Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark
A devotional commentary by Michael Spencer
Compiled and Edited by: Michael Bell
Table of Contents
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God… Mark 1:1 – NIV
Every world religion has something to say about Jesus. To Islam he is a prophet. To Buddhism he is another enlightened one. To Judaism he is a good man but a false messiah. To Hinduism he is an avatar. To the New Age he is an example of Christ consciousness. Every political movement, cultural movement and effort to improve self or society borrows and reinvents Jesus. Even the hardened atheist must compare Jesus to other great historical figures to come to terms with him. How can we really come to terms with the question of truth if we haven’t made an effort to hear and understand Jesus for ourselves? How can we read and hear what others say about him if we haven’t sought him out in the pages of the first Gospel? The person who tires of hearing Christians go on and on about Jesus has no better response than to check out the primary sources and see just how the Jesus of modern Christianity harmonizes with the Christ of the first century.
The intent of the author of Mark was to introduce Jesus to a world that did not know him and already misunderstood him. That purpose still works today for anyone who is willing to invest the time. There is a timelessness to this Gospel that works for every reader. Whether you are coming to Mark as a devoted Christian, or a sincere Atheist, this short Gospel still communicates with clarity and vivid reality.
As a teacher, I suggest to my students that they do five readings of the Gospel, at least three in a familiar translation and the other two from something fresher and daring.2 Multiple readings allow for increasing familiarity, while different translations have the opportunity to surprise us with meanings. As you read, listen for the character and voice of Jesus as Mark presents him. At the same time, listen for the purposes and voice of Mark. He is inviting you into his story and you must be willing to go inside of the Gospel and not simply stand outside. This is a story of conflict and intense feelings. Dispassionate observation is impossible here. You will have to choose sides and be willing to be carried along to the ending.
Mark’s concern to identify Jesus will be seen throughout our study, but it is significant that he tells us that we begin to understand the story of Jesus not from the point of supposed neutrality, but from the point of faith. In the words of Augustine,3 “we believe in order that we may understand.” Mark begins his story with the ending already in hand. The reader of this Gospel is told up front and in loud tones that this is the story of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. He is inviting us to see for ourselves what this confession of faith means. Like a well-crafted sermon or speech, Mark starts with his “big idea” and then follows with the evidence to support his thesis. In contrast to this he also tells us that Jesus himself initially discourages some from announcing this truth.
So what is this Gospel, this good news that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God? The first title Mark uses is the easiest to understand. “Messiah”, or its Greek equivalent “Christ”, means anointed one. The Jews of that historical time period were looking for God’s anointed one who would lead them in overthrowing the Romans and would restore his people. Jesus was certainly not the only candidate for Messiah in his time, but Mark says he is the real one, just not in the way that his fellow countrymen were expecting, as we will explore in greater detail later.
The title Son of God is more difficult for modern minds to understand. Son of God is not a term strictly of relation that applies to everyone, i.e. we are all God’s children. Neither is it a New Age idea of Jesus being a special avatar or appearance of divine consciousness. It is, first of all, an expression of the core fact observed about Jesus: He considered God to be his father in the most literal sense. He spoke of God as Abba or “daddy.”4 He prayed to the Father rather than to the many-titled God of the Judaism of his day. His teachings were premised upon this relationship.5 It was such a clear and unique affirmation that it was the basis for his trial.6 He experienced God as Father throughout his life in a way that was observable to others.
Son of God is also part of the Christian understanding of God as Trinity. This is revealed in scripture, rather than explained. In the baptism of Jesus,7 God is present as Father who speaks, Spirit who anoints and Son who is present with human beings. This is the Christian conception of God as revealed by Jesus. God is the Father/Creator, he is the Spirit who we experience and he is the person, Jesus, whom we see and hear. One God revealed in three persons. The beginning is about the Gospel of Jesus, not just the story of Jesus. Mark’s story puts the story of Jesus into a larger story which begins in Genesis and continues into the history of Mark’s own time. It is a story that continues in the lives of Mark’s first century readers, who are facing abundant bad news. And it is a story that intersects in the lives of those of us who read Mark today. As we discover that the Kingdom of God includes us and that faith lets us in, we find the “Good News” for ourselves.
 When teaching, Michael Spencer used the English Standard Version (ESV). In his writing he tended to use the New Living Translation (NLT) and in earlier years the New International Version (NIV). He would also quote from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB). He recommended Phillips and The Message as alternatives. He also noted that he grew up with the King James Version and that it is the favorite translation of many of the churches in his area of Kentucky.
 Bishop Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) was an influential theologian and philosopher from North Africa.
 Mark 14:36
 Mark 11:25
 Mark 14:61 and following
 Mark 1:9-13
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