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Day 250 – Thru the Bible
Today we begin Mark. Here’s the overview video.
Video – Read Scripture: Mark
How does this video help you understand the Book of Mark better?
Mark 1 – John the Baptist fulfills the prediction of a messenger who announces—and prepares for—the “one who is to come” (Matthew 11:2–15; Isaiah 40:3), namely Yahweh (“prepare the way of the Lord”). John the Baptist calls for radical repentance, while other Jewish groups of the time simply call for stricter performance of the Mosaic law. John’s call echoes the Old Testament prophets who exhort Israel away from self-centered ways to God-dependence (Nehemiah 9:6–38). At the Jordan, many Jewish people undergo a “baptism of repentance” (i.e., “a baptism of returning to God”), which is usually required for repentant Gentiles converting to Judaism; thus the people of God prepare for Yahweh’s coming.
Surprisingly, Jesus joins this movement of radical repentance. Since we will learn that He is without sin (Mark 2:5–12; 7:14–23; 10:45; 14:22–25), we are immediately confronted with the question of why He joins the crowd in this ritual of repentance.
In His baptism, Jesus turns to and identifies with the long-prophesied and anticipated purposes of God, the eternal Father, who equips Jesus uniquely with the Holy Spirit for His unprecedented and universally significant work. By the unique circumstances of this baptism, we learn that Jesus is the unique Son of God the Father, and specially blessed by the Holy Spirit (1:11; 9:7; 12:1–6). The appearance of each member of the godhead at Jesus’ baptism advances Believers’ understanding that God eternally exists in three persons, namely as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Trinity).
Jesus is tempted in the desert because Satan, a powerful fallen angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), seeks to obstruct God’s purposes of working redemption and reconciliation. Satan seeks to maintain power over human beings and over that part of God’s good creation which persists in autonomy and enmity against God (Romans 16:20). God’s kingdom grows as Jesus’ power is extended (Mark 1:14–15; 14:25; Acts 2:30–32; Philippians 2:9–11; Colossians 1:13, 18; 1 Corinthians 15:25). Throughout the life of Jesus, He overcomes Satan by relying on His eternal Father’s will, even in His greatest hour of trial, in Gethsemane.
The message here is that God brings His long-standing, redemptive work throughout the ages to a culmination by sending His eternal Son (Mark 1:11; Hebrews 1:1). The grace that He has been working out through the ages comes to a decisive climax with Jesus. In this way God achieves what human beings cannot achieve by themselves: forgiveness of rebellious sin against God and restoration to a reconciled relationship with God. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has anticipated this culmination, which arrives in a surprising manner. No matter how accomplished or how broken a human being’s life might look from a human perspective, from God’s perspective the effect of the fall on human beings is so profound that it cannot be redressed by human effort. In God’s holy love and righteousness, He relentlessly pursues human beings to reconcile them with Himself through Jesus’ life and atonement. Being placed into a God-given, righteous, and lasting relationship with Him lies at the heart of God’s love and grace.
The first half of Mark’s Gospel describes Jesus’ expanding authority over sickness, laws of nature, and the demonic world. His authority is also expressed by His calling, appointing, and sending out His disciples, while consistently teaching in a unique and authoritative way. The question of “who is He?” becomes increasingly urgent. The entire Gospel of Mark will answer this question by testifying to the following: (1) Jesus represents the coming Yahweh, according to Isaiah 40:3; (2) He is the messianic Lord of David (Mark 12:35–37; Psalm 110:1, 5); (3) He is the majestic and messianic Son of Man (Mark 8:38; 14:62; Daniel 7:13); (4) as the Son of Man, He is also the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:1–12 (Mark 10:45; 14:22–25); (5) He is God, who forgives sins (2:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 103:2–3; 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34; Daniel 9:9); and (6) He is the eternal Son of God (Mark 1:11; 9:2–8; 12:1–12; Psalm 2).
Discipleship is defined in the context of the eminent authority of Jesus. Who Jesus is and what He does directly affect discipleship. Ultimately, Jesus teaches, exemplifies, and facilitates, through His atoning work, Christlikeness among His disciples as members of God’s eternal and covenantal kingdom. This is the call of the gospel.
The initial calling of the disciples (1 Kings 19:19–21) displays the unusual kingdom authority of Jesus. He has a profoundly character-shaping impact on the disciples and brings decimation to the powers of darkness. Discipleship is marked by the identity of Jesus. His divine power over natural and spiritual forces supports His unique authority to call His disciples to radical discipleship. In Jesus, God calls people to return to “walking with God”—the creational design of human beings in the first place. Jesus’ call to discipleship is God calling human beings back to Himself as the foundation of true and dignified human existence.
This is the rhythm of grace. God does not respond to our wayward rebellion with disgust, throwing His hands up in the air. He pursues us in love. This is who He is.
How does this help you see who Jesus really is?
Mark 2 – Jesus continues to display His authority in the spiritual and physical spheres of our world by directly forgiving the sins of a paralytic, as well as healing him. This act introduces early in Mark the theme of opposition to Jesus on the part of the spiritual and political leadership of Israel (see verse 7). The theme of human opposition will continue in Mark: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians pursue a policy of preserving their political, economic, and religious power (3:6, 22–30; 6:4; 8:11–15). Jesus’ own natural family will resist Him (3:20–21, 31–35). Judas will oppose Jesus on account of Judas’s openness to Satan and his political disappointment over Jesus (14:3–11; Luke 22:3–6; John 6:70). Peter will deny Jesus in order to preserve his own life (Mark 14:30, 66–72). Throughout the various forms of opposition to Jesus, the constant theme is self-preservation versus Jesus.
As disciples, we learn that Jesus’ authority to forgive sins is unique, since only God has such authority (2:7; Nehemiah 9:17; Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 103:2–3; 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34; Daniel 9:9). And this gospel of forgiveness, which Jesus ultimately accomplishes through being punished as our substitute on the cross (Mark 10:45), is of greater value to human existence than anything else. The gospel serves as the basis for personal healing, with the call to live in reconciled relationships in all areas of personal and corporate life.
Jesus boldly challenges the cultural and religious convention of His day by intentionally associating with despised tax collectors and outcasts (“sinners”). In this way Jesus brings to fulfillment the Old Testament hopes that God would one day heal the broken and forgive the sinful among His people (Isaiah 61:1–2; Joel 2:26–29).
God’s pursuit of His people is not based on merit. It is based on our need and is grace-driven. Jesus’ entire mission proceeds on this foundation. It assumes that human beings are not capable of restoring their broken relationship with God, including the destructive personal and communal consequences of sinfully striving to live independently of God.
Discipleship means becoming reflecting Jesus through ongoing dependence on Him. This dependence involves more than just imitating Jesus’ actions. It means trusting in His forgiveness and letting the impact of that forgiveness and loving commitment to us blossom and bear fruit. Changed hearts result in changed lives. Jesus’ example serves as a guidepost to His followers for the paths we walk in this changed life. This desire to follow Jesus arises in part from the realization that a person reconciled with God is, and remains, a recipient of undeserved grace.
True followers of Jesus are called to reflect His compassion and holiness to other human beings, irrespective of their race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other mark of distinction. For Jesus has shown such grace to us.
Far from ignoring spiritual disciplines such as fasting or Sabbath keeping, Jesus restores a God-centered and God-dependent dimension to those two disciplines. Both involve surrender to God and a trusting rest in His presence. We live not as a means of meriting favor before God but as an overflow of living in the healing presence of Jesus, communicated by the Holy Spirit. Fasting is a particular, prayerful form of surrender to God, combined with acts of mercy (Isaiah 58:1–12). Honoring the Sabbath is reorientation before God (Mark 2:28; Isaiah 58:13–14; Hebrews 4:9). Both practices are based on trust in God’s provision and both spring from deep gratitude for having found rest in God through Jesus.
A first veiled prediction of Jesus’ violent death arises in the metaphor of the bridegroom who is “taken away” (Mark 2:20; Isaiah 53:8), thus providing a Jesus-centered cause for fasting when He is no longer physically present. Such spiritual disciplines do not earn God’s love. Rather, they signal that we have ceased to seek our own pleasure and are resting in dependence on God’s provision (Isaiah 58:3, 13). Peace through God’s grace is not the end but the beginning of maturing as a follower of Jesus. Fasting as well as honoring the Sabbath day of rest are important elements of such maturing.
How does it comfort you to know that the One who has all authority cares personally about you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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