Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mark in May

At my home congreation, we have a book of the month club and congregants study a guide written by one of our members--none scholars, just everyday Christians, who are out to please the Lord.

I've written the guideline for the book of Mark. Every few days, I'll post one section of the guideline and some comments along. Join me in this quest to delve a little deeper into the gospel of Mark.

The Gospel of Mark Reading and Study Guide by Cathy Messecar, May 2010

Get ready for a treat. As you read through the book of Mark in May, you will meet anew—Jesus the Wonderful, the breathtaking Savior sent to redeem the entire world.

You will also see a timeframe of Jesus’ day-to-day ministry, when he went from one good work to another and didn’t grow weary. The book of Mark uses the terms immediately, at once, without delay, as soon as, just as over 40 times. Those time references allow us to see that Jesus’ day was crowded with needy people. His example—even when pressed—can help us pattern our responses after his servant heart. Mark helps us see the immediacy of the needs that surrounded Jesus.

Authorship: Most scholars agree that Mark wrote this gospel. However, Mark may have witnessed only parts of Jesus’ ministry, making some think that Peter guided and advised Mark’s writing of the gospel while they were in Babylon together (1 Peter 5:13).

John Mark: son of Mary (Acts 12:12), cousin or nephew to Barnabas (depending upon commentary opinions, Colossians 4:10).

Purpose: The purpose of Mark’s gospel—written primarily to Gentile readers—proves by Jesus’ works that he was sent from God, empowered over nature, demons, and illnesses. Mark shows that Jesus deserves allegiance above all others. Mark emphasizes the authority and miracles of Jesus rather than the teachings of Christ, and his inspired writing technique—of relating mostly miracles—reminded me of God arming Moses with miracles to prove to the Egyptians that God ruled supreme.

Theme: The word servant is only used seven times in the text of Mark, but the prevalent theme is captured in chapter 10:45 when Mark writes about Jesus that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.

Date: 65-70 A.D (most scholars), while some give it a much earlier unreliable date.

Key Words: The Inductive Study Bible suggests key words or phrases to highlight in Mark: immediately, at once, without delay, just as. Also consider these: authority, kingdom of God, references to Satan or demons and covenant.

Throughout this study, my passion is to interest you in thinking about how Jesus interacts and life-supports you each day. I encourage you to daily offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Jesus’ intervention, healing, or comfort. Instead of ending a prayer “in Jesus’ name”—which has a tendency to become trite or meaningless—try the sample prayer-ending phrases at the end of each chapter or come up with your own as you study Mark. Think of actual ways Jesus helped you throughout the day and end your prayers in that way.

The printed chapter-study (available at foyer Conroe Church of Christ, Conroe, Texas) includes a general question or two on each chapter, a summary thought and prayer endings; the online version at the church website is more substantive. I’ll post the online version at my blog every few days and welcome your comments: 

Chapter One

Verses 1-8, John the Baptist prepares the way

The long-awaited baby of Luke-one-fame, John (later known as the baptizer), became a nomadic prophet, who ushered in the Light to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:79).

If you had seen this bedraggled prophet dressed in camel’s hair and feeding on locusts would you have listened to his message or discounted him as weird?

(By the way, my husband David thinks John occasionally filled in his menu with a roasted desert critter)

Verses 9-13, the baptism and temptation of Jesus

God cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13), however, Jesus—God with us, in the flesh—could. Jesus employed several means to resist temptation. Name those. Have you also used these successfully? How? When?

Verses 14-20, the calling of the first disciples

In September of 1984, C. D. Davis, one of our ministers said, “If we are really following Jesus, he will make us fishers of men” (bold italics mine). Consider C D’s challenge and these words of Jesus, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” What fisher-of-men gifts do you have?

Verses 21-28, Jesus drives out an evil spirit

Mankind has free will and we can obey God or not. What beings do not have a choice when God issues an imperative command? Sit quietly and imagine verses 23-28 playing out in front of you. Are you, too, amazed?

Verses 29-34, Jesus heals many

Notice how illnesses and diseases are mentioned separately from casting out demons? Why did Mark do that? Read James 6:10-13. Who are your unseen enemies? With God on your side, how will you defeat them?

Verses 35-39, Jesus prays in a solitary place

Jesus’ solitary time with God maintained his heart, soul, servant spirit, work, and character. How do you maintain your ministries?

Verses 40-45, a man with leprosy

Consider the description of Jesus that he was filled with compassion when he saw the leprous man, and he reached out to touch and heal. Since Jesus is the only one worthy of comparing our actions to, how “filled” are we with compassion toward the suffering—the ill or those suffering the consequences of their sins?

Summary Thought: Jesus is able to overcome all outside forces and our inner weaknesses and to come along side to make us fishers of men.

Prayer Endings: In the name of Jesus, who was tempted but did not sin (vs. 12).

In the name of Jesus, who prayed in solitary places (vs. 35).

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