We are in the Christ Stream as we start the book of Mark – the expedient gospel. We are reading from the Lexham English Bible this week.
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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis
Mark is the expedient gospel. One person compared it to an old detective show where the inquisitor would cut off a testimony that was getting too mired in detail to interject, “just the facts, please …” Mark jumps straight to the baptism of Jesus to begin his gospel. Jesus is 30 years old. He wants to make sure that the proof of his wonders gets known to the world. His is the shortened, most concise gospel. The childhood of Jesus is not in Mark. There are no angel announcements, genealogies, John/Baptist buildup, childhood stories to include Joseph, wisemen nor shepherd visits, Jesus as a baby or as a 12-year-old in the Temple. We see the word “immediately” in Mark dozens of times, markedly more than in the other gospels. Mark wants us to know the wonders of Jesus and then the next wonder, and the next and next.
Mark does make a point that all kinds of people were coming from all over to be baptized by John in the Jordan. The managers of all the synagogues had to wonder “where is everybody?” Matthew notes this detail too as he also was writing to Jews mainly. Wait until Jesus comes along and the crowds looking to encounter him grow exponentially! Then there’s really going to be sparse crowds left behind for the priests to speak to. Only Mark mentions John/Baptist’s ‘impressive’ outfit and diet. At any rate, Jesus is baptized and all four gospels include that the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus at that time.
Mark’s piece on Jesus’ temptation is very brief whereas Matthew and Luke are quite descriptive. There is a year of time or thereabouts that passes between Jesus’ temptation and the Galilee ministry; [btwn Mark 1:13and v.14.] Biblical scholar Robert Stein refers to this as Jesus’ ‘year of obscurity’. John tells of Jesus doing about eight notable things during this timespan. The pressure from the Pharisees must have been growing worse, so Jesus retreats to the north to do his earth-changing ministry around Galilee. This Galilee portion of ministry that begins Mk. 1:14 goes through Mk. 10:1 when Jesus left for east of the Jordan and Judea to the south.
He then calls four of the disciples (two sets of brothers) Simon and Andrew, then James and John. Remember, “Simon” is the prominent disciple; Peter. They all follow Jesus immediately. James and John were Jesus’ cousins. Their mother Salome was Mary’s sister; Mary as in Mary and Joseph- yes, that Mary. So their mothers being sisters makes them ‘first cousins’. [ Following Jesus was a family matter.] Mark sets out then to assert Jesus’ ability astonish people. He teaches … and people are in awe. He drives out a demon and the reaction is the same. Then more people came at dusk. They came in large numbers. This is the time that people wrap things up and go home for the night. But this is different. This visitor is different. His results are different. The entire city comes to Jesus and more. And He demonstrates inexhaustible ability to heal and cleanse. Jesus thereafter travels all over Galilee. He does a salient deed in healing a leper with a skin problem. By now, all Galilee and Judea and leaders from Jerusalem were present to witness Jesus at work. The stage is set for a very prominent story: …
Mark 2 – The paralytic let down through the roof is a miracle that becomes a great hinge in Jesus’ ministry. He gives the initial assertion by declaring the paralyzed man forgiven. He then proves that it is not empty talk when he heals him. This verifies Jesus ability to heal and save and that the link between the two is secured –> and that the source of those two gifts is Jesus. The resentful scribes and Pharisees think it’s their secret right to question Jesus who then announces his reply to a question that was not openly asked. Surprise! Jesus sees through everything and executes a move that echoes through ministries for all time. The rest of his ministry results and can be perceived in light of this miracle and the statement tagged with it. Jesus HEALS AND SAVES. Again, all are in awe – all except the leaders who sense their grip on the people slipping away.
Jesus then calls Levi; Matthew (a sinful tax collector for Rome!) to be his disciple. Interesting that the phrase, a tax has been ‘levied’ still applies today and it comes from biblical literature. The reading today ends with a question about fasting. It comes from John’s disciples. John has been imprisoned and so the focus is completely past him and moved to Jesus and Jesus’ followers are acting rather differently than John’s. Jesus responds with three illustrations: the bridegroom, patching a garment, and wineskins. Jesus is the bridegroom. As for patching? Quit trying to patch the old with old ideas. It’s time for the new. The wineskins – same lesson proved a different way. Jesus has so much to teach them. And Jesus is not discarding the old Law of Moses. He just told the leper in the prior story to go show the priest like Moses commanded. Jesus reveres Moses too.
Lord, you are talking to us when Jesus is talking to us. The people saw it and came running to you. The leaders saw Jesus and resented Him. We want to pay attention to all that you have to show us. Thank you for coming to us. Amen.