I have been spending a lot of time studying Mark's Gospel over the past six months. My Community Group launched last October and the first things we read together was Mark's Gospel. It provided a great foundation for our group, and I grew in my love for Jesus. Then in January, our entire church launched into a Mark series. We preached on Mark. Many of our Adult Community Groups studied Mark. I did an evangelism training related to Mark's Gospel. Our Family Ministries incorporated Mark. Through all of this I learned (or was reminded) of some things about Jesus. This all served to grow my affection and love for Jesus, and I am thankful for the time we have spent reading Mark's Gospel. If you want to learn more about how you could read Mark's Gospel, there are resources at this link to provide some support.
The Ten things I learned (or was reminded of...)
These are in no particular order, and this is not an exhaustive list of the things a person may learn about Jesus through studying the Gospels. Although each of them is important for us to consider when we think about Jesus.
1. Jesus calls all people to follow him
Jesus invites every type of person to follow him. Whether they are a tax collector, sinner, leper, demon possessed man, fisherman, or anyone else, Jesus does not exclude. For example, Jesus calls Levi (a tax collector) and then shares a meal with his crew of tax collectors and sinners. The religious leaders of the day didn't like that much, so Jesus makes it clear that he came to call the sick (Mk 2:13-17). No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, Jesus invites you to follow him. We just need to recognize our need for the physician and respond.
2. Jesus calls his followers to servant-hood
On multiple occasions, Jesus calls his followers to servant-hood. On one occasion, two of his disciples approached him to request the privileged seats in the kingdom. Jesus explains that greatness in the kingdom is not about lording it over others or exercising authority over others. Rather, "whoever would be great among you must be your servant (Mk 10:43)." With Jesus as the chief example, who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45)." Jesus wants his followers to walk in humility and with a servant's heart.
3. What happened during Jesus' last week on earth is a big deal
The events that occurred during the final week of Jesus' earthly life are a big deal. Mark commits at least one-third of his gospel to record the final week of Jesus' life. During this week, Jesus enters Jerusalem, institutes the Lord's Supper, is betrayed, put on trial, crucified, dies and rises again. The death and resurrection of Jesus are extremely important. The fact that Mark (and all the Gospel writers) spends so much time on the final week should make us ask what is so important about that final week. For the person who follows Jesus, the death and resurrection are central to our faith. This is the event that sets us free. It should matter a great deal to us, as it did to Mark's record of Jesus' life.
4. Following Jesus means giving him all of us
As I said earlier, Jesus invites all people to follow him, but it will require ever part of the person who does follow Jesus. Following Jesus is not something a person can just add-on to the rest of their life, like a plug-in to your Chrome web browser. Jesus call us to change everything about who we are. Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. This means that everything now falls under the lordship of Jesus. You don't have to sell your home, but you should no longer view your home as just yours. It falls under the lordship of Jesus. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to change professions, but your vocation is no longer just yours, it falls under the lordship of Jesus. It is an all-of-life short of following. It isn't like adding a plug-in to your Chrome browser, it is like entirely changing your default browser to Firefox (my apologies to all the googleites out there).
5. Jesus prayed
Jesus was intentional to create the space to pray. At one point, Jesus takes his disciples away from all the busyness of ministry to "rest a while (Mk 6:31)." It doesn't say this in the text, but I am guessing Jesus wanted to pray as part of this "rest." They were not able to rest though, because the crowds followed them. Jesus had compassion on the people and he began to teach them many things and eventually performed the great miracle known as the feeding of the five thousand. After this miracle, he sends his disciples ahead, because he still wanted to pray. Jesus went up on the mountain and took the time to pray. There are other instances of Jesus praying throughout the Gospel of Mark (as well as the other three gospels). Jesus prayed. If the Son of God prayed, then so should we.
6. Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father
Jesus had an intimate relationship with the Father during his earthly ministry. This relationship existed eternally before Jesus came to earth as the incarnation, and still exists today, but we are able to see a clear picture of it in the gospels. God affirms Jesus as his beloved son, in whom he is well pleased (Mk 1:11). Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane signals a deep and intimate relationship with the Father.
7. Jesus wants to be with his disciples, but also send them out
In Mark 3:14-15, there is a great statement about Jesus' relationship with his disciples. It says that Jesus appointed the twelve "so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons." As a follower of Jesus, this was a great reminder to first be with Jesus and then be sent by Jesus. We are first called to a vibrant relationship with Jesus, and then we are called to live as sent ones.
8. Jesus is both mighty and meek
Mark's gospel narrative is organized around first establishing Jesus as God. The first half of the gospel is constantly communicating Jesus' authority and divinity. Jesus is God. Jesus is mighty. Following the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ (Mk 8:29), the gospel narratives shifts its focus toward the cross. After the confession by Peter, on three different occasions, Mark records Jesus explaining that he was going to suffer, die and rise again. Jesus begins to especially call his disciples to other-centered service. Jesus is mighty, but he is also meek. Jesus is powerful, yet allows himself to be weak. It is important to see both sides of Jesus.
9. The wind and waves obey his voice
In one scene, Jesus calms a great storm. The disciples ask, "who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mk 4:41)" Jesus displays his authority throughout Mark's Gospel. We see his authority over the natural world when he calms the storm, over the spiritual world when he casts out demons, over the religious world when he teaches as one with authority, and over the physical world when he heals people. Over and over again, Jesus establishes his authority as God. Even the wind and the waves obey his voice.
10. Jesus' followers are an extension of his ministry
The ministry that Jesus calls his disciples to do is really just an extension of his own ministry. Jesus calls them to teach and cast out demons (Mk 3:13-15), he gives them authority over the unclean spirits (6:7), he is teaching them how to heal and cast out demons (9:14-28) and he calls them to the same servant mentality that he embodies (10:42-45). Throughout Jesus' ministry, he kept it simple. He preached, taught, healed, casted out demons and called disciples. In the same fashion, we are an extension of that ministry when we share the good news of Jesus (teach & preach), engage in mercy ministry (heal & cast out demons) and invite others to follow Jesus as well (call disciples).
What about you?
What you you learned or been reminded of about Jesus in 2015? I would love to get your thoughts in the comments section below.