Friday, February 21, 2014

Bible Briefs: Mark

Series Introduction: Bible Briefs are a short introduction and summary of the overview of a book of the Bible, with a view to helping people take up their Bible and knowing what it's about.

When Mark begins to write his Gospel, he gives the game away in the very first sentence: ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ (1:1) As John the Baptist and then Jesus appear on the scene, the reader knows who this Jesus is, but the crowds and the disciples and the religious leaders are all trying to work out just who he is.

As Jesus proclaims the kingdom, he works miracles and overturns the accepted standards of the religious leaders. The questions come thick and fast: ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority!’ (1:27) ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (2:7) ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ (2:16) ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ (4:41)

Eventually, Peter realises who Jesus is: ‘You are the Christ.’ (8:29). The question asked in the first half of the gospel has been answered. Who is Jesus? He is the Christ. Straight away, we’re plunged into the second half of the gospel, which asks (and answers) the question: What did Jesus come to do?

Within two verses, Jesus has already told the disciples that he, the Son of Man ‘must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ (8:31) From this point, Jesus is on the way to the cross, predicting his sufferings twice more, but his disciples just don’t seem to get it.

Almost a third of the gospel is taken up with the last week leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross, as Mark shares Jesus’ teaching and the disputes with the religious leaders. They, like Peter, should have recognised that the Messiah was in front of them, but they could not see it. Instead, they fulfill the scriptures as they condemn him to death. Yet as Jesus dies, one man does recognise who Jesus is, and what he came to do. A most unlikely of men: ‘And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”’ (Mark 15:39).

Who is Jesus? He is the Christ, the Son of God. He came to die for us. He came to rise again to new life for us. We know it from the very first verse, but Mark urges us to read on, to see and hear and discover this Jesus for ourselves, to become his disciples as we too come, and follow him.

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