If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
5 November. Mark chapters 1-3
As I mentioned at the start of Matthew’s gospel, Mark is widely believed to have been written first, and although he covers much the same ground as Matthew he tells the story in a more compact way, with more of a sense of movement and excitement.
Mark is uninterested in Jesus’ birth and childhood, only the stories from his adult life. These first few chapters show Jesus appearing first as one of John the Baptist’s disciples, but being marked out by the appearance of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God as having a unique relationship to God. Mark has no time for plot development – he reveals immediately who Jesus is, and then goes on to the miracle stories.
The idea of an itinerant religious teacher drawing crowds by his captivating way of speaking, the power of his message and the healing miracles he performed was not new. Some of the old Jewish prophets such as Elisha and Jeremiah were similar, and right down to our own day the same can be seen with ministries such as that of John Wimber. But most such people are forgotten soon after their lifetimes – who talks of Smith Wigglesworth today, for example?
Mark wants us to know from the outset that Jesus was not just another rabbi or faith-healer. His opening line is “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Gospel means “good news”, Christ (or Messiah) means “anointed one” and Jesus’ name – a common one for Jewish men – means something like “God saves”. So, “The beginning of the good news of the God who saves, the anointed one, the Son of God.”
Not everyone believed in him, of course. Towards the end of chapter 3 we read of those who thought that Jesus himself was possessed by the Devil or some other evil spirit. In explaining why that could not be so, Jesus adds that while all ordinary sins can be forgiven, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (3:29-30). This “Unforgivable sin”, then, seems to mean doubting that a work of God really is from God, or not being able to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and evil spirits. If you cannot see God at work, you are not in a position to receive the healing and wholeness that he offers.