Today we are beginning to read the second book of the new testament, Mark. So let's just start with a brief look at this book as a whole.
The writer of this book was John Mark and his mom’s name was Mary. Their home was used as a meeting place by Jesus and His disciples. In fact, it was to Mark’s home to which Peter went when he was miraculously released from prison.
Mark was in the middle of all the events happening during the formation of the church of Jesus that we are a part of. Mark was also particularly close to Peter and to Paul. Mark went on a missionary journey with Paul and became his companion during Paul’s imprisonment in a Roman jail.
Scholars believe that Mark was written between AD 50- AD 70, most likely during the AD 60’s. And the overall theme is 'Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God'.
The years when he wrote were not good ones for the Christians in Rome. Nero, the emperor, burned Rome in AD 64 and the intense persecution of the Christians began. Nero threw the Christians into the coliseum to be torn apart by wild animals and used them as human torches at his garden parties. Mark wrote this account of the good news of Jesus to these Christians who were being persecuted and who were dying in Jesus name.
It is the shortest of the gospels and his account is rich in eyewitness testimony. For example, his account of Jesus blessing the children is the only one where it is mentioned that Jesus took them into his arms.
Mark groups the accounts of Jesus thematically and according to Jesus ministry.
Preparation. Proclamation. Completion. He also writes of who Jesus is.
Jesus as Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God.
The beginning of Mark chapter 1 speaks of John the Baptist, the temptation of Jesus, calling of disciples, and miracles. I am going to speak a bit about this John the Baptist. He was this man who was preaching out in the wilderness about repentance and forgiveness. John was a very popular speaker and pretty unusual in that he wore rough clothing made of camel’s hair and tied with a leather belt. His diet was unusual in that he ate locusts and wild honey. That was the diet of very poor people. His message drew people from all over the Judean countryside and Jerusalem, which was about 20 miles from where John was. (Keep in mind that most people walked everywhere so travel took time!)
John was a prophet sent by god to prepare people for Jesus and His ministry. John was spoken about by Old Testament prophets hundreds of years before he was born. John was acknowledged by Jesus as the prophet that the Old Testament spoke of. John’s ministry excited the people for the coming of the Messiah that they had been hearing of and longing for.
As I read, I wondered if you and I are like this John the Baptist. Not that we wear weird clothes and eat weird food but if we bring an excitement that leads people to to Jesus. Do our lives and words cause others to want to get to know us so that they will know Jesus and have forgiveness? Are you a John?