So we turn the page and we find ourselves in the Gospel of Mark. What you see above is a mosaic from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome at one of the four corners above the altar. It depicts Mark, the Gospel writer, with a lion peeking out from under his book which he is writing. Mark is always seen as a lion, but the reason why is less clear. Some say because of the passage in Revelation 4:7 which describes the four creatures and the first being like a lion.
That takes us to the history of Mark and who wrote it and when it was written. I am of the firm conviction that it was the first Gospel written and it was written by an eye witness account to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. While the author is anonymous, although some think it is Mark the evangelist a companion of Peter, it is fairly clear that it was someone who knew Jesus and was present with him in some fashion. The Gospel is written around 35-40AD and describes some current events which only someone who lived through them could have described. So, since Mark is the first Gospel written, then Matthew, and Luke, and John would all have used him as a source for their writing. You will find that Matthew and Luke follow very, very closely to Mark leaving only John as the odd ball out. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic Gospels because they have so much of the same material.
It is thought that Mark is writing to a Greek audience because of the pains that he goes to in order to explain some of the Jewish festivals and some of the Scriptures which would have been common knowledge to Jewish readers. When we get to some of them I will point them out. Matthew writes: as it is written, and that assumes that the reader will know where it is written. Mark will say: as the prophet Isaiah stated, just so the reader, who is Greek and not familiar with the Hebrew text, will know what he is talking about. It is thought that he wrote this letter in Rome because he does contain a number of Latin phrases which is a bit unusual. Okay, enough of the background, now to the actual Scripture.
Nothing like hitting the ground running. Mark gets out of the gate right away and jumps right to the introduction of Jesus to the world in his baptism. What you are going to find in Mark is that he follows the KISS philosophy (Keep it Simple Silly). He doesn’t use any extra verses to describe events, and so as a result his is the shortest Gospel. The baptism has none of John’s reticence to baptize Jesus, but rather gets right to the point which is that Jesus is the Father’s beloved. When he is in the wilderness we have no temptations, but rather wild animals who keep him company (I kind of like that side of the story).
Jesus calls his first disciples who were fishermen and they follow him immediately. He tells them that they will become fishers of men. Jesus is portrayed constantly and consistently in Mark as a healer. In fact, he heals Peter’s mother-in-law (no jokes allowed) and spends time with Peter’s family.
The pictures above represent 1) the synagogue in Capernaum where this scene takes place starting in vs. 29 and then 2) the apparent, supposed, maybe house of Peter where he healed his mother-in-law and then she got up and served him. Again, amazing to be in Capernaum, the town where Jesus spent most of his time in his ministry.
Those Scriptures where Jesus goes off by himself to pray always stay with me. In this one the disciples are concerned because there are mobs of people looking for him. But that does not interest Jesus. Isn’t that quite the opposite from church leaders today? We go to where the mobs of people are. For us a successful year is when we get more people than last year. For Jesus, he heals and performs miracles and then tells people not to tell anyone (vs.44) so that he wouldn’t get mobs of people. It consistently seems that we don’t quite get what Jesus is trying to do with church. He is trying to build a community around relationships, not a city based upon numbers.