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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

Mark’s Message (The Gospel of Mark)

Mark begins by telling us immediately what his message is all about - “the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ.”

‘The beginning’ - in Mark’s eyes his whole account is only ‘the beginning’, the beginning of a long, ongoing, triumphant period, a period of the successful spreading of the good news, which embraced the successes of the early church, and would go on until the end of the age. His account is to be seen as describing ‘the beginning’ - the initial stages of that process, the work of Christ on earth. But that is only ‘the beginning’.

‘Jesus the Christ’

  • The central character in his message is Jesus ‘the Christ’ (Heb. Messiah - anointed one) (Mark 1.1). He is the promised King and Prophet of the Old Testament, expected and longed for by the Jews (Isaiah 11.1-5 and often; 61.1- 3), who was to bring justice and compassion to the world.
  • He sees the turning point in the ministry of Jesus to be when Peter answers Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” with the statement - “You are the Christ” (Mark 8.29). It is only when they have realised this in their hearts that Jesus can prepare His disciples for the fact that He must suffer and die. They must recognise that the purpose of His coming as Messiah is to deliver by “giving His life a ransom for many” (10.45 compare Isaiah 53.5, 10, 12).
  • At His trial, when Jesus is asked, “Are you the Christ?”, He replies emphatically that He is (Mark 14.61 - 62). Now that His sufferings are imminent He can make Himself known and speak of His return in glory as Lord and Judge.

But at no point in the ministry of Jesus as described in Mark does Jesus Himself directly make the claim to be the Christ. However, Mark 9.41 clearly implies it, and when Peter declares Him to be the Christ He silently accepts the fact, but immediately turns the minds of the disciples to His own title for Himself - “the Son of Man”. With one illuminating exception, this is true of all four Gospels.

The only time when Jesus reveals Himself as the Christ outside the inner circle of His disciples (where He does it indirectly), is to the Samaritan woman in John 4. This was in a place where the false ideas about ‘the Christ’ were not prevalent, so that it would not be misconstrued. This remarkable fact demonstrates how carefully the Gospel writers kept strictly to the actual words of Jesus. Can we conceive that later writers, who thought of Him constantly as ‘the Christ’, would have been able to prevent themselves from putting the words into Jesus’ mouth?

Thus it is evidence of the accuracy with which Mark is presenting us with the facts, that, even though his aim is to present ‘Jesus, the Christ’, he does not change the words of Jesus so as to introduce the title on Jesus’ lips. Instead he draws out that the main title found on His lips is that of the ‘Son of Man’.

The Son of Man

Why does Jesus portray Himself as the ‘Son of Man’?

  • The title Christ (Messiah) had become connected with the idea of a revolutionary leader who would rally the people against the Romans. This was not how Jesus wanted people to see Him. It was why, once His disciples had recognised Him for what He was, He re-educated them into what being ‘the Christ’ involved in terms of ‘the Son of Man’.
  • The phrase Son of Man could hold a variety of meanings.
    1. In the Old Testament it regularly parallels ‘man’ as a synonym (eg Psalm 8.4). Thus Jesus is holding Himself out as true man.
  • It is used by God to Ezekiel stressing he is but a man.
  • It is used in Daniel 7.13 of one who comes as a representative of Israel before God’s throne to receive universal power.
  • It is used, in apocalyptic literature, of Enoch in a heavenly ministry, spoken to as as “you, son of man”.

It stressed therefore both humiliation and glory, was not open to being politically manipulated, and brought out Jesus’ role as the representative of mankind.

The passage in Daniel deserves special mention. There Israel as God’s people are compared with the nations round about who are described as ‘beasts’. Israel alone (in its ideal form as obedient to God) is truly human. Because of this the people of God are subjected to suffering under the beasts (see especially Daniel 7.25) until the great time of Judgment. Then comes ‘one like to a son of man’ with the clouds of Heaven, to receive power and glory and universal rule (7.13). He is the representative of ‘the people of the saints of the Most High’ (7.27).

So the ‘son of man’ represents one who suffers at the hands of brutish man, followed by a triumphant entry into the presence of God to receive power and glory.

The Use of Son of Man in Mark

Mark selects sayings of Jesus which bring out what to him is the essence of the His claim to be the ‘Son of Man’.

  • The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (2.10) (i.e. as well as in Heaven).
  • The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (2.28). He has authority to pronounce on God’s ordinances.
  • It is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer - and rise again (8.31; 9.12; 9.31: 10.33). Notice the constant repetition. This is His destiny and is now His constant theme. The disciples must be made to understand.
  • The Son of Man will give His life a ransom for many (10.45).
  • The Son of Man will take His seat at the right hand of God and will come on the clouds of heaven, in the glory of the Father, with the holy angels (8.38; 14.62). (This directly links Jesus with Daniel 7.13).

Thus Jesus declares Himself to be here with heavenly authority, for the purpose of suffering and rising again, so that He may ransom men for Himself, with a view to His receiving power and authority, and finally coming in the glory of the Father.

Jesus as Son of God

Mark tells us that Jesus is declared to be the Son of God

  • By supernatural witnesses - the unclean spirits (3.11; 5.7).
  • By the centurion at His crucifixion (15.39).

Both worlds are forced to recognise Who He is.

The claim is rare on the lips of Jesus (John 5.25 (indirectly); 10.26; 11.4) although He acknowledges it on the lips of others (Matthew 14.33; 16.16 and parallel; 26.63; John 1.34; 1.49). He was aware that it was very much something people had to become aware of for themselves.

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A Summary of Mark’s Good News

Preparation (Mark 2.1 - 13).

As prophesied in Scripture John the Baptiser comes to prepare the way for the One Who is coming, preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is then baptised by him and receives the Holy Spirit from Heaven, and the voice from Heaven testifies that Jesus is the coming King and Servant of God. He is tested by Satan in the wilderness, and triumphs.

Jesus Proclaims the Rule of God as Available (1.14 - 15)

Men and women must change their attitude to wrongdoing and believe that the Rule of God is here.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples(Mark 1.14 - 20)

Peter and Andrew, James and John are called to be ‘fishers of men’.

Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue(Mark 1. 21 - 34)

He astonishes the people by teaching as One Who has authority, and reveals His authority over evil spirits by casting out a spirit who identifies Him as ‘the Holy One of God’. So His fame spreads everywhere.

He heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and many others come to be healed and to be freed from evil spirits.

His Ministry Continues and His Fame Increases Even Further (Mark 1.35 - 45) He goes alone to pray in the early morning, then stresses that He must go from city to city to preach, as that is why He has come. He goes throughout the whole of Galilee preaching, and makes a leper clean, an incident which reinforces His reputation even more.

Five Pronouncements of Jesus and the Growth of Opposition (Mark 2.1 - 3.6).

  • He heals the paralysed man “So that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins on earth” (2.10). The teachers of the Law consider it blasphemous. The common people are thrilled and amazed.
  • He calls Levi the tax-collector (Matthew) to be a disciple and to follow Him, and eats with his tax collector friends, (traitors in the eyes of the Jews), and with people who have not washed in accordance with ceremonial rules. When the scribes and Pharisees mutter about it to His disciples, He declares, “Those who are whole do not need a healer. Those who are sick do. I have not come to call those who are without fault, but to call sinners to change their ways.”
  • When He is asked why His disciples do not observe fasting (going without food as a sign of religious dedication). His response is - “Can the guests at the reception fast while the bridegroom is with them? While he is there it would be wrong. But a day will come when the bridegroom will be snatched away from them. Then, when those days come, they will fast.” He then demonstrates that He has brought something new with the parables of the patching of old clothes with a piece of new cloth, and using old wineskins for new wine. In the same way the old standards cannot be applied to Him and His teaching.
  • His disciples pluck corn on the Sabbath day and roll it between their palms, thus technically reaping and threshing on the Sabbath. When challenged by the Pharisees He compares Himself with David and declares, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
  • He heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees believed healing should only take place on the Sabbath in an emergency, and then only as far as was minimally required, and they had put the man there as a test. Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or to do evil? To save life or to kill?”, and they have no answer. He is grieved because they cannot see their failings. They are filled with anger and begin their plots to have Him killed.

Thus Jesus has claimed:

  1. To be the Son of Man who has authority on earth to forgive sins.
  2. To be the Healer who has come to call the unworthy to a new way of life.
  3. To be the Bridegroom whose presence is so wonderful that it removes the need for fasting, (it is significant that in the Old Testament God was the bridegroom, and Israel His bride), but Who will one day be ‘snatched away’ from them.
  4. To be the Unique Teacher who has brought a new message like none before.
  5. As Son of Man to be Lord of the Sabbath and comparable with the great King David.
  6. To be the Compassionate One who is not bound by religious interpretations when they fly in the face of compassion.

Jesus Continues to Preach, to Heal and to Cast Out Evil Spirits. His Fame Continues to Spread (Mark 3. 7 - 12)

The evil spirits declare Him to be the Son of God but He forbids it. He does not want men’s awareness of Him to come from such a source. His ministry and popularity have now become such that not only Galileans, but also people from Jerusalem and Idumaea, and from Transjordan and Syria, flock to hear Him.

He Selects Twelve Men to Assist Him in Spreading His Message(Mark 3.14 - 21).

The twelve are chosen to go out to preach, to heal and to cast out evil spirits, thus taking His message of the arrival of the Rule of God even further afield.

He Declares that as the Strong Man He Is Binding the Forces of Evil (Mark 3.22 - 30)

His success has been such that it is no longer only the local teachers of the Law who oppose Him. Certain leading teachers from Jerusalem, the ‘experts’, have been called in. They try to argue that His success springs from Satan. Jesus demonstrates the nonsense of this. Satan would encourage evil spirits, not cast them out. The fact that Jesus can do this shows that He is stronger than Satan, and is able to bind him and his minions. He warns that deliberate refusal to recognise in this the work of the Holy Spirit of God is a blasphemy far worse than any they accuse Him of.

He Declares that His Ministry Has Put Him Beyond Earthly Constraint (Mark 3.31 - 35)

When His mother and brothers come for Him, to try to dissuade Him from His work, He points out that from now on His responsibility is to those who “do the will of God”. They, and they alone, are the ones who have a special call upon Him. .

He Proclaims in Parables the Need to Respond to the Rule of God (Mark 4. 1 - 34).

Jesus preaches in parables and explains to His disciples that it is necessary for Him to do so, so that they will have to think things out for themselves and not just accept teaching by rote. Only those who are so moved that they are willing to take matters further and seek out Jesus will learn the full truth.

  1. The parable of the sower. The seed (the words of Jesus) is being sown and then the harvest (the final judgment) will come. Some will meanwhile respond and bear fruit, and thus be ready for the harvest, but others will allow the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth or the desire for other things to choke the word, so that when the harvest comes they are unfruitful and rejected.
  2. The parable of the light in the house. When light shines through His teaching men must respond to it and not try to hide it or quench it.
  3. The parable of the seed that grows secretly. In the purposes of God there are those in whose hearts the words of Jesus will secretly bear fruit. No one knows who, or how, until the fruit springs up and steadily grows, and the harvest proves it as genuine.
  4. The parable of the grain of mustard seed. The beginnings may seem small and unimportant, compared with others who make great claims for themselves, but its effects will continue to grow until they are spread far beyond anything that could have been dreamed of.

SUMMARY

Being full of the Holy Spirit Jesus has taught widely, revealed His uniqueness and won the hearts of the common people. His fame has now spread far beyond the borders of Galilee. He has demonstrated His authority over sin, over the Law and over the kingdom of evil, and has shown the common people that their failure to achieve the standards set by the very religious has not finally excluded them from God’s forgiveness.

But if they wish for forgiveness they must change their minds and attitudes and commit themselves to the Rule of God, obeying God’s teaching as revealed by Him. He does not excuse sin. He offers forgiveness for it to those who wish to be changed. His words are going out and it is now up to men to respond, or fail. What, however, is sure is that the word will continue its work until great numbers are made ready for the harvest.

The opposition of certain religious men has also developed and expanded, and these men are the very ones that in the past the people have looked up to. They feel that their control is slipping away and that their teachings are being undermined. Jesus will not fit in with their ideas, so Jesus must go. (It should be noted that not all Scribes and Pharisees are to be seen as involved in this. The narrative only brings us into contact with the ones who come to test Jesus out and then refuse to acknowledge the authenticity of His ministry. They would be the ones who actively sought to bring about His downfall).

He Reveals His Authority over Evil Spirits and over Death Itself (Mark 5. 1-43).

He casts many evil spirits out of a demon possessed man and restores to life the daughter of Jairus, a rich and pious man. On the way a woman who had an ‘issue of blood for twelve years’ is healed by touching his cloak.

(His own friends and neighbours sadly cannot face up to the fact that ‘our Jesus’ is a great prophet and healer. They are so uptight that they do not bring their sick to be healed (Mark 6. 1-6)

The Twelve Are Sent Out to Preach and Heal, and With Authority Over Unclean Spirits, and Achieve Great Success, So That The News Even Reaches the King and His Conscience is Troubled (Mark 6. 7-31)

They are sent out in twos and told they must be dependent on the hospitality of their hearers. They are assured that those who reject them will face severe judgment. Their success reaches the ears of the king whose conscience is troubled because as a result of a careless promise he has cruelly put to death John the Baptiser, a man whom he had admired and respected. The apostles return to Jesus to announce their triumphs.

Jesus Reveals His Power Over Nature By Miraculously Feeding a Large Crowd and Causing a Storm to Cease At His Command (Mark 6. 32 - 56)

The crowds continue to follow Jesus wherever He goes and are so enthusiastic that they go unprepared. Jesus feeds 5000 of them with five loaves and two fishes. He sends the disciples over the lake while he remains to pray. They are caught in a severe storm and are terrified, but He comes to them, walking on the sea, and the storm ceases. Further crowds gather and he heals all who come.

The Pharisees and Scribes Continue to Watch and Criticise Him. He Points Out that What is Within the Heart is What Matters (Mark 7. 1 - 23)

He is challenged because some of His disciples eat without performing the correct ceremonial washings. Jesus uses examples to show the Pharisee’s inconsistency. He points out that what really defiles a man is what comes from within, evil thoughts, lustful thoughts, pride and greed.

A Gentile Woman Seeks His Help and her Daughter is Cured (Mark 7. 24 - 30)

From now on Jesus’ ministry will reach out to the Gentiles.

(This story is a pivotal point in Matthew’s Gospel where it is the crucial point when Jesus’ ministry is specifically extended to the Gentiles).

A Deaf and Dumb Man Hears and Speaks (Mark 7. 31 - 37)

This is in Decapolis, the Greek speaking ‘ten towns’. The ears of the Gentiles can also be opened - in more ways than one! Jesus’ fame spreads among the Gentiles.

Crowds Which Include Gentiles are Also Fed Miraculously (Mark 8. 1 - 9).

The great crowds have followed Him for three days. He feeds them with seven loaves and a few small fish. They would include many Gentiles.

The Pharisees continue Their Campaign Against Him and Jesus Warns his Disciples to Beware of Their Machinations (Mark 8. 10 - 21)

The Pharisees seek a sign in spite of all that is happening around them. Jesus refuses to perform signs as ‘proof’. He warns His disciples against their manoeuvrings and plots.

SUMMARY

The ministry of Jesus has now been expanded even further, both by the sending out of the Apostles on a specific outreach, and by going among the Gentiles with the message of the Rule of God. He has revealed His power to an even greater extent by His control of nature and by raising the dead, and the Apostles have begun to experience some of this power through themselves. The Pharisees and Scribes have continued their opposition and plotting.

From now on there will be a decided change in the narrative. Attitudes must be changed. The real schooling of the Apostles is about to begin.

Mark’s Message Part 2

The Blind Man Healed in Two Stages (Mark 8. 22 - 26) It is not without reason that this account precedes Peter’s revelation. The eyes of the disciples had been partly opened, now they need to have them fully opened. This acted out parable of Jesus is significant and the fact that He goes out of His way to heal the man in two stages illustrates the importance He places on this period in His ministry. Will the disciples get the message?

His Disciples Recognise that He is the Christ. From Now On He Will Stress the Need for the Son of Man to Suffer Mark 8. 27 - 38)

It would be difficult to overemphasise the importance of this moment. Jesus has been ministering widely about the Rule of God, and has waited patiently for the disciples to appreciate from His statements that He really is the Messiah. Now that light has dawned He can be more specific and tell them the full purpose of His coming. He tells them they are not to make it known that he is the Messiah, (in the light of His popularity it would produce the wrong reaction).

Then He begins to outline the fact that as Son of Man He must suffer and be rejected, and finally be put to death, after which He will rise again. Peter clearly considers this both defeatist and unacceptable. Having just recognised Jesus as Messiah he feels sufficient false confidence to be able to put Him right. Jesus rebukes him pointing out that he is doing Satan’s job for him. He points out that His way is the way of sacrifice and death, and that those who would follow Him must take that way also. To flinch from this is, paradoxically, to be in danger of ‘losing one’s life’.

Jesus Reveals His Glory (Mark 9. 1 - 13)

Jesus knows how hard the lesson He has to teach His disciples is going to be and now clearly feels that he can show them His glory. To have done so before would have left them only half convinced. (He did not share the modern view of convince people at any price. He knew that on the whole people had to ‘grow into’ truth). He takes their leaders, Peter, James and John up into a high mountain and is gloriously changed before them so that they see Him in dazzling purity. A voice declares, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him”. They are warned not to tell others what they have seen. When questioned He shows that John the Baptiser was the Elijah who was to come. They now know all the facts.

In His Absence His Disciples have Come Across Spirits Too Powerful For Them To cast Out (Mark 9. 14 - 29)

He comes down from the mountain to find that His disciples have failed to relieve a demon possessed boy. Jesus casts it out and points out that they have yet to achieve the state which would have given them success against such powerful spirits, a state only reached by much prayer.

He Stresses Again to His Disciples that the Son of Man Must Suffer and Die, and Rise Again. They still Do Not Understand. (Mark 9. 30 - 32)

Jesus now shuns public ministry as He tries to impress on His disciples what His future is. They continue to be perplexed.

The Disciples Discuss Who is going to be Greatest When the Christ Takes His Throne. They Learn Their Mistake (Mark 9. 33 - 37)

The disciples have now so far accepted that Jesus is the Messiah that they begin to argue with each other about what they are going to get out of it, and who will take the highest position.

They have simply ignored His stress on His coming sufferings and death. Jesus points out that true greatness is not for those who seek it. It is expressed in humble service and care for children (not religious pomp and razzmatazz).

Jesus Stresses the Importance of Treating Their Responsibilities Seriously (Mark 9. 38 - 50)

A man has been successfully casting out spirits in Jesus’ name. Jesus recognises that the fact of his success is a sign of his genuineness. He compares those who care for Messiah’s followers with those who cause them to stumble and fall. The former will be rewarded, the latter will face severe judgment. The disciples need to beware that they do not become stumblingblocks.

The Crowds Continue to Flock To Him and The Pharisees Continue To Test Him Out, This Time About His Attitude to Divorce (Mark 10. 1 - 16)

Jesus makes clear that divorce is wrong and against the will of God, any less a standard has been allowed only because of man’s hard-heartedness. When His disciples prevent children from troubling Him (see previous paragraph above. How easy it is to be careless) He rebukes them and welcomes the children.

A Rich Man Finds the Way Too Difficult. The Danger of Riches and the Reward for Making Sacrifices for Christ (Mark 10. 17 - 31)

An eager rich man is faced with the cost of discipleship and turns away. Jesus points out that contrary to the popular view, riches make discipleship more difficult, for they have to be given up. A rich disciple is a contradiction in terms. He has failed in his responsibilities to the needy. In contrast the true riches are for those who have left all to follow Jesus.

Jesus Presses on Urgently Towards Jerusalem in Such a Way As Amazes His Disciples. He Replies By Stressing Again That He Must Suffer and Die before Rising Again (Mark 10. 32 - 34)

It is clear that Jesus was moving at such a pace to get to Jerusalem that the disciples cannot understand it. The premonition of His death is slowly dawning on them. He makes clear to the twelve what will happen to Him in Jerusalem, suffering, ridicule and death.

John and James can Still Only Think of What They Can Get Out of It. The Other Disciples Are Jealous. Jesus Shows They All Totally In The Wrong (Mark 10. 35 - 45)

On the one hand Jesus is constrained by thoughts of suffering and death, on the other His disciples are working out advantages for themselves. We can see why the idea of Messiahship was dangerous. Having accepted it the disciples are thinking about what’s in it for them. They have totally missed the point. The genuine Messiah has not come to lord it over men but to serve them, and finally give Himself a ransom for them. This is to be their attitude too.

Only the finality and despair of the crucifixion will save them from their self-seeking. How often we too need to see Calvary again, not as a triumph that does not really touch us, but as a demand for humility and readiness to serve.

The Blind Man Who Sees is Made to See (Mark 10. 46 - 52)

Among the crowds at Jericho is one who has come to an appreciation of the truth about Jesus. He has recognised for himself that this is the expected Son of David. He is determined to get to Jesus so that his sight can be restored. He succeeds and is healed. This is the second time Mark has brought in the story of the healing of a blind man at a crucial time. Is it because the disciples have not yet come to see the real truth about the Son of David, but are about to have their eyes opened?

SUMMARY

Once the disciples were fully convinced that Jesus really was the Christ their further education can begin. Jesus begins to stress again and again that He must suffer and die, before rising again. The disciples find it hard to take in. They begin to think in terms of their own position and importance. Now they are going to get their reward. But Jesus continues to stress humble service, the danger of riches, that reward comes through self-sacrifice, that the disciples also face a future of suffering, and that they must not get so big that they overlook little children. He does not despair. He knows that what He is about to go through will open their eyes as nothing else will. But only if the foundations are laid. Soon their eyes will be fully opened.

Meanwhile He presses on towards His destiny.

Jesus Rides In Triumph Into Jerusalem, Casts the Profiteers Out of the Temple and Renders the Fig Tree Fruitless (Mark 11. 1 - 26)

This passage must be seen as a whole. Notice the parallels.

  • Jesus rides into Jerusalem in triumph offering Himself as God’s Sent One (vv.1-10).
  • He goes into the Temple and looks around at all He sees there, He finds it fruitless (v.11).
  • He goes up to the fig tree (an Old Testament symbol of Israel. See especially Jeremiah 8.13; Hosea 9.10) and finds it fruitless because it was not the time, and declares judgment on it (vv. 12-14).
  • He goes suddenly into the Temple and casts out the profiteers declaring judgment upon them (vv.15-18).
  • He and His disciples return to the fig tree and find it withered (vv.20-21).

    The idea is clear. Judea and Jerusalem are the fig tree. He has examined them. No fruit can be found there, for they are barren. He declares judgment upon them. Their prophesied future is that they will wither and die.

    The message is so vital and appalling that Jesus, unusually, is prepared to perform a miracle in order to bring it home. The disciples would never forget the lesson of the fig tree. When Jerusalem is destroyed they will remember and recognise that God’s curse was upon it because it had failed to be ready for its visitation. Israel had been warned that God would ‘come suddenly to His Temple’ (Malachi 3.1), but they had not prepared themselves.

    Both the ride into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple are statements of who He is and what He has come to do. They precipitate only enmity from the authorities, for the ‘people of God’ are not ready.

    Jesus Is Challenged as to His Authority to Act in Such a Manner (Mark 11. 27-33).

    His enemies are ganging up. Not only the Scribes, but also the Chief Priests and the Elders have come to see Him because He has trespassed on their domain. They ask Him who has given Him authority to act in such a way. Do they really want to know? He tests them out.

    He asks them whether the baptism of John was from Heaven or of men. They are in a fix. They are in the Temple, thronged with people who counted John as a prophet. They dare not say what they think. So they say weakly, ‘We cannot tell’. They have declared from their own mouths that they are not able to judge such things. How then can they expect to judge Jesus’ authority fairly? The fig tree has truly withered.

    Jesus Makes His Last Appeal to the Authorities (Mark 12. 1-12)

    He tells the leaders the parable of a man who takes great trouble in setting up a vineyard (quoted almost word for word from Isaiah 5.2, where it turns out to be a fruitless vineyard ). When he sends servants to collect his dues they are rejected and badly treated, and sometimes even killed. So finally he sends his son. Remorselessly the vineyard keepers kill the son. And what will be the result? It can only mean their destruction.

    The meaning is so clear that even the leaders cannot fail to understand. God is the vineyard owner, the leaders of Judea and Jerusalem are the vineyard keepers, the prophets are the rejected servants, and Jesus is the son. There can now be no doubt that Jesus is claiming to be more than a prophet. He is claiming that His relationship with God is unique. He is the true Son.

    They grind their teeth and say nothing. Their minds are so set that they will not even consider His claim. But the people are all about and passions run high at such a time. They knew that if they arrest Jesus there can only be trouble. So they go their way. But they will not forget. When the time comes they will be ready.

    The Leaders Try To Discredit Jesus Before The People (Mark 12. 13-34)

    First the Pharisees and Herodians try. Should they give tribute to Caesar? If He says ‘yes’ the people will turn against Him, for they hate the tribute. If He says ‘no’ they can have Him arrested by the Romans as a troublemaker and rabble-rouser.

    He calls for a tribute coin. Whose face and written authority are on it? Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. If they hold Caesar’s coin they must pay his tribute. The people would agree to this. They would not carry Caesar’s coin. (The answer seems simple enough now, but what genius!)

    Next come the Sadducees, who deny a resurrection. Again He answers their question, and does it so well that one of the Scribes is impressed.

    The Scribe himself asks the next question. What is the most important of the commandments? This was a disputed point. Jesus replies by quoting Deuteronomy 6. 4-5 and Leviticus 19.18. The greatest commandments are to love God and neighbour. The Scribe, a thoughtful man, is even more impressed. He had expected to dispute, but found himself agreeing. His further comment gains him the commendation, ‘You are not far from being under God’s Rule’.

    This is the end of the questioning. They recognise that he is too clever for them.

    Jesus Again Makes Clear His Uniqueness (Mark 12. 35-37)

    Jesus quotes from Psalm 110.1 ( which they all acknowledged was written by King David), the words, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit at my right hand”, which they all recognised as referring to the coming King. If King David himself can call the coming king ‘Lord’, how can he be merely David’s son? Again Jesus is stressing His uniqueness.

    Jesus Teaches The People and Commends the Generous Widow (Mark 12.38-44).

    Jesus condemns those who use religion for their own benefit, whether to satisfy their pride or to line their pockets. He commends the widow who gives secretly all that she has.

    Jesus Warns His Disciples of What the Future Holds (Mark 13. 1-37)

    He forecasts the destruction of the Temple, the rising of false messiahs, wars, troubles and famine. He points out that they will face persecution, but that the good news will reach out to the whole world. He describes a future desecration of the Temple and final times of great tumult. And finally He describes the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. They know who the Son of Man is and they are to watch and be ready for His coming. This message is the final seal on His ministry. He knows His time has come.

    The Jewish Leaders Plot How They Can Put Jesus To Death (Mark 14. 1 - 11)

    Afraid of crowd reaction the Jewish leaders wonder how they can take Jesus in such a way that no one will know until too late. They decide against acting during the Feast of the Passover for this reason, but then they have a peace of luck. Almost unbelievably, one of the twelve Apostles, probably disillusioned by Jesus talk of coming death and constant harping on humble service and self-sacrifice, comes to them privately and offers to find a way for them to take Jesus secretly. They gladly offer him money once the job is successfully completed. Meanwhile a woman comes to Jesus and pours on His head what was probably her most treasured possession - a boxful of valuable spikenard. Jesus clearly finds Himself bolstered up by this act of love, and sees in it an anointing for His death.

    The Last Supper - The Passover (Mark 14. 12 - 25)

    Jesus, as a Galilean, celebrated the Passover a day before that customary in Judea and Jerusalem. At the Supper He reveals that one of the twelve will betray Him. He is not caught by surprise. Knowing Judas intimately He can discern the signs.

    Jesus takes the Passover bread and breaks it, but instead of saying, “This is the bread of affliction”, as would be normal at the Passover, looking back to the afflictions of Israel in Egypt prior to their deliverance, He says, “Take, eat. This is my body”. He is parallelling the affliction He must face with that of the people of Israel, an affliction to be followed by deliverance. Then He takes the cup, and when they had drunk He says, “This is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for many.” There can be no doubting the epoch making nature of this statement. It was not the kind of change anyone would think of inventing. He is claiming that His death will bring in a totally new covenant with God to bind together a new covenant people. The past is to be superseded.

    Gethsemane (Mark 14. 26 - 42)

    Jesus forewarns His disciples of the nerve-wracking events to come, and, in spite of protest, of the certainty of their failure under pressure, and then reaches Gethsemane, where He goes apart to pray. It is clear that what He is about to face weighs heavily upon Him. He has told His disciples that the thought of the death He must endure makes Him burdened down with sorrow. Now He prays that, if possible, He may be excused the ‘cup’ that He must drink (see Psalm 75.8; Isaiah 51.17). But submits Himself to the will of His Father. He knows that in the end there is really no alternative.

    Betrayal (Mark 14. 43 - 52)

    The one problem the Jewish leaders had had was how to arrest Jesus secretly away from the people. It was this information that Judas could give them. Jesus must have conveyed to him in some way that He would be in Gethsemane, and it was his inside knowledge that enabled the arrest. Jesus makes clear His contempt for the stealthiness of the arrest. They dare not do it in the open, and by this they condemn themselves.

    Trial and Condemnation (Mark 14. 53 - 72)

    Mark only tells us of the main ‘trial’ before the a hurried gathering of certain members of the Sanhedrin (the main Jewish Council). The other gospels also tell us of preliminary questionings. It was not, of course, an official trial. Such a trial would have required more notice, and would not have been held at night. But it was an indication that the Chief Priests knew that they could not go before Pilate, the Roman procurator, without giving some semblance of having the approval of the official Jewish authority. They probably made sure that they invited the ones who would support their case, but even so evidence would be required, and the evidence failed. It seemed as though things had reached an impasse.

    Then, in frustration and desperation, the High Priest (the other gospels tell us it was on oath) asked Him, “Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed?” Jesus, who up to this point had said nothing, replied, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven”, (a clear reference to Daniel 7.13).

    The High Priest is satisfied that he now has a charge to lay before Pilate. The man claims to be a Messiah. To the Romans that would mean only one thing, a rebel and a troublemaker. But it should not have been so treated by the Jews, and the fact that they condemn Him shows how many of the more open-minded members of the Sanhedrin were not present.

    Peter, meanwhile, has denied Jesus three times, as Jesus had foretold.

    The Trial Before Pilate (Mark 15. 1 - 14)

    In the morning they bring Him before Pilate, charging Him with pretensions to being the King of the Jews. When questioned on the matter by Pilate, He replies, “It is you who say it”. But although Pilate recognises that really He has done nothing wrong, he wants to avoid trouble. So he accepts Jesus as guilty by default and tries to get Him released on a pretext. The attempt fails. The guilty rabble-rouser is set free, the innocent man is condemned.

    It will be noted that Mark has made the trials a setting to bring out the claims about Jesus. Here is one who is the Christ, the son of the Blessed, the King of the Jews. This latter is stressed constantly in the narrative.

    Jesus is Crucified (Mark 15. 15 - 47)

    After shameful treatment Jesus is led away to be crucified, yet even here His titles are proclaimed. On His cross is written, “The King of the Jews”, while His accusers call Him, “Christ, the King of Israel”.

    From the depths of His suffering, He cried out in the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, and no doubt He drew courage from the fact that that Psalm ends in victory (“for He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither has He hid His face from him. But when he cried to Him He heard --- all the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn to the Lord” Psalm 22. 24, 27). Then with the final words of that Psalm, “It is finished” He dies.

    Then the centurion over the guard cries, “Truly this man was the Son of God”. The testimony is complete.

    The final irony is added that He is buried by a member of the Sanhedrin, but one who “waited for the Rule of God”.

    The Resurrection (Mark 16. 1 - 8)

    The following day, as soon as they are able, women followers of Jesus come to His tomb to anoint His body, only to find the stone that covered the tomb rolled away, and when they enter it they find a young man sat there ‘clothed in a long white garment’.

    They can hardly believe his words. “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. See the place where He was laid. But go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that He goes to Galilee before you. There you will see Him, as He told you”.

    Then they flee from the tomb, trembling and amazed, saying nothing to anyone, for they are filled with awe. We can compare this with Mark 10.32. There the disciples were amazed and filled with awe because Jesus was so set on going urgently to Jerusalem to His death. Now the women are amazed and filled with awe because of triumph over death.

    Important Note.

    (A few early and reliable manuscripts end the Gospel at this point, and it is clear at a glance that the final part is a later addition. It could well have been based on notes that Mark had made, or alternatively on an early statement of faith. It was certainly joined at a very early date as is shown by its being in the majority of manuscripts of different types coming from a wide area, and known to Tatian and Irenaeus (early Christians) as well as others. What would seem certain is that Mark never finished his narrative. Why, we do not know, but we can almost certainly surmise that he died unexpectedly. Alternatively the original manuscript may have been torn, but had he not died this would surely have been remedied. Putting both together we might even surmise a violent end and a manuscript rescued at the last moment. Had he finished it himself he would certainly have made the connection more integrated and fluent. It is evidence of the reverence in which the manuscript was held that no one else tried to finish it for him. Instead they added something which they considered had equal weight. Mark may have left vv. 14 - 20 in note form, which followers added on with credal connections. There is no reason to doubt that this was under God’s guidance and inspiration).

    The Resurrection Appearances (Mark 16. 9 - 20)

    We have a summarised form first of an appearance to Mary Magdalene, compare 15.47; 16.1. The description “out of whom He had cast seven devils” would surely have been made earlier if it had been made by Mark, and verse 9 would have been made to connect with the earlier verses. Indeed verses 9 - 14 read like a summary for reading out at gatherings. They tell us how Jesus appeared to first Mary Magdalene, and then two others, none of whom were believed when they reported the fact. Then He appeared to the eleven and upbraided them because of their unbelief. (We in fact know all this from the other Gospels.)

    Then He sends them into the whole world to proclaim the Good News to everyone everywhere, promising them signs following. And once He is received up to receive authority in Heaven, they obey Him and find His promises fulfilled.

    ”The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ” (1.1) is thus now moving on to fulfilment.

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