The Good News according to Mark

by Ray Hawkins

The man

What we know of Mark is filtered through the New Testament. The first mention reveals the spiritual atmosphere in which he lived, Acts 12:12. His cousin was the lovely man called Barnabas, Colossians 4:10, who took Mark along with Paul on a missionary journey. Mark for some reason left the team. This caused a heated argument at a future date when Barnabas wanted to give him another chance but Paul refused and went off with another team Acts 15:36-40, Mark is the man who seized the second chance to serve the Lord and proved himself to the extent that even Paul considered him favourably in 2 Timothy 4:11.

The apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:13 looks on him as a son. This arose apparently from the fact of sharing with Peter in ministry. This man with the second chance is credited with being the scribe for Peter’s messages. These make up the bulk of the Gospel of Mark.

The Gospel

Mark presents to us a portrait of Jesus as the Servant. Two concepts are wrapped up in this term. To the Gentile understanding this meant a person without status, someone who works but his history is unimportant. This explains the absence of any genealogy or nativity accounts.

The other concept is from the Jewish/Biblical viewpoint. In their Scriptures this term is one of honour and prestige. Moses is called the servant, so too Israel and the promised Messiah. Mark seems to weave both ideas together through his account. He confronts us after the humiliation of the cross with the wonder that this Servant has been revealed by His resurrection as the Lord and Messiah (Mark 16:19-20).

Because Jesus is the Servant we are presented with Him fulfilling that role. He serves the people by such means as healings, feeding the multitude, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and submitting Himself to the atrocious treatment of so called ‘superiors’. All of this was because Jesus saw Himself predominately the Servant of Yahweh. Jesus was on earth to do the will of the Father and though this led to the cross His obedience became our salvation and much, much more! Truly Jesus is the Suffering and triumphant Servant of Isaiah 53.

It’s considered that Mark recorded the messages of Peter who was also a man of action. Therefore it isn’t strange that as you read the Gospel you are struck by its fast pace. Key words are ‘immediately’, ‘straightway’, and ‘forthwith’ (depending on translation used). This presentation is for the person who wants the facts unembellished, a man or woman intent on assessing Jesus by what He does.

As you read the account the awareness creeps up on you that there is something unique about Jesus. A desire to know more about Him in other aspects of His nature, dealings and achievements grows strong and insistent. Here is part of the reason for the other three Gospels. Matthew gives us an understanding of Jesus from the Jewish perspective. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Man and Son of God. Luke presents Jesus as the Second Adam, God’s ideal man while John unveils Jesus as the Lord of Glory.

There is so much waiting for you within Mark’s writings about Jesus and also about being His disciple. Read it, underline what speaks to you or record it in a journal. Then avail yourself of a good commentary suitable for your needs. You will discover this Jesus is still the Servant caring for His Church and World and wants to take you on His journey to cause others to say of Him, “My Lord and My God”!

© Ray Hawkins. 2012.

Who am I?

I began my life’s journey in 1938 so you can see I’ve outgrown my youthful zest. Raised in Rockdale, a Sydney suburb of NSW I grew up in a typical (if such exists) working class home. My father was a returned soldier. Enjoyed sport and Sunday School but not State schools. I have 2 sisters and 1 brother all younger than I.

I made a decision for Christ around 12 years of age but didn’t really become serious until around 18 years. I began work at 15 as a labourer. The 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney impacted me greatly. That and a new minister at Church caused me to think about the Christian Ministry. Entered Bible College in 1960 aged 21 and enjoyed 4 years of studies, inter-action and being chiselled and shaped by God in heart and mind. I met my future wife, Mary in my final year. She was doing a two year course. We married in 1964 and have three children.

Now retired after 40 years of ministry I stand in awe of God’s faithfulness and guidance. Mary and I were church planters and often self supporting. Three short term mission trips to Africa in our more senior years also was a wonderful and humbling experience. It triggered also my writing career as a poet and devotional author.

http://rayhawkinsauthor.blogspot.com

http://www.evenbeforepublishing.com/rayhawkins.html

http://www.internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com

http://www.mary-hawkins.com

http://www.seahorse-australia.com.au

Miracles of Jesus: Feeding the people

by Deborah Horscroft

The miracles that Jesus performed have long been held by Christians as a proof of his identity as the Son of God, indeed Jesus condemns the teachers of the law for calling God’s miracle of casting out demons, performed through Jesus, an act of “evil”.

In his book “Miracles”, C.S. Lewis eloquently explains the “nature” of Jesus’ miracles. “…the Incarnate God does suddenly and locally something that God has and will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of nature… Their authenticity is attested by the style.” (pp138-9)

C.S.Lewis goes on to state that in the case of the miraculous feedings as recorded in Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ miracle involves “the multiplication of a little bread and a little fish into much bread and much fish. Once in the desert Satan had tempted Him to make bread of stones: He refused the suggestion. “The Son does nothing except what He sees the Father do”… Every year God makes a little corn into much corn: the seed is sown and there is an increase… It was He who at the beginning commanded all species “to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” And now, that day, at the feeding of the thousands, incarnate God does the same: does close and small under His human hands, a workman’s hands, what He has always been doing in the seas, the lakes and the little brooks.” (pp140-1)

Source: Like Father, Like Son. Miracles: A Preliminary Study by CS Lewis (Fount 1974)

Prayer: Following Jesus’ example in Mark 1

by Narelle Atkins

A question that was recently raised in my Bible Study group was how should we pray? Is there a right way to pray? Morning or evening? Group prayer or solitary prayer?

In Mark 1 we are given an insight into Jesus’ relationship with his heavenly Father.

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. Mark 1:35

I’m not naturally a morning person who will wake when the sun rises. For a number of week in the dead of winter, I was getting up in the dark and driving in below zero temperatures to my local gym. It was a struggle to drag myself out of bed and get there in time for my class. My alarm would sound and I’d think about how I’d really like to ignore the alarm and go back to sleep in my warm and cosy bed.

Jesus prioritised spending time in prayer with His Father. He sacrificed the comfort of sleeping in to have uninterrupted and solitary prayer time. Are we prepared to make sacrifices to ensure we are spending time with the Lord in prayer? Do you have a regular time each day that you dedicate to prayer? How can we follow Jesus’ example in the way we prioritise prayer in our daily lives?

The Call to Discipleship

by Narelle Atkins

In Mark 1:16-20 we learn how Jesus called four of his disciples. Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew were fishing by the Sea of Galillee when Jesus walked beside the shore. Mark’s account of what happened next is brief. Jesus said “Come follow me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” The brothers immediately left their fishing nets behind to follow Jesus.

Jesus then walked further along the road with Simon (Peter) and Andrew and he spotted James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat. The brothers were working with their father and the workers preparing nets for a fishing trip. Jesus called the brothers to follow him. James and John left their father and the workers in the boat to follow Jesus.

It is believed that the disciples knew about Jesus because of their previous connection to John the Baptist.

Jesus called ordinary men to leave their work, families and livelihood to follow him. According to Mark’s account, there was no time for the men to say ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll get back to you.’ No time to farewell family, pack up their fishing gear or finish their day’s work out on the boat.

The call to discipleship was a radical decision that demanded their dedication and total commitment to following Jesus. A commitment to become ‘fishers of men’ who would catch people for God’s kingdom. A radical decision that I wonder how we would respond to if Jesus turned up at our workplace and called us to leave everything to follow him?

The Temptation of Jesus

by Narelle Atkins

The Gospel of Mark provides a brief account of the temptation of Jesus.

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:12-13)

The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert immediately after his baptism. When John baptised Jesus, the heavens opened, the Spirit came upon Jesus and God the father spoke from heaven to his beloved Son.

We learn more details about how Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke’s (4:1-13) gospels. Matthew and Luke record three specific incidents where Satan tempted Jesus to sin. On each occasion Jesus responded to Satan by quoting scripture.

While Jesus was in the desert he didn’t eat any food. Satan tempted him by suggesting that if Jesus was really the Son of God, he could turn a stone into bread and satisfy his physical hunger. Jesus responded by saying that man doesn’t live on bread alone.

Satan led Jesus to the Holy City and the highest point of the temple. He tempted Jesus by suggesting he throw himself down and allow the angels to save him. Jesus responded by saying the Lord God should not be tested.

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He tempted Jesus by offering him dominion over all the kingdoms if Jesus bowed down and worshiped him. Jesus responded by saying worship the Lord and serve only him.

Jesus’ mission was spiritual and Satan continued to tempt him throughout his ministry, reaching a climax when Jesus was on the cross. Paul Barnett in his book The Servant King: Reading Mark Today talked about the final battle, symbolised by day becoming night (Mark 15:33). Jesus is a new Adam, the Son of Man who is Lord over the wild animals and prevails over evil. Adam fell into temptation but Jesus resisted temptation and remained obedient to God. Satan was finally defeated through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Encouraging kids to read the Bible

by Narelle Atkins

One of the challenges I face as a parent is how to encourage my kids to read the Bible. Sometimes the sheer size of a Children’s Bible can be intimidating plus the decision on where to start reading can be time consuming in itself.

I recently came across a great little resource from Bible Society Australia called Top 10 Bible Stories From Mark. It’s a small book, 68 pages, written and illustrated in a way that will appeal to kids. There are ten chapters that cover the main stories in the Gospel of Mark.

I really liked the cute cartoon-style illustrations that drew out the main point in each story. The stories themselves are not para-phrased but are taken from The Bible Today – Contemporary English Version. It’s a fun way for kids to read the Bible and learn more about the Gospel of Mark.

More information on Bible resources for kids can be found at http://www.BibleSociety.com.au and http://www.scriptureunion.org.au

John the Baptist: Preparing the way

By Narelle Atkins

John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1). He was the messenger who lived in the desert and prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.

John’s parents were Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth, a relative of the Virgin Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah (see Luke 1:11-20) and foretold John’s birth and mission. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and childless and Zechariah’s initial unbelief regarding the angel’s prophesy for his future son led to Zechariah becoming mute and unable to speak until the prophesy came to fruition (Luke 1:64).

John brought a message of repentance and baptism. He called the Israelites to repent from their sins and be baptised in the Jordan River. Baptism was a sign that they had turned back to God and received God’s forgiveness of sins.

John said he was preparing the way for one greater than him, who would baptise the Jews and Gentiles with the Holy Spirit. John baptised Jesus in the Jordan River and the heavens opened, bringing the Spirit down upon Jesus. God the father spoke to Jesus from heaven, saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:11)

Jesus’ ministry started when John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod. Herodias held a grudge against John after John had told Herod it was not lawful for him to marry his brother’s wife. Herodias had been married to Philip, Herod’s brother, but had left Philip for Herod. Herodias and her daughter used an oath promised by Herod at a banquet to kill John. At their request, Herod ordered an executioner to behead John and present his head on a platter at the banquet (Mark 6:17-29).

Having a missionary heart

by Narelle Atkins

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

According to the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended into heaven. The Gospel of Matthew also records The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

We are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel to the whole world and share the good news about Jesus bringing salvation to the world through His death and resurrection. This was a new way of thinking for the disciples. They understood that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the focus in the Scriptures (Old Testament) had been on God working out His purposes and plan for salvation through His covenant with Abraham and his descendents.

The ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) really kicked off after Jesus ascended into heaven. The early missionary activities of the apostles are recorded in the book of Acts. In Acts we learn about Paul’s mission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

When I was younger I remember being quite intimidated by The Great Commission. How did this command impact the decisions I made? Did this mean I should dedicate my life to doing God’s work? And what would this look like? I had not felt called to be a missionary overseas or work for a Christian organisation. Was I selfish for wanting to live a so-called normal life as a wife and mother or should I have higher aspirations?

God created us with unique talents and abilities that we can use to bring Him glory. The body of Christ is made up of diverse people who work together to enable the gospel to be preached to all nations.

Whether we are serving on the front line as a missionary or playing a supporting role behind the scenes, we can all help in some way to reach people with the gospel message. And we can build relationships with those around us in our own mission field at home.

I can now see how my ‘missionary heart’ is revealed in many ways, including Bible studies, blogging and my Christian fiction writing. How is your ‘missionary heart’ revealed? What can you do to further the work of the gospel in our world?

Christ was not Jesus’ Last Name

by Deborah Horscroft

An old joke asked, “What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common?” They have the same middle name. I don’t quite know what Christopher Robin meant by “Pooh”, but John was known as the one who baptised.

Jesus was known by many names: Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, Son of Man, even son of Joseph and Mary. He is now most commonly known as Jesus Christ, and here the word “Christ” is Jesus’ title.

“Christ” originating from the Greek; “Messiah” from the Hebrew – the closest approximation in English is “The Anointed One”. People and things were ceremonially anointed with oil to signify that they had been separated for God’s purpose: that is, made “holy”. The word was also used metaphorically to mean God had shown favour or the person was chosen to fulfil God’s special purpose. For example, Cyrus the Persian was “anointed” to subdue the nations (Isaiah 45). In its article on “Messiah” The New Bible Dictionary points out that Cyrus was a kind of Messiah figure bringing the redemption of God’s people, judgement on God’s enemies and dominion over the nations. Although he did not acknowledge God, he was God’s instrument.

The Old Testament points to another Messiah who will reconcile God and his people. The prophecies say he will be a deliverer like Moses, a conqueror like David, a servant like no other, a new Israel who keeps the new covenant, a prophet, priest, king and willing sacrifice for sins.

Much of the New Testament is the story of people wrestling with what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, or Christ. Many of his day welcomed the conquering king into Jerusalem but rejected the suffering servant of God, anointed to be a holy sacrifice for sins. The Jews and Samaritans both longed for the Messiah to come, but only a few recognised Jesus the Christ.