Through the Bible in a Year: Mark 1 Through 3

Reading Schedule and Intro

Today’s Bible Reading is Mark 1-3
Tuesday, Feb. 14: Mark 4-6
Wednesday, Feb. 15: Mark 7-10
Thursday, Feb. 16: Mark 11-13
Friday, Feb. 17: Mark 14-16

Next week we will go back to Numbers and spend four week completing Numbers and Deuteronomy, and thus the entire Torah, or Law of Moses. Don’t bail out! You may not realize it yet, but Numbers and Deuteronomy are two of the most exciting books in the whole Bible.

The overall year’s plan is here.

My commentaries are sometimes long. The Bible is the priority. Read it first, and my commentaries are carefully sectioned so you can find the passage you may want help on. Please use the comment section of my blog if I missed something or you have something to add!

Mark Introduction

Mark was considered to be Peter’s Gospel by the early churches because Mark was Peter’s companion in Rome.

Mark will seem like Matthew sped up and shortened. They cover the same subjects, but Mark covers them much more briefly, and he focuses more on Jesus’ actions than Jesus’ words.

Some of this is because of the audience. Matthew is directed at a Hebrew audience, whereas Mark’s Gospel is directed at Gentiles.

Mark 1:1-8: John the Baptist

Matthew addressed Hebrews, so he began with a genealogy, tying Jesus historically to the great men of the Hebrew faith. Mark is addressing Gentiles, so he skips the genealogies.

He begins with John the Baptist, explains who he is briefly, and transitions directly to the baptism of Jesus.

Mark 1:9-13: Jesus’ Baptism and Temptation

Here Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness are reduced to five verses. No specifics are given about the temptation in the wilderness. Mark is ready to talk about one thing, and that one thing is Jesus Christ and who he is.

Mark 1:14-28: Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry

No one explains why the disciples left everything to follow Rabbi Jesus better than Ray Vanderlaan does.

This still seems like Matthew on fast forward. Mark is just hitting the highlights. He called John, James, Peter, and Andrew, and he had power over the demons. Mark also notes that the demons wanted to reveal who Jesus was, and Jesus was not ready for them to do so.

Mark 1:29-39: Jesus’ Fame Spreads

Despite silencing the demons, his power over them led to his fame spreading anyway. After he went off to pray by himself for a while, he leads his disciples on an itinerant ministry, going through all the synagogues of Galilee.

Mark 1:40-45: Jesus Heals the Leper

Jesus does a couple interesting things here. We know that he could heal the leper with the power of just his word, but he touches the leper. We’ve just been reading in Leviticus that this makes Jesus ritualistically unclean.

Jesus sent the leper to show himself to the priest, but Jesus himself did not do so. Much like the laws about food, they were meaningless to Jesus. Food can’t make a man unclean. Jesus knew the spiritual meaning of the Law, and he was already revealing it even before he died to institute the new covenant.

He did try to get the leper to be quiet about what happened, but that was a failure. The result was that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city.

Mark 2:1-13: Jesus Heals the Paralytic in Capernaum

After a few days, Jesus tried to go home to Capernaum, but everyone heard about it. The place was so packed that four friends of a paralytic tore a hole in the roof and let the man down in front of Jesus.

Rather than become angry about the interruption, Jesus marveled at their faith. He also chose to provide an object lesson for the scribes of the Law.

Rather than simply heal the man, he first told him his sins were forgiven. Obviously, this was blasphemy to everyone present. No one was allowed to forgive sin but God alone!

So Jesus stages his object lesson. Which is easier, he asks, to say the man’s sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk home? He then heals the man’s paralysis as a proof of his authority to forgive sins.

Later, he would give that same authority to the apostles and thus to the church (Jn. 20:21-23). Jesus had said something similar about the church and forgiving sins already in Matthew 18:15-22.

Mark 2:14: Calling Levi the Tax Collector

In Matthew 9:9, Levi is called Matthew. Having two names like this was not unusual in the church. Keep in mind that these Gospels were not written on the spot, as they happened, but twenty or thirty years later.

Levi is a very Hebrew name, and most of the apostles did their work among Gentiles, or at least amongst Greek speakers. This Simon was also Peter, a good Greek name. Saul was Paul, also a good Greek name. So Levi was Matthew, and Mark will begin referring to him as such beginning in the next chapter.

Once again, this is an exceptional call Jesus is making. Tax collectors were despised as traitors and thieves. They were working for the conquerors of the Jews, and their income was whatever taxes they could collect above and beyond what the Romans demanded.

Levi walks away from his tax collecting immediately to follow the Rabbi Jesus.

Mark 2:15-17: Hanging out with Sinners

Since Levi/Matthew was an outcast, one can imagine that all his friends were outcasts, too. Jesus didn’t care. He comes to Matthew’s house, and he meets all of his friends.

This aroused the ire of the Pharisees, and Jesus simply explains that he came to heal the sick, not those who were well.

Mark 2:18-22: Why Don’t Your Disciples Fast?

Apparently, Jesus’ disciples were a little too free even for John’s disciples, not just for the pharisees. They seemed to be lacking in self-discipline.

Jesus takes the opportunity to introduce the new covenant. He excuses them for now because Jesus, the bridegroom, is with them, but he explains that one does not use unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment, nor fill an old wineskin with new wine. The changeable nature of the new wine and the unshrunk cloth will destroy the old garment or wineskin.

Real self-discipline would be coming to Jesus’ disciples, but first they had to be made into new creatures, new wineskins able to hold the new wine of his teaching. On that day, they would be able to do anything the new, expanded law demanded of them.

Mark 2:23-28: Jesus’ Disciples Snack on the Sabbath

Jesus had little tolerance when laws were used for condemnation.

Last week we read about the showbread, kept in the Tent of Meeting, that only the priests were allowed to eat. However, in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, the priest allows David and his men to eat the showbread because no other bread was available.

From this story Jesus makes the point that the laws of God are to benefit man; man was not made to benefit the laws of God.

Keep in mind, though, that the violation here is a violation of the elders’ interpretation of Sabbath laws. There were no Sabbath laws stating that a hungry person could not snack from a field as they passed by.

Mark 3:1-6: Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

Jesus takes one more shot at the Pharisees attempt to make the Sabbath more important than people.

Mark 3:7-12: Jesus’ Fame Forces Him to Preach from Boat

Jesus was becoming so famous it was difficult for him to travel. In this instance he makes a boat available so that he can sit in a boat and teach the people.

Mark 3:13-19: Jesus Chooses the Twelve

The twelve: Simon Peter, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alpheus), Thaddeus (a surname, Lebbaeus was the first name: Matt. 10:3), Simon the zealot, and Judas.

Mark 3:20-30: People doubt his sanity, and the Scribes Accuse Him.

Perhaps those who spoke up were hoping for an easy target. Jesus is no easy target.

He rebuked them for their unthinking accusation, pointed out the problem with it, and then explaining that no one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is going to find forgiveness, a statement I’m sure is directed at their unbelief concerning the Holy Spirit with which he was overthrowing satan’s kingdom.

Again, this passage about overthrowing the strong man was an atonement passage to the early Christians. Jesus entered death’s chambers through death, bound him, broke the power of death and marched free, leading forth all who had previously been captive to death with him (Eph. 4:7-9; Heb. 2:15).

In the beginning [satan] enticed man to transgress his Maker’s law, and he thereby got man into his power. Yet his power consists of transgression and apostasy, and with these he bound humans.
     So, on the other hand, it was necessary that it was through man that satan should, when conquered, be bound with the same chains with which he had chained humans, so that man, being set free, might return to his Lord, leaving satan with those chains by which man himself had been chained … that is, sin.
     For when satan is bound, humans are set free, since "No one can enter a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, unless he first bind the strong man himself" [Mark 3:27]. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies V:21:3, c. A.D. 185)

Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord: that good and kind Shepherd, voluntarily to lay his life down for his sheep. Just as hunters take wolves that devour sheep by using a sheep to snare them, even so the Chief Shepherd, offering himself as man to the spiritual wolves and those who destroy the soul, may make his prey of the destroyers by means of that Adam who was once preyed upon by them. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; God against the devil; not being obvious in his might, which cannot be looked upon, but in the weakness of the flesh, in order to bind the strong man that is against us [Mark 3:27]. (Methodius, Oration on the Palms 6, c. A.D. 300)

Mark 3:31-35: His Family Tries to Bring Him Home

With all the ruckus going on, it appears that even Mary and Jesus’ brothers thought it best to get things under control and help Jesus behave more reasonably.

Once again, Jesus is no easy target.

Who is his mother, brothers, and sisters? They are those of us who do his will and who stick with him through thick and thin.

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