THE GOSPEL OF Anne O’Brien’s
This study notes provide the core content of a group of bible studies in the Gospel of Mark. While the core message of the study has been captured for you to read, written text can not fully express the sense of anointing upon the discussion of the word or the joy of corporate fellowship. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
The Gospel of Mark - an Introduction WHO WAS MARK? Mark was the son of Mary whose house was a meeting place for the early church - see Acts 12 v 12 - and possibly this was the house used for the Last Supper. They would therefore have been a fairly well-off family and it follows they were probably well educated. He was the nephew or cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4 v 10) and he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. Peter called him ‘his son’ in 1 Peter 5 v 13 and it was from close association with Peter that Mark collected all the facts for his gospel. (Mark was not one of the twelve disciples.) WHEN DID HE WRITE? He wrote the gospel around 60AD, recording the events subsequent to Jesus’ baptism in water and the Holy Spirit coming upon him. He didn’t start with the birth of Jesus. It is thought his could have been the first gospel to have been written because the other gospels between them contain virtually all the same material. WHERE DID THE EVENTS TAKE PLACE? Palestine: mostly in Galilee (with the exception of the Wilderness and visits to Bethany and Jerusalem). Galilee was a fertile area and the Lake (13 x 8 miles) provided for food; whilst the land supported farming , trade and industry. Other names for the Sea of Galilee are Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias and Lake of Chinnereth. Nazareth is in the south of the region of Galilee. WHO DID MARK WRITE ABOUT? He describes the life and especially the actions of Jesus, beginning with the preparations made by John the Baptist. (The inhabitants of Galilee were a mixture of peoples but predominantly Jewish in the south.) WHY WAS THE GOSPEL WRITTEN? Originally it was written to encourage the Christians in Rome, but it is for the wider church, too. It provided a detailed, correct and ordered account of the authority and actions of Jesus, as told to Mark by Peter. Its main purpose was to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and to show what true discipleship is. WHAT ARE THE MAJOR THEMES? Miracles: (more than in any other gospel) – Mark describes these with the purpose of proving Jesus’ divinity. Action: Jesus shows who he is by what he does. Service: The life of Jesus is defined by service, giving of himself – eventually giving his life. 1
Mark – chapter 1 Read verses 1-8 Jesus did not arrive unannounced or unexpected. The Old Testament prophets had clearly predicted the coming of a Messiah, sent by God himself. (Mark actually quotes from Isaiah 40v3 and Malachi 3v1.) When John the Baptist came he announced, in accordance with Scripture, that that time had come – he was that messenger. John obviously made a huge impression, and those who had been waiting for the fulfilment of Scripture followed him and were baptised – in the Jordan. John was fulfilling his role of being a witness to the coming of Christ. Q. How did God prepare the world for the coming of Christ? How can we prepare our hearts to receive what he has for us? Q. In these verses how many witnesses are there to the fact that Jesus Christ who will come, is the Son of God? (Think about the author, the OT writings, John the Baptist and the Godhead.) Read verses 9-12 Jesus had travelled south to where John was baptizing by the Jordan River. There is no reason to suppose that the people who were there heard God’s voice or saw the Dove, but Jesus and John the Baptist did. John’s testimony to this is recorded in John 1v32-34. Jesus was ordained and anointed for service by the other two persons of the trinity – the Father and the Holy Spirit. Immediately Jesus was led to a place of temptation (also in Matt 4 and Luke 4) where he was tested and tried and where he had to conquer Satan by conquering his own human fears and longings. The phrase “angels attending him” shows his dependence on God to get him through his human struggles. Jesus was equally human and divine.
Corinthians talks of Jesus as being a “Second Adam”. The first Adam was tested in a fruitful garden and succumbed to temptation. Jesus was tempted in a barren wilderness and overcame temptation. By doing this the first Adam lost God’s grace (so that we were under Law). But Jesus the Second Adam, restored God’s grace to those who trust in Him. Q. Why did Jesus need to receive the Holy Spirit? What does this tell us about our need to receive it? Read verses 14-20 Herod had arrested John so Jesus relocated to Galilee, by the Lake. Q. What was Jesus preaching about? (v15) And what two things were people expected to do? This disturbed some of the Jews and Romans who placed a political interpretation on it. But others were drawn to his teaching. Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John followed his call. Q. Did these four men have any training for discipleship? What qualities would they naturally possess that would help them? 2
Read verses 21-28 Mark didn’t begin with Jesus’ first miracle (water into wine) but with one which declared that Jesus had the power and authority of God. The ministry of Jesus was strikingly different from any other would be prophet or preacher – there was to be no mistaking that he was the Son of God, as even the evil spirits were seen to be subject to Him. Read verses 29-39 Think about the ingredients of Jesus’ ministry as seen in this chapter: church based teaching (v29); but active outside church too (v31&33); authority and boldness (v22); prayer (v35); he didn’t wait for the people to come to him (v38). Q. How closely do we follow the pattern that Jesus set? Read verses 40-45 Lepers were not allowed to touch other people (the flesh-eating disease was very contagious). Anyone who touched a leper was unclean and had to undergo ritual cleansing; he (the leper) could only be re-admitted into public circles after examination by a priest. But Jesus had compassion on the man and healed him with a touch. Then he asked him to go to the priest, but not to tell everyone. Q. Did Jesus need to touch the man in order to heal him? If not, why do you think he did it that way? Q. Why did the man disobey Jesus & what were the consequences? Someone has said: We should be careful not to lose the message in the miraculous. Mark is careful to show both the power and authority of Jesus in healing and deliverance, but he also is careful to show Jesus’ respect and adherence to the Scriptures, and his heart of compassion too. As Christians we are called to follow in his footsteps.
Mark chapter 2 Read verses 1-12 Q. Does Jesus always have the same reason for healing? Compare Mark 1v31; 1v41 and 2v10. The Jews made a connection between sin and suffering. (John chapter 9 makes it clear that there is not always a connection – although suffering can be the natural consequence of sin.) With perfect timing Jesus took advantage of that by showing his authority to both forgive sins and heal the body. Who else could he be but God? N.B Verse 1 suggests that whilst in Galilee Jesus lived in Capernaum (“home”). Read verses 13-17 By now everyone in the region must have heard about the miracles (the impression is that he healed hundreds in the first few weeks and months of his ministry). But Jesus didn’t just do miracles – he used the opportunity to teach the Word (v.13). 3
Levi (a Jew who became known as Matthew) was a tax collector for the Romans – and therefore disliked by the Jews (in their minds tax collectors and sinners were synonymous, v16); he was possibly a very lonely man. He may also have been quite dishonest, but when Jesus called him the Holy Spirit stirred him to respond. Q. How does it make us feel when someone gives us a chance and has faith in us? Read verses 18-22 Q. How did Jesus view fasting? See also Luke 18v9-14 Fasting doesn’t win us any “Brownie points” nor is it a way of twisting God’s arm. So what does it accomplish? Acts 13v2&3: While the early Christians were whorshipping and fasting, God gave them guidance. Fasting and prayer can focus our minds and can help us to hear clearer from God. Matthew 6v16-18: Fasting should be done in private. Q. What are the new patch (v21) and the new wine (v22) referring to? The Old Covenant would soon be replaced by a New Covenant – a Covenant of grace where people would be reconciled to God through Jesus and then filled and led by the Holy Spirit. Righteousness would no longer be a case of strictly obeying all of the Pharisees’ 600+ laws. People would have to prepare and renew their hearts to receive the life of Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit. Read verses 23-28 Jesus always dumbfounded the Pharisees. He knew they would not condemn David, so therefore they couldn’t condemn him. The Sabbath was made as a Day of Rest – not a day of rules. We should however note that Jesus was to found in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. The Scriptures still encourage us to meet together week by week for purposes of worship, prayer, teaching and fellowship.
Mark chapter 3 Read verses 1-6 It is possible that the Pharisees had planted the man in the synagogue in order to trap Jesus, and then they “watched him closely” to see what he would do. Would he heal on the Sabbath (and break their law)? Jesus cleverly asks them to decide (v4). This is one of the rare occasions that we see Jesus’ anger. Q. What was Jesus angry about, and why? (v5) Read verses 7-12 People were now coming to Jesus from the far corners of Israel and many were getting healed; so Jesus often preached from a boat (v9). Jesus to the demons was like a “cat among the pigeons”. Demons which perhaps would normally just manifest themselves in destructive and deceitful behaviour were now fully 4
aware of the presence of Jesus, the only presence that could deal with them adequately. They recognised Jesus’ true identity – and yet the religious Pharisees did not. Q. If there were that many demons then, does it follow that there are still many around today? Read verses 13-19 Here we have the names of those that Jesus designated to be his 12 apostles: • Simon Peter – a fisherman, became leader of Jerusalem church, wrote 1st and 2nd Epistles of Peter • James - son of Zebedee, a fisherman, put to death by Herod • John – son of Zebedee, a fisherman, wrote a gospel, 3 Epistles and Revelation. He took care of Mary after Jesus died. • Andrew – a fisherman, often brought people to Jesus • Philip – a fisherman (probably not the Philip mentioned in Acts) • Bartholomew – (Nathanael) occupation unknown – commended for his honesty • Matthew - (Levi), a tax collector, wrote a Gospel • Thomas – (The Twin), occupation unknown, doubted Jesus • James – son of Alphaeus, nothing else known • Thaddeus – aka Judas, son of James • Simon – the Zealot, a fierce patriot of the Jewish cause • Judas Iscariot – the treasurer, betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Q. In what ways do you think Jesus needed his apostles? (v14) Q. Does he still need us today? (N.B. there were a few James mentioned above. The James who wrote the Epistle was not one of them, but a brother of Jesus.) Read verses 22-30 The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Satan. Jesus answered, as he often did, in parables: • a kingdom does not fight against itself – it would not stand (v24) • to rob a strong man’s house you need to be stronger than him (v27) Q. Who can never be forgiven? (verses 29, 30) What if that person repents? Read verses 20&21 and 31-35 Jesus’ family were concerned for him but it caused them to intervene inappropriately. They were not in tune with the Holy Spirit or doing God’s will (v35) in that instance. Q. Regarding our own families, are there times when we want to “push” our thinking onto others instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit to work? Do we sometimes try to do the work of the Holy Spirit for God?
Mark chapter 4 Read verses 1-9 Jesus told the parable about 4 types of ground. The seed (the Word of God) was to be sown without judging the ground – scattered freely. Think about what is represented by the birds, the rocky places, the thorns and the good soil. Q. What did Jesus mean by verse 9? Read verses 10-20 The Living Bible paraphrase of verses 12 & 13 says this: You (the disciples) are permitted to know some truths about the Kingdom of God that are hidden to those outside the Kingdom, “Though they see and hear, they will not understand or turn to God, or be forgiven for their sins.” Jesus was talking about all those who had hearts of stone like the Pharisees – those who were/are too proud to repent and accept the Gospel of salvation. Parables Parables have the potential to conceal truth as well as to reveal it. It depends on the hearer being willing to understand. When we are willing to listen, the Holy Spirit enlightens us. Parables were a good teaching and training tool for the disciples to enable them to grow in understanding. Notably, many people are saved on hearing this parable preached as the Holy Spirit reveals to them the condition of their heart. Q. What do you make of verse 20? The proof that we have understood and received The Word is how much fruit we grow in our lives. Read verses 21-25 Although the truth is in parables it is not because it is hidden. These verses make it clear that we are to disclose or tell out the gospel and not keep it a secret. It is for everyone to hear and benefit from. Q. What did Jesus mean by the warning in verses 24&25? The more we put into practice what we hear, the more we will understand what the Spirit tells us. Read verses 26-29 Our job is to plant the seed and then the seed grows without our help. We cannot grow the seed – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Q, What does this tell us about the importance of receiving the Spirit when we first come to salvation? As in the natural sense, the seed has all the nutrients in it for growth We are called to reap the harvest (v29).
Read verses 30-34 When we sow one small seed we do not know what it may grow into. All seeds are different shapes and sizes and all require different conditions for growth. All resulting plants are different shapes and sizes which together produce a beautiful landscape and tasty food to eat. They must all bear seeds in order to be fruitful. Significantly, Jesus used these parables to teach and train his disciples (v.34). Read verses 35-41 God’s way is to teach through parables and through the Word, but also through the situations we find ourselves in. Learning to trust Jesus is harder than learning what the Scriptures say. Verse 41 shows that we are often put in difficult situations in order to develop our faith. That day the disciples learned that Jesus was in control of everything – even the elements at their worse. Q. Did they really understand who Jesus was? Do we?
Mark chapter 5 Read verses 1-10 Note first that Jesus went across the Lake – out of his way – to visit this man. It was Jesus who took the initiative Q. What effect did the demons have on the man? The man was fearless and fearful. He was physically strong but mentally ill; tormented and out of control, crying out; and he was shouting at Jesus. He was self harming and destructive, worthless in his own eyes. Q. How did this compare to Jesus? Jesus was in control, unafraid, in command (he had authority); he was recognised by the demons and by the man. The characteristics of Jesus couldn’t have been more opposite to those of the man. Q. And what were the characteristics of the demons? The demons were frightened of Jesus. They were destructive, but they were in control of the man – he was their place of safety and they didn’t want to leave. Q. What are our “demons” and how can we deal with them? Whilst demons certainly exist, they may not be spiritual powers as in this example, but they can be representative of those things that pull us down, that make us feel out of control, self-destructive and leave us feeling worthless. They can only be thoroughly dealt with by surrendering them to Jesus who is in control. Read verses 11-20 Jesus dealt with the problem in a completely unpredictable way. Where there was no way Jesus found a way to help and restore this one man. In doing so he “upset the apple cart” though. Q.How did the people of the region respond to the miracle? (v17) 7
They looked at what was lost rather than at what could be gained and so they rejected Jesus, they sent him away. Their pigs (which were unclean food for Jews) were more valuable than one man. Read verses 24-34 According to Levitical Law the woman was ceremonially unclean and should not have touched Jesus (this was why she was trembling with fear. V33). Any other priest or Pharisee would have said, “Ugh, who touched me?” in disgust. But Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you”. Jesus sees through our uncleanness to our heart. When he sees faith and trust we can experience his touch on our lives. Read verses 21-23 and 35-43 Jairus was a synagogue ruler – he probably read from the scrolls. His importance didn’t prevent him from falling on his knees and begging Jesus for help. Q. What was Jesus’ advice to him? (v.36) Can fear prevent us from believing? Taking only his closest three followers (Peter, James and John) Jesus went in to the girl – again coming into contact with the ceremonially unclean. All it took for healing - and in this case resurrection - was just a touch, just a word from Jesus. Q. What were the responses of the mourners? (v.40) And the parents? (v.42) What I like about Jesus in all these incidents is that he has control, power, authority, and does amazing miracles and yet he is gentle, compassionate, aware of how people are feeling, non-discriminatory, and kindly in his manner and way of talking (he used the words like “daughter” and “little girl”). Consider the crowds There are more than 20 instances in Mark’s gospel where Jesus is surrounded by crowds. These include when he was teaching, healing, casting out demons, feeding the 5,000, challenging the Pharisees; and there was a crowd even when he was betrayed by Judas. No wonder Jesus needed to retreat to solitary places to spend time with the Father.
Mark chapter 6 Read verses 1-6 Notice that although Jesus was doing many miracles, he also spent time in the “church” (synagogue) reading and teaching scripture; and he also spent time alone in prayer. Q. Who was amazed in verse 2 and who was amazed in verse 6? Here we see that Mary had at least 7 children: Jesus, James, Joseph, Judas, Simon, and sisters (unnamed). Sadly, they did not respect Jesus’ ministry. And sadly because of their lack of faith Jesus wa unable to work amongst them. Q. Why is it more difficult for us to talk to our family about Jesus, than it is to a crowd or a complete stranger?
Read verses 6-13 Here is a lesson in living by faith and a challenge to us. Where is our security? How much should we depend on God and how much should we prepare for every eventuality ourselves? Q. Is there a cause and effect between verse 7 and verse 13? Q. Did the disciples do things in the same way as Jesus? He gave them his authority, but they also anointed the people with oil – symbolically touching them with the Holy Spirit, according to Old Testament Law (this followed their acceptance of the gospel of repentance). Read verses 14-29 John the Baptist was already dead, and this passage is an account of what had already happened. Herod the Great (who had all the babies killed in Bethlehem and also killed three of his sons) was King when Jesus was born, but his son Herod Antipas was now King. The Herod dynasty was rotten through and through. Herod Antipas divorced his wife and married his half-brothers wife (who was also his other brother’s daughter) – her name was Herodius; and her daughter’s name was Salome. Bearing all this in mind we can see why they were so shameless in their treatment of John the Baptist. John the Baptist His coming was prophesied in Isaiah 40v3 He was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth (cousin to Jesus) He spent much of his time in the Wilderness He baptised people and baptised Jesus He was questioned by the Jewish authorities and said how he was preparing the way for Jesus Ø He told Herod his marriage was wrong (immoral) and was imprisoned for this Ø He doubted himself in prison and sent his followers to Jesus for confirmation Ø He was beheaded at Herod’s birthday feast at the request of Herodius’ stepdaughter and was buried by his disciples. Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø
Read verses 30-44 What a contrast between Jesus’ banquet and Herod’s banquet!! Who fed the 5,000? Was it Jesus, or was it the disciples? Jesus said, “What have you got? – You give them something to eat.” (v.37&38) He gave the loaves and fishes to his disciples to set before the people (V41). There was a continual replenishing of supplies until the need was met. Does the fact that there were 12 baskets left over suggest that the food carried on multiplying even after it was given out? Note: there were 5,000 men but some of these had wives and families with them so the actual number could have been double that. We learn that Jesus can bless and use whatever we have to offer in his service.
Read verses 45-56 The disciples were alone on the Lake with the wind against them. Jesus was on a mountain – or so they thought! He was actually with them without them at first realising it. They still hadn’t learnt that they could depend on him (even after the miracle with the loaves). All the lessons in this chapter were about the disciples learning to be completely dependent on Jesus, even in his apparent absence. Mark chapter 7 Read verses 1-8 The Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from Jerusalem – presumably to “check out” what they had been hearing about Jesus. They were not satisfied, because Jesus did not keep all their rituals and traditions (v.5). Verses 3 is talking about elaborate ceremonial washing before, and even between courses of, a meal. Q. Which verses sum up Jesus’ teaching? Were the Pharisees doing this to please themselves, other men, or God? (v8) Is it good to be disciplined and proud of it? The Pharisees went to public places and felt they were tainted and needed cleansing. Jesus went to public places, mixing with the people and focussing on them, rather than on himself. Read verses 9-13 Corban is an Old Testament word which means ‘a gift devoted to God’. This meant you could say: “I cannot help my parents because I have devoted my time and money to God”. Some people were/are called to a life devoted to God’s service, but this passage is referring to those who use ‘corban’ as an excuse for not obeying God in fulfilling the Ten Commandments (v.10). Verse 13 makes it clear that tradition can conflict with what God has laid down. Q. Can we think of examples of where we (or our church) make up rules and traditions that prevent us from serving God in the way that we should? Read verses 14-23 Jesus turns everything on its head! It’s not what goes into a person, but what comes out that can defile them. All the rules and regulations in Leviticus were introduced to protect man’s health and to give them good physical well-being. They were not meant as an indicator of spirituality – which is where the Pharisees were coming from. In verse 19 Jesus declared that all foods are “kosher”- clean. The Jews were so steeped in tradition that this was an amazing thing for them to get their heads around. (Peter still had a problem after Pentecost, when God had to give him a vision to convince him. Acts 10v9-23) Q. The observance of the Law was one thing that distinguished Jews from Gentiles. Do we rely on our observance of church ritual to set us apart, or do we seek to represent Jesus by being like him? Read verses 24-30 Jesus went 40 miles north-west to be alone, but also to seek out a gentile woman (again breaking the law of the Pharisees by speaking to a woman and a gentile). 10
Note: children = Jews; pet dogs = gentiles Here, Jesus is saying that he has come not just for the Jews (yes he came to them first, but many didn’t want to receive him). When food isn’t wanted it is thrown to the pet dogs. (This is not meant in a derogatory sense.) And now Jesus, the Bread of Life, is saying that he has come for the gentiles, as well as the Jews. In so saying, he healed the woman’s daughter, showing his love and concern. Q. How does this miracle fit in with the teaching of this chapter? What preconceived ideas was Jesus breaking down? Read verses 31-37 Jesus revisited the region of Decapolis (see also Mark 5v1-20). This was another area populated by gentiles (Greeks and Romans). Evidently, the man who was healed (from the demons named Legion) had done a good job of spreading the word about Jesus, and this time the people were receptive of him and he was able to heal the man who was deaf and dumb. The gentiles were now responding to Jesus with amazement, “He has done everything well” (v37), they said. Q. Was the healing of this man’s ears symbolic? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark chapter 8 Read verses 1-13 There are several significant differences between the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6v35-44) and the feeding of the 4,000. There is no contradiction. This is not the same event – Mark wouldn’t write about the same thing twice. Feeding of the 5,000 Took place in Galilee on hillside Mostly Jewish hearers 5 loaves and 2 fish Over one day 12 small baskets left (kophinos) 12 represents the entire Jewish race
Feeding of the 4,000 Possibly took place in Decapolis Mostly gentile hearers 7 loaves and a few fish Over three days 7 large baskets left (spuris) 7 represents the entire Christian church
Both miracles symbolise the broken bread of Christ’s body and how it is poured out for the church. Q. Do you agree with the statement: The more the church is broken, the greater it grows? Jesus is the Bread of Life to Jews and gentiles alike. Read Ephesians 3v6. Jesus acted out of compassion to supply the physical need of the crowd. In both instances he did it for a purpose. All the while He was teaching the disciples spiritual truths. 11
Read verses 14-21 Jesus continues to use the theme of bread to warn his disciples against the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Q. In this context how is the yeast like sin? How does it have the opposite effect to the work of the Holy Spirit (as seen in the miracle of provision)? Read verses 22-26 Despite the crowds we still see Jesus giving the people individual attention and healing them. This miracle was in two stages. First the man could partially see, and then he saw everything clearly. This was in the physical sense, but we could apply it spiritually, too. Q. Are we sometimes like the blind man, and like the disciples? Do we take a while to understand spiritual truths? Read verses 27-30 As we go through this chapter we gradually see the light dawning on the disciples. Finally Peter recognises that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah (the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed One). This is the point at which events turn towards the Cross. Read verses 31-38 In verse 32 Peter rebuked Jesus (even though he had just acknowledged his divinity). And in verse 33 Jesus rebuked Peter! Poor Peter still hadn’t got the full measure of the truth. He was well-meaning but he was cutting across God’s purposes. Q. Can we be led away from God’s will by a well-meaning friend? After the rebuke Jesus issued a challenge to the disciples, but also to the crowd: Deny yourself and take up your cross. Mark wrote 8 chapters of proof of who Jesus was. He then records Jesus’ challenge to believe, followed by the challenge of commitment. Q. When we say we want to be like Jesus do we mean we want to be kind and see miracles? Or do we really also understand that it means: being like him in his self denial taking the way of the cross taking the way of shame giving up our life (if necessary) for the gospel?
Mark chapter 9 Read verse 1 Jesus explained that his kingdom would come within most of his listeners’ lifetimes. The Greek word that Jesus used for ‘power’ actually meant multiplication. They would see God’s kingdom (all who believe in Jesus) expanding at a tremendous rate – in hindsight we know that this began on the Day of Pentecost but the disciples would not have understood at that point. 12
Read verses 3-13 In a private place Jesus allowed Peter, James and John a glimpse of his glory – their ‘mountain top’ experience. He had previously been talking about the cross and now they could see how God can transform suffering into glory; and how death can be the way to life. (N.B Moses and Elijah (v4&5) represent the Law and the Prophets - which should have helped the disciples understand how both would be fulfilled in Jesus). Peter was out of his depth (v5&6) until the voice of The Father explained who Jesus was. Even so he could not comprehend the thought of Jesus dying and rising from the dead. But after the resurrection they were able to help the other disciples understand this amazing possibility. (The Elijah of v11-13 refers to John Baptist.) Read verses 14-29 Back down to earth with a bump!! The other 9 disciples were in a spiritual battle over a demon possessed boy. Jesus intervenes and heals the boy. He explains that the disciples did not have the power to heal because they had neglected their prayer life. Prayer and deliverance go hand in hand. Personal opinion: There have been distressing stories in the news about children who have been abused by misguided “Pastors” carrying out deliverance and meting out punishments (largely from African origin). The symptoms of demon possession can be so much like an epileptic seizure (as in this story in Mark) and even pastors must be very careful to make a correct judgment about how to deal with such a situation – this is probably why the reference to earnest prayer is important. Read verses 30-32 Once again Jesus tried to explain what would happen, and once again they did not understand! Read verses 33-37 You would think their thoughts would have been on what Jesus had said, but instead they were only concerned with themselves! But Jesus turned things on their head again: The way to be first is to be not the greatest but the servant of all. Q. Does this mean all servants will have a high position in glory and all prominent leaders will not? What exactly does it mean? Can you think of examples? (N.B The words ‘child’ and ‘servant’ are the same in the Aramaic language.) Read verses 38-41 To use the name of Jesus means to work under his authority – perhaps the disciples were peeved that this man could do things they were unable to do. Jesus’ followers were already growing in number and being used. But Jesus points out that you don’t have to do mighty miracles to win a place in heaven – sharing a cup of water in love is equally important. Read verses 42-50 The Bible takes child abuse and child exploitation very seriously indeed. It is better that a person loses parts of his body as punishment if that is the only way to avoid this kind of sin. 13
(This may be an example of Hebrew hyperbole and not meant to be taken literally, but it does emphasise the seriousness of what Jesus is saying.) The disciples were to remember to keep themselves pure, like salt. If we lose our saltiness we become useless to God. Q. In what ways might we lose our saltiness? (Bear in mind that salt in Bible times was mixed with impurities which would gradually leach out the flavour.) Mark chapter 10
This chapter takes place in the days/weeks leading up to what we now call Palm Sunday. Jesus is in Judea (v1), nearing Jerusalem. Read verses 1-12 The Pharisees, as usual, were trying to test Jesus, to trip him up, to find some way of incriminating him. But Jesus would not disagree with what was written in the Law of Moses – divorce was permissible because men and women are not perfect. But, also, in Jesus’ answer we have the basis of our marriage ceremony which shows us why divorce of people married in God’s sight is wrong. Marriage made in church is a covenant – a solemn and binding promise – which involves man, woman and God. When the vow is broken it is breaking something which God has joined together and is a sin against God as well as the marriage partner. (The same does not apply in a civil marriage where no vow has been made before God.) Read verses 13-16 Remember Jesus was on his way to the Cross – to gain victory over death and establish his kingdom. (For more pictures of The Kingdom go to Matthews gospel.) Here Jesus is saying that his kingdom will be made up of those who are like children – trusting, humble, obedient, and accepting. Notice the contrast with the next few verses. Read verses 17-23 Once again (to avoid falling into the Pharisees hands) Jesus only indirectly says that he is God (v18). Here we have a genuinely good man, who thought that his goodness might be enough to get him eternal life. The point isn’t really about riches (although that was the stumbling block for him) – it was not a question of good service, but of relationship. Jesus looked at him with love – but his wealth was more important to him. He chose wealth over Jesus. Read verses 24-31 – continuing the theme The ‘eye of a needle’ may have been a narrow gate into the city through which only unladen camels could pass. In the same way we can only come into the heavenly city if we give up everything for Jesus. The disciples had left everything and Jesus promised them a reward. Many Christians around the world today (especially where there is Sharia Law) do have to give up family and possessions and have to suffer great persecution for their faith. Like the rich man, they have to make a choice. 14
Q. Can we then read anything into verse 31? Read verses 32-34 Jesus makes it absolutely clear to his disciples what will happen in Jerusalem. But clearly they are still thinking of an earthly kingdom ... Read verses 35-45 James and John wanted to be near Jesus, they wanted to be rewarded. When they said “yes” to Jesus question in verse 39, little did they realise what that would entail! Once again, Jesus explained how that the heavenly kingdom is not like the authority and officials in the affairs of non-believers. Humble servant-hood is the only way to be great in the Kingdom of God. Jesus himself was the greatest example of this – the ultimate example (v45). Q. Is it easier to follow Christ if we have nothing? (Think about this in the context of verses 13-45) Read verses 46-52 – Bartimaeus, an illustration of Jesus’ teaching Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) had no name, no money, no sight and no rights. He recognised who Jesus was (v47) and was insistent on meeting him. He even cast off his cloak (v50). His simple faith (v51) made it easier for him to connect with Jesus and he received his sight – physically and spiritually (he followed Jesus). Mark chapter 11 Read verses 1-10 Still travelling south on his final visit to Jerusalem Jesus makes preparations for his entry. This was Passover season, and a time when thousands of people congregated in Jerusalem for the festivities. Jesus chose this very public time to demonstrate his honour as he rode into Jerusalem. Read Zechariah 9v9: In fulfilling this prophecy Jesus was showing that he was the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus had an entourage of followers (v9) who supported his claim, shouting “Hosanna” (an exclamation of praise). Read verses 12-14 and 20&21 Taken out of context this passage is difficult to understand. The cursing of the fig tree was a parable. The fig tree itself represented Israel, and Israel had failed to be fruitful for God. It was drying up from the roots and was no longer fruitful, it was all show. It was also a picture of what the Temple had become, as seen in the next few verses. We love to think of God as being all loving, but this parable shows us that he is also a judge who reigns with justice (bearing in mind the following few verses). Q. How can this parable speak to us as Christians today? Read verse 11 and verses 15-19 Note in verse 11 that Jesus had already assessed the situation the night before. His actions in the Temple the following day were not rash, but carefully calculated. 15
This is the second time Jesus cleansed the Temple (see John 2v13-22). The priests received their share of the profits so they were happy for the extortion to continue. The system had become corrupted. Jesus said the Temple should be a “house of prayer for all nations”. It was a place where everyone could be welcomed, Jews and gentiles; but it had been turned into a place where sacrifices were sold and the poor were excluded – it was a place of hypocrisy. Q. What is our motive for going to church? Is it because we see it as a “house of prayer”? What impression do we give to outsiders? Read verses 22-26 Jesus was talking about how faith can remove mountains. But (as it comes as part of the fig tree parable) we see that faith must be rooted in God alone. We also know from scripture that faith is not just concentratedly willing something to happen. Faith must be in the Will of God, it should be based in worship and it should come from a forgiving heart (v25). Q. If we harbour unforgiveness how can that affect our prayer life? Read verses 27-33 The officials of verse 27 were within their rights to question Jesus. But Jesus realised they were doing so in order to trap him, and to bring him down. So Jesus asked them a question about John the Baptist – who they had also rejected. He had them cornered – if they said John came from Heaven they would have to believe his message about Jesus, and if they said John came from men, the people (who did believe in John) would turn on them. Jesus was implying that John was indeed sent from God, and so was He. But he was careful not to say so, lest they should arrest him there and then.
Both the fig tree incident and the cleansing of the Temple make this one of the saddest chapters in the gospels because they signify the end of an era. It was to be the end of the special relationship that God had with Israel and ultimately the end of the Covenant he had made with them through Moses. The only hope of relationship with God would now be through faith in Jesus Christ for those who believed.
Mark chapter 12 Read verses 1-12 Jesus told a parable – an earthly story with a heavenly/spiritual meaning. The vineyard owner is God. The vineyard is God’s people and the tenant farmers were the Jewish leaders. The servants sent to collect the harvest were the prophets, and the man’s only son was Jesus. As the Jewish authorities heard these words they knew that Jesus was referring to them – in fact this was a prophetic parable. Jesus made it quite clear that he knew their intention was to kill him. Jesus summed up Jewish history in these few words. 16
Read verses 13-17 Once again they tried to catch Jesus out, to find some reason for arresting him. But Jesus was not subversive toward the Roman government as they had expected. In fact, he laid down the Biblical principle that we, as Christians, should submit to the authority of governments and we should submit to the authority of God. God has established human government for our good, and for an orderly society. Q. Are there any times when conflict of allegiance would make this difficult? Read verses 18-27 The Sadducees were a Jewish group who only accepted the teaching of Moses in Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. They did not believe in life after death or a final judgment. The Sadducees were the religious aristocrats of Judaism. Their hypothetical question was asked because they wanted to trap Jesus into disagreeing with Moses. But, cleverly, Jesus used Moses’ words at the Burning Bush to answer their question: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had already died but God said, “I am their God” (the present tense) showing that they must have been alive with Him in heaven. From these verses we learn that resurrection is not a continuance of life as we know it, but it will be a new life that is different. And just as angels are not given a gender, neither will we. Therefore there will be no marriage. We will however meet those who have gone before who are also alive in the Lord. Read verses 28-34 One teacher of the Law was impressed with Jesus’ answer, so he asked him which was the greatest commandment. Jesus answer to a very intelligent person was: Love. Love your God and love your neighbour. We are not to live our spiritual lives by rules but by relationship. Jesus saw that this man’s question was genuine (v.34). Read verses 35-40 Now it was Jesus’ turn to teach and ask the questions. The Jews believed that the Messiah would be David’s son (i.e. born of David’s line). But he could only be Lord if he was indeed divine (God come down in human flesh). Jesus is helping them to understand that he was the Christ, and not just Jesus of Nazareth. He warns the people to beware the pride of the scribes and Pharisees. Read verses 41-44 Jesus also warns against the pride of the rich. Jesus saw beyond the outward appearance – he saw the woman’s heart and devotion and sacrifice. He is watching us. Maybe we cannot give much money or skill or learning. They are not necessarily the things that count much anyway. Q. What does count then – what counts to us? In chapter 12 the things that count are noted as: Recognising Jesus when he comes (v. 1-12) Obedience to authority (v. 13-17) Our eternal destiny (v. 18-27) Loving God and our neighbour (v. 28-34) Making Jesus Lord of our life (v. 35-40) Devotion and sacrifice (v. 41-44) 17
Mark chapter 13
Signs of the End of the Age Jesus was the beginning of a new age or dispensation – the Age of Grace. But here Jesus gives teaching on the end of that period of time, also referred to as the End of the Age; The Last Days (the word days not necessarily literal); or The Day of the Lord. Read v.1&2 As they left the Temple Jesus made a prophetic observation that the Temple would be destroyed – this prophecy was fulfilled in AD70 when the Temple was razed by the (Roman) army of Titus. Read verses 3&4 As they were sitting on the Mount of Olives, Andrew asked Jesus to explain what would indicate the coming of the End Times. Jesus proceeds to explain the signs of the coming of the End. Read verses 5-9 – worldwide indicators • • • • • •
Many will claim to be Jesus and deceive others (v6) There will be wars and rumours of wars (v7) They will not be just civil wars but global wars (v8) Earthquakes will increase (v8) Famine will increase (v8) There will be persecution and strife with authorities (v9)
These are all observable events which are indeed increasing. Christians around the world are suffering persecution in the greater part of the world. What was Jesus’ advice? Read on. Read verses 10&11 We are to rely on the gospel, which is the Word of God, and on the Holy Spirit when we face opposition. Read verses 12-13 – (more worldwide indicators) • • •
Betrayal within families (v12) Betrayal and rebellion of children towards parents (v12) We may be hated for our faith (v13)
Can you think of examples of these? Read verses 14-20 – In Jerusalem • •
The Abomination of Desolation (v14) People will flee & not turn back (v14-16) 18
These will be dreadful days especially for pregnant women (v17) Days of distress unequalled by anything before (v19)
For an explanation of the Abomination of Desolation read Daniel 9v27 and Daniel 11v31. It is thought that this will occur in the future when the Antichrist will forbid the worship of Christ in the Temple. The Abomination is most probably the establishment of an image of The Beast (Rev.13) in the Temple, which all people will be forced to worship. This is thought by some (See Matthew’s gospel also) to be the beginning of the Tribulation. Currently the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands on the Temple site . Read verses 21-23 • •
There will be false prophets and false christs/messiahs (v22) They will even try to deceive God’s chosen ones (v22)
And finally a New Age will be reborn – for the Christian, the Age of Bliss, in Heaven • • •
There will be darkness and disturbance in the universe (v24&25) Jesus will come in the clouds in GLORY (v26) Jesus will gather all those who know him (through all the ages)
Read verses 28-37 •
Look out for the signs!! Believe them! Be ready!!
Mark chapter 14 Read verses 1-11 Whilst most people (up to 3 million!) were enjoying the run-up to the Feast of the Passover Jesus was preparing himself for his arrest and death. No-one apart from Mary seemed to appreciate this fact. (John 11v1&2 tells us that the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with perfume was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha.) But then Mary is notable for the time she spent with Jesus, listening to him: See Luke 10v38-42; John 11v31,32; John 12v1-8. Mary understood that Jesus was going to die (was she the only one?) and she showed her love for him by anointing him in preparation for his burial. She was not ashamed to show her love for Jesus despite the fact that no one else seemed to understand. The perfume Spikenard was imported from India and a whole jar would have cost around a year’s wages. People may have kept a jar in preparation for their own family needs at the time of death, in the same way that we might put money aside for funeral costs. Mary’s sacrifice was not insignificant.
Q. What consequences arose from this act of sacrificial love? a) how did affect those present in the room? b) what was the reaction from Judas? c) what was the reaction from Jesus? What a contrast we see in what happened next – Judas sold his master, the Messiah, for the price of a slave. What we do and the value we place on things and people displays what is in our heart. Read verses 12-16 Jesus made preparations for he and his disciples to celebrate Passover. It is possible that this upper room belonged to Mark’s parents. When Mark wrote his gospel many of the significant people were still alive and it would have been dangerous for Mark to name them, hence Mary is just referred to as the ‘woman’, and the man and the house here cannot be named. It is thought however that the man carrying water (an unusual sight) was Mark’s father and the house was his parents’ house. At the time Mark was maybe too young to be a disciple but was able to observe all that was going on. John’s gospel – written some years later – often gives us a few more facts. Luke tells us that Peter and John saw to the preparations, which were carried out according to the requirements laid down by Moses:The Passover Feast would have consisted of roasted lamb (slain in the Temple). This was a reminder of when God brought salvation and deliverance to his people living in Egypt. When the Angel of Death saw the blood of the lamb on the houses of the people, he “passed over” (hence the term Passover) and they were saved. The lamb was accompanied by unleavened bread (in their haste to escape they did not have time to let it rise); bitter herbs, reminding them of suffering; and diluted wine. Jesus used this occasion to institute a new Feast which would be a reminder of his death bringing our deliverance. Jesus himself fulfilled the Passover by being the perfect Lamb of God, shedding his blood for our deliverance. Read verses 17-26 John tells us that as soon as Judas had eaten, he left the room. How sad that Judas could act the part of friend, and eat with Jesus, and yet know in his heart that he was about to betray him. After Judas had left, Jesus introduced his disciples to the concept of a New Covenant; and prepared them for the fact that he would not be around to share Passover with them again. They sang a traditional hymn (based on Ps. 115-118) before going to the Mount of Olives. Q. Would we be able to sing if we were about to meet our death?
Read verses 27-31 Jesus said, “You will all fall away” (disown me; disappoint me, betray me; deny me etc.). Peter replied, “Not me, Lord.” Q.Are we willing to take our stand for Jesus when it comes to the small things (being made fun of; speaking out for what is right) and in the big things (persecution, imprisonment,death)? Despite the warning there was also a promise, “I will go ahead of you”. Praise God, when we have a difficult time to go through, He already has the ending planned. Read verses 32-42 Jesus needed human companionship and prayer backing from his three closest friends. He knew that he was about to be forsaken by his Father as he bore the punishment for the sins of the world. He also knew that he could trust in God’s perfect will. He also knew that the best way to face the difficult situation was to spend time in God’s presence aligning his will with the Father’s. Q. Is this why Jesus was able to endure, but conversely, why the disciples who fell asleep were not prepared? What does this teach us? Read verses 43-52 The betrayer’s kiss. Jesus referred to Judas as the Son of Perdition (in John 17v12), a term that Paul also used for the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2v3. Judas became Satan’s instrument to destroy the Son of God. Like the antichrist, Judas was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On the outside he was one of Jesus’ friends, but what he did demonstrated what he was really like. Q. In a smaller way can we be guilty of the same? Do we ever greet people in a church with a hug or a kiss and then go on to gossip about them later that same day? Peter’s bravado was misplaced. He was trying to fight a spiritual battle by physical means. If Jesus had not healed Malchus (named by John), Peter would have been arrested as well! N.B. The young man of verses 51&52 was probably Mark himself. Read verses 53-65 Jesus was interviewed first by Annas, then by Caiaphas the High priest. False witnesses were brought forward but failed to secure a conviction, but Jesus testified clearly that he was indeed the Son of God (Son of Man refers to Jesus as Messiah – God in human flesh). This enraged the authorities, and consequently Jesus suffered mocking and physical abuse from those he came to save – that is the irony! We say we want to be like Jesus, and yet we can be very quick to defend ourselves if accused unfairly. How often do we just wait and allow the Lord to be our defence? Read verses 66-72 Twice the servant girl, and then those nearby, identified Peter as Jesus’ friend. Peter’s denial was quick and aggressive (v71). But his aggression turned to shame and sadness when the cock crowed twice, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words of verse 30. The words of Jesus can convict and bring repentance. 21
Compare the responses of Jesus and Peter when under pressure. Q. Who are we like, and who should we be like? How many times have we denied our Lord by losing opportunities to tell others about him?
Mark chapter 15 Read verses 1-15 Jesus agreed with Pilate’s appraisal (v.2) but declined to defend himself against the Chief Priests (v.5). Although Pilate found no fault with Jesus his job was to keep the peace, and he therefore wanted to appease the Jews. The chief priests had been stirring up the crowd so that they called for the crucifixion of Jesus. The story of Barabbas is a picture of the substitutionary (or vicarious) sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus the innocent one was literally substituted for Barabbas, a murderer. In the same way he took our punishment upon the cross as our substitute. Read verses 16-20 Covering him with a purple robe, the Roman soldiers mocked, abused and taunted Jesus. They replaced his own robe and led him out – literally outside the City wall. This was a place for the outcasts, the unclean, the unacceptable and the dispossessed. There he went – alone, despite the crowds – to be crucified. The whole procedure was carried out with indecent haste. He was arrested on the Thursday evening with no formal charge. The next morning he was sentenced and found innocent. See Luke 23 verses 4, 14, 15 &22. By midday he was suffering on the cross. So it was that Jesus was not condemned by the Romans but by his own people. And within 24 hours of arrest he had been executed. Read verses 21-32 Simon was from Cyrene in Greece, merely passing by – an incidental bystander – and yet, he was the one who they forced to carry Jesus’ cross (because by this time Jesus was too weak after they had beaten him up – v.19). Simon of Cyrene had a chance encounter with Jesus in very unusual circumstances, and yet we know it touched his life because his sons (mentioned in verse 21) are also mentioned as followers of the Way in Acts and Romans. Q. In one sentence can you say when you first had an encounter with Jesus? Mark doesn’t dwell on the crucifixion, but he does mention the bits that fulfilled Old Testament scripture, mostly from Psalm 22. See Psalm 22v 1; 2; 7; 8; 15; & 18. All these things happened between the third and ninth hour. In Roman time the day was counted in hours from midnight; we still use this system. But in Jewish time the day was counted from 6a.m. so that the third hour was 9a.m. and the ninth hour was 3p.m. 22
Read verses 33-41 At noon, darkness came over the land for three hours. Which signified: The light of the World being put out The blackness of the sin laid on Jesus The dark place of separation of Jesus from his Father The emptiness because of the end of the Old Covenant The coldness of the crowd towards Jesus The wonton blindness of the Jewish leaders The reaction of creation to the death of the Saviour The disciples had fled, the crowd were unmoved BUT a Roman centurion believed and the women were watching and waiting. (named as Mary Magdalene, Mary a relative of Jesus and Salome, plus others). The disciple John had already taken Jesus’ mother Mary to look after her. See John 19v25-27. Read verses 42-47 Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus and a member of the Jewish Council covered Jesus in a cloth and, gave him dignity in death, and gave him a proper burial, watched by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses. Q. Joseph and the women did what little they could. Are we, in our own small way, doing what we can for Jesus?
Chapter 16 Read verses 1-8 We read these verses with the anticipation of the resurrection, because we know the story so well. But Mary, Mary and Salome (also Joanna according to Luke 24v10) would have been distraught, very tired and determined to do this one last thing for Jesus. If they could possibly find a way of getting the huge, heavy entrance stone rolled back they would anoint his body which had hurriedly been put in the tomb the night before. The stone that seemed the biggest problem to them was tiny in the greater scheme of things. Q. How often do we not see past the stone? Do we limit our faith because we see the obstacles and not the goal? God had already dealt with the stone when they arrived. Mark mentions the young man – an angel – who spoke to them. Luke mentions two angels (Luke 24v4). God had sent angels to deal with the stone and to give his message to the women. Q. How often have we been in the presence of angels and not been aware of it? (Hebrews 13v2) The angels asked them to tell the disciples, and specifically and poignantly, Peter. Why Peter? Was Peter in a state of utter anguish because he so much wanted to protect Jesus, but had so badly let him down instead? But Jesus was alive and would see them in Galilee.
Early manuscripts do not have verses 9-20. And yet the gospel is unfinished without them. These verses are in the form of a summary of all that happened in the 40 days after the resurrection. Who the author was is unknown. Read verses 9-14 Some of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are listed here, but are mentioned more fully in the other gospels. Summary of Resurrection appearances and proofs The resurrection appearances prove that the Cross was all part of a greater plan and that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah who came to bring forgiveness and new life. Mark 16v9 John 20v11-18
To Mary Magdalene in the Garden
Matthew 28v9-10 To the women returning from the tomb Luke 24v13-32 Mark 16v12,13
To the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus
Luke 24v34 To Peter in Jerusalem 1 Corinthians 15v5 Luke 24v36-43 John 20v19-23
To ten of His apostles in the Upper Room
To the eleven in the Upper Room (including Thomas)
To seven apostles by the Sea of Galilee
Matt 28v16-20 To the eleven, and 500 believers on Mount Tabor 1 Corinthians 15v6 Mark 16v14-18 1 Cor.15v7
To the eleven and James (Jesusâ€™ half-brother) in Jerusalem
To the eleven on the Mount of Olives
You will have noticed in those references that Jesus talked with people, he ate with them and they touched him. He was undoubtedly alive!
What the Resurrection accomplished 1) The Resurrection established Jesus as the Son of God. 2) The Resurrection established Jesus as having power over death and evil. 3) When Jesus was raised from the dead he went to the Father and established himself as Great High Priest, now able to intercede for us in Heaven. 4) The Resurrection is a guarantee for us of life after death. 5) The Resurrection prepared the way for the Ascension Read verses 15-20 Jesus gave what is called The Great Commission – that we should tell everyone about the good news of salvation. He promised protection for those who fulfil his will. He was then taken up to Heaven in a cloud – in other words, he ascended to his Father. What the Ascension accomplished § Everything Jesus said about himself was fulfilled § Jesus rightfully took up his shared position (with The Father) as King and Lord of all, now seated on the throne § Jesus began his role of mediator/advocator for us in Heaven (he understands our humanity) § He began his fulfilment of the role of the Old Testament High Priest because he went into the Holy Place (Heaven) with the sacrificial blood of a perfect lamb (his own blood) § Jesus returned to the glory he had before he came down to earth § Without the Ascension the Holy Spirit would not have been given and we would have been without The Comforter, without the Gifts of the Spirit and without the Fruits of The Spirit. § The Ascension was the occasion of the Great Commission – to go into all the world and preach the gospel/good news of Jesus Christ. § It affirms the promise of Jesus that he would go into heaven before us and prepare a place for us so that when we die we can be with him for eternity. § It must therefore be a reason for great celebration!!