Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why Mark - A Series Introduction

Over the next year, we will embark on a study of the book of Mark. This series is designed to challenge us to live out our faith (be doers) and to better understand who Jesus was/is so we can better understand what He did. This post is designed to answer four questions as to why the gospel of Mark was chosen for this series.

1. Committing to a year to study one book may seem too long to some. Why have you chosen to examine Mark for this next year?

The short answer is so that we can know Jesus better. Not all subjects may be worth a year, but Jesus is worth much more. Yet, I believe we can accomplish the goals of this series by examining Mark from Passover of 2016 to Passover 2017.

This series has a lot of relevance to us at this time for many reasons, but one is because of the upcoming election. People always want someone to deliver on their promises, essentially to make the world a better place. Well, the people of Israel around the time-frame of Jesus lived in challenging times. The times then were much more difficult than they are now, though in some ways we are heading in that direction. The tax rates were extraordinarily high and the Roman government was extremely oppressive  putting an end to even the slightest of disagreements. The people were crying out for the promised messiah. And God sent Him, but the people missed who He really was. Not because He wasn’t the messiah, but because Jesus was actually much, much more - He was God's Son.

As we look at Mark's gospel, we will see an example set for us of what true love us and what true leadership is. The example Jesus gave us is not just making promises to people, but rather to serve them and teach them how to care and serve one another. Of course, we can look back and see the full picture and therefore make a more informed decision on who Jesus really was. But as we look at Jesus life, we cannot overlook His own faith. Thus, one major point for this whole series is:

If we are to place our faith in Jesus, we should better understand the faith of Jesus?

2. So, you could have chosen any of the four gospels, or all of them. Why did you choose to study Mark?

In Ezekiel 1.10 and in Revelation 4.7, the Bible describes four living creatures before the throne of God. The descriptions by Ezekiel and John are slightly different, but what is common is that four types of faces were clearly identified – lion, ox, man, eagle. Each of these creatures represents one of the gospels, and thus was written to a specific audience. For instance, the symbol for Matthew would be the lion. Matthew wrote to the Jewish people tracing Jesus' ancestry to Abraham to show Jesus lineage and that He was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

For our purposes, we will see that Mark is represented by the ox. Why? Because Jesus came as the untiring servant. He came as one to bear the load to accomplish the job. The load for Jesus was the sin of the world. He was the Messiah that the Jews wanted, but He came as a servant, instead of a king. He did so to show us how we might best follow Him.

3. So, Jesus came to serve, and provide an example for us. Is that what you are saying? How does His example then, apply to us today?

James 1.22 tells us to be doers of the word, not hearers only. The gospel of Mark is about doing. This gospel does not record much regarding the teaching of Jesus. It constantly reflects on what He does, and how others respond. Don’t get me wrong, we need to hear the word of God. Paul writes in Romans 10 that faith comes through hearing. But James reminds us that faith without works is dead.

So Mark wrote to the Romans because they were a culture of doing. Just like us. We don’t learn for the sake of learning. We learn for the sake of doing. That seems to be true about everywhere except the church. And doing, through love, is what should be most recognized about the church. So, Mark was chosen because we, like the Romans live in a culture where doing is considered important.

4. So, if Mark wrote this gospel, what is his source for writing? For instance, Luke says that he researched everything carefully and Matthew and John were both disciples. What was Mark’s role? Or who provided this information to him?

It is nearly completely an eyewitness account of the life of Jesus. So, by whose eyes is this story told? Almost certainly Peter’s. Yes, Mark wrote it, but we know that John Mark was a companion of Peter. Nearly every story told in this gospel includes Peter with the one auto-biographical account of Mark can be seen in Mark 14.51-52 (where it talks about the young man fleeing Gethsemane naked after Jesus was arrested). And we must remember that it was Peter who made the Great Confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That verse was our focus for eight weeks earlier this year, looking at it from Matthew’s perspective. But now, we turn to Peter’s perspective as told to Mark to see why Peter would come to that conclusion (Jesus is God's Son) and why others would as well (Mark 15.39).

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