This week we’re looking Act 1 of the Gospel According to Mark, which covers Mark 1:1-8:26. The approach we’re taking to this study breaks Mark down into 3 Acts. You can find a helpful 10 minute video summary of the whole Gospel and poster summarizing the 3 Acts in Part 1 of our study.
Act 1: Galilee
The first part of Mark’s Gospel addresses the question of who Jesus is. Jesus arrives, is anointed by God’s Spirit, announces the arrival of God’s Kingdom, then begins performing signs of power to show that he’s the Anointed King (Messiah) who has come to make God’s Kingdom on earth a reality.
Mark’s Opening (Mark 1)
The Prologue (Mark 1:1-13)
- The book opens with the title: “The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and presents the ancient promise of the prophets that God himself would come to reign as king on earth one day.
- John the Baptist appears as the messenger announcing God’s arrival, and tells the people to get ready for the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
- When Jesus arrives he is baptized by John, is anointed as Messiah by God’s Spirit, and affirmed in his identity as God’s Son. The Spirit then sends Jesus out into the wilderness for a 40 day period of testing where he overcomes the Satan, the representative of evil in the world.
The Start of Jesus’ Ministry (Mark 1:14-45)
- After John is put in jail, Jesus announces that God’s Kingdom is arriving and calls on people to change their lives and believe this Good News.
- Jesus then begins to invite people to join his Kingdom movement, starting with the fishermen Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.
- In this chapter we see how Jesus’ arrival signals that the rule of evil over the world is beginning to end and God is starting to set things right. The key sign of this is Jesus healing people of illness and driving out the hidden spiritual evil behind the brokenness and suffering of the world.
- A key theme introduced here that extends throughout all of Act 1 is that Jesus is a secret king. The spirits know who he is, but Jesus silences them. When people are healed he tells them to keep this to themselves. He doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea about what kind of king he is. Only the cross and resurrection will give the complete picture.
- Jesus starts in the major town of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but quickly moves out into the whole of Galilee to spread the message of the Kingdom and bring God’s healing to everyone.
Jesus’ Signs, Their Meaning and Peoples’ Response (Mark 2:1-8:26)
Here’s a quick summary of Jesus’ main actions in Act 1 and what they mean.
- Mark 2:1-17 Jesus heals and forgives people their sins. But… only God can forgive.
- Mark 2:23-3:6 Jesus asserts his authority over the weekly Sabbath to heal and show mercy… but only God or the King of Israel can do that.
- Mark 3:13-19 Jesus appoints Twelve of his followers to be Apostles… just like God created Israel as a nation made up of Twelve tribes.
- Mark 3:20-30 Jesus is rejected as insane by his family or as a servant of evil by a group of religious leaders. But how can that be true if Jesus is driving out evil spirits and actually healing people? If evil is being defeated then maybe Jesus is the one sent by God to rule the world…
- Mark 4:35-41 Jesus now shows power over nature as he saves his friends from a storm on the sea. Who is this man?
- Mark 5:21-43 Jesus takes his healings to a new level and even brings a dead girl back to life. Yet somehow faith is needed for Jesus to have full power to do this work.
- Mark 6:7-16 Jesus sends out the Twelve to do everything he has done. This gets the fearful attention of Herod Antipas, the local ruler who reports to the Romans. He also starts asking, “Who is this Jesus?”
- Mark 6:31-44 & 8:1-10 Jesus miraculously feeds a group of 5000 people, then does it again with a group of 4000 people. This is eerily similar to how God fed the people of Israel when they were wandering in the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Yet still the disciples don’t really understand what’s going on.
- Mark 6:45-52 Jesus walks on water. Not only is this a lot like God parting the Red Sea, but walking on water is another thing that only God can do…
- Mark 7:1-23 Jesus now turns the tables on the religious leaders demanding to know why their traditions seem more important than following what’s God’s prophets have written down in the Bible. Who is really being faithful to God here?
- Mark 7:22-37 After Jesus confronts unfaithfulness by many of Israel’s leaders we are given two stories of Gentiles (non-Jews) welcoming Jesus and believing him. Is Jesus opening the door of God’s Kingdom to all nations?
The Parables of the Kingdom
In the middle of all the action (Mark 4:1-34) Jesus tells a number of parables (symbolic stories) to explain what’s really going on. The Parable of the Sower explains why some accept the message while others don’t. And all the parables explain that though Jesus’ ministry is highly unconventional and unexpected it’s like seeds being planted that will grow into the amazing reality of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom is like a huge plant that grows from a tiny seed and a surprisingly big crop of good food for the whole world.
Conclusion to Act 1 (8:11-26)
Act 1 ends with even more opposition from the religious leaders of God’s people (8:11-13) and continued misunderstanding and confusion from the disciples (8:14-21). Yet all is not lost. The section ends with a meaningful story of Jesus healing a blind man (8:22-26). It takes Jesus two tries to get this man to see. The first time he can see a little with blurred vision, before having his vision fully restored with the second attempt. Act 2 will see Jesus bring the disciples to a partial understanding of who is and what he’s doing, before bringing them to full understanding with his death and resurrection in Act 3.
Next Week: Act 2 (Mark 8:27-10:52)