Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Gospel of Mark, part 1 ~ Rabqa

This Gospel was written in A.D 65-70, the theme is the Son of Man who is in fact the Son of God.
Key words: Authority, Son of Man, Son of God, Suffering, Faith, Discipline, & Gospel.

Even though the Gospel of Mark is anonymous, early tradition is unanimous the author of this Gospel is John Mark, a close associate of Peter (I Pet 5:13) She who is in Babylon...greets you & so does my son Mark. & also a companion of Paul & Barnabas on their first missionary journey.

The earliest witness to Markan authorship stems from Papias, bishop of the Church at Hierapolis about A.D 135-140, a witness that is preserved in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. Papias describes Mark as the interpreter of Peter. Although the early Church was careful to maintain direct apostolic authorship for the Gospels the church fathers consistently attribute this Gospel to Mark who was not an apostle. This fact furnishes indirect conformation of Mark's authorship.

The Church fathers state that the Gospel of Mark was written after Peters death, which occurred during the persecution by the Emperor Nero about A.D 67. The Gospel itself, particularly chapter thirteen, indicates that it was written before the destruction of the temple in A. D 70. The bulk of the evidence supports a date between A.D 65-70.

Background: In A.D 64 Nero accused the Christian Community of setting the city of Rome on fire, & thereupon instigated a fearful persecution in which Paul & Peter perished. In the time of a persecuted church, living constantly under the threat of death, the evangelist Mark writes his "good news." Clearly he wants his readers to draw encouragement & strength from the life & example of Jesus. What was true for Jesus was to be true for the apostles & disciples of all ages.

At the heart of the Gospel is the explicit pronouncement that the Son of Man must suffer many things, & be rejected by the elders & chief priests, scribes, & be killed, then after three days rise again (8:31)

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be
killed, and after three days rise again. The Word must indicate the divine necessity stemming from God's will. This pronouncement of suffering & death not only is repeated 9:31; 10:32-34, but becomes the norm for committed discipleship: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him take up his cross & follow me" (8:34) Mark leads his readers to the cross of Jesus, where they can discover meaning & hope in their suffering. Mark structures his Gospel around various movements of Jesus, which are climaxed by His death & subsequence resurrection. After the introduction (1:1-13), in which he says in his opening sentence "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God", packs a real punch. the startling news is out; the purpose of the Gospel & its message are on the table from the outset. Mark narrates the public ministry of Jesus in Galilee (1: 14-9:50) & in Judea chapters 10-13 reaching the highest point in the Passion & Resurrection chapters 14-16. 

The Gospel may be viewed as two half’s joined together by the hinge of Peters confession of Jesus as the Messiah & Jesus' first announcement of His
crucifixion (8:27-30) Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him. This incident which took place six months before the crucifixion, was pivotal in Jesus' ministry, marking the climax of His teaching concerning His own person. Here as well, He began preparing His disciples for His death. Public confession of Jesus' Messiah ship would have created an unwanted national fervour.

 Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, not containing any genealogy & there is no account of the birth & early Judean ministry of Jesus. It is the Gospel of action, moving rapidly from one scene to another, Johns Gospel is a studied
portrait of the Lord, Matthew & Luke present what might be described as a series of coloured slides, while Marks Gospel is like a motion picture of the life of Jesus. Mark accents the activity he records by the use of the Greek word eutheos usually translated "immediately." The Word occurs forty two times in Mark, more then in all the rest of the New Testament. Marks frequent use of the Greek imperfect tense denoting continuous action also moves the narrative at a rapid pace. Marks is also the Gospel of vividness. Graphic, striking phrases occur frequently to allow the reader to form a mental picture of the scene described. The looks & gestures of Jesus receive unusual attention. There are many Latin isms in this Gospel 4:21...Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? is not to be set on a lamp stand? 

12:14...Teacher we know that you are true & care about no one; for you not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 6:27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in
prison, & 15:39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” Mark places little emphasis on Jewish law & customs always interpreting them for the reader when he does mention them. This tends to support the tradition that Mark wrote for a Gentile, Roman audience. In many ways Mark emphasises the Passion of Jesus so that it becomes the gauge by which the whole of Jesus' ministry & the ministry of His disciples maybe measured; For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, & give His life a ransom for many. (10:45) Jesus' entire ministry— miracles, table fellowship with sinners, choice of disciples, teaching on the kingdom of God etc is set within the context of self-giving love of the Son of God. Climaxed in the Cross & Resurrection. Marks Gospel teaches that the life of discipleship means following Jesus along the same path of misunderstanding & rejection that He encountered. For followers of Jesus in all ages the warning & promises are sure. (8:34-35)

...Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. We see from this that we must understand & accept that discipleship means forsaking all selfish & personal ambition. Know for certain that every true disciple must take up his cross. Mark underscores the need for faith in the person, message & power of Jesus to help those in need (1:15; 2:5; 4:40;5:34, 36; 6:6; 9:19; & 11:22-24. So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. This has to be one of my favourite faith passages. A mountain is symbolic of an obstacle, hindrance, or insurmountable problem. 

Faith is the key that releases the resource of heaven into our situation. From Jesus' own lips we receive the most direct & practical instruction concerning our exercise of faith. consider three points: 1) It is to be in God. Faith that speaks is first faith that seeks. The Almighty One is the source & grounds of our faith & being. Faith only flows to Him because of the faithfulness that flows from Him. 2) Faith is not a trick performed with our lips, but a spoken expression that springs from the conviction of our hearts. The idea that faith's confession is a "formula" for getting things from God is unbiblical. But the fact that the faith in our hearts is to spoken & thereby becomes active & effective toward specific results, It is taught here by the lord Jesus. 3) Jesus words "whatever things" We need to apply this principle to every aspect of our lives. The only restrictions are: A) That our faith be in God our living Father & in alignment with His Will & Word. & B) That we believe-not doubting in our hearts. So speaking to the mountain is not a vain or superstitious exercise or indulgence in humanistic mind-science, but instead becomes
an applied release of God's creative Word of promise.

 The opposite of such faith can be seen in motif of hard hearts (3:5; 7:14-23; & 8:17) We see from these verses that evil originates in the heart. Jesus motivates His disciples to live righteously by emphasising that such living comes from the heart with love & trust, more than observance of an external code of ethics. Consequently New Testament wisdom reveals the differences between a correct behaviour, based only on the Law, & righteous actions that proceed from the heart of a new life reborn in Christ. The incarnate Christ that Mark describes is One who is willing & able to help those in extreme need. Marks Gospel assures Christian workers of all generations that the same attesting miracles that accredited the ministries of the apostles will continue as characteristic features of God's people under the new covenant. (16:17,18) And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The signs accredit the gospel message, cannot be limited to the apostolic age, any more then the Lords commission to carry the gospel throughout the world. The signs, therefore, confirm the ministries of Christ's ambassadors in every generation. Casting out demons, speaking in tongues, & healing all appear in other passages of the New Testament, & there is no scriptural warrant for their cessation before the Lords return. Taking up serpents does not refer to handling snakes in religious ceremonies but casting them away without being harmed (Acts 28:3-6). 

The Greek verb airo means take up, also can mean remove, takeaway, cast away (Matt 14:12; Lk 11:52; 1Cor 5:22; & Eph 4:31). Similarly a servant of the Lord may look for divine protection in matters pertaining to food & drink. Many missionaries have testified to God's miraculous protection in heathen territories, where they experienced no ill effects from impure food & drink. All the signs listed here have occurred repeatedly in Christian history. This book is not a biography, but a concise history of redemption accomplished through the atoning work of Christ. Mark substantiates the messianic claims of Jesus by emphasising His authority as a teacher 

(1:22) This verse teaches that Jesus taught independently without appealing to previous authorities, whereas the scribes only repeated what others had said. Both the substance & the manner of the Lords teaching differed from that of official interpreters of the Law. His authority over satan & unclean spirits (1:27; 3:19-30), sin 2:1-12 This is where Jesus forgives & heals the paralytic-the obvious healing of the paralytic effectively establishes divine prerogative of Jesus to forgive sins. The title Son of Man in v 12 was a messianic title stemming from Dan 7:13...One like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven... Jesus chose it as a self designation rather then the more popular title: Son of David, which carries nationalistic & materialistic overtones. The Sabbath

 (2:27,28; & in 3:1-6) This is where Jesus & His disciples went through the grain fields & His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain—Jesus & His disciples were not guilty of violating any scriptural law governing the Sabbath, but only in the eyes of the Pharisaic interpretation of it. Jesus establishes two positive principles in these verses, 1. God intended the Sabbath to be for spiritual & physical benefit of His people, not an impossible burden in striving to observe narrow man-made rules. this attitude is in direct contrast to that of the religious authorities. Many of whom taught that the only reason God created man was so He would have somebody to observe the Sabbath. 2. This principal amounts to a claim for deity. If the Sabbath is made for man then the Son of Man, as man's Lord & representative, has authority over it. By this claim Jesus is actually stating equality with God, since the Sabbath is the Lords day. Nature 4:35-41; & 6:45-52 where the wind & sea obey Jesus & where He walks on water.

 In Mk 4:35-41 shows the contrast between the deep peaceful sleep of Jesus with the great tempest of the storm, & the disciples fearful cry. When He rebuked the sea demonstrates Jesus' authoritative reign over the entire Earth, including inclement elements thamind find there source in the destructive power of the evil one. Disease 5:21-34 verses 24-34relates to the account of a desperate woman whose healing was the result of great & persistent faith. Her illness made ceremonially unclean & disqualified her for mixing with crowds of people (she said) If only I may touch His clothes I shall be made well (v28) Jesus did not rebuke her, but delayed His His mission to the home of Jairus, whose daughter was dying in order to reassure her of her healing & salvation. Jesus later raised Jairus's daughter from the dead, but here He took time to minister to to one with positive faith. That such persistence is rewarded is not to suggest healing or any other works of God is earned by human effort. It rather illustrates the need to be bold in what we believe – nor be deterred by circumstances or discouraged by others.

 Death (5:35-43) Someone said to Jairus "Your daughter is dead." This implies that Jesus can heal one who is sick but cannot raise one from the dead. The importance of faith in the midst of  a crisis is underscored in Mk4; Here Jesus contrasts fear with faith & equates fear with no faith. Faith here means to trust in God's helping power in a crisis, help that is both present & active in Jesus. 

Legalistic traditions: 7:1-13,14-20 we learn in verses 1-5 that some of His disciples had unwashed hands whilst eating bread. The charge was not that the disciples were guilty of poor hygiene, but that they did not observe rituals of cleansing. Then the Pharisees taught that religious defilement could spread by touch so they prescribed elaborate ceremonies of cleansing. These were part of the tradition or oral law, which they regard as as having equal authority with the written Law. Temple: 11:15-18 Teaches that the temple authorities had established a kind of religious Mafia which siphoned off enormous profits from fraudulent transactions. By purging the temple in fulfilment of Mal 3:1-3. Jesus dramatized His messianic authority.

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