Welcome to the last book we are blogging on in this stent! It is has been a fun ride and Kent and I are in discussion as to what we are going to do next. We might be open to some suggestions if you have any. First, we blogged through the entire Bible in a year. That was a huge undertaking and while it was beneficial, Kent and I decided we wanted to focus more deeply on the New Testament. Over the last year (and some change) we have blogged through the New Testament a chapter at a time. We broke the Books up so that periodically we would come back to the Gospels from time to time. We decided that instead of ending with Revelation, we would end with the Gospel of Mark.
Before jumping into Mark’s Gospel, I’d like to provide some historical background that I hope you find enlightening. These are things we don’t normally talk about so I wanted to share. Mark was widely regarded by the early church as the authentic voice and interpreter of Peter. The earliest evidence that Mark wrote this Gospel was set forth by Papias (c. 60-130), the bishop of Hieropolis in Phrygia, in the vicinity of the New Testament Churches of Colossae and Laodicea. The earliest tradition surrounding Mark’s Gospel was that:
– Mark interpreted Peter accurately
– Peter was Mark’s chief access to the recollections of Jesus
– Mark did not record the tradition “in order”
– Peter presented the Lord’s teaching as the situation demanded, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses
– Nothing crucial was distorted or omitted
Decades after the death of Papias, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), who lived in an entirely different place, in Egypt, reconfirms the tradition that Mark was the reliable interpreter of the narrative of the Lord attested by Peter.
The implications of this history is that the leaders of Alexandria known to Clement assumed that Mark had been associated with Peter over a long period of time, that Peter was aware that Mark had written down Peter’s narrative for distribution, and that Peter had no objection to his doing so, although Peter did not directly promote it himself. Mark is portrayed as responding to the requests of many believers to write out Peter’s widely recognized and authoritative public teaching about Christ while Peter was at Rome.
I won’t continue to go into the detailed history of Mark but the tradition passed on through Irenaeus (c. 115-202), Origen (c. 185-254), Eusebius (c. 263-339), Athanasius (c. 296-373), and Augustine (354-430), who after three centuries of this longstanding tradition that the Holy Spirit had supervised the accurate transmission of the gospel tradition from the eyewitness apostles to the consenting church, wrote that Mark and Luke “credibly received accounts with which they had become acquainted in a trustworthy manner through the instrumentality of actual followers of the Lord as he manifested himself in the flesh, and lived in the company of those disciples who were attending him” (Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 1.2).
The reason I feel the need to share all of this before even getting into Mark’s Gospel is because we live in a time where the validity of the Gospels come into question often. “There were many other gospels in the early church that did not make it into our Bibles because the church picked which ones best fit their agenda.” I’ve heard comments like this, and variations of it, a number of different times. The reason the Gospels we have made it into our Bible, which was compiled in 325, is because of these traditions and the writings that date back to the earliest centuries. There were other “gospels” at the time but most of them were debated against widely by the Church Fathers and do not carry with them the kind of tradition that the canonized Gospels carry.
So…what you are about to read (or have just read) are the stories from Peter’s mouth written, interpreted, and distributed by Mark.
Mark begins his Gospel with “the good news about Jesus the Messiah.” When we hear Gospel or “good news,” we often think of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. When Mark sets out to record the “good news” of Jesus, he sets out to give an account of the life Jesus lived as well as the death and resurrection. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of merely thinking of the “good news” as just being about our salvation. The reality is that Jesus lived a life and the life he lived is important for us to know about. It is important enough that the early church went to great lengths to pass on these stories so that we might have them today. As we read the “good news” in the Gospel of Mark, lets remember that we read of the life Jesus lived and has called us to emulate.
Mark doesn’t waste any time jumping into the story of Jesus. He isn’t doing this to say that Jesus’ baptism wasn’t important or that the temptation of Jesus wasn’t important. Jesus begins by saying, “The time has come…the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Believing the “good news” is to walk as Jesus walked and to live as Jesus lived. He then turns and says to Simon and Andrew, “Come, follow me,. And I will send you out to fish for people.” They immediately responded by following Jesus.
I love Jesus’ first miracle in Mark. He drives demons out of a man because the demon was announcing to everyone who he is. Jesus sternly tells them to be quiet but the news spread over the whole region of Galilee quickly. Jesus continued his healing ministry but would not let the demons speak because they knew his identity. Stop for a minute and think about that. Jesus did not allow demons to speak because they knew who he was and where his power came from. Jesus tried to keep his healing abilities quiet but when you’re healed, you can’t help but tell others about it. The result…so many people wanted Jesus that it became difficult to get around.
Jesus could have easily stayed in one place, set up shop, and spent all of his time healing people. I want to end today’s post with pointing out something in the life of Jesus we often overlook. Jesus went off to a solitude place to pray. When his disciples came to him to tell him that he is being sought after he said that they must go on because he needs to preach other places also. The example we see here is that Jesus was prayerfully in tune with what he was supposed to be doing and didn’t get wrapped up in the pressure of one good work. Jesus demonstrates that living a life of peace requires times of prayer in solitary places. Go and do likewise.