astonished at His teaching

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An introduction to Mark’s Gospel

Mark 1:22 (NKJV)

22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

On Sunday we will be starting a series of messages based on the miracle and deliverance ministry of Jesus from the accounts in Mark’s Gospel. This devotional is a good way to give you some context so that you will know what is going on and why.

Firstly, the four gospels are unique among ancient documents. There is nothing else quite like them. Ancient biographies tended to focus on the birth narrative and then the death narrative. The circumstances of one’s birth (of course to wealthy and influential parents) and the manner of one’s passing ( heroically in battle or in bed fabulously wealthy and powerful). The idea of a story of an illegitimate child being born to a single mother in a little village in an insignificant country was nothing less than a scandal. That this same child was later executed as a condemned criminal was also a scandal that should have proved very difficult for the early spread of the gospel to overcome. Yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, the word prospered wherever it was faithfully preached.

Getting back to Mark then, Mark is considered to be the first of the four Gospels written. How do we know this? Matthew quotes 95% of Mark’s gospel in his version of the Jesus story. Luke uses 75% of Mark in his gospel. That would not have been the case if Mark was not written before both of them. John is generally recognised as being the last of the four gospels written.

It is also generally thought that the Mark who wrote the gospel is John Mark, who was a follower of Jesus, and who accompanied Paul and Barnabus on their missionary journeys until there was a falling out between Mark and Paul, (which was later reconciled). Mark is also thought to have been very close to the apostle Peter and wrote down all the messages and stories about Jesus as told by Peter whilst he was in Rome. Mark is considered to be a gospel for the gentile believers with little or no connections to the Jewish faith. It reads like a modern newspaper with lots of very short but intense little stories. It is full of the miracles and deliverances that Jesus performed as He travelled around the various towns and villages in the Galilee region.

In typical Mark fashion, Jesus’ birth, his journey from Nazareth to Galilee, baptism, temptation, calling his disciples and arriving in Capernaum all takes place in chapter 1, and within 21 verses. Already by this time, we know His message which he preached everywhere he went.

Mark 1:14–15 (NKJV)

14 … Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying,  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

When Jesus walked into the Synagogue in Capernaum and started teaching it was immediately apparent that He was different to all the other bible teachers that they had heard. In verse 22 we read: –

Mark 1:22 (NKJV)

22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

The strange thing about this statement is that although the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching,  it never for a moment affected their unwillingness to recognise Him as Messiah. In fact, there are many miracles done in Capernaum, but we read in a later reference in Matthew’s gospel: –

Matthew 11:23–24 (NKJV)

23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Where is the lesson in this for us today? I suggest that it is very easy to get comfortable with church and bible study. We enjoy them as a part of our normal routine, and there is nothing wrong with that. The expectation of the scriptures is that we don’t just let it in one ear and out the other after some pleasant entertainment. The role of the scriptures and the church itself is to assist you along your personal spiritual journey of becoming more and more like Jesus. We are accountable for what we hear and don’t act upon.

More like Jesus would I be, let my Savior dwell with me;
Fill my soul with peace and love—make me gentle as a dove;
More like Jesus, while I go, pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be; let my Savior dwell in me.

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