Saturday, August 9, 2014

Gospel of Mark Study (1)

* During June/July of 2014 I taught an 8 week Bible study on the Gospel of Mark.  We couldn't cover everything in the gospel and my notes reflect that reality.  

Gospel of Mark Study

Week One

1.     Read Mark 1.1-8:  What do we learn about Jesus?

2.     Reading Mark: Four directions[1]

a.     Downwards: focuses on how the text fits within the whole book of Mark

b.     Sideways: compares the text with the other Gospels (Matthew, Luke, John)

c.      Backward: focuses on the Old Testament background

d.     Forward: focuses on how a theme is developed in the rest of the New

3.     Mark 1.1 (downwards): everything in the book is about Jesus and his identity as “the Son of God”

a.     Watch for this…

b.     Who understands the identity of Jesus?

c.      Who misunderstands the identity of Jesus

4.     Mark 1.2-3 (backwards): need to understand the Old Testament story[2]

a.     Malachi 3.1

b.     Isaiah 40.3

5.     Mark 1.9-13 (sideways): compare to Matthew and Luke

a.     Matthew and Luke: fuller account

b.     Matthew: stresses Jesus/Israel parallels

c.      Each Gospel provides a unique perspective and the uniqueness of the portrait is what the Spirit wants for us to see

6.     Mark 1.14-20 (forward): how is the “gospel” and following Jesus developed in the rest of the New Testament?

7.     Author: Mark

a.     NT mentions Mark (John Mark or John) as associated with both Peter and Paul

                                               i.     Acts 12.12 (John Mark)
                                              ii.     Acts 12.15 (John Mark)
                                            iii.     Acts 13.5 (John)
                                            iv.     Acts 13.13 (John)
                                              v.     Acts 15.37 (John Mark)
                                            vi.     Acts 15.39 (Mark)
                                           vii.     1 Peter 5.13 (“my son” Mark)
                                         viii.     Philemon 24 (Mark)
                                            ix.     Colossians 4.10 (Mark, cousin of Barnabas)
                                              x.     2 Timothy 4.11 (Mark, useful in service)

b.     Early church fathers linked Mark with Peter à so Mark’s Gospel is essential the recollections of the apostle Peter[3]

c.      Mark’s Gospel follows the pattern of Peter’s preaching in Acts 10[4]

Acts 10
“good news” (v. 36)
“the beginning of the good news” (1.1)
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit” (v. 38)
The coming of the Spirit on Jesus (1.10)
“beginning in Galilee (v. 37)
The Galilean ministry (1.16-8.26)
“He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (v. 38)
Jesus’ ministry focuses on healings and exorcisms
“We are witnesses of everything he did…in Jerusalem (v. 39)
The ministry of Jerusalem (chaps. 11-14)
“They killed him by hanging him on a cross” (v. 39)
Focus on the death of Christ (chap 15)
“God raised him from the dead on the third day” (v. 40)
“He has risen!  He is not here” (16.6)

8.     Date: AD 50’s – 70; likely date of around AD 65 (but see Wallace: mid-50’s)

9.     Audience and background

a.     Likely written from Rome

b.     Written to Gentiles: possibly to a Roman audience

                                               i.     Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome in the mid-60’s may be in the background

                                              ii.     Explains Mark’s focus on suffering for disciples

10. Nature of the Gospels: biographical sketch of Jesus from Mark’s perspective

 * Words of Jesus + Actions of Jesus + Mark's perspective = Mark's Gospel

·      Each Gospel has a unique perspective on Jesus

o   Not contradictions but complementary

·      Example: the temptation of Jesus

o   Mark 1.12-13

o   Matthew 4.1-11: Jesus as a renewed Israel

·      Watch for Mark’s unique perspectives in his Gospel

11. Major Structural Breakdown of Mark:

Mark 1-8: POWER
      * Who is Jesus?  He is the Messiah, the Son of God!

Mark 9-16: PASSION
     * What kind of Messiah is this?  He is the suffering Son of God!

HINGE: Mark 8.27-30

a.     Structure helps us to see how all the pieces fit: we see Mark’s main focus

                                               i.     We are to see the glory, power, and suffering of Jesus: Christology

                                              ii.     We are to respond rightly to this portrait of Jesus: discipleship

b.     Structure can help in evangelism

12. Reading Mark for the next seven weeks

a.     Read with your mind: think about; ask questions

b.     Read with your imagination: place yourself in the story and situations

c.      Read with your feelings: how does Jesus make me feel—happy, sad, mad, confused?

13. Reading for transformation: some thoughts by philosopher Gregory Ganssle

“How do we bring Jesus into our core identities? … In my spiritual journey, I have found only two things that help me bring Jesus into my core.  The first is obedience.  The second is to meditate on the encounters with Jesus in the Gospels. 

“When discussing how our core identities are formed, I mentioned that they come about as we inhabit certain belief and value structures over time.  As we make choices along the contours of our core identities, they become more deeply entrenched.

“It is easy to see how a person’s choices to obey what she thinks God wants for her will bring Jesus more deeply into her soul.  Every choice she makes to obey is a choice that following Jesus is more important or valued more deeply than the alternatives.  Thus the person inhabits these value structures over time.

“Meditating on Jesus’ encounters with others in the Gospel has also been fruitful for me.  I began by asking questions about how I fit into the story of the encounters.

·      When am I like the paralytic (I need to be in the presence of Jesus but I cannot get there on my own)?
·      When am I like the crowd, so caught up in my own concerns that I will not make room for others?
·      When am I like the Pharisees, standing in judgment on what God is doing for others?
·      When am I like the four friends who would not allow any obstacle to prevent them from bringing their friend to Jesus so Jesus can do what only Jesus can do?

“Wrestling with these kinds of questions brings me more deeply into the text.  I see myself, my heart, my longings in a new light.  And I see them within the story of Jesus’ actions in the world.  To be honest, it takes me a long time.  Over the past decade, I have latched on to a few of these encounters and thought about them constantly.

“As I see myself in Jesus’ encounters, I taste how he meets me in more than my intellect.  He meets me in my affective world.  I find myself wanting him more.  He becomes more real.  I begin to experience the truth that Augustine observed: He has made me for himself.  I am restless until I find my rest in him.”[5]

14. Next week’s reading: Mark 1.21—6.6

a.     Watch for the authority of Jesus.  What does Jesus demonstrate authority over in this section of Mark?

b.     In Mark chapter 2 the scribes, Pharisees, and John’s disciples ask four sets of questions.  What do Jesus’ answers show us about who is he and what his character is?

c.      Which story/section did you find to be the most moving emotionally?  the most challenging?  the most confusing?

15. Schedule

a.     Week one: Mark 1.1-20

b.     Week two: Mark 1.21-6.6

c.      Week three: Mark 6.7-8.26

d.     Week four: Mark 8.27-10.52

e.     Week five: Mark 8.27-10.52 (cont’d)

f.      Week six: Mark 11-13

g.     Week seven: Mark 14

h.     Week eight: Mark 15.1-16.8

     [1] P. W. Smuts, Mark By the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels (Phillipsburg, Penn.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2013), xxii.
     [2] See Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen’s short treatment “The Story-line of the Bible” for a quick overview.  Online:
     [3] “Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, and Origen state that Mark wrote his Gospel while Peter was still alive.  If this is so, Mark would have to have bee written prior to A.D. 64-66, assuming Clement of Rome is correctly interpreted to be speaking of the double martyrdom of Peter and Paul around that time.”  Hans F. Bayer, A Theology of Mark: The Dynamic Between Christology and Authentic Discipleship (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2012), 166.
     [4] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament—2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005), 193.
     [5] Gregory Ganssle, “Bringing Jesus Into My Core Identity” EPS Blog (March 22, 2012).  Online: