Mark 1: Jesus Christ, the Son of God
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” These opening words of Mark’s Gospel points to his purpose in writing. In a relatively succinct message, Mark will show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark has no official genealogy listed. He jumps right into John as the messenger who comes before Christ, citing both Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 together. Jesus quickly appears on John’s heels and is baptized, with the voice from heaven validating Jesus’ message: ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus then preaches the essence of the message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus then calls His disciples, telling them they would become fishers of men. This is followed up with miracles and healings (unclean spirits, leprosy) along with the preaching and teaching. Mark, very quickly, immerses his readers in the message of Christ, reminding us how urgent it is to listen to Jesus.
Mark 2: Lord of the Sabbath
A paralyzed man, carried by four men, is let down through a roof in front of Jesus. Jesus, seeing their faith, forgave the man’s sins. People wondered how Jesus could do this since only God can forgive sins. Jesus, in order to show His authority to forgive, then healed the man. Amazed, they glorified God and said they had never seen anything like this. Jesus then called Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, someone that others though of as a sinner. They wondered how Jesus could eat with such people, and Jesus responded, ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” This served as a rebuke to those who did not think they needed what Jesus came to do. After the disciples asked about fasting, they then faced criticism for picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded the Pharisees that they excused David for doing what was not lawful but are judging His disciples for doing what was lawful. Then He made the shocking statement that the He, the Son of Man, is Lord even of the Sabbath. Indeed, He is the Lord who deserves our full commitment.
Mark 3: Who are my mother and brothers?
Jesus went into a synagogue on the Sabbath where there was a man with a withered hand. Jesus asked if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and they were silent. Jesus then healed the man, and the “Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” By now a great crowd was following Jesus all over Palestine. People were coming to hear and be healed, and even the unclean spirits recognized Jesus as the Son of God. He called His twelve disciples, who are named here, yet His own family thought Jesus had lost His senses. Now some scribes began to accuse Jesus casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus, showing how ludicrous such a charge was, then told them that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was unforgivable. While Jesus’ mother and brothers were seeking Jesus, He used this as an opportunity to teach: “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” We, too, can be in the family of Jesus if we will but hear Him.
Mark 4: Parables
Mark focuses mostly here on parables. Jesus teaches the parable of the sower, then is asked about these parables. Jesus explained the purpose as tied to the “secret of the kingdom of God.” Then, He quoted from Isaiah 6 to show that people are still seeing and hearing but not perceiving and understanding. His explanation of the parable of the sower is essentially teaching the disciples how to understand and interpret parables. He then tells a few more parables, all of which are illustrations of aspects of His kingdom. His teaching involved parables more than any other form of teaching, and He would explain these to His apostles privately. The chapter ends by Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, then rebuking the disciples for their own lack of faith. Today these lessons are just pertinent. We must listen to Jesus and know that He has the power to calm all storms.
Mark 5: Three Miracles
Two primary miraculous works are highlighted in Mark 5. First, Jesus demonstrated His power over unclean spirits. Interestingly, these spirits knew exactly who Jesus was: ““What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” These spirits were called “legion” (it would have been hard to miss a connection to Roman legions), and Jesus cast them out into a herd of swine. While the people of the region wanted Jesus to leave, Jesus told the man who was healed, ““Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” People marveled. Then, we read about two more miracles of healing. Jesus was approached by Jairus, a ruler of a synagogue, to heal his daughter. As Jesus was going, a woman with a discharge of blood (lasting for twelve years) came up and touched Jesus’ garment; she was instantly healed. Jesus told her that her faith made her well, then Jesus proceeded to heal Jairus’ daughter by raising her from death. When we trust Jesus, we are trusting the One who has power over the spirit-world, over nature, and physical ailment.
Mark 6: Miracles, John, and Preaching
Much is happening quickly by this point in Jesus’ ministry. In Nazareth, He is rejected by his own hometown, recognizing that “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” He sent out the twelve on a limited mission, giving them power over unclean spirits. They went, proclaiming that people needed to repent. Then, an extended account of John the Immerser’s death is given. Here we learn that John was beheaded because he taught that Herod had his brother Phillip’s wife, which was unlawful. Yet John’s work and accomplishment was well-done. Next, the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water are highlighted, followed by more healings. Jesus’ identity is being demonstrated time and again as He demonstrates His rule over all of nature. We truly have an amazing Savior!
Mark 7: Commandments and Traditions
Pharisees and scribes accuse Jesus’ disciples of eating with unwashed hands, something that went against their tradition. Jesus showed that the Pharisees were the real breakers of the Law, hypocritical holding to their traditions over the commandments of God. “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” He calls them out on their dedication of what they have to the temple while failing to honor father and mother. Yet what truly defiles a person is not what goes in, but what comes out of the heart: “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Jesus then left to go into the region of Tyre and Sidon (Phoenicia), where he met a woman who demonstrated faith in Jesus’ power to heal her daughter; and He did heal her. Jesus then heals a deaf man. His power over sickness and death should cause all to take note: “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 8: Who Is Jesus?
Mark is now stressing the signs and wonders demonstrated by Jesus. Yet after feeding the four thousand, Pharisees argued with Jesus and were seeking a sign from Him in order to test Him. Jesus told them that no sign would be given to them (in Matthew’s account He does add the sign of Jonah). Jesus then warns His disciples, ““Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” The disciples misunderstood Jesus by taking what He said too literally. Then, Jesus’ two-stage healing of the blind man is important. Essentially, Jesus is showing that How own disciples were seeing dimly. This is further seen in that, while Peter confesses Jesus to be the Christ, he also shows a misunderstand as to why Jesus came to die. The chapter closes with Jesus showing how important it is not to be ashamed of Him or His word.
Mark 9: Transfigured
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain where He is transfigured before them. He appeared with Moses and Elijah, but they were overshadowed by a cloud and a voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Jesus told them to keep this to themselves for the time. Jesus then heals a boy with an unclean spirit, something the disciples were unable to do. He follows this up with, again, foretelling His death and resurrection. Through all this, the disciples were still misunderstanding Christ’s mission and their role. They argued with each other and showed ignorance about those casting out demons. Yet Jesus would use these occasions as opportunities to teach, concluding this section by telling them, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” These words should continue to ring in our ears.
Mark 10: Faith Makes Well
Mark’s record of Jesus discussing marriage with the Pharisees shows how His will applies to both men and women. If either party divorces and remarries, adultery is committed. Mark does not include the exception clause given in Matthew’s account (Matt 19:9). This was, indeed, a hard saying. Then the disciples rebuked those who were bringing children to Jesus. Jesus, however, told them not to hinder the children, for “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Jesus blessed them. Mark then gives his account of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and learned that if he wanted treasure in heaven, he would have to learn to let go of his treasures on earth. After Jesus again foretold His death and resurrection, James and John requested of Jesus that they might sit on His right and left in the kingdom. Jesus’ response indicates that they didn’t understand what they were asking. He then rebuked the disciples for their squabbling with each other. Finally, the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, is healed by Jesus. “Your faith has made you well” is an important statement by the Lord and continues to be an important theme throughout Scripture.
Mark 11: By What Authority?
Mark records what is often called the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. Jesus told His disciples to get a particular colt for Jesus. He then rode this colt into Jerusalem while crowds were spreading cloaks and branches on the ground before Him. People were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” How ironic that they would soon be crucifying the King. Other events show Jesus’ authority as well as showing imminent judgment upon the people who rejected Him. The cursed fig tree and the cleansing of the temple remind readers that God’s own people had strayed and would be judged for their presumptuous errors. Jesus’ authority is then challenged by the religious leaders, asking what His authority was to do what He was doing. Jesus showed their hypocrisy, asking them, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” They wouldn’t answer because they knew it was a problem for them. When anyone seeks to challenge Jesus, even now, they will be no match for His wisdom and power.
Mark 12: All She Had
Jesus faces a day of constant challenges. He first tells the parable of tenants, which served to be an indictment against those who were willing to kill the heir of God’s inheritance (i.e., they would kill Jesus). They were already seeking to arrest Jesus. Then various groups come to Jesus presenting challenges and trying to trap Him in what He said. Some challenged Him over whether or not to be pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ response indicates how important it is to render honor to whom it is due (especially since we all bear God’s image). The Sadducees show their ignorance of the application of Scripture and God’s power by challenging Jesus on the resurrection. Another asked Jesus was the greatest commandment was, to which Jesus replied that loving God is greatest and loving others is second greatest. Jesus then asked some of them how David could call his descendent Lord (from Psalm 110). They had no answer. Jesus then warns disciples about the leaders who would be condemned for their attitudes. In contrast, the chapter ends by showing a poor widow giving all she had at the temple. These events are meant to provoke in us self-reflection: which attitude do we display?
Mark 13: Stay Awake
At Jerusalem with the temple in view, the disciples point to its beauty. Then Jesus gives His ominous news. All of it would be destroyed. That in which the Jewish leaders had placed their truth and claimed their power would be put down for good. Jesus warns that many would be coming who claim to be the Messiah. He warns of the disasters that would attend the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He warns that disciples would be persecuted, handed over to authorities and put on trial. Even so, they must preach the gospel. Indeed the Romans would come in bringing abominations and lay the city waste. While the exact time and day was unknown, Judgment was sure to come to the city that had roundly rejected the true Messiah. In contrast to the temporary nature of the temple and city, Christ’s words would stand forever. This message of judgment is a testimony to how important it is to listen to God and prepare to stand before Him. “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Mark 14: Jesus in Trial
It was a couple days before the Passover and the chief priests and scribes were seeking how to arrest and kill Jesus. Meanwhile, back at Bethany, Jesus was being anointed by Mary, though the disciples were not on board with this action. Judas, too, was ready to betray Jesus. Jesus had his disciples go prepare a particular place in which they would eat the Passover meal together. During this meal, Jesus revealed that one of them would indeed betray Him. Then, he gives instructions for what becomes known as the “Lord’s Supper”: the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine memorialize His body and blood of the covenant. Then Jesus foretells the denials of Peter and goes into the garden of Gethsemane for fervent prayer. Jesus was greatly sorrowful, the disciples slept in their own sorrow, and Jesus then faced his arrest. Judas came to the garden to give Jesus over to those who bore swords and clubs, those who came from the chief priests and scribes. Jesus was willing to “let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” Jesus was then taken to trial, which was more of a mockery. Peter did indeed deny Jesus as was predicted as Jesus was being beaten and spit upon.
Mark 15: Crucified
Now Jesus is delivered over to Pilate, the Roman governor, for judgment. “And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’” Jesus was being accused of many things, yet He remained silent, and Pilate was amazed. While it is clear that Pilate did not want to be involved, he still capitulated to the Jewish leaders who were demanding that Jesus be put to death. Pilate gave the option of releasing Jesus over a known criminal, Barabbas, but they refused. They wanted Jesus crucified, and they stirred up the crowd to back them. “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” Jesus was mocked, slapped, spat upon, stripped of clothing, then scourged and crucified. For some six hours Jesus was fastened to the cross, though it was clear He was in full control of His faculties and even the entire situation. So impressed was the centurion that when Jesus died, he confessed Jesus to be the Son of God (though he likely didn’t understand what that fully meant). Many women were there to help care for Jesus’ body. He would be buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the women took note of where He was laid.
Mark 16: Resurrection
Some of the women were coming to the tomb on the first day of the week with the intention of further anointing Jesus’ body. They wondered how they could move the stone from the opening, but when they arrived they saw that it was already rolled away. They were addressed by an angel dressed in a white robe: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Trembling and astonished, they were afraid. Yet it wouldn’t take long for the word to get out. Jesus was raised, and the disciples were to take this message to the nations. Today, the message remains the same, and disciples are still seeking to reach the nations with the message of salvation.