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Getting into Mark's Gospel

When you get the opportunity to teach from or about the Scriptures, the situation pushes you to get to know the particular book or passage of the Bible in an even greater way.  I am doing a teaching time coming up on the Gospel of Mark and have been utterly amazed at the message and teaching of Jesus throughout the gospel.  Generally in NT scholarship, the narrative is divided up between the 1:1-8:26 and 8:27-16:8.  The break in these sections is predicated on the idea that up to 8:27 Jesus is seen as a miracle worker, one who has authority over the forces of nature and one who calls his followers into a relationship with him.  The themes of both discipleship and authority permeate the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus garners authority through his power over the sickesses that ravage humankind (leprosy, paralytic, withered hand) and speaks as one who has authority.  The peoples amazement at his teaching as one who has authority is in direct opposition to those scribes who taught in the synagogues.  He did parrot the wisdom of past rabbis but spoke demonstrably about himself and the prophecies concerning the coming King.   Secondly, his teaching was authoritative for many because it was not blind to the concerns and trials of people in distress (physical, mental and spiritual).  He taught with authority and healed with the authority of a messenger sent by God.

The breakup of the gospel at Mark 8:26 is given due weight because of the change of Jesus' mission and message from this point on.  Up until this point, Jesus has not told his disciples about his coming sufferings, death and resurrection.  In rather cryptic fashion, Jesus tells the leper in Mark 1:44 not to tell anybody about Jesus cleansing his body, but rather go straight to the priest for proof.  As we see time and time again, people are so exuberant about the healing of Jesus that they shout it to the rooftops.  For Jesus to announce to those whom he heals to communicates of his power would be to draw unwanted attention, and would in turn speed up the opposition toward him, ending in a soon death.  Yet I think Mark 8:26 might be misleading to some because it fails to understand the welling tension or rather opposition to Jesus that happens prior to 8:26. 

Two events in Mark 6 bring to focus the rising tension between the message of Jesus and the surrounding witnesses, both Jewish and Roman.  Jesus went into his hometown teaching in the synagogue, the people surrounding him knowing of his family.  The interesting point is that though they were astonished at his wisdom, nevertheless they 'took offense at him' (6:3).  Unbelief was the charactertistic of their response.  Secondly, the death of John the Baptist at the hands of King Herod is another sign of the impending doom of the suffering servant.  If they will kill the messenger who points to the coming King, how much more will they put to death the King himself.  These reference however do not explicitly state what Jesus tells his disciples in 8:31 of his coming sufferings.  Yet, they point the reality that Jesus' coming shook the people surrounding Galille to the core, their response was not of a cavalier manner, but of great disbelief, anger, or rejoicing.  In other words, Jesus upset the whole social fabric, the whole order of belief and custom with both his words and his great deeds.

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