Good morning. It is sure cold here in Madison, WV. But, it is still a good day. I hope you are ready for a look into the Gospel of Mark. In the next few days we will cover a lot of territory. I hope to be in the Gospel of Luke by next week so we can look at the Birth Narrative in time for Christmas. But, I promise that at some point we will have covered the parts of Matthew and Mark that we may seemed to have skipped.
"In the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way-a voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (Mark 1:1-3)
From the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark what do we find missing? Yes, the birth narrative. There is no birth story of Jesus in Mark. Nor, is there any story of Jesus' childhood. In the first fifteen verses of the Gospel we are introduced to John the Baptist, given his mission, Jesus is baptized, goes into the desert to be tempted and then begins his ministry.
We will look at John much more when we get to Luke's gospel, but I will say a little about him here. Why did mark begin his gospel with the ministry of John the Baptist, and not include a birth narrative? Wasn't the birth of Jesus important to Mark? Well, there are usually two suggestions that are offered. One suggestion is that Mark only wrote what he knew or was told. *Mark was not a follower of Jesus. According to Papias (Oracles of the Lord) Mark was Peter's interpreter. (I Peter 5:13) Therefore, Mark wrote down as much as Peter told him. Many accept this theory. Another suggestion is that the gospel was written in Rome for a community experiencing tribulation. (65-70 A.D.) Therefore, Mark felt no need to take the time to tell about Jesus' birth. Those are good suggestions, but of course, I believe there is another reason.
I believe the reason for no birth narrative in Mark is found in the scripture itself; in the introduction of John the Baptist. John emerges on the scene looking like who? Yes, Elijah the prophet. He is a prophet foretelling Jesus' coming. The Hebrew word for prophet is quite interesting. It is Neb'Im, It means "one who has been in the sun too long." I would suggest that for Mark there was no need for opening biographies or genealogies, nor a birth narrative because God has already prepared the way for Jesus through Israel's prophets and John's prophetic mission.
We have already looked at the baptism of Jesus in Matthew's gospel. But, we must look at it again here. "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11) Notice, that there is no recorded dialogue between Jesus and John at the river. Matthew recorded a discussion between the two leading to Jesus' baptism. Now, if you recall Jesus said in Matthew that his baptism was "to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3:15) But, in Jesus offers no reasoning. So, why was Jesus baptized here? John's baptism was "a baptism of repentance." (Mark 1:4) But, Jesus didn't need to repent! Right? Well, this baptism was not necessarily to be confused with the baptism of believers that we think of. Repentance in its truest form means "returning to the highest point with God." It has to do with ordering your life in such a way as it would be pleasing to God. Jesus is ordering his life in such a way. Remember, he has been in the Nazareth in the carpenter's shop as far as we know his whole life.
Now, for something else that is different in Mark's baptism account. Jesus hears a voice from heaven: "You are my Son..." (Mark 1:11) In Matthew, the people heard the voice say, "This is my Son..." (Matthew 3:17) And, again I remind you that it wasn't because four people all observed the same car wreck, yet each four came out with different accounts....No, in fact, Mark wasn't even there, nor was Luke. No, there is deep meaning behind this statement that Jesus heard. For Mark, the title "Son of God" is used frequently and appears strategically at the beginning of the Gospel, as well as the middle and the end. Here, God declares Jesus to be the "Son of God" then in chapters three and five the demons declare the same. Then, there is one human being who, near the end, makes this proclamation. (We'll look at that later) What does the title "Son of God" mean? Well, in scripture it is often associated with the messiah. (or King of Israel).
O.K., now for something that we will come back to time and time again. Why was it that only Jesus heard the voice from heaven in Mark's gospel? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret...The Gospel of Mark is all about the messianic secret. "What?" you ask. Yes, as we go forward we will discover that over and over again when Jesus does something or tells someone something he will say them: "Shh....tell no one."
Did Jesus need to hear God's declaration? Um, yes. Oh, but he was God! Yes, but...We are going to discover that Mark presents Jesus as being almost totally human. Yes, he is divine, but he takes on a human side that is not nearly as evident in the other gospels. Jesus, needs to hear God's approval, because his suffering will be real, the battles will be real, he needs to hear God's voice for himself.
Well, tomorrow we will continue our work together. God Bless! -Pastor RIck