Mark 1–2: Authority & Power

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 11: Saturday

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Mark 1:1 LSB

Saturday’s Bible reading is Mark 1–2. Mark’s Gospel is our earliest Gospel, and its author is the same John Mark mentioned numerous times in the New Testament.

Mark begins by immediately telling you what he is writing about. Each of the four Gospels begins differently—Mark is the one who begins by calling his writing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are you familiar with the Christmas song, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” with the line, Good tidings to you, to you and your kin? The Greek word translated as gospel in Mark 1:1 is εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion). It’s derived from two words that together mean good tidings or good news. It’s translated as gospel in English, a word derived from two words that together mean good message. When Mark wrote, he was writing about the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Calling his work the Gospel of Mark, and using the title of Gospel for the writings of Matthew, Luke, and John about Jesus, came later. R. T. France writes,

“Mark did not say to himself, “I am now going to write a εὐαγγέλιον’: it was only as it became necessary for the church to find a suitable label for this category of literature, church books about Jesus, that Mark’s heading provided them with one…the term became established as a designation for the four canonical version of the one εὐαγγέλιον’.”1

There is only one gospel: the message of good news of Jesus Christ. We speak of the four Gospels because four men, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each wrote about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I capitalize the books, the Gospel According to Mark or Mark’s Gospel, to be consistent with capitalizing book titles.

Helen Tenney has this brief biography of Mark’s life from the various places he’s mentioned in the New Testament. It’s a great story of second chances.

“He was the son of a certain Mary, probably a well-to-do widow residing in Jerusalem. It may have been in her home where Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples on the night of the betrayal. If so, it is possible that Mark was personally acquainted with Jesus and many of His followers, and may have witnessed some of the events of His life. Tradition points to him as ‘the young man’ (Mark 14:51-52) who followed along in the curious mob at Jesus’ betrayal, but who fled when He was arrested…

“Mark had the advantage of a hospitable Christian home, where the twelve apostles and others of the Jerusalem church met frequently To this home came Peter after his miraculous deliverance from prison (Acts 12:12) and found a group of Christians praying for his release.

“Mark was the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4: 10, 11), a wealthy landowner of Cyprus (Acts 4:36-37), who accompanied Paul on his first missionary tour. When Barnabus and Paul returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, they took John Mark along with them (Acts 23:25). They shortly set out on their first missionary tour, with Mark added to their party as attendant or assisstant (Acts 13:5). At Perga in Pamphylia Mark deserted and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Perhaps he was homesick or could not stand the hardships of the journey. Whatever the reason, cousin Barnabus wanted to give him a second opportunity of service, but Paul was unwilling to risk another desertion (Acts 15:37-39).

“This disagreement let Paul and Barnabus into separate ministries. Kind-hearted Barnabus, who had once befriended Paul (Acts (9:27), now took his young relative to help with missionary work in Cyprus (Acts 15:39).

“Later the breach between Paul and Mark was healed. Writing from his prison in Rome to the Colossian Christians, Paul stated that Mark was a comfort to him (Col. 4:11). During his second imprisonment, Paul instructed Timothy to bring Mark to Rome, saying, ‘for he is profitable to me for the ministry’ (2 Tim. 4:11). Without a doubt Mark had grown more courageous and successfully faced the responsibilities of leadership in the early Christian church.

“Mark continued to be also the friend and associate of Peter from his youth to Peter’s last imprisonment. In fact, Peter referred to him in one of his epistles as ‘Marcus my son’ (1 Pet. 5:13). It is generally believed that Mark received most of the facts of the gospel story from Peter whose vivid memory retained the smallest details of his Master’s life.”2

After Mark’s heading (1:1) and prologue (1:2–13), France divides Mark into three main sections by geographical locations: Galilee (1:14–8:21), the road to Jerusalem (8:22–10:52, and Jerusalem (11:1–16:8).3

Mark tells you he’s writing about the good news of Jesus Christ, he quotes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 to tell you who John the Baptist was and the work God called him to do, in a few verses describing John’s baptizing and preaching as a herald of the Messiah, briefly touches on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and then, Mark is off and running with the good news of Jesus Christ.

As you read Mark sometimes you may feel as it you need to stop and catch your breath to keep up with him—notice his frequent use of the word immediately. This word is a hallmark of Mark’s Gospel. France writes:

“Many have commented on the pace at which the narrative moves, emphasized by Mark’s famous overuse of the adverb εὐθὺς [immediately] both to signal narrative developments within a pericope and to link successive events closely with one another (42 uses, with 7 within the short sequence 1:16–31 alone):  a similar effect is produced by his frequent use of ἤρξα(ν)το [began, e.g., Mark 1:45] as an auxiliary verb, while πάλιν [back, e.g., Mark 2:1; or again, e.g., Mark 2:13] occurs 26 times to enable the reader to link a new incident with the previous story…

“[εὐθὺς, immediately] adds to the graphic force of the narrative, and serves to keep the reader/hearer alert and aware of the dramatic development of the story.”4

After Jesus calls the four fisherman, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, and James and John, they go into Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus enters the synagogue and teaches.

They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:22 LSB

Jesus’ authority is mentioned again when He casts out a demon:

And they were all amazed, so that they were arguing among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
Mark 1:27 LSB

That evening, after the Sabbath is over, people start bringing those who are ill and those possessed by demons. Mark records that Jesus heals many and casts out many demons, not permitting them to speak.

Jesus’ ministry expands as He goes to synagogues throughout Galilee preaching and casting out demons. His authority over demons and power over disease is evident in this first chapter, as is his compassion.

And a leper came to Jesus, pleading with Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
And immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Mark 1:40-42 LSB

In the second chapter, when Jesus clashes with the scribes when He forgives a paralytic. His authority comes up again. He knows what they’re thinking, challenges them and authenticates His authority by commanding the paralytic to pick up his pallet and go home—which he did!

But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”⁠—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your mat, and go to your home.”
Mark 2:6–11 LSB

Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) to be His disciple and goes to eat at his house where the scribes raise another objection.

And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples. For there were many of them, and they were following Him. And when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they were saying to His disciples, “He is eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners!”
And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “Those who are healthy do not have need for a physician, but only those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:15–17 LSB

Chapter two ends with a final objection by the Pharisees to His disciples conduct on the Sabbath. Jesus silences them with His statement of the true purpose of the Sabbath, and then He tells them He is Lord of the Sabbath, once again asserting His authority.

And Jesus was saying to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27–28 LSB

That is an incredible statement. Only God is Lord of the Sabbath. In the events and interchanges of Mark 1–2 Jesus demonstrates authority and power, and that He is, indeed, the Christ, the Son of God.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Healing of a leper: Jan van’t Hoff. Gospel Images. Mark 1:40-42.
1,3,4R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 2002) 5; 13–14; 16, 76.
2Helen Tenney, Mark’s Sketchbook of Christ (The Banner of Trust Trust, Carlisle PA: 1956, 1971) xiii–xiv.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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