One cannot help but be amazed at all the work which Jesus did while upon earth. Some details of these three years are compressed in the sixteen chapters of Mark. As the Servant of Jehovah He worked day and night. How humanly touching are the words of Mark 6:31, “Come ye yourselves apart in the desert place and rest awhile.” The disciples could hardly keep up.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF MARK’S GOSPEL
1. The preparation for Jesus’ work (Mark 1:1-13). The ministry of John the Baptist is recorded (Mark 1:1-8), Jesus’ baptism by John (Mark 1:9-11), and His temptation by Satan (Mark 1:12, 13). Emphasis here is not upon detail, but rather these things are mentioned to demonstrate the qualifications of Jehovah’s Servant to take upon Himself His work. Through these events, we learn that Jesus is designated to be God’s Servant (the one prophesied). He is qualified by the Holy Spirit; He is victor over Satan.
2. The great Galilean ministry (Mark 1:14-7:23). During this period of time, the following events are recorded. He called His disciples (Mark 1:16-20, Mark 2:13, 14, and Mark 3:13-19), He healed the demoniac in the synagogue in Nazareth (Mark 1:23-28), He healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many other sick, (Mark 1:29-34), He toured Galilee (Mark 1:35-39), healed the leper and instructed him to tell no man (Mark 1:40-45), healed the palsied man let down through the roof (Mark 2:1-12, 18-22), the disciples plucked corn and Christ answered the charge by the Pharisees that they thereby broke the Sabbath day (Mark 2:23-28), the same was true after He healed on the Sabbath day the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-12). Christ was slandered by the Scribes and He taught concerning the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:22-35). He taught a group of parables; the sower (Mark 4:1-20), candle light (Mark 4:21-25), growing seed (Mark 4:26-29), and mustard seed (Mark 4:30-34). He stilled the storm (Mark 4:35-41), healed the demoniac in the land of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43), healed the woman with an issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34), and was rejected at Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). He sent forth His twelve disciples (Mark 6:7-13), learned of the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29), rested in the desert and fed the 5000 (Mark 6:30-44), walked on the water and stilled the storm and subsequently healed in Genessaret (Mark 6:45-56). Finally He disputed with the Pharisees and Scribes regarding washing of hands and other ceremonies, (Mark 7:1-23).
Even though Mark by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit records this series of events in such a way that it might leave the impression that Jesus performed His ministry in reaction to circumstances that surrounded Him, yet we would fall short unless we recognize that all the details of His ministry were carefully planned and arranged by our Heavenly Father. To be sure the cross stands in the center of His ministry. The Servant of Jehovah came to die! Prior to that event, however, all else served to make it happen. As Jehovah’s Servant, Christ established His authority and power by the miracles He performed and the work He did. He has such power that He can forgive sin (Mark 2:1-12), He is Lord of the Sabbath, (Mark 3:1-6), He has power over devils, creation, and even death. He controlled the events that not too much publicity would be given to Him too early, thereby provoking the Jews to take action against Him. For this reason He told the healed people not to tell anyone and He went away when the crowds were becoming too vocal (Mark 1:44, Mark 5:43).
3. Jesus withdraws from the mainstream and journeys, among other places, to Tyre and Sidon and Perea (Mark 7:24-10:52). He healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), healed the deaf and dumb mute with the charge he tell no man (Mark 7:31-37), fed the 4000 (Mark 8:1-9), discussed the leaven of the Pharisees and the need to flee from it (Mark 8:10-21), healed the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). At Caesarea Philippi He asked the disciples concerning His own identity and used the occasion to teach them concerning the cross and the meaning of true discipleship (Mark 8:27-38), He was transfigured (Mark 9:1-13), He healed the demoniac boy whom the disciples could not heal (Mark 9:14-29). He took a child and taught the disciples humility and the need to remove offense if they would be His disciples (Mark 9:30-50), taught the truth regarding marriage and divorce (Mark 10:1-12), emphasized the importance of children in the covenant (Mark 10:13-16). He pointed out the human impossibility of rich people being saved, after He told the rich young ruler to go sell all he had and give the money to the poor and come and follow Him (Mark 10:17-27). As time went by Jesus became more and more explicit upon the subject of His coming suffering and death on the cross; He told His disciples He would be mocked, scourged, crucified, and would rise again from the dead. He applied it in such a way that if they would follow Him they should not seek to be first in the kingdom, but servants (Mark 10:28-45). He also healed blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52).
The emphasis during this period of Jesus’ ministry was that He sought to teach His disciples the true nature of His work as Jehovah’s Servant. They had to learn to discern the truth over against the leaven of the Pharisees. They had to know that the cross wasnecessary in order that He might finish His work. He emphasized that only those would be saved who are childlike in faith, and He applied it personally for His disciples by asking “Whom say ye that I am”?
4. The Servant of Jehovah finishes His work at the cross, and through the resurrection and ascension returns to the Father (Mark 11:1-16:20). It began with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). He cursed the barren fig tree and observed the results (Mark 11:12-14, 20-26). He cleansed the temple and was challenged by the leaders by what authority He could do that (Mark 11:15-33). He told the parable of the wicked husbandmen, and the Jews took it personally and began to plot His death after the feast days (Mark 12:1-12). Many attack Him, the Pharisees (pay tax to Caesar), Sadducees (marriage in heaven), and Scribes (greatest commandment) (Mark 12:13-40). Jesus takes note of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:4-1, 44), predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Mark 13:1-37). The woman anointed His feet with oil for His burial (Mark 14:1-9), Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10, 11), He holds the last passover with His disciples and institutes the Lord’s Supper (Mark 14:12-25). Mark records the events in Gethsemane: Jesus predicted the denial by Peter, He prays, He is betrayed with a kiss, Peter slashes with his sword, Jesus is led away and all the disciples fled away, including Mark (Mark 14:26-52). Jesus is tried before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65), denied by Peter (Mark 14:66-72), tried by Pilate (Mark 15:1-15), mocked by the soldiers (Mark 15:16-20), crucified (Mark 15:21-41), buried (Mark 15:42-47), arose from the dead (Mark 16:1-13), and ascended into heaven (Mark 16:11-20).
How glorious is this Servant of Jehovah. Anyone who reads this gospel account carefully cannot help but conclude that Jesus is not the Victim of the cross, but the Victor. He must needs go home by the way of the cross. This is seen in the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His willingness to die like a Lamb, His miraculous death (He cried with a loud voice). The Father approved the work of His Servant and raised Him from the dead and took Him home to glory. The success of the gospel is accompanied by heavenly signs to prove that the gospel is victorious.
DISTINCT FEATURES IN MARK’S GOSPEL
1. If we keep in mind that Mark listened to Peter’s preaching (at Pentecost and throughout Judea) and took note of the message and subsequently wrote this gospel in summary, we can understand the emphasis he placed upon the gospel and the preaching of that gospel. The first verse emphasizes it: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He tells us Jesus preached (Mark 1:14) and commissioned the church to do likewise (Mark 16:15). We do well to heed this word today: the gospel must go forth by preaching.
2. It is interesting to take note of the fact that we have in this gospel, details of the emotional involvement of Jesus and the people. Concerning Jesus, Mark tells us He had compassion (Mark 1:41, Mark 6:34, Mark 8:2), He was indignant (Mark 3:5, Mark 8:2, Mark 10:4), He expressed sorrow and distress (Mark 14:33, 34), He sighed (Mark 7:34, Mark 8:12). Also Mark tells us of the response of the people that they were amazed (Mark 1:27), critical (Mark 2:7), afraid (Mark 4:41), puzzled (Mark 6:14), astonished (Mark 7:37), hostile (Mark 14:1). This detail fits the general theme that Jesus is the Servant of Jehovah and He is God-man, fully involved in His mediatorial work, bringing the gospel by word and deed. To this the people respond, some in faith, others in unbelief.
3. The gospel of Mark stresses the work of Christ as Jehovah’s Servant. For example, Mark mentions thefact that Jesus preached, yet he does not provide much detail as to what He said. To illustrate this point, of a possible 70 parables referred to in all the gospels combined, Mark mentions only 18. On the other hand, of a possible 35 miracles recorded in all the gospels, Mark mentions 18. The emphasis is on the work which the Servant did, and Mark recorded it all in rapid, snap-shot fashion.
SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
1. How do we come to conclude that the main message in Mark’s gospel is that Jesus is Jehovah’s Servant?
2. How can we explain why Jesus told some to tell no man after they had been healed by Jesus (Mark 1:44)? Didn’t Jesus want all to hear the gospel and see the miracles?
4. When Jesus suggested to His disciples that they come apart and rest awhile (Mark 6:31), do you think Jesus needed that rest too? Explain.
5. What do we learn from Jesus’ method of answering the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes? (ConsiderMark 8:10-21, Mark 2:23-28, Mark 3:1-12, and Mark 3:22-35.) How can we follow this example when we deal with opponents to the truth in our day?
6. How do we explain the signs that were to accompany the preaching of the gospel by the apostles, see Mark 16:17, 18?
7. If you sit down and go over the sequence of events in Jesus’ life as recorded by Mark, what over-all plan do you see when you consider that Jesus began His ministry in Galilee, took time to be alone with His disciples in isolated areas, and finally came to Jerusalem publicly? Is there a reason for this? Why didn’t He begin at Jerusalem?