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As Matthew wrote for the Jew, so Mark wrote for the Gentile. In illustration of this we find that with a single exception at the beginning of his Gospel, Mark practically omits all reference to the Old Testament prophets. This shows that he is addressing a people to whom such references were not necessary as in the other case, even if they would have been intelligible. In other words, the Gentiles knew nothing of the sacred Scriptures, and were not expecting the Messiah of whom they spake. As carrying the thought further, Mark omits the genealogical table of Matthew, since it is not necessary for him to prove to Gentiles that Jesus descended from Abraham through David. More careful examination shows that all the omissions in Mark's Gospel are of an especially Jewish character. It will be seen too, that Mark explains Jewish words and customs which would be left unnoticed if he were addressing Jews (5:41; 7:1-4, etc.).
There were two great Gentile peoples of that day the Romans and the Greeks, and Mark is addressing the first-named. The Romans represented the idea of active power in the world, and their ideal was military glory. They were the people who did things. Their highest conception of power and authority was themselves, i. e., the Roman state, which they worshipped in the person of its emperor. Their spiritual need as a people grew out of this fact, for they were failing to attain their ideal in the state. With all their power and authority, injustice, cruelty and suffering, still prevailed, and would continue to do so.
Mark's Gospel fits into this condition of things. It sets forth Jesus as the active Servant of Jehovah. It is marked by energy, power, movement, particularly attractive to the Romans. It is the briefest Gospel, containing but sixteen chapters in comparison with the twenty-eight in Matthew, showing it to be intended for a people of action rather than meditation. The discourses of Jesus are omitted, rather than His deeds, as for example, the Sermon on the Mount, the charge to the disciples, the message on His second coming. And then, too, the things which Mark records as distinguished from Matthew, are those calculated to arouse the attention of men of affairs and action. In this connection note the frequent employment of the words "straightway" and "immediately," which are the same word in the original, and occur not less than forty times.
Speaking of Jesus as the Servant of Jehovah, it is to be remembered that he was so announced by the Old Testament prophets. (See Isa. 42:1; 43:10; 49:6, and elsewhere. Also Zech. 3:8, Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:7, etc.) It is not our idea to follow this thought closely in commenting on the Gospel, but it may be interesting to give the following outline of it from that point of view, in Gaebelein's Analysis of Mark:
Part 1. The Servant; Who He is and How He came. 1:1-13.
Part 2. The Servant's Work; not to be Ministered unto, but to Minister, 1:14-10:52.
Part 3. The Servant in Jerusalem. Presented as King and Rejected. Chapters 11-13.
Part 4. The Servant giving His life a Ransom for Many. Chapters 14-15:47.
Part 5. The Servant Highly Exalted. Risen and Ascended; His Commission to His Servants. Chapter 16.
1. Give four reasons for believing that Mark wrote for the Gentiles.
2. Describe the Romans and their spiritual need.
3. Give three reasons for believing that Mark wrote for the Romans.
4. From what point of view does Mark present Jesus?
5. Give Gaebelein's outline of Mark.
BEGINNING OF CHRIST'S MINISTRY
Study this lesson in comparison with Matthew to discover what Mark omits and what, if anything, he adds; and then consider the same in its bearing on the object or purpose of the gospel as described in the "introductory" lesson.
The following analysis will aid:
Testimony of John the Baptist, 1:2-8.
Testimony of God the Father, 1:9-11.
Victory in the Wilderness, 1:12, 13.
Call of the Disciples, 1:14-20.
Works of Power, 1:21-2:12.
The introduction is without a parallel in the other Gospels. Its abruptness is almost startling, but the chief feature of it is its testimony to Christ's deity. The Servant of Jehovah is at the same time "the mighty God" (See Isa. 9:6).
John's testimony is paralleled in Matthew 3:1-11, but here it is much briefer (See the last lesson). Compare the intervening chapters of Matthew and observe in detail what Mark has omitted -- the genealogy, the Virgin birth, the visit of the wise men, the sojourn in Egypt, the settlement in Nazareth. None of these important events evidently fall in with the purpose of this Gospel. The Romans will be attracted by activity and strength, and hence the writer begins at once at the ministry of Christ.
God's testimony to His Son is paralleled in Matthew 3:13-17. Note here the first use of "straightway," as referred to in "Introductory," and that Mark says -- Jesus "saw the heavens opened." Among minor points Mark's Gospel is notable for descriptive details of this kind.
The wilderness victory is found in Matthew 4:1-11, and the student will be impressed with its succinctness here. Compare "driveth" with "led" in Matthew, and note the bearing on the supposed objective of this Gospel. The different temptations are omitted, but reference is made to "wild beasts," which is also characteristic.
For what is placed here under the call of the disciples, see Matthew 4:12-22 and the comments there.
The works of power are paralleled in part in Matthew 8 and 9. Note another descriptive touch in Mark's reference to the healing of Peter's wife's mother, "He took her by the hand and lifted her up" (1:31). Also his reference to Christ's early rising to pray (v. 35), and His being "moved with compassion" in the case of the leper (v. 41). He alone speaks of the "four" men who bore the one sick of the palsy (2:3).
1. Did you read again the chapters in Matthew leading up to the events of this lesson in Mark?
2. What strikes you as peculiar in verse 1?
3. Among minor points for what is Mark's Gospel noted?
4. What four illustrations of this are found in the last division of this lesson?
5. Have you examined a map in connection with this lesson?
FROM THE CALL OF LEVI TO THE TEACHING BY THE SEASIDE
The events are:
The call of Levi, 2:13-20.
Parables of the cloth and the bottles, 2:21-22.
In the cornfields on the Sabbath, 2:23-28.
Healing the withered hand, 3:1-5.
Healing the multitudes, 3:6-12.
Choosing the twelve, 3:13-21.
The unpardonable sin, 3:22-30.
New relationship, 3:31-35.
We will not in every case name the parallel passage in Matthew, which can be learned by the marginal references in one's Bible. It is assumed that every reader or student has a Bible of this character which he consults. He will look for the comment desired under our treatment of Matthew in that place, while in Mark we will limit ourselves to what is peculiar to that writer.
The "Levi" of 2:13 is identical with Matthew. He took toll, or collected the taxes for the Roman government, which made him an object of hatred to his own people and one who was despised as an apostate. Mark mentions the fact, omitted by Matthew, that the feast of verse 15 was in Levi's house.
In the incident of the withered hand also, there is an addition not found elsewhere, indicating that Mark was a close observer of his Master's actions and interpreter of His feelings (3:5).
The choosing of the twelve (3:13-21) has quite a different context in Mark from Matthew. Christ is on the mountain, but the Sermon on the Mount is not given. Notice, too, that the surnames of James and John are found here only (v. 17). And do not pass over verse 21, which is peculiar to Mark. "Friends" there means "kinsmen."
A very important addition is that under the head of the unpardonable sin (v. 29). "Danger of eternal damnation" is rendered in the Revised Version "guilty of an eternal sin," which teaches us the awful nature of ascribing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and also the certainty of eternal punishment. If there is such a thing as eternal sin, there must be eternal punishment to accompany it.
1. What are the leading incidents of this lesson?
2. Who was Levi?
3. What is characteristic of Mark as a reporter?
4. Name the things peculiar to Mark's record.
5. What two great doctrinal truths are here emphasized?
PARABLES AND MIRACLES
Chapters 4, 5
This lesson contains the parables of the sower, the candle, the seed growing secretly and the mustard seed (4:1-34); and the miracles of the stilling of the storm, the healing of the Gadarene and the woman with the issue of blood, and the raising of Jairus' daughter (4:35-5:43).
The parables of the sower (4:1-20) and the mustard seed (30-34) are the only two out of the seven in Matthew 13 which Mark records. The whole of the seven taught the mystery of the Kingdom in its present form which explains their presence in Matthew, the Gospel of the Kingdom; but why two of them are given in Mark, and only two, is not easy to determine. Keeping in mind, however, that Mark presents Jesus as the Servant of Jehovah, it may be because these two miracles relate to His work of ministry. Mark adds an interesting sentence to the parable of the sower (4:13) which indicates that it is fundamental in its character and teaching, and that until it is understood, the others cannot be.
While the parable of the candle (4:21-25) is in Matthew yet it is found there in another setting. In the present instance, taken with that of the sower, it seems to teach that the word of truth sown in the heart is not only to give life and yield fruit, but to shine forth in testimony. The "bushel" stands for the cares and material things of life, and the "bed" for ease and comfort. We should be careful that our testimony be not hindered either in the one way or the other.
The parable of the seed growing secretly (Chaps. 26-29) is peculiar to Mark, and teaches that the spiritual processes of the Word of God are mysterious in human life, and will only be known by the matured fruit at the harvest day.
In the story of the stilling of the storm (4:35-41) we have another characteristic touch of Mark (v. 36).
He also describes the condition of the Gadarene with the greatest fulness (5:1-20), and alone gives verse 26 in the story of the woman with the issue of blood.
1. Name the events in this lesson in their order.
2. Why, presumably, are but two out of the seven parables of Matthew 13 found in Mark?
3. Can you quote and explain the sentence added by Mark to the parable of the sower?
4. What does the parable of the candle teach?
5. Explain the figures of speech in that parable.
6. What is taught by the parable of the seed growing secretly?
7. What are the characteristic touches of Mark in 4:36 and 5:36?
8. What descriptions of the demoniac are peculiar to Mark?
EXPANSION AND OPPOSITION
Chapters 6, 7
These chapters deal with Jesus' visit to Nazareth (6:1-6); the commission of the twelve (7-13); the martyrdom of John the Baptist (14-29); the report of the twelve (30, 31); the feeding of the five thousand (32-44); Jesus walking on the sea (45-52); healing at Gennesaret (53-56); opposition of the Pharisees (7:1-23); dealing with the Syrophoenician woman (24-30) and recovering the deaf and dumb man (31-37).
Read Matthew 13:53-58 in comparison with Mark's story of Jesus' visit to Nazareth, and discover what is peculiar to the latter in verses 3-6. In the same way compare Matthew 15:13, with verse 31 of this lesson for a statement only given by Mark. Another calls attention to the fact that our Lord does not say anything about the success of the disciples when they make their report to Him in this instance; in which silence on His part we find a necessary warning against all self-exaltation. It is of His power and grace that we are able to do anything with success or acceptance in His sight.
What notable feature of the walking upon the sea does Mark omit as compared with Matthew?
We considered the opposition of the Pharisees (7:1-23) in our comments on Matthew, but note here in detail the circumstantial evidence that Mark was writing for a Gentile people who were in consequence unfamiliar with Jewish customs (1-4).
In the case of the Syrophoenician woman note the comment of Mark (24), and the fuller description (25, 26, 30). What he omits is also significant, the appeal to Jesus as "Son of David," See the comment on Matthew 15:21-28.
The story of the healing of the deaf and dumb man is peculiar to Mark.
1. Name the different events of these chapters.
2. What is peculiar to Mark in the story of Jesus' visit to Nazareth?
3. What statement is peculiar to Mark with reference to the report of the twelve?
4. What does the silence of Christ teach us in this instance?
5. Have you reviewed our comments in Matthew on the story of the Syrophoenician woman?
REACHING A CRISIS
Chapters 8, 9
The four thousand fed (8:1-9); the leaven of the Pharisees (10-21); the blind man of Bethesda (22-26); Peter's confession (27-38); the crisis of the transfiguration (Chapter 9, 1-13); the lunatic healed (14-29); Christ's prediction of His death (30-32); ambition rebuked (33-37); sectarianism rebuked (38-41); future retribution (42-50) -- these are the topics or events of the present lesson.
In the second of these events, observe a further illustration of Mark's power of observation and the minuteness of his record in particular cases -- Jesus "sighed deeply in His spirit" (8:12).
The third is recorded only by Mark, and has an illuminating note attached to it in the Scofield Bible. It will be observed that the man was "led out of the town" (Bethsaida). This town, as appears from Matthew 9:21-24 had been abandoned to judgment, and Christ would neither heal nor permit further testimony to be borne there (v. 26 of the lesson). But while Bethsaida's probation as a community was ended, yet He would still show mercy to individuals. It suggests Rev. 3:20.
Mark, as usual, gives the briefest account of Peter's confession, and does not mention the Church. The mention of the latter is dispensational and is found in the dispensational Gospel of Matthew. Notice verse 33, "when He had turned about and looked on His disciples" -- characteristic of Mark.
The warning about future retribution (9:42-50) peculiar to Mark, is one of the most solemn in the Bible. "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," can hardly yield other meaning than the eternal conscious punishment of those who die in their sins. How awful the thought! What a motive for earnestness in soul-winning!
"Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt," is an allusion to Leviticus 2:13. The salt represents the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us from all that tends to corruption. "Have salt in yourselves" really means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. God grant it to us.
1. Name the topics or events of this lesson.
2. Name some illustrations of Mark's peculiar characteristics as a writer, found in this lesson.
3. What peculiarities do you find in the miracle at Bethsaida?
4. What is the doctrinal teaching in 9:44, 46, 48?
5. How would you interpret 9:49-50?
NEARING THE END
Chapters 10, 11
In these chapters we have (1) teaching about divorce (10:1-12); (2) blessing little children (vv. 13-16); (3) the story of the rich young man and its lessons (vv. 17-31); (4) Christ's second prediction of His death (vv. 32-34); (5) the ambitious request of James and John (vv. 35-45); (6) the healing of Bartimeus; (7) the formal entry into Jerusalem (11:1-11); (8) the cursing of the fig tree (vv. 12-14); (9) the cleansing of the temple (vv. 15-21); (10) teaching about prayer (vv. 22-26); (11) discussion with the rulers (vv. 27-33).
It will be worth while to compare the teaching about divorce with Matthew 19: 1-9, for the points of difference between them. Both the evangelists record the same incident, but reading of the two together throws light upon it. This does not mean that one contradicts the other, but that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit one describes the event as he saw it, and the other does the same. Again, one lays emphasis on this feature of the dialog between Christ and the Pharisees, and the other on that.
But note Mark's particularities about the next event as compared with Matthew. Jesus "was much displeased," he says, "moved with indignation" (margin). Verse 15 is original with Mark, and so is the record that Jesus took the little children "up in His arms" and "blessed them."
In the same way observe the details in the story of the rich young man. His running and kneeling. "Jesus beholding him, loved him." "Jesus looked round about." Also the astonishment of the disciples and Jesus' explanation (v. 24).
The second prediction of Christ's death has similar features. Mark says "they were amazed," doubtless at His calmness in walking into the face of death, when even "they were afraid." "He took again the twelve." "And shall spit upon Him." Mark alone mentions this in Christ's prophecy.
There is no contradiction between Mark 10:35 and Matthew 20:20, for if their mother spake for them it were really James and John who were speaking. All the disciples recognized this, for it was the sons they rebuked and not the mother.
The healing of Bartimeus as we noted in Matthew, stands at the beginning of the end of Christ's earthly life, and is the prelude to the great events following in Jerusalem. It holds the same place in the three Gospels. The apparent contradiction as to whether one or two men were healed, is referred to in our notes on Matthew. But note the details in Mark (vv. 49, 50, 52).
The entry into Jerusalem is equally graphic. "A colt tied, whereon never man sat." Note the details also in 11:5, 6 and 11.
We can not pursue these comparisons, but trust interest has been awakened to lead the reader to do so for himself.
1. Give the details of these two chapters.
2. What is the most important difficulty you note in Christ's teaching on divorce as between Mark and Matthew?
3. Have you reviewed our notes on Matthew with reference to Bartimeus?
4. What are the details peculiar to Mark in 11:5, 6 and 11?
5. Have you pursued the comparisons throughout this chapter?
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Chapters 12, 13
The parable of the householder (vv. 1-12); the question of tribute (vv. 13-17); the question about the resurrection (vv. 18-27); the question about the first commandment (vv. 28-34); the question about the son of David (35-40); and the incident of the widow's mite constitute the contents of chapter 12. Chapter 13 is the discourse of Christ about His second coming delivered to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, also in response to questions.
It will be recalled from our study of Matthew that the parable of the householder found in that Gospel (21:33-46), was one of the three in which Christ formally rejected His nation, after the latter, by its rulers had definitely rejected Him. It will be seen by comparison that Mark, as is His wont, passes on with celerity, omitting those features of the story which were not necessary for his purpose as in the other Gospel.
With the question of tribute, begins that series of special temptations of Jesus devised by His enemies toward the last to entrap Him in His speech. The Pharisees and Herodians come first (see Matt. 22:15-22). The Sadducees next (Matt. 22:23-33). The scribe, representing the lawyers next (Matt. 22:34-40), and finally Christ silences them all by His question concerning Himself (22:41-46). We have included in this last section the few verses in which Mark refers to the discourse against the scribes and Pharisees, which in Matthew occupies the whole of chapter 23 (the "Woes"). And yet brief as Mark is, his abridgment contains "the chief characteristics of the corrupt leaders of the nation," which are religious vanity, hypocrisy and greed.
The incident of the widow's mite is not found in Matthew, but is in Luke (21:1-4). How appropriately it follows Christ's denunciation of the Pharisees who "devour widow's houses" (v. 40). Note the detailed description here. Where had Jesus located Himself? What was Jesus doing? Whom and what did He see? What is the value of "two mites"? What does Jesus now do? What does He say? What is the estimate of, or enconium on, the widow? Which gave the more, she, or the rich, and why?
In the occasion for the Olivet discourse, what interesting fact is given by Mark not mentioned by Matthew (13:3)? In treating of this discourse in Mark, Gaebelein says:
"Mark's report is the briefest, Matthew's the longest. Omitted in Mark are the parables, which have special reference to the Christian profession (Matt. 25) and the judgment of living nations (c. 25:31-46). These belong in Matthew, but would be out of keeping with the purpose of Mark. The service of our Lord, as we have seen, is in the foreground. "The three characteristic discourses in Matthew nowhere else reported in full are: 1. The Sermon on the Mount, which is the proclamation of the King. 2. The parable discourse in Matthew 13, the mysteries of the Kingdom. 3. The Olivet discourse, Matthew 24-25, the future of the Kingdom. But why should there be anything at all in the Gospel of Mark about the future things, such as the end of the age, and His return in glory, if only the Servant is described? It will be seen that the predictions are in part at least in view of their service. He forewarned them as His servants of what was to come after His departure."
1. Name the leading incidents of this lesson.
2. To what group of parables does that of the householder belong?
3. To what series of questions does that of the tribute belong?
4. What chapter of Matthew contains the woes against the Scribes and Pharisees.
5. What does Mark omit from the Olivet discourse?
THE BETRAYAL AND ARREST
This chapter corresponds with the 26th of Matthew, and contains the plots of Jesus' enemies (vv. 1, 2); His anointing at Bethany (vv. 3-9); the bargain of Judas (vv. 10, 11); the last Passover and the Lord's Supper (vv. 12-25); Peter's denial predicted (vv. 26-31); the agony in the garden (vv. 32-42); the betrayal and arrest (vv. 43-52); the hearing before the high-priest (vv. 53-65); Peter's denial (vv. 66-72).
Mark's talent for details is seen in his giving a specific money value to the ointment which Mary used, 300 pence, while we shall never cease to be grateful to him under God, for quoting Christ's laconic commendation of her, "She hath done what she could" (vv. 3-9). How many sermons have these words preached, and what comfort have they brought to those whose limited ability has permitted only little ministries!
It is Mark who tells us that the Sanhedrin was "glad" at the chance to bargain with Judas for the life of Jesus (vv. 10, 11).
It is he who mentions the "two" disciples sent forth to make ready the Passover, and who indicates how the man was identified at whose house it was to be eaten. He also gives details of the conversation held with him (vv. 12-25).
Christ's prediction of Peter's denial (vv. 26-31) is made more graphic by the statement concerning the cock crowing "twice," which is referred to again at the time of its fulfillment.
In the Gethsemane crisis, according to Mark, Christ prays that "the hour" might pass from him (vv. 32-42).
And an interesting detail is that of the young man who at the betrayal fled away naked, and whom tradition identifies as Mark himself (vv. 43-52).
In the hearing before the high-priest, note that significant touch, Peter "warmed himself"; and that other about the witnesses agreeing not together (vv. 53-65).
1. Give the facts of this chapter.
2. Indicate some of the interesting details it contains, peculiar to Mark.
3. How was the host of the Passover feast identified?
4. What item of Mark's personal history is supposed to be found in this chapter?
5. How does he indicate the injustice of Jesus' trial?
CRUCIFIED AND RISEN
Chapters 15, 16
Jesus before Pilate (15:1-15); mocked by the soldiers (16:23); nailed to the cross (24-41); buried in the tomb (42-47); risen from the dead (16:1-18); ascended into heaven (19-20) -- are the closing events in Mark's Gospel.
As in other instances, Mark's account of the trial before Pilate is the briefest while that of Matthew is the longest in the Gospels. The former, however, especially emphasizes the religious hatred of the people. He also describes more particularly the charge laid against Barabbas (15:7) who was released, though guilty and condemned; and this because the Lord Jesus took his place. "Christ was his substitute," says another, "and Barabbas when released might have looked up at Him on the Cross, and have said, 'He died for me, he paid my penalty' -- a blessed illustration of the atonement."
Mark says, "they clothed him with purple" (17), while Matthew describes it as a "scarlet robe" (27-28) but as Lange explains, the scarlet military robe was meant to represent the imperial robe, and hence called in the symbolic sense purple.
Note how Mark dwells on the personality of Simon the Cyrenian (21). The reason he was drafted to bear the Cross was that Jesus' strength was exhausted and He could not Himself bear it. This seems implied in the word "bring" (22). They had to bring, in the sense that they had to bear, or carry, Jesus to Golgotha, they had to hold Him up on the road. As one says, what an appearance He must have presented after all the scourging and other indignities He received! How His face must have been marred by the blows, and how His sacred head must have bled from the cruel crown of thorns! It is Mark only who mentions that the wine (or vinegar) they gave Him was "mingled with myrrh," which was considered an anodyne to deaden pain. It was for this reason Jesus refused it. Mark says it was "the third hour" when they crucified Him. while John says the sixth (c. 19, 14); there is a difficulty here, but the latter alludes to the Roman method of computing time and the former the Hebrew.
Mark mentions the "boldness" of Joseph of Arimathea in begging the body from Pilate (43). "Boldness" in the face of the Sanhedrin to which he belonged, and at whose insistence it was that Jesus had been crucified. One must be a converted Jew in these days and experience his persecution and torture at the hands of his own people, to understand something of what this may have meant to Joseph (Compare Isa. 53:9).
Coming to the resurrection chapter, we again observe the brevity of Mark compared with Matthew. For the order of events on the resurrection day compare the comments on Matthew 28. Mark especially mentions Peter (7), which is the more noticeable because he also describes Peter's denial in the fullest way. The passage from verse 9 to the end of this chapter is not in the two most ancient manuscripts, the Sinaitic and Vatican, and others have it with partial omissions and variations, but it is quoted by some of the fathers of the second and third centuries. The whole church, practically, has accepted it as genuine from that period.
The "Great Commission" in Mark (15:18) differs from Matthew. In the former the Kingdom is not in view, but "the Servant having given His life as a ransom, the good news is to go forth." Signs were to follow them that believe. These signs did not follow all even in the apostles' time, but they did follow some. And if they do not follow now, it is because there are other evidences more suitable for the later periods of Christianity. As a matter of fact, however, such signs do still follow the preaching of the gospel on foreign mission fields, and doubtless will be practically universal again as the end of the age draws near and the coming of the King.
Mark records the ascension as Matthew does not, and even penetrates the clouds and sees Christ in heaven at the right hand of God. But He sees Him working with His disciples even though He is in heaven (20), and refers to it in a word found nowhere else in the Gospels. How fitting thus the close of that Gospel intended for the active energetic Roman!
1. Name the closing events in this Gospel.
2. What illustration of the atonement is found here?
3. Why was Simon drafted to bear Christ's Cross?
4. How do you harmonize the two accounts as to the hour of the crucifixion?
5. Can you quote Isa. 53:9?
6. What do you know about the closing verses of the Gospel?
7. What comment may be made on 16:17, 18?
8. What new thought about the life of our ascended Lord does Mark express?
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