Text: Mark 1-2
Observe: Chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel starts by saying it is the good news about Jesus the Messiah, who is the Son of God as prophesied in Isaiah. We see John the Baptist fulfill his role as the forerunner to Jesus, calling the people to repent of their sins and be baptised with water. He proclaims that one will come after him, who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is then baptised in the Jordan River, and a voice from heaven declares’ “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”. Immediately, Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by Satan.
We then fast forward a bit, and find that John has been imprisoned, and Jesus has begun His ministry, telling the people about the good news of God, and that the kingdom of God has come near. He calls His first disciples with a simple, yet compelling, “Follow me”. Jesus is seen as a man of quiet action, revealing scripture to the people with authority, and healing many people of their diseases and afflictions, such a man with an unclean spirit and a woman bedridden with a fever. Wherever He goes, Jesus teaches, preaches, and heals in every village He travels through. His reputation grows and people gather in greater numbers to hear Him and be healed by Him. People wonder at His remarkable abilities and power.
In Chapter 2, Jesus begins to run afoul of the religious leaders of the day. After telling a paralytic man whose friends had let him in through the roof, that his sins were forgiven, the Pharisees declare Jesus a blasphemer for saying that He could forgive sins. No one but God can do that. So He challenges them by asking which was easier to do, to say a man’s sins were forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk. Then to demonstrate His authority on earth, Jesus tells the paralyzed man to get up and walk, which he promptly did, to the utter amazement of the gathered crowd.
Throughout this chapter, Jesus continues to astound people with His teaching and unexpected behaviour. He calls Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him, which he does immediately. Jesus then proceeds to have dinner at Levi’s house, along with other tax collectors and “sinners”. This outraged the Pharisees again, and they demanded to know why He would eat with these outcasts. Jesus responds with one of most telling sentences of His earthly ministry. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” During a time of traditional fasting, the Pharisees asked Jesus why He and His disciples were not fasting like everyone else. Jesus responded with an allegory about why a bridegroom’s guests should fast as long as he was with them. There would plenty of time to fast after he was gone.
As we close out the chapter, we find Jesus and His disciples walking through a grain field, gleaning some grain heads, which the Pharisees interpreted as working on the Sabbath. Jesus responds by referring to a time when King David took food from the tabernacle for himself and his hungry men, indicating that David broke the rules because of their need. He finishes by asserting that He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
Interpret: Mark unequivocally announces that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and shows His authority through His thorough and clear knowledge of the scriptures. He further demonstrates his authority over creation by His ability to heal people and drive out unclean spirits. These are things never seen before and the people flock to Him, recognizing His unique nature and stature. When He called His disciples, all he had to say was “Follow me”, and they did without a moment’s hesitation. The people thronged around Him wherever He went because they knew they could get from Him what this world could not offer. He offered them healing in both their spirit and their bodies, and the people recognized the barrenness of their lives without His presence.
It was exactly for that reason that the Pharisees hated Jesus. The people looked to Jesus for understanding and wholeness, not to them. He was a threat to their power and position. He undermined their authority and exposed their hypocrisy. The Pharisees, with their legalism and hide-bound traditions, were leading the people astray. But Jesus showed them the truth, and came to lead them hoe again.
Application: Whenever we read the bible, it’s like looking in a dusty mirror. Whether we’re reading about the kings and prophets of old, or reading about Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees, we can see something of ourselves in these characters. We are all rebellious in our own ways, and often refuse to accept the authority of the God in our lives. When we go our own way for our own benefit, we are really questioning whether God has our best interests at heart. When we stick so strictly to the rules that we cannot see anything but the rules as they apply to other people’s lives, we miss the mercy that has been extended to us instead of the justice that we deserve. When we feel the tug of the Holy Spirit calling us in a new direction, its Jesus shining a flashlight into our dirty mirror so we can more clearly see ourselves as we really are, and we have to decide if we will accept His invitation to “Follow me”.
Questions: If you were fishing along the shores of Galilee and Jesus walked by, do you think you could have dropped everything and followed Him? Do you remember a moment in your life when you felt Him calling you? And did you follow Him?
Prayer: Father God, keep us and guide us as we read your Holy Word, and study the example of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Keep us from becoming so blinded by the world that we fail to recognize Jesus’ call to us when we go astray. Keep us from becoming legalistic in keeping the rules without applying the same mercy that you have shown us. Help us understand your Words of Life so we may grow in the love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Song: Nobody: Casting Crowns
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.