Reflecting on the Gospel of Mark: My Insights and Observations

The book of Mark, presumably written by John Mark during the time frame of 55 and 65 A.D., is the first chronological record of the four gospels and focuses on the powerful entry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His action packed, event filled narrative addressed the Christians in Rome to not only teach them who Jesus was, but that He was the real true God. Mark feared that the current Christians would become distracted with all the fake idols and worshipers that were prevalent at that time. However, not much has changed in our day! We too can glean even more about Jesus with Mark’s enthusiasm and direct teachings, warnings and examples of His sacrifices so that our hearts can be healed from the inside out. The visible signs, miracles and prophecies speak to the purpose of Jesus’ coming and promises redemption and healing for those who believe in Him. Mark also points his readers to the truth of sin and how it separates us from the Only One who came to save. “Whether we are indifferent towards sin or think that our goodness neutralizes our sin, every person must realize that we are lost apart from the forgiveness available in Christ.” As many commentaries suggest, the key verse that summarizes Mark’s gospel theme is best described in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

As I personally reflect over these past couple of weeks of classes after accumulating notes and mental themes, I have come across a few major meanings of Mark to apply my personal understanding and application. Since Mark’s goal was to detail Jesus pursuit of discipleship, one question does stand out to me... will I receive Jesus? Fully. This was Mark’s heartbeat to share the passion that Jesus had/has for His people. It was the reason His Father sent Him and the purpose for which He came. He would travel through Galilee to Jerusalem, calling uneducated, often unskilled, normal men to join his travels and become His disciples. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Learn from Him. Would I have been called? Would I go so obediently to leave all that I knew…my family, my friends, my nation to follow the Son of God? I hope I would have jumped at the chance. However, honestly, I know myself. And like the father in Mark 9:24 where he brings his son to Jesus to be delivered from a demon, he transparently answered God, “Lord, I believe; help my disbelief!” So, I ask God to help me in my disbelief with current things I seek deliverance from daily. For instance, since I have left my hometown in Virginia and traveled across the world to Hungary, I have wrestled with anxiety. I know God will never leave me nor forsake me, but I am just uncomfortable. Alone. Anxious. I have been purposely left in isolation from all I knew and with no other resource than to press into Jesus and allow Him to truly comfort me and be my Peace Maker. I understand now that father who asked for help with his unbelief. I accepted Jesus when I was four years old but I am constantly being renewed, challenged and pruned. But Jesus, in his compassion and mercy, is the same yesterday as he is today and rescues us. This is His specialty to meet us where we are at and He serves us with all He is. 

As I think about friendships and relationships with people I meet, I often have to refer to Mark’s recording of the Parable of the Sower in chapter 4. I again put myself in the shoes of the multitude by the sea, listening intently as Jesus shares His wisdom in various story format. Many listeners didn’t understand, especially even his disciples, which is hard to believe. Yet, I think I would easily fall into that group. But Jesus’ patience and understanding for his beloved friends, did not prevent him to explain the importance behind His wisdom. He cared too much and wanted to impart this truth to their living, our living. It is crucial to grasp this story as we are all called to receive the seed (word) and spread the seed (evangelize). We are all called to be sowers of the seed but it is purely an act of the Holy Spirit to give the revelation to the truth to the one receiving the seed. God never ceases to spread His seeds as He wants our soil to be nourished and bring full glory to His kingdom on Earth. But when sharing the gospel with others, it is important to remember that the environment affects the nutrients that will allow the word to be fruitful and flourish or wither and die. Likewise, if we turn this parable to ourselves, we are responsible for the condition of our soil. Are we allowing it to be contaminated by the world? Do we invite unwanted toxins and water down the power of His seed that will choke it out. As we read in Mark 4:19, “the cares of this world , the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires of the other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” I pray that I hear His word, apply it and it will bear fruit for all to see and for God to receive the glory. 

In Mark 1:35, scripture tells us, “In the morning, while it was still dark, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed.” This passage to me demonstrates a couple of key things that we as children of God should express as much as we can. First, it shows us that from the beginning of the day, Jesus starts off with alone time with God to reflect and to be in prayer and solitude. He has to connect with His Father in order to hear from Him and receive order for His day. This shows us his motivation and the importance to wake up and immediately gather his thoughts and prayers. Jesus was about His Father’s business. The credibility of this rests in the fact to dedicate your time with the Lord before anything else happens in the day so that you may act for the rest of the day in a more Christ-centered way. As Christians, modeling this example of Jesus is showing us here will fill up your tank with mental and spiritual strength to tackle any anxiety or stress or whatever it may be that interrupts the day. This act is also of surrender and reverence. We give up what is ours to gain what is His. It is the duty and responsibility of the Holy Spirit to enable you to do all you need to do. Jesus also frames the daylight hours for work with a heart and commitment to prayer and devote time with God. God wants us to be productive and hard working individuals. But it is His will, not ours that must rise to the top. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, Isaiah 55:8 reminds us. The discipline that a man practices first with his relationship with the Lord will directly impact his success and habits that will be found in other areas of his life. Jesus wanted us to know this and put it into practice. Again, he was serving as an example. 

A favorite scripture of mine begins in Mark 12:29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’” These verses profoundly stood out to me due to its consistency in everyone's daily life to prioritize your Love for the lord and Love for your neighbors. I often wake up and forget the importance of my ability to express my love to my family and friends and more importantly, God. “There is no commandment greater than these” clearly demonstrates his passion towards this vital law. Loving God with all of our hearts will engage us to everything to which He will be glorified, honored and pleased. According to the bible commentary, there is a noticeable difference in the last letters of both the words “hear” and “one” as they are written in larger text in the hebrew bible to suggest the eminence of the command, and to draw the reader’s eyes to it. The Jews looked at some kind of underlying meaning of these letters. They observe, that the first of the letters is numerically “seventy” and connects the 70 names of the law and 70 ways in which it can be perceived, and also the seventy nations of the world, from whom the Israelites are recognized, by their conviction of the one God, which the last mentioned stands for the number 'four', and appears that the Master is the one God, in paradise and in soil, in all the world, and within the four parts of it; which both these letters put together, make a word, which implies 'a witness'; appearing that this section may be a great declaration of the unity of God, which the Israelites are witnesses of it, by accepting and declaring it; which ought to they leave from the confidence of it, God would be a witness against them: and presently, in spite of the fact that there's no strong establishment for such elucidations, however this appears what a supposition they had of the enormity of this command; to which, may be included, they inquire 'why does, 'listen, O Israel', go some time recently that section in Deuteronomy 11:13. 'And it should come to pass, in the event that he might notice tirelessly unto my commandments'. but since a man must take upon him, to begin with the burden of the kingdom of paradise, and after that he must take upon him the burden of the commandments.'' The sense is, that he must to begin with make a confession of his confidence in God, which is contained in Deuteronomy 6:4 and after that he must comply with his commands. 

Another verse that speaks to me is Mark 10:21 which states Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Hearing this news, the young man looked forlorn and went away depressed, surely knowing that riches were at the heart of his life. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” This only shows man’s nature in finding purpose and identity in worldly, material things rather than valuable and permanent relationships that we should instead invest in and find purpose and act upon. As this is clearly a huge weakness of mankind with the meer fact that we are so easily depressed by giving up something so trivial and temporary for something that holds the ultimate eternal purpose of your life, which Jesus sacrificed everything to have your sins redeemed and life with Him given it to you. In addition, it is also a lesson for us to learn from where we should be daily asking ourselves what in our lives are we reaching for and finding comfort and identity in, which ultimately will hold no value in heaven or please the Lord? That being said, investing time into jobs, hobbies and goals isn’t inherently wrong as long as you don’t allow it to become an idol or value or prioritize it over your relationship with the Lord. God knew the sinful nature of man. He knew this would be a daily battle where our flesh would fight with the Spirit. He knows our flesh is weak but the Spirit is able and willing to take over. The Roman Christians did not have to fight as many distractions as our modern society but still Jesus knew this command was and will be the most vital commandment for any believer to follow, despite the time period. 

Another example of how Jesus served was when He fed four thousand in Mark: 8:1-10 when Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.” How beautiful this story is because it reveals Jesus’ compassion on those who were following Him, just to hear Him. Most likely, the audience was Gentiles and they simply had a heart to hear Jesus and not specifically to receive anything. They were a group of idolaters and worshipers. However, in the midst of three days listening and following him, they became hungry and Jesus was compassionate to this. This story reflects all things are possible with God and that He is merciful. We see His heart and emotion. In this situation, we see God having compassion over the people and pitying their condition and being disposed to relieve them. According to commentary, “He intended to tie this event in with the whole witness of Scripture that screams to us all: God cares for his people!” Morever, Ray Ortlund proposes that “Maybe our past doesn’t define us but Jesus’ compassion does. Maybe his compassion is for all kinds of people with all kinds of sin because his love is too great to be limited to what we deserve.” 

Clearly, this abundant blessing has pierced the hearts of believers throughout generations because God is a God who not only performs miracles but also far extends in answering your needs as we call upon Him for help. We have seen this example before in chapter 6 where Jesus performed a similar miracle. The disciples witnessed it but somehow, question the miraculous provision to perform it again for another set of people. God is not interested in “wow-ing” his children. He wants to remind them/us that He not only cares for our needs, answers our endless cries for help but also points all things to His Father in Heaven. He even extends to give us leftovers, which is far beyond what we could ever imagine or ask for. Jesus continues in the boat to explain to his disciples that He will always provide more than you need. This lesson becomes more and more real to me as I rely on Him for my basic needs in life. His faithfulness, security, salvation and provision replicates the lesson seen here time and time again. 

In conclusion, the author of the Gospel of Mark was passionate and excited to share in detail and order just how Jesus came as a result of prophecy and how God gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, to serve and not be served. He gave His life for His children so they would have eternal sanctification with Him in Heaven. The life Jesus led was built around discipleship and leading his people by example of servanthood while solely keeping His eyes set on His father. He was about His Father’s business in all the ways He preached, taught, loved and lived. From the very beginning Jesus came to serve on our behalf so that we may live life being able to walk in His Presence through the gift of the Holy Spirit and have eternal life. This Gospel has lots of life lessons, and examples of ways to live by and to not live by. I have accumulated the above from Mark that stood out to me the most and was more pressing in my line of interest to further from the verses and dissect them to the best of my knowledge and as well to learn more on the way about mark and his perception of Jesus's life. Mark mentioned plenty of times throughout his book his concern for his generation that they are easily distracted by fake idols and worshipers, which only sadly circles back in time to our generation which may very well consist of more hidden idols that sneak into our lives and take the majority of our time and interest without us even realizing it due to the fact that it's not a big gold cow. For us to indulge in the world and our relationship with the Lord we can make sure and pay closer attention to these things that make their way up our priority list and be able to notice it and make changes accordingly. Just like Mark 10:45 states “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”. As he lived his life we are to act the same and to live life to the fullest by giving and serving to others and our God as much as we possibly can. “To take up our cross daily and follow Him. This is Life. Let us learn from his sacrifices and mindset to better the way we live and to counsel the lives of those around us who seek it. This is our purpose. 

16 December 2021
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