Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scripture Sunday: The Gospel of Mark

Mark is a very actiony gospel. It shows a lot of the same stories from Matthew and Luke, but it's shorter and it moves from scene to scene very quickly. There are many miracles and acts of service in this book, and Jesus always seems to be doing something for someone in need.

Unlike Matthew, which begins with Jesus' genealogy and lists his whole family tree through Mary, Mark focuses on his earthly ministry and skips his birth entirely. Chapter 1 introduces John the Baptist, Jesus' earthly cousin through Mary, and mentions how John baptizes him. Jesus then begins his 3-year ministry and tells people "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (1:15), focusing on faith and repentance, the act of genuinely changing your lifestyle and turning your back on your old sinful ways.

In the next couple of chapters, Jesus gathers his 12 disciples, casts demons out of possessed people, gives a paralyzed man the ability to walk, heals a man's withered hand, and teaches in local synagogues. I'm especially touched by one story in chapter 5 about Jesus healing a woman who had some kind of continual bleeding problem. She doesn't even ask Jesus to heal her--she just knows that if she touches him, he will make her well. Her particular story of suffering has always broken my heart because we don't hear much about this lady, but we do know that she was plagued by this bleeding condition for twelve years. In Jewish society, anyone who had an ongoing flow of blood was "unclean" and cut off from certain parts of society and fellowship, so it's clear that she must have been undergoing emotional pain as well as physical pain. She had no hope in sight, but her faith in Jesus made her well.

Chapter 15 is the beginning of Jesus' crucifixion. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of Judea, hate Jesus because he calls himself the son of God and because he points out their sins and hypocrisies, so they come up with some false accusations so that the Romans, the ruling force in Judea, will execute Jesus. After a torturous type of punishment (the Romans weren't known for humane forms of execution but for inventive deaths that took hours to accomplish), Jesus dies, but the story doesn't stop there. After three days in the grave, God raises Jesus to life again, as Jesus himself said would happen. Before ascending back into heaven, Jesus sends out his disciples with this message: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." And then a few books later, in Acts, we see that they do just that.

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