How to read Mark's Gospel - Part 1

Over one summer in Sydney, Jesus thundered into my mind. He was more alive than I had ever imagined. He commanded a wild storm to sit down in silken silence and it did. He put himself forward as the one who stood over and above religious rituals. He rebuked those in error and challenged false authority with a fierce confidence. He seemed so arrogant. But, inside a heartbeat he was healing and restoring the wounded and maligned with deep compassion.

Before that summer, Jesus was insipid in my mind. He was a slight, white figure with no power, no majesty and no strength. Yes, I knew he went to the cross for me, but it seemed a passive path, with a sad inevitability about it.

But as I met Jesus in Mark’s gospel I was stunned by the strength of his character and deliberate desire to offer himself on the Cross.  

In the next blog posts, I’d like to help open up Mark’s Gospel to anyone who has never read it. My goal isn’t to give you, dear reader, a comprehensive account of Mark’s gospel. Rather the goal here is to help you read Mark’s gospel by giving you some insights along the way.

Mark is writing a gospel

Titles for Jesus

The story so far

Here are the first 3 sentences of Mark’s gospel.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.
3 A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!


Mark is writing a gospel

The word gospel means good news. Though, that perhaps is a bit soft. A Gospel is great good news of public importance. When the Roman Caesars won a great victory over the enemies of Rome then a gospel was announced to the citizens of Rome telling them about the victory. Mark is announcing the great good news about Jesus Christ. The victory of Jesus!


Titles for Jesus

Two titles are used about Jesus in the first sentecne. The Christ and the Son of God. Here is what they mean:

The Christ – Christ is a Greek word used in the New Testament. It is a title for the King of Israel,  a little bit like ‘The President.’ It means the same as the Hebrew word Messiah from the Old Testament. The Messiah (or the Christ) is the saving king who would fulfil God’s promises.

Son of God – the Son of God was the King of the nation of Israel, the ancient Jews. He was the great saving King, appointed by God to rule the Israelites but his rule would also extend to the whole world. You came to him for mercy.

 (Read Psalm 2 to get a great insight into the Son of God. The setting is the coronation of the King of Israel. He was declared God’s Son by God!)


The story so far

Mark has annouced the great good news about Jesus the Christ. But this news has a background so he shares the story so far. He does this by quoting the prophet Isaiah in sentence 3.

In this prophecy from about 800 BC God says that he will send someone to prepare the way for the Lord. This is big – very big. In the Old Testament the Lord usually refers to God. So, a dude was coming, and he was to announce the coming of God.  Everyone better get ready.

Mark quotes this to set us up for John the Baptist. He is the next person we meet in Mark’s gospel. God’s promise through the prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled.

When you check out verses 4-8 you’ll read John the Baptists’ message. It is ‘Everyone get ready’ John is preparing the way. Everyone is to get ready by repenting (turning back to God) and by seeking forgiveness.

John came baptizing[f] in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

People had to get ready because someone was coming. John tells us a bit about the one coming.

 John the Baptist proclaimed, “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The very next person we meet in the story is Jesus. The great good news is all about him. He is God's great saving King who rules and rescues. He is the one promised by God. He is the Messiah. And he seems to be 'the Lord', God himself! Whoa!