we can begin a new life with him as our guide.
EXPLANATION As the Messiah, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament by coming to earth. He did not come as a conquering king; he came as a servant. He helped mankind by telling them about God and healing them. Even more, by giving his life as a sacrifice for sin, he did the ultimate act of service.
IMPORTANCE: Because of Jesus’ example, we should be willing to serve God and others. Real greatness in Christ’s kingdom is shown by service and sacrifice. Ambition or love of power or position should not be our motive; instead, we should do God’s work because we love him.
EXPLANATION: Mark records more of Jesus’ miracles than sermons. Jesus is clearly a man of power and action, not just words. Jesus did miracles to convince the people who he was and to teach the disciples his true identity as God.
IMPORTANCE: The more convinced we become that Jesus is God, the more we will see his power and his love. His mighty works show us he is able to save anyone regardless of his or her past. His miracles of forgiveness bring healing, wholeness, and changed lives to those who trust him.
Spreading the Gospel
EXPLANATION: Jesus directed his public ministry to the Jews first. When the Jewish leaders opposed him, Jesus also went to the non-Jewish world, healing and preaching. Roman soldiers, Syrians, and other Gentiles heard the good news. Many believed and followed him. Jesus’ final message to his disciples challenged them to go into all the world and preach the gospel of salvation.
IMPORTANCE: Jesus crossed national, racial, and economic barriers to spread his good news. Jesus’ message of faith and forgiveness is for the whole world – – not just our church, neighbourhood, or nation. We must reach out beyond our own people and needs to fulfil the worldwide vision of Jesus Christ that people everywhere might hear this great message and be saved from sin and death.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.