Mark 1-3

Good morning! Our fast pace in reading through the Bible this year has prepared us some for what comes next, but Mark’s gospel will especially feel fast and furious. Mark is the earliest gospel written—perhaps twenty or thirty years after the resurrection—and it provides a key literary source for Luke and Matthew. The gospel proceeds at breakneck pace through the story of Jesus: Mark’s preferred description for anything that happens is “immediately”. Another key characteristic of Mark is that the disciples of Jesus come across almost as foolish as the Three Stooges—they NEVER understand what he’s talking about. Mark’s Jesus keeps his identity as “Son of God” a secret (essentially telling unclean spirits that “out” him to “zip it!”), and he gives less explicit teaching in order to emphasize miracles. Mark’s multiple endings reveal different perspectives on the resurrection—which we’ll consider more when we get there. As we’ll see in today’s passage (chapters 1-3), Mark is also the only gospel without a birth or origin story.

Mark’s “theme verse” comes in 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” The section before this verse gives a sense of Mark’s characteristic pace: a description of Jesus in the wilderness takes all of two verses, and John’s arrest is a mere parenthetical. Also in chapter 1, we already encounter three stories of specific healings and reports of many more. A sense of desperate hunger for healing emerges through several reports that people are searching for him, lining up outside where he is at, and that he can get no rest because everyone is seeking his miraculous help. We even read the story of people clawing through a roof in order to bring someone before Jesus for healing. Despite all this notoriety, the leper’s cleansing at the end of Mark 1 already reveals Jesus’ concern to keep his identity secret. He commands silence about what happened and sends the man to priestly authorities for proper validation of the healing.

Conflict arises quickly with the Pharisees, scribes, and followers of Herod. Healing of the man with a withered hand gives occasion for a debate about doing work on the Sabbath. I find Jesus most relatable when he’s angry because religious officials were not encouraging healing. Anyone who hungers for righteousness in the world can understand how Jesus was “grieved at their hardness of heart”, and at their patience with unchecked suffering. By contrast, Jesus deputizes apostles (literally “the sent ones”) to go out and exercise the same power he has to cast out demons. As if all we’ve read were still confusing, Jesus’ conflict with his family is further evidence that he will let nothing stand in the way of his purpose: calling people to repent and believe. Those who do God’s will are truly his family, and are the people he chooses to hang out with. Happy reading!

Read Mark 1-3.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Mark 4-5. Thanks for reading!

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