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
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
Mark 1:1-3 – NIV
How well do you know your family roots? Genealogical research is a big business these days with many people trying to find out as much as possible about their ancestors. Everyone hopes that, like the Spencers, they are related to royalty, and no one wants to be a descendant of horse thieves or criminals. A person’s lineage was considered to be very important in New Testament times as well, and so the beginning of the Gospels8 are all about roots and establishing Jesus’ spiritual heritage.
When we look at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we see that it begins with a genealogy that connects Jesus to Abraham. Luke has a genealogy too, along with a declaration of his intention to write an acceptable historical record of the beginnings of Christianity. John’s gospel goes back beyond the birth of Jesus to Jesus’ roots in eternity as the eternal word or Son of God. Mark doesn’t have anything like that. In fact, Mark doesn’t even have anything about the birth of Jesus. Does Mark know about the birth stories? It is quite possible he does not. Jesus does not speak of them and Paul does not mention them in his epistles.9 They appear to come from the inquiries of Matthew and Luke into the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Matthew, the second Gospel written, has the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of Joseph, the story of the wise men, and Jesus being born a King. Luke, the third Gospel, has the traditional Christmas story that we all know so well: Jesus, born in Bethlehem, laid in a manger, and worshiped by shepherds. As for Mark, he starts with the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
In doing so, what Mark really wants to say is that Jesus’ family and roots are not that important. In fact, I will go ahead and warn you that, on the subject of the family of Jesus, Mark is going to surprise you. Everything you may have thought about the family of Jesus will be challenged when reading Mark. There is no interest in the birth, the family, or the childhood of Jesus. His only mention of Jesus’ family is in the conflicts Jesus has with them in his early days of ministry.10 Mark wants to say that the roots of Jesus are in the Old Testament, if you want to understand Jesus then don’t look at his followers, don’t look at his mother or father or brothers or the language he speaks or when he lives. No, look in the Bible, look in the Old Testament.
Mark is saying to us that you are not going to understand much about Jesus with your Bible closed. But with your Bible open and your mind and heart in the flow of God’s story from the Old Testament you will see who Jesus is and you will understand him. Jesus has roots that help us understand him but they are not family roots, they are Bible roots: roots that go down deep into scripture.
By starting with Isaiah, Mark takes us into the entire Old Covenant. The Good News begins with the promise and expectation of a kingdom that is the entire Old Testament story. Isaiah is particularly the prophet of the coming Kingdom of God, and Mark locates the beginnings of Jesus’ story not in birth records or a hometown, but in a prediction that someone would come announcing the way of the Lord. Scholars will point out, of course, that Mark is quoting a combination of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. The two prophets touch on two different aspects of the coming Kingdom of God: judgement and restoration. John the Baptist brings these two parts of the Kingdom message together. The Lord is coming to restore his people, but it will be a time of cleansing and refinement, not just celebration.
John the Baptist is at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel because he announces the Kingdom’s arrival and insists we must prepare for it through repentance. While both preach and call to repentance, it is Jesus who performs Kingdom miracles and calls for faith in himself. Those who wish to follow Jesus must heed the message of John: Turn and prepare for the eternal Kingdom and the one who brings it now.
 Gospel literally means “Good News”.
 The epistles refer to the letters written by Paul that are preserved in the New Testament.
 Mark 3:34-35
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