Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 1:1-8 bible study (August 7, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
My dear friends in Christ, may the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ fill your life today!
Today we begin our journey through the Gospel of Mark bible study. One of the study aids that I am committed to with this study is to offer to you comparative texts in the other three Gospels. I will not be typing them out, but I will give the comparisons between the Gospel of Mark and the content and location of the Gospel Material in the other three Gospels. So as we start today, we discover that in Mark's opening, vs 1-6 in the first chapter, that Matthew has a much longer introduction to the recalling of the life and ministry of Jesus with vs 2-17 in the first chapter. Matthew's content is mostly genealogy showing how Jesus is connected all the way back to the very beginning of the Jewish community in a heritage that comes from David and before. Luke introduces this opening with proofs of the veracity of what he is saying. This is important because in all likelihood Luke was a Gentile who relied on the eyewitness accounts from the disciples and the early accounts of both Matthew and Mark. A reminder that Luke will quickly launch into the birth narrative with which we are so familiar at Christmas, explaining God's call on the life of John the Baptist to prepare the way. (There is no comparable text in the other 3 Gospels) Luke's introduction is vs 1-4 in his first chapter. But now we come to John, who's content seems to be theologically more sophisticated than any 0f the other three. John 1:1-17. John gives us the very origin of Jesus from the beginning of God's creation, and before, and then moves to inform the reader why the Light (Jesus Christ) had to come, and what Jesus accomplished for all of creation.
Back to Mark. 1:1-4
Please remember that Mark is the most likely to get the point quickly, which he does with only a few verses instead of Luke's 20 verses with very intimate detail about the women who were involved. In order for Mark to verify Jesus' place, Mark turns to the prophecy of Isaiah, knowing that the only proof the truth of a prophecy comes in the future when the message of the prophet comes true. If it does not come true, then it is simply a false prophecy. Mark quickly says that Jesus is that very proof. So Mark tells us in these few short verses that God has been planning all of this for a very long time, from the time of Isaiah, that John the Baptist is the easily identified prophet about whom the prophet Isaiah speaks who will indeed prepare the way for Jesus. In Luke we discover that this new prophet will be a cousin to Jesus. Mark writes here about the Word that God brings through John the Baptist. It is that people must repent if they are to find forgiveness in their relationship with God. As Lutherans you and I know that there is no attainment of the forgiveness of sin through our own words or actions. No matter how hard we try, there is only truly one way to be forgiven, and that is to accept Christ as our personal Savior. He has already paid the price, DEATH, through His sacrifice, so that we can know confidently that our sins are indeed forgiven because the price which God asks for is now paid in full through Jesus.
The task of the messenger that God sends is to bring positive change in the lives of people. John the Baptist did that through his messaging and life example. He attracted attention by his very wild style and life, and then presented the only message he could based on the Jewish law code. "You must repent and change your life with obedience to God's law at the top of your list of priorities. In our world today, authentic Christianity, that is based on the Great Commandment, and lived by believers can and does transform the lives of many people. Let's just take our congregation as an example. When a person or persons is unable to find a church that will accept them coming before Christ in all of their brokenness and failure to love the creator and care for His creation, then I can promise you that they are welcomed in Christ at American. The action of a person in seeking forgiveness of sins, was one that a gentile must do in order to receive the very same blessings as a Jewish person would receive, and John the Baptist was asking his own people, the Jews, to do the same thing. It didn't really take people very long to understand that forgiveness through obedience to God's law could never be accomplished without cleansing and starting over again, and in that there were no guarantees of God's righteous judgement or the quelling of God's wrath. That could only come through blood sacrifice, as the Jews understood through their celebration of Passover. It was also evident constantly in the requirement on the Jews to offer animals for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, to re-establish a right relationship with God. The idea was right, but the sacrifice of no animal could suffice for the full forgiveness of sin for a person. It would take an unblemished, sin-free person, a perfect human being with no sin, to make God's forgiveness possible. So, the steps that must be taken if there was to be any hope for restoring one's relationship with God are as follows:
Confession to one's self. All too often we close our eyes to our own brokenness while wanting instead to point out the problems of another person's life. The Prodigal Son is one who took that path. (and his older brother too, by the way!) We use confession every Sunday at church, and it is integrated into all of the prayers, the hymns, the preaching, and most especially in the presence of the Living Word, Jesus Christ, in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Confession must be made to those who have been wronged by one's sin. On Sundays, we offer public confession at our worship, but there is nothing more healing and hopeful than the apology of the heart made to one who has been on the receiving end of a person's sin. Such actions bring great Joy to our Heavenly Father.
Finally, confession must be made to God so that God can offer His forgiveness and grace to the sinner. Such confession is not haughty, but instead must follow the example of the Savior, which to is humble oneself before Almighty God, remembering that God always knows the true state of our humility in our lives, and whether or not our humility is genuine.
Tomorrow morning we will work on the next section of chapter one of the Gospel of Mark. God bless you and hold you in His care.
In Christ, Pastor Taylor