When it comes to knowing Jesus, do you choose:
1. More information or
2. More connection?
Whether we realize it or not, most of us long for more connection, but we choose more
information. Why? We wear information glasses. It’s May of 2022. In this day, we
think, see and live in the world of the information age.
This current era of human civilization is defined by our access and control of information. The Information Age, also called the Computer Age, the Digital Age and the New Media Age, is coupled tightly with the advent of personal computers.
We are immeasurably blessed to live in this day and time. Especially as believers.
We’ve never had so much information about Jesus at our fingertips. Think about it:
sermons, podcasts, books, commentaries, devotionals, studies, tweets, blogs, emails,
music, etc. Many of us own countless Bibles of various translations. If not, we have
endless copies at our fingertips… on our phones, tablets and computers.
In this information age, we are without excuse for knowing Jesus.
Living in the first century, life looked very different. Many of us, who are currently
wrapping up a study of the gospel of Mark, understand this to a degree. Mark and his
hearers- most likely comprised of poor, persecuted believers- did not have access to the
same information that we do in the 21st century. These early believers did not own a
Bible. (Remember: the Bible as we know it today was not yet complete.) Mark and his
hearers did not even have the other three gospels or Paul’s letters or the book of
Revelation. Jeepers! These folks didn’t even have their own copies of the Old
Testament! Mark’s hearers received the message of his gospel very differently from us.
When we study the gospel of Mark, we read Mark’s message through 21st century-
information-age glasses. Many of us receive his gospel already familiar with stories about Jesus through sermons, Sunday school or other church experiences. Even if that is not the case, we are able to read, compare and contrast Mark’s gospel with the other gospels in our Bibles. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to take all this biblical information for granted. We love information. And we love our information-age glasses that help us feel as if we have all the right answers. In many ways, information has become a god, an idol.
But believe it or not, information is not the end all be all. Information can get in the way
of relationship or connection. For example, if you asked my husband to describe me, I am going to be very disappointed if he rattles off a bunch of information: date-of-birth,
mother, father, number of children, height, weight, dress size, shoe size, eye-color, etc.
In essence, some of this information will eventually be found in my obituary!
Rather, my heart would sing if my hubby described to you my heart and character. He
is able to give a real account because he is intimately connected to me. Someday I will
breath my final breathe and most likely an obituary will be written. It will include
basic information about my life and death. But when my family and friends gather together, do you think they will share obituary information about me and my life? No! Most likely they will share stories, stories that stem from their unique perspective of me. The stories my husband shares will differ from the stories my children or grandchildren share. These stories most likely will describe my heart, character and the important things in my life.
I don’t know about you, but I choose stories over information any and every day!
Stories speak to relationship. While stories share some pertinent information, stories
get to the heart.
This is what Mark does. Mark tells the story of Jesus from his unique perspective or
relationship to Jesus. Mark’s perspective is unique indeed. He communicates his story
of Jesus from the eye-witness testimony of Peter. Peter was Mark’s spiritual father. So
our goal in studying the gospel of Mark is to understand this unique perspective. What
did Peter and Mark want people to know about Jesus? What is Mark’s specific
purpose for writing his message? Why did Matthew and Luke rely heavily on Mark’s
testimony when they wrote their own gospel accounts about Jesus?
As we remove our 21st century-information-age glasses and put on our 1st century glasses to see the world through the eyes of Mark and his hearers, we’re in for a shock! We wonder: Where is the detailed information about Jesus? Where is the genealogy? Compared to Matthew and Luke, aren’t you a little bare bones, Mark? Aren’t you missing some important details?
Obviously, Mark is not about satisfying those of us who live in the information age. Mark shares a story. He shares Peter’s story of Jesus. This story was written, not for us, but for folks living in first century Rome. As we wrap-up our study of Mark, we must ask, “What does Mark want these folks to know about Jesus?”
Jesus is the Hero.
Mark made his purpose abundantly clear in the beginning of his gospel:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
Gospel means good news, specifically triumphant news about a king. Mark’s good news is specific to Jesus, who's personal name means Savior. Christ is His title. This title means Messiah, the Anointed One, the King. And Who is Jesus Christ? He is no less than the Son of God Himself. Son of God. His position, power and authority have no equal.
Mark’s entire gospel message features Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. A Hero of heroes.
But Mark is a story-teller. This good news story about Jesus Christ the Son of God is not haphazardly spliced together. It’s not short or lacking in details because it is primitive. Rather, Mark thoughtfully and carefully weaves his message together. He shares what is important. Throughout our study, I frequently pointed out Mark’s “sandwiches,” a chiastic literary technique used to highlight important points. Well then, it should come as no surprise that as we look back over the entire gospel, we can observe one giant and brilliantly designed chiastic sandwich.
Mark opens with:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
In his prologue, Mark expounds on this idea as the Father Himself identifies Jesus:
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
Mark clearly identifies Jesus as the Son of God at the beginning, and then again, as he closes his account:
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39
Mark doesn’t mince words. He also doesn’t gab or elaborate. He makes an unabashedly bold and simple statement: Jesus is the Son of God. A pretty radical statement to declare in Rome where Caesar himself is considered a son of god. Hence, the premise of Mark’s Good News story surely nabs some attention by the first century people.
Mark’s opening and closing Son of God declarations make up the chocolate cookies of his chiastic or Oreo sandwich story. So what’s in the middle?
Between these two cookies, we find the yummy cream, the story. In the first half of the story, Jesus ministers in Galilee. His authority and power are demonstrated in dramatic scenes as he amazes crowds by his teaching, heals the sick and casts out demons. The prominent parable of Mark part one is the Sower (4:1-20), which mirrors Jesus’s own public ministry. Jesus portrays himself as a farmer casting seed everywhere, into a variety of soils. The crowds grow, but so does the opposition. In the second half of the story, Jesus ministers in Jerusalem. The significant parable of the second half of Mark is of the vineyard and its tenants (12:11), where Jesus is the son of the vineyard owner.
What declaration is found smack in the middle of Mark?
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29
Here is the cream of Mark’s Oreo cookie: Peter declares, “You are the Messiah.”
Do you see the A-B-A pattern?
Why such formatted story-telling? Was Mark seeking to merely disseminate information? No. This powerful and well-crafted story invited people to consider Jesus and enter into a relationship with Him as a believer.
In essence, Mark exclaims, “Here is the long awaited Messiah, the Anointed One Who will forever reign as King!” Listen. Hear the beginning of the Good News. This Jesus ushers in God’s new Kingdom. See His miracles. See how when He speaks, it is so. See how He loves. And see how He turns the world upside-down by the way He serves! This King- the very Son of God- entered into our bodily, emotional and spiritual suffering. Fully God and fully man, He was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead that we might rise again with Him. Imagine Peter and Mark saying to common first century folk, “Friends, in the midst of this crazy mixed up world, with its crazy mixed up Caesars, here is hope. Here is the triumphant news about Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God. Will you believe?"
Twenty centuries later, the invitation has not changed.
Mark’s gospel still invites us to listen. To see. In the midst of this crazy, mixed-up world, with its crazy, mixed-up Caesars, Jesus offers Good News. When He speaks, it is so. Know truth. Discover hope. Find rest for your weary and anxious souls.
Mark offers more than information. His story invites us into relationship. Invites us to know and enjoy Jesus as the Hero that He is, the Son of God.
Mark’s genius story-telling challenges the hearer, “Will you believe?”
Last night I met with a group of women who were discussing Mark chapter fifteen. One woman shared that her favorite verse was the centurion’s declaration: “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” After spending fifteen weeks of seeking to wear 1st century Ancient Near East glasses, all the pieces of the puzzle fell together for her. Here He is! The Son of God! See how He loves!
“Jesus, I want to love you more.”
That’s the power of wearing the right glasses. Not just knowing Jesus, but enjoying, admiring, loving Him.
We're excited to announce our summer Simply Bible study: Colossians! More information will be coming shortly, but mark your calendars - daily videos will begin on June 5th, 2022.
As we're wrapping up our Mark study, we want to hear from you. Hearing your stories about Simply Bible is such a blessing and encouragement. Would you please take a few moments and write to us? We would love to learn what you will remember from studying Mark. How are you inspired to live differently? Let us know here.
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Thanks for your support, friends!