Wednesday, April 1, 2015

P2 - Preparing for Good Friday - Following Jesus to the cross through Mark's Gospel

Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Yesterday we did a Good Friday meditation on how Isaiah predicts the Suffering Servant, and how Mark's Gospel identified the Suffering Servant to be Jesus Christ.  In today's blog I want us to further consider Mark's message in preparation for Good Friday. 

The message and outline of Mark's Gospel
The key verse to Mark's Gospel is found in Mark 10:45 - "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  As we noted yesterday, Mark purposefully relied upon Isaiah's prophecies in his overall portral of Jesus' life, death, burial and resurrection.  In the opening of today's blog you may had noticed that Mark attributes John the Baptist's ministry to predictions made by Isaiah - thus further demonstrating how much Mark saw the person of Jesus Christ as being the very fulfillment and explanation of Old Testament expectation.  Below is a brief outline of the book:

           Mark's Gospel: Jesus the Divine Son of God came to 
                   serve and give His life a ransom for many
Preparation for Jesus' public ministry.  Mark 1:1-13
           John the Baptist's preaching about Jesus.  Mark 1:1-8
           Jesus Baptism and temptation.                   Mark 1:9-13

Public Ministry of Jesus.                       Mark 1:14-10:52
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle # 1 Mark 1:14-3:12
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #2  Mark 3:13-4:41
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #3  Mark 5:1-43
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #4   Mark 6:1-56
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #5  Mark 7:1-8:26
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #6  Mark 8:27-9:13
           Jesus' preaching and miracles - Cycle #7  Mark 9:14-10:52

Preparation for Jesus' presentation as King.         Mark 11:1-10
Presentation and Rejection of Jesus as King.       Mark 11:11-13:37

Preparation for Jesus' crucifixion and death.         Mark 14:1-42
          Anointing of Jesus for burial                        Mark 14:1-11
          Jesus final meal with the disciples.              Mark 14:12-42
Jesus' crucifixion, death and burial.                   Mark 14:43-15:47       

Preparation by women to travel to Jesus' tomb   Mark 16:1-3
Women find empty tomb, Jesus is alive!             Mark 16:4-20

A curious feature of Mark that may clue us in on a two-fold truth on what it means to follow Jesus - Activity and Abiding
As you study Mark's Gospel, the one word that is repeated on over 40 occasions is the term "immediately".1  In every chapter except chapters 13 and the first half of chapter 14, you will find this word.  The word "immediately" was inserted to keep the reader's attention and to move the account of Jesus' life at a fast and rapid pace.  Yet when we come to those particular sections that deal with Jesus' last sermon and His preparations for His death and Gethsemane, the word "immediately" is absent.  Why? I want to suggest that in the midst of all the activity of Jesus' mission, there needed to be an opportunity to also "slow down", "take a breather" and "abide".  

Fleshing out some thoughts on "acting" and "abiding" in Jesus as depicted in Mark's Gospel
In our 21st century life, we all know what it means to be active.  In fact, activity is a vital part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  In those sections of Mark's Gospel where we see the word "immediately", the activities being encouraged include:

1. Immediate Obedience to Jesus.  Mark 1:3, 10,12,18,20, 21; 2:12
2. Urgency to fulfill the mission of salvation.  Mark 4:5,15,16,17,29 and 14:72.

In many ways, urgency and activity should mark our Christianity.  However what I find to be less obvious are the periods of rest and reflection that are needed in our Christian walk.  As I read and study Mark's fast pace Gospel, I find his lack of the word "immediately" to be intentional.  The last thing we want to do is to rush through the heart and purpose for why Jesus came.  Let the reader note: where we find no mention of the word "immediate" in Mark's Gospel is a clue to our need to "abide":

1. Abide in the truth of Christ's second coming.  Mark 13:1-37

2. Abide in developing a deeper love for Jesus. Mark 14:1-11

3. Abide in the significance of Jesus' once for all sacrifice. Mark 14:12-31

4. Abide in cultivating a willingness to do the Father's will, like Jesus did.  Mark 14:32-42

It is in these particular passages of Mark that we do not find the word "immediately" - and rightly so, since without those times of abiding, we can miss out on what the Lord is communicating to us through His word. 

As we prepare out hearts for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, may we be sure to not only be active for our Lord, but moreso to take the time to abide in our Lord. 

End Notes___________________
1. Being that Mark's audience was composed of practically minded Roman people, not much time is spent in details surrounding Jewish life and history like Matthew and Luke. Furthermore, since the Roman mind was more prone to short, sweet and to the point types of thinking, Mark's Gospel is the shortest and most quickly moving of the four Gospels. Then finally, early church history tells us that Mark recorded by Divine inspiration the Apostle Peter's preaching about Jesus, resulting in the Gospel of Mark.

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