This past week, my small group started reading the Gospel of Mark. It’s the shortest of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is believed to have been written by the author John Mark while he was in Rome for the Roman Christians between the years 55 and 65 AD. John Mark received the narrative from Peter, a disciple of Jesus and one of Jesus’ closest friends – part of His inner circle.
Unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, Mark’s message begins with the ministry of Jesus. The word that jumps out from the beginning is “immediately.” John Mark used that word throughout his writing. The word I got from the beginning is unhindered. Jesus wanted to begin His ministry unhindered to share the Good News about His Father’s Kingdom. However, the more Jesus did – the miracles – the less He was able to move about freely. The people came far and wide to see Jesus – to see His miracles and to hear His message.
In the beginning, Jesus told the demons not to speak about who Jesus was (is). When the demons saw Jesus, they proclaimed Him as the Son of God. I believe Jesus didn’t want them testifying – He didn’t want people to believe the demons message. Jesus’ message was to believe in Him for who He was (is) not because of what a demon said or the miracles Jesus performed. The miracles were signs and wonders to prove His authority to what Jesus proclaimed.
People were amazed at His authority. They had never heard anything like it. However, the schooled members of society – the Pharisees had a problem with Jesus’ authority. They wanted more proof than the signs and wonders Jesus provided. Jesus said even if He died and rose again, they would not believe – and they didn’t. Their hearts were hardened and had no room for Jesus.
Early in the narrative, John Mark wrote about Jesus’ take on old and new wineskins. I believe this remark was directed to the Pharisees. The message Jesus delivered was a new message – new wine. The new wine would be better served in a new wineskin rather than an old wineskin. The message was brought forth through the disciples rather than the religious elite – the Pharisees. There would be a new vessel for the new message.
The Pharisees thought they were covered because of who they were – sons of Abraham – God’s chosen people. They didn’t believe they needed to be saved from their sins. They believed in the rules of Moses’ Law was going to save them. They had no need for Jesus. They relied on tradition and had no relationship with God. It was all about the Law and nothing more.
Jesus told a group of disciples it was more than just following rules. He expounded on the Law and said it was more than keeping the letter of the Law but even the thoughts could be judged against them. So the Law said murder was wrong, but Jesus said even our thoughts about harming someone was breaking the heart of this commandment. It’s impossible to keep the Law. The Law was given to show us our need for a Savior.
In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began His ministry in the synagogues. However, the message was rejected in those places. The message was received outside of those walls where Jesus walked among the crowd. He spoke on hillsides, in small villages, and around the Sea of Galilee. The people from far and wide came to hear the message and see all He was doing. But the Pharisees did not see and did not hear. They missed the message of love, hope, peace and joy. Jesus came for them too, but they rejected His message and didn’t believe Him even with all the things He did in their presence. Jesus broke their rules (not God’s) and did things on the Sabbath that their rules forbid.
Eventually, though many decided to turn away from Jesus because the message was too hard to follow. They didn’t understand what Jesus said about His death and how it would change everything. Only after the resurrection do we see thousands committing their lives to the message. The resurrection made the difference in how the message was received. People believed the witnesses of the resurrection. They understood the message after the greatest of the signs and wonders – Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Pharisees still didn’t believe and their fate was determined by their unbelief.
The message is still true today. It’s not about tradition or following rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus and following Him. It’s more than Jesus saving us from our sins. It’s about turning our lives over to Him as Lord. It’s giving Him everything – all of our hearts. It’s about being outside the building walls and showing others the love of Jesus every day.
Let’s not miss the message Jesus still sends today. It’s still the message that will change everything for someone waiting to hear of a hope that cannot be destroyed by their circumstances. God is bigger. This world is falling apart and time is growing shorter by the day. Let’s be unhindered and immediately share what we know.
But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)