The Son of Man must suffer many things…
This study is the third in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament.
(Mark’s gospel – read in 45 minutes 13 seconds)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45 (NKJV)
Of the four accounts of Christ’s time on this earth, Mark’s gospel is the shortest and generally accepted to be written first – the basis for the more detailed gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is suggested that Peter worked with Mark in Rome, referring to him as ‘my son’, (1 Peter 5:13). Many commentators feel that Mark was recording the accounts from Peter’s close relationship with Christ, shared with him during their time together. If that was so, the brutal honesty of Peter’s denial of Christ becomes even more heart-wrenching. He shared it with Mark, allowing it to be recorded.
The gospel begins with excitement, a longed-for announcement: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…’ ” (Mark 1:3). All the constantly rehearsed prophecies were on the move with John’s ministry of baptism. Almost immediately there was Christ’s baptism, His forty days being tempted by Satan, and then we are launched into the beginning of His ministry, all before the end of the first chapter (Mark 1:1-13). This sets a tone of urgency, maintained throughout Mark’s account. There are over forty occasions when the word ‘immediately’ is used, driving forward the anthology of stories told. Christ is pictured as always moving on to the next thing – the next healing, the next teaching, the next confrontation. The overall sense is of a writer getting down as much material as he can before everything he has been told is forgotten.
In the middle of this narrative are three occasions when Jesus predicts His own death and resurrection (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34). This is a constant theme throughout, with all the events in the account pointing towards it. Written AD 60-70, and reviewing the events leading up to the crucifixion, Mark was able to identify all the moments in Christ’s ministry that pointed towards it. But he frequently highlighted the irony that the disciples failed to understand the reality of what Christ was telling them. He refers to this in Mark 8:27-33 where Peter rebukes Christ for talking about His forthcoming death. The following chapter records, ‘But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.’ (Mark 9:32).
Those closest to Jesus couldn’t see or understand it – this set against the understanding of the woman who anointed Him with oil for his burial (Mark 14:8). The disciples continued to expect Jesus to raise an army and defeat the occupying forces of Rome. They didn’t expect Him to die. One of them even turned up to the last supper with a sword, ready for the fight, but the woman seemed to know differently. Even when Peter confessed Christ was the Messiah, Mark records they still didn’t grasp what this meant – that He had to die.
The gospel ends abruptly, at Mark 16:8, in the earliest manuscripts, probably not because Mark ran out of steam but it is suggested that the original ending was lost, and Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts were used to put together a more complete ending.
Thank you, Father, that your son was prepared to suffer to become ‘a ransom for many’. Thank you that He has paid my ransom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council
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