Welcome to Week Two in How To Study the Bible series! (To begin the series click here.)
This week, as you explore the first three chapters of Mark, you will learn
1) the most critical component of Jesus’ ministry
2) how the similarities and differences between the book of Mark and the other three gospels inform each other
3) how to use a valuable online resource that integrates the passages of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Reviewing Week One: Understanding the Bible
First, how did reading the book summaries go? These overviews give an overall synopsis of the story of God. If you have not read overviews of the books of the Bible, I’d like to encourage you to read them either from your own Bible or through the links in last week’s post.
Second, are you now able to articulate a few facts about the book of Mark? Among the details, you may have discovered that most scholars agree that …
– it was written by John Mark, missionary partner of Peter
– Mark probably wrote it to the citizens of Rome
– it is believed to be the first of the gospels written
– it portrays Jesus as a humble servant
– it is considered the “action gospel” recording more of the events & activities during Jesus’s ministry years than his words & parables. Mark mentions Jesus’ sermons but you have to go to Matthew’s book to get the full text of the Sermon on the Mount or to John’s book to read Jesus’ lengthy final message to his disciples during his Last Supper with them.
With an understanding of the overall book of Mark, let’s start into the Word…
Study of Mark
Lord…guide us as we immerse ourselves in your Word. Help us to have hearts and minds that are open to your teaching and correcting in righteousness. Thank you for your presence and for your holy Scriptures. In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.
In your Bible, read Mark 1-3.
(Really. Read the first chapters now. Finish this post after you read all three chapters.)
Mark spends no time discussing Jesus’ birth. He launches right into the beginning of His years of ministry.
Let’s itemize the events in Mark 1…
Mark 1:1-3 Isaiah’s prophesy retold
Mark 1:4-8 John comes; he baptizes and preaches
Mark 1:9-11 John baptizes Jesus; God speaks (!)
Mark 1:12-13 The Holy Spirit sends Jesus to fast and pray in wilderness
Mark 1:14 Jesus begins to preach in the Galilee region
Mark 1:16-20 Jesus invites men to follow him
Mark 1:21-28 Jesus teaches in Capernaum and casts out an evil spirit
Wow, I’m exhausted just reading this lengthy list. Lots going on all in Chapter 1! You have to go to chapter 5 in Luke or chapter 8 in Matthew to get that far into Jesus’ ministry in those gospels. Interestingly, Mark also records some details that the other gospel writers exclude.
Question: Since the gospels vary, do the dissimilarities negate the truth of the texts?
Recognize this….when there is a car accident at a road intersection, witnesses on each corner have a different story to share. No one is incorrect. They merely observed the accident from four different angles. They all bring added value to understanding the accident.
Same is true with the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John differ in their perspective, audience, theme, and purpose. (Further discussion about the integrity and veracity of the actual biblical texts is in the series about Socrates and Jesus.)
Scholars have brilliantly created a chronological blend of the four gospels called the harmony of the gospels. This comparison of Jesus’ biographies laid out side-by-side provides a more fulsome understanding of Jesus’ life. Numerous online and print editions exist. Amazon lists nearly 5,000 titles!
In another tab on your browser, open the Blue Letter Bible’s Harmony of the Gospels. Scroll down the lengthy chart. Hover over one of the biblical references … the passage pops up. Cool!
Do you see how Matthew and Luke give many more details about Christ’s birth? But all four gospels share about John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism.
Explore: Mark mentions that the Holy Spirit drew Jesus to the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). Using the references in the harmony of the gospels, what additional insights do the other gospels give?
If you have time, explore more: Focusing on Mark 1-3, read one other passage that overlaps with the other gospel writers. What observations about Jesus’ early ministry can you make with the additional perspective(s)?
Critical Component of Jesus’ Ministry
Return in your Bible to Chapter 1 of Mark. Let’s look more closely at the text.
Notice how Jesus’ ministry is literally taking off. He begins teaching and preaching. Then, following a miraculous healing, Jesus’ popularity goes viral. People flock to him seeking healing and deliverance. Enormous crowds press in for his healing touch. But then…
Check out Mark 1:35-38:
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.'”
By all standards, Jesus’ ministry is flourishing and successful! Here Mark records when things changed. Jesus and his disciples spent the night at Simon Peter’s home. The disciples woke up the next morning and Jesus was gone. When they found him, he told them that the ministry needed to be focused on preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and not on the healings. It was his primary and only message (refer to Mark 1:14).
This is HUGE!! Frequently you’ll notice that Jesus tells people whom he heals to “not tell anyone”. Jesus needs to get his message out… NOT to become the local circus-act healer. He knows his time is short. Jesus’ prayer with God refocused his daily docket.
Throughout the book of Mark (and the other gospels) we’ll read how Jesus spends time with the Lord. Prayer was critical throughout his time on earth.
Likewise, prayer is critical in our walks of faith.
How about you? Do you want to strengthen your prayer life? Prayer is merely a conversation with God. Through Jesus Christ, you and I may enter the throne room of our Holy God to offer praise, seek repentance, share concerns, and make requests.
Key point: Incorporate prayer more regularly in your daily life.
Here are a few suggestions of ways to grow in your prayer life.
Mark 1-3 has given insight into the early parts of Jesus’ ministry, as well as immediately introducing us to the importance of prayer. You learned to use the harmony of the gospels to cross-reference and inform passages between the four gospels.
Next week, you’ll learn how to study parables as we read Mark 4.
Please let me know how this study is going for you!! Leave me comments below or send me an email!
Bonus: If you want more …
Read more about the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life.
1) Go to the Blue Letter Bible website
2) In the left sidebar, click on “Study Tools”
3) Under “Contents”, click on “Miscellaneous”
4) Towards the bottom of the list, click on “Thompson’s Chain Reference: Special Bible reading”
5) Click on “Christ’s Prayers in Great Crisis”
6) Look up the verses from the book of Luke
7) Ponder what you learn about Jesus in these biblical references
Critical conclusion: how can you apply this to your own prayer life?