Category Archives: Mark

Mark 1.32-2.12

Well, today I’m returning to my series through Scripture. I know it’s been a long time since I wrote last, but these things come and go in waves. I’ve never been very good at consistency. Before we start, I thought I would let you know about a few other things I’ve been working on lately.

1. I’ve put in applications for scholarships to Regent College here in Vancouver. If I get the funds, I may be going back to school in September, possibly.
2. I’ve been following along with the Atheism for Lent series found here. The idea is to take a critical look at faith from an outside perspective in order to ground oneself better in true faith. I’m not sure what I think of it yet. These kinds of things can get very depressing. Believing in God is like breathing to me, so it’s not like I could just give it up, even if I wanted to… it colours everything I do. But it is good to look in from the outside, to see the flaws in our organized religion, and to get back to the heart of what my faith is – a relationship with my creator, who is bigger than anything I can imagine, and yet cares intimately for all of his creation.
3.I’m writing an editorial series on casual facebook games at JTMgames.com. This has been fun! Go read it.
4. I’m applying for an addictions counselling course that runs through the summer, with the potential to continue into next year. I’m excited about this opportunity, and about the doors that it might open in the future.

Now, on to Scripture! We’re picking up the story immediately following the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. I’ll be liveblogging through it, and adding some theological asides where I feel I have the wisdom and / or resources to do so. mastly I’ll be asking a lot of questions though.

Mark 1.32-2.12

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Interesting, the line ‘he would not permit them to speak, because they knew him’. This indicates that Jesus was still hiding something of his nature from the people. Perhaps Mark wrote this line in response to questions that were asked after Jesus’ death – ‘well, if he was the son of God, why didn’t the demons he cast out recognize him?’
I don’t know why Jesus didn’t want to be fully known yet. My suspicion is that if people knew what he was claiming to be they would have killed him all the quicker. It’s a possibility for sure.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I like this. Jesus did not come just for a small group of people, but for everyone – he knew that people would try and contain him, or would just use him as a miracle man, and there was much more to his story. He had to keep himself from becoming hemmed in by his audience.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 AndJesus[h] sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Jesus did not want the credit from this, but wanted to give the credit to God. He also knew that this would restrict his movements, as the people would become desperate for healing while missing the point. It’s important to note here that Lepers were dirty in more than one way – they were sick and disfigured, yes, but they were also ceremonially unclean, unable to worship in the Temple before God. Jesus healing the leper represents more than just a healing – it represents a cleansing of the body before God.

 

2.1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

This is one of those accounts that those of us who grew up in the church heard in Sunday School all the time. It’s a neat little package with a good story, and so makes for an easy lesson for the Sunday School teacher. Plus, there’s something awesome about friends who would tear open the roof of a house in order to get their buddy in to see Jesus.

We often miss the theological significance behind the story though. The question that Jesus asks is actually a puzzling one. What is the correct answer? Is it easier to say to someone ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to tell someone to get up and walk? I would argue that the easier thing to do is to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, but saying either if you are lying about it will do no one any good. And so Jesus does both, proving that his words have power, by telling the man to get up. This astonishes the crowds on two levels – one, Jesus has the power to heal, and two, he has the power to forgive.

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Mark 1.16-31

We’re back in Mark – The beginning of Genesis is a lot of information all at once – I think it’s best to take it slow. We’ll come back to the second creation story later in the week, I think. I also need to gather some resources – my memory of OT theology is fading fast.

Anyhow, back to Mark. Here’s the second part of the first chapter of mark – already action-packed. Mark doesn’t take his time! Here it is, from the ESV:

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

This passage has always been very important to me. I grew up in a small village on the west coast of Vancouver Island – a village founded on fishing and logging. Many of the people in my church were fishermen, and my dad worked on and around fishing boats for most of my life. One thing I realized is that fishermen are fishermen (excuse the sexist language) pretty much everywhere you go. Working men, gruff, hardened by a hard life of manual labour. But beneath the hard and sometimes seemingly simple exterior often lies a man of great depth and deep thought. Fishing means keeping to a different cycle of life than others, and it means always smelling funny. Even more so, I would imagine, in the days before proper hygiene and good rain gear.

When I think of Simon (later Peter) and Andrew, and of John and James, these are the types of people I think about. I think about Randy, almost always smiling and working hard on his little boat. I think of his brother Shane. I think of my dad, running his prawn boat up and down the BC coast. I think abou the slightly bawdy jokes told with just a hint of guilt, and the strain of muscles and bones when a haul is being brought in. I think of deep discussions in the middle of the night, talks about life and death and anything else in an attempt to stay awake. I think about the wariness to new ideas that these types of men often have; they have been doing the same thing their whole lives, as have their fathers, and their fathers’ fathers.

And yet, despite the fact that these fishermen were probably fairly traditional in their way of life, they were eager to follow Jesus. It seems like they didn’t need much convincing. Now, maybe they thought Jesus was a revolutionary, come to overthrow the Romans and their oppressive taxation and pagan gods; or maybe they thought he was simply an itinerant preacher, spreading teaching that would traditionally only be accesible by the upper class. Regardless, they followed, because they saw something true, something honest.

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 

I’m curious who ‘they’ are in this passage – the fishermen brothers? Or others in the synagogue? I’m thinking it’s the brothers, as perhaps this would have been their synagogue – maybe they had come for sabbath learning every week of their lives, taught by the same old men who taught off the scrolls, with no passion in their eyes or true understanding in their hearts. But Jesus… Jesus was something different.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him andcrying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

This is interesting – The demon is the first besides God to claim that Jesus is Holy. John alludes to it, but here the demon outright says it. Contrast this with the questioning onlookers: ‘What is this?’ Well, the demon seemed to know.

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

And right away we have the first healing. This is incredible – within half a chapter we have: the Spirit of the Lord descending like a dove, a man teaching with great authority, a demonic exorcism, and a healing. And we’re just getting started. Stay tuned!

Mark 1.9-15

Two posts in one week? I must be insane. We’ve just made it through the creation account in Genesis, and now I’m heading back to Mark – I refreshing shift, if I do say so myself. We last covered Mark 1.1-8, and you can find that post here. Today we’re looking at Mark 1.9-15, first in the ESV, and then in the NET. Small bites are good… I definitely bit off more than I could chew in that Genesis passage, so let’s start small and see how it goes, shall we? Remember, Liveblog first, no looking at notes or anything, followed by a little more depth on the second reading.

Here’s the ESV, describing the baptism and temptation of Jesus, and the beginning of his ministry.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 

Just like that. No introduction as to who Jesus is; he’s just Jesus, being baptized like the others that have come to John. I mean, we know Jesus is the Christ from the introduction, but there is no grandeur here. I find this interesting… it sounds… oral, if that makes sense. Like this is a transcription of how I would tell the story if I were telling it out loud. ‘and then, one day, Jesus came down to the river, and guess what happened next?’

And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

And what a thing to happen next! This makes me think of the Old Testament prophets again, of the Elijah calling down fire, of Samuel anointing David… This was a very visible proclamation of God’s approval of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus knew who He was before this event. He probably did, but it’s an interesting thing to think about.

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Ok, so the Spirit descends on him, and the very first thing he does is run off into the wilderness? Yeah, great start Jesus, you’re definitely looking really sane right now. And being tempted, in the desert? You would think the city would hold more temptations – power, lust, wealth… but out in the scrub of the Judean outback, Satan tempts Jesus. And there’s Jesus, just hanging out with wild animals, and oh, by the way, angels come and ‘minister’ to him. Whatever that means. Sometimes I forget how crazy this story sounds.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

And then he returns. It’s interesting that Jesus waits until after John is arrested before coming to Galilee… the timeline is really indistinct here, I don’t really know how long it’s been since the wilderness. maybe it’s been weeks or months… all I know is that it’s after John was arrested… I’m assuming because he was seen as a troublemaker, but I really don’t know. Not a lot of detail here. And how does Jesus start? ‘The Kingdom is Here – Repent and believe in the good news!’ No word on what that good news is. I guess we’ll find out.

Now, On to the NET and looking with some depth:

1:9 Now  in those days Jesus came from Nazareth  in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. 

Nazareth was a hick town. It isn’t mentioned anywhere in the OT, the Talmud, or in the writings of Josephus. I like this, because I identify with it – It would be like Jesus coming from Ucluelet, where I grew up. A small town that no one has heard of.
I think it is beautiful that Jesus was baptized first and foremost in Mark. To Mark, this is where it all starts. With baptism’s connection to ritual cleansing and new starts, it makes for a beautiful picture. Of course, John was baptizing for the forgiveness of sins, but it is unlikely that Jesus had any sin to forgive… this would be more symbolic of the beginning of his ministry than anything.

1:10 And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 1:11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my one dear Son;  in you I take great delight.” 

There are a couple things going on here. ‘The Heavens opening’ doesn’t describe the violence associated with the Greek – ‘splitting’ comes closer, but according to the notes I’m reading, ‘rending’ or ‘tearing’ would be even better. The heavens were torn open, and the Spirit of the Lord descended. This recalls the request of Isaiah in Is. 64.1… but God did not descend in a way that anyone was expecting. He came as a dove. the fact that the Spirit descended ‘as a dove’ is significant – the dove was the offering of the poor, those who could not afford to offer a lamb. the NET notes call it a ‘sacrifice of humility’. Interesting choice for the all-powerful God of the Universe, Lord of Hosts, King of Kings. Wouldn’t you expect it to be a mighty warrior bird or something? I don’t see a dove causing mountains to shake very often.

I love the phrasing of ‘in you I take great delight’. It just feels so much warmer than ‘I am well pleased’. God was delighted in Jesus!

The notes I’m reading also note that this gives us a baseline with which to evaluate characters in the story – only we know that he is touched by God, and so we are able to judge whether others in the story judge him correctly or not. Interesting.

1:12 The Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. 1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, enduring temptations from Satan. He  was with wild animals, and angels were ministering to his needs.

Mark loves to use the word ‘immediately’. it adds a real sense of urgency to the text, that things are happening! And the thing that is happening is… Jesus heading out into the wilderness. It seems like Jesus is purposely trying to defy expectations – coming from a nowhere town, baptized by a guy dressed in rags, being touched by a dove, and now wandering into the desert.

Of course we know the number 40 has significance – 40 years in the desert of Sinai, Israel’s own wandering period; 40 days of flood… others I’m forgetting I’m sure. The word for ‘temptations’ implies going through a trial to prove character, rather than the more negative overtones we give it today. Jesus was proving his worth, perhaps to himself? the name ‘Satan’ is a transliteration of the Hebrew satan, which literally means ‘adversary’.

1:14 Now after John was imprisoned, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God.  1:15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”

I don’t have a lot to say here – only that I’m enjoying this a great deal. See you next time, Dear Reader!

Mark 1.1

Alright, here we go. As a reminder, every other day I’ll be switching between the OT and NT, and covering as much as I have energy for – sometimes a verse, sometimes a chapter or more. I’ll cover the passage twice – once ‘liveblogging’ while reading the ESV, and a second time looking at some detail with the NET. I’m going to do it in a bit of a weird order though. I’m going to start with Mark, because it is the shortest, and both Matthew and Luke seem to draw from Mark – it may have been the earliest written Gospel. Then we’ll move on to Matthew, then to John, and finish the Gospels with Luke-Acts, as they were originally written as companion pieces. Ready? Here we go.

Mark 1.1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Bold claims, right from the start – the author doesn’t beat it around the bush at all. It’s quite something to have the first line of ‘Good News’ be something that would be blasphemous to most Jews.

 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
     ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

And then we move straight into OT prophecy. Prophecy given to a people in exile, if I remember my OT theology correctly… a position that the Jews of Judea in the First Century could relate to I’m sure. They were really exiles in their own country, worshipping at a temple which God seemed to have forgotten about. He simply wasn’t there in the way He used to be.

 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

‘A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’ Do we think about baptism this way any more? As a public proclamation of repentance? Do we even truly repent any more?

And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 

What a character. If this man came calling people to repentance, I don’t know if I would have listened. I KNOW some churches near me wouldn’t have listened.

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Difference between water and the Holy Spirit. Today this invokes images of pentecostals and charismatics – I imagine John was envisioning something closer to the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me’ of the OT prophets – the Spirit enabling the prophetic voice of His people.

And now, for the NET:

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

Translator’s notes in the NET note that it is quite possible that Mark was alluding to the ‘In the Beginning’ of Genesis with this phrasing. If so, it’s a beautiful parallel – a new beginning.

1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way, 

1:3 the voice of one shouting in the wilderness,

Prepare the way for the Lord,

make his paths straight.’” 

It is interesting that this isn’t actually from Isaiah in its entirety. The beginning part is from Exodus 23.20 with a parallel in Malachi 3.1 – only 1.3 is a quotation from Isaiah, and a liberal quotation at that. The NT authors often had no problem grabbing various snippets of Scripture and using them to prove their point – something we would never do today. Interesting.

1:4 In the wilderness John the baptizer began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 

I like Mark’s use of ‘Baptizer’ instead of ‘Baptist’ (there is a difference in the Greek). It’s an action word, something that John does, which fits in with Mark very well, as it is a very action-oriented book. The NET also mentions that this baptism was not simply a mental assent that one was in need of repentance – rather, one who was baptized was expected to act differently and live differently.

1:5 People from the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem were going out to him, and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

At the beginning of v.5, there is, in the Greek, the word ‘kai’ which is translated ‘and’. This just goes on with Mark’s immediate style of writing – it’s often ‘And then this happend, and then that happened’ or ‘immediately this happened’ – something we lose in the English I think.

1:6 John wore a garment made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

John was fully within the tradition of the prophets – as my NT Theology professor, Michael Szuk, puts it, John was the last of the OT Prophets, and the greatest.

1:7 He proclaimed, “One more powerful than I am is coming after me; I am not worthy to bend down and untie the strap of his sandals. 1:8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

I love how the story of of Jesus does not start with Jesus. The Gospel begins with John, announcing the coming of Christ. For me, this just furthers my belief that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary purposes. It’s incredible the way that He includes us.